Curva Nord, Stadio Renato Curi, 4 Maggio 2014, from Umbria24.it

On May 4, 2014, the city was a sea of red and white, as AC Perugia defeated their nearest rival for the title, Frosinone, on a do-or-die day at Stadio Renato Curi in front of 22,000 fans. The victory earns them automatic promotion to Serie B, the second tier of Italian calcio, and a level not seen here for 9 years.

Special Poster from Monday's Giornale dell'Umbria, side 1

Special Poster from Monday’s Giornale dell’Umbria, side 1

At the final whistle, the fans invaded the pitch with flares and flags:

After the match, the streets and squares filled with fans, many of them happily inebriated (we saw them filing into the grocery stores early on Sunday to buy pre-game bevande). One doesn’t often see Italians drunk, but on special days they do their best. Someone somehow navigated a full-sized coach into the Piazza IV Novembre, and the players climbed out onto the top, as the crowd surged and sang:

Perugia had flirted with the championship most of the season; we saw a match at their low ebb, when they lost to their most stubborn opponent (Pisa, who always seems to defeat them), and the stadium was mostly empty — it was not an entertaining match. Despite the often inelegant play, this squad has proven stubborn and strong, and despite a rough patch near the end of the season, they finished strongly as teams around them faded and fell.

Special Poster from Monday's Giornale dell'Umbria, side 2

Special Poster from Monday’s Giornale dell’Umbria, side 2

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The grifo above the entrance to the Palazzo dei Priori

Grifo Latte

The symbol of the team — and the city — is a griffin, or grifo, and this magical creature appears on everything from city buildings to milk bottles.

Hundreds of griffins are carved, painted, and woven all over Perugia. Our friends Matt and Jill photographed many of them for their blog last year.

The griffin (or griffon or gryphon) is the blend of a lion and an eagle, and so has the majestic characteristics of both. The creature is a guardian of treasure and knowledge, and is both strong and cunning.

Giuditta Brozzetti – manufacture of traditional woven goods. Photograph by Steve McCurry from his Sensational Umbria show. Note the griffins passant in the tapestry.

The griffin appears early in Near Eastern, Egyptian, and Aegean art, but finds a place also in ancient Etruria and Umbria.

Griffin from the François Tomb, Vulci, 2nd c. BC. It has lion’s forelegs; another variation has eagle’s back legs for the front.

The 13th-century bronze statues of a lion and griffin on the façade of the Palazzo dei Priori in Perugia (the original bronzes are inside the town hall; copies now adorn the exterior) stand as the sentinels of the city.

Palazzo dei Priori: Griffin and Lion

Kids for the last two days have been chanting as they walk through the street: “Serie B, Serie B…,” with big smiles on their faces. Having a team in Serie A or Serie B is a sign of a ‘major city’. Perugia will also shortly find out whether they have been selected with Assisi as the European Capital of Culture for 2019. Everyone is hopeful.

Even Sandri Pasticceria, the swankiest spot in town (since 1860), put a grifo pastry in its window:

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Forza Grifo!

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