Friday, June 14, 2013

Umbrian Ramble

Mosaic Ceiling at Chiesa San Vitale, Ravenna
To leisurely make our way back to the Sud from the Nord, my friend and I decided on a ramble through Umbria. We picked Ravenna as a daytime stop between departing Padova and ending up in Urbino for the evening. Ravenna is famous for it's mosaics. Sadly for us, the day was quite rainy, which put a damper on our willingness to tramp around town. Thankfully, the parking lot my friend had found and navigated us to ended up being at the edge of Chiesa San Vitale, which had some of the most amazing mosaics we'd seen outside of Venice's Basilica San Marco and Rome's Basilica San Pietro. Truly stunning. The church is small, but the mosaics and the colors are just incredible. Then, the rain just wouldn't let up and a man told us that most of the churches closed in the afternoon. So we found a pretty cafe for lunch and a refuge from the rain before heading back to the car and on to Urbino. There, we stayed in a charming hotel outside of town, but spent all our time in the old town.

Main piazza, Urbino
Urbino is a lovely, small, hill town. (I'd love to go back and re-read Anne Rivers Siddons novel Hill Towns, but I remember trying to re-read it before moving to Italy and the main character just making me so angry I put the book down.). Old Town Urbino is at the top of a giant rock, so we rode the elevator up and down several times in our one night/two day stay. The town itself is still quite hilly, which made me nervous with the stroller, but it has a fabulous atmosphere. At night, there were all kinds of happenings, late into the evening. It wasn't loud or crowded or annoying - just felt like we were part of a community actually living, not holed up inside homes. And Urbino is where the BEST GELATO in all my searching is found. See this post: This Time I Mean It.

From Urbino, we traveled on to Spoleto. My friend did not like Spoleto. I thought it was a nice enough town. The parking did throw me for a loop in the beginning. In Urbino, there is a fabulous, large parking lot at the base of town. In Spoleto, there is a tiny piazza with pay parking or, once our hotel in the pedestrian zone gave me directions, free parking that you have to drive around awhile to search for. And hope your car is safe. Our hotel clerk did look at me quizzically and with surprise when I asked if the parking was safe (after all, we had Nove ceramics and Elephant in the car!). Then I explained that we live in Naples, and she replied with an, "Ahhhhhhhh" of understanding.

One of the fanciest hotels in which La Bimba
will stay while she's on my payroll.
We were booked into a fancy hotel that we picked based on one photo of a room with frescoes all over the ceiling. I loved the hotel. We had frescoes on our bedroom ceiling. The breakfast rooms were a fresco bonanza. It was stunning, and I felt like royalty. Spoleto itself was pretty dead at night. We managed to find some restaurant recommendations on Trip Advisor (thank you again, Steve Jobs) and walked into Il Gusto, possibly the best meal I've eaten in Italy. We even got an amuse-bouche sampler that included caviar! My first ever caviar. And yet despite the fanciness, we wheeled in with no reservation and a baby in a stroller. No one bat an eye, and they set us up in a tiny room (the restaurant is a bunch of different sections) with only four other tables, where the stroller was so in the way that servers had to squeeze their bodies to get to other tables. Not a single person from the server to other patrons, ever sent a single, irritated glance our way. This attitude is in my Top 3 of the things I will miss about Italy. The devotion to children as a part of everyday life in all things is so freeing. Returning to a Land where we'll have to begin eating out at "family restaurants" is going to be a big adjustment.

We did a little walk around the town in the morning, visited the famous, Roman theatre which is home to a huge, arts festival in summertime, ate lunch at a popular and delicious Enoteca, then headed home with our Italian treasures and Umbrian memories.
Spoleto was even hillier than
Urbino, but had charming paths.

No comments:

Post a Comment