Saturday, October 18, 2008

Dancing In Umbria

We woke to a beautiful, sunny day, had a lovely breakfast at our hotel, and then meandered through the narrow stone streets of Assisi.

We stopped at the Cathedral of San Rufino, where St. Francis was baptised, right down the “street” from our hotel. On our way to the Basilica of St. Francis, we were able to visit the Temple of Minerva which is fronted by immense Roman columns. Inside of Minerva's temple (I'm not in there, so no need to look for my head):

We made our way to the Basilica, which Rick says is “one of the artistic and religious highlights of Europe.” We have not seen all the other sights of Europe yet, but he may be right. St. Francis is also buried in the lowest level of this three story immense Basilica, a sign of his humility. Elsewhere in the church officials would often “shush” the crowd into silence, but not at his crypt. It was silent, beautiful, and moving. (No photos allowed inside, so only outside photos posted here.)

We shopped in Assisi, an artist’s paradise, and came away with many delightful (and kitschy) treasures. The “store” at the Basilica sold religious items and icons fairly inexpensively, so I stocked up on charms (many for only a euro each), AND this is where I got something for Vicki (shhhh, it’s a surprise). And Peshe, I picked up a few stones from the holy ground for you.

The best find of the day? The art of Raffaele Ariante. He’s our new friend. He is a wonderful artist and has a message he is spreading through his art, “The Unexploding Bombs of Ariante.” He makes balls of color, which he calls “Bombs of Love, of Colour and of Passion,” which he says it to infect and contaminate the world with the extraordinary sickness of love. Raffaele’s enthusiasm for his work and spreading a message of peace is infectious. Raffaele is interested in bringing his work and message to the United States, so if anyone has an idea or connection for an exhibition (with a percentage of sales going toward a children's hospital), please let me know.

Discovering his shop . . . .

With the artist:

In front of his Bombs of Love, Colour, and Passion

We found some fanciful art by a woman named Alice (A-lee-chae) and she graciously consented to having her photo taken with Howard.

We had lunch and a cappuccino at an outdoor café, the Caffe Minerva, right across from, you guessed it, the Temple of Minerva. Can you find me in the bushes?

Assisi was picturesque, at times feeling “fake” it was so beautiful. Howard spoke to an Italian man from Milano and he, too, was in awe of the beauty and said "this is the heart of Italy.” We concur. Assisi is literally built on a hilltop of stone and the narrow roads run between the businesses and homes of the Assisi. There is no grass or open spaces in this tight little village, but if you look out over the surrounding area there are sweeping vistas of countryside and towns. It is a strange contrast to the tight fit of the city.

We are now in Orvieto, which required a bit of backtracking. Orvieto is a hill town and has a bit more of a resort feel to it. Orvieto also has an abundance of art and lots of expensive shops, sort of like an Italian Bridgeport. To quote my friend Peshe, she said that with all of the cappuccinos, pizza, and gelato we’ve been eating, it sounds like we’re in the Pearl! It would have been a lot cheaper to stay in Portland, that’s for sure!

Orvieto is also the town where a lot of art retreats are held by many of my favorite artists and teachers. In fact, this afternoon a group of artist’s came out of the train station, all carrying their easels and canvases. Made me miss my art! (Howard reminded me that my blog posts from Italy are my art right now . . . yes, thank you.)

Howard and I roamed the outskirts of the town and discovered Etruscan ruins (Howard wouldn't let me climb down and over the fence to take any rocks, the meanie), a beautiful view, and a military academy. The park area at the academy was a bit rundown (to my delight), and I slipped into an old concession stand for a photo (and to take a sign from the door and a bit of peeling paint – I really am sick).

As I type this, Howard and I are sitting in the heart of Orvieto. We’ve rounded up a hotel just down the way, the Hotel Corso, and are now eating dinner at a little Internet Café. The streets are filled with Saturday night sightseers and sweet young things dressed to the nines. As Howard said, “They’re on parade.” Strike up the band, baby!

Post Scripts:

Just for the record: Howard enjoys driving in Italy way more than he should!

A special thank you to Bridget and Gretchin for faithfully reading my blog and posting comments. I’ll keep you guys in mind as I shop at Italian flea markets.

Tomorrow we head to our apartment somewhere in Tuscany, the one we’ve rented for a week. Ahhhh, we can settle in for a bit. But first, Howard has agreed to drive me to two hill towns that have monthly outdoor antique markets: Lucca and Sienna. Both will warrant another visit with more time later in the week, but tomorrow I’ll be on a mission.


And a very special thank you to Howard for the color and commentary he has added to this post.


peshe said...

how kind of you to mention me. the textures of the streets and walls are lush in an old stone kinda way. again, thinking of collage and scrapping papers. looking at them close up, i can see and hear the march of time, the decades of history, and the unknown tales of the denizens. i want to touch.

Anonymous said...

Italy looks amazing! You and Dad look amazing too, relaxed, tanned, and fit! I miss you both tremendously and realize how much I rely on you to make me laugh and look at my busy life with humor and humility! I love you...continue enjoying your much deserved adventure.


Bridget B. said...

And thanks for the shout-out! When Darren and I were in Italy, Assisi was one of the places I really wanted to go . . . and hearing your tales leaves me even more excited to visit! You and Howard and Rick Steves are building our itinerary!

gl. said...

"A special thank you to Bridget and Gretchin for faithfully reading my blog and posting comments. I’ll keep you guys in mind as I shop at Italian flea markets."

*high five with bridget* woo!

it's been a delight to follow you on your journey! i'm glad howard noticed that the blog posts are your artful contribution to the world. and the pearl doesn't have those delightful snickleways.