This weekend our friend and colleague, Jinyu Liu, is visiting Perugia. She is our last guest before we depart for the States. For several weeks we have been willing ourselves to pay attention to Perugia, soak in the views, and imprint lasting images in our memories.
Yesterday we took Jinyu on a walking tour of the city along the streets and paths that we have been traversing for months. The streets are the same but the views change with the light and the seasons. Our tour took us from the Etruscan remains under the duomo, we went up to the acropolis (Porta Sole), down to the Arco Etrusco (across from the Università per Stranieri), back up along the outside of the Etruscan walls to Piazza Morlacchi, up to the Fontana Maggiore, down Corso Vanucci to the bastion at the edge of the Giardini Carducci (the views were spectacular yesterday), under the giardini into the Rocca Paolina, and finally back to Via dei Priori (with a break at Gambrinus for gelato). As we came down the street, for some reason, we decided to look up at the facade above the Parma alimentari. First we saw the Latin inscription above the door. Then one of us noticed that there were inscriptions in the window frames of the next two stories. Jinyu’s epigrapher instincts kicked in…
Maybe we never noticed the inscription because we are normally looking at the views from the top of Perugia.
And, of course, there are, inscriptions everywhere in Perugia, some in situ and others used as spolia. One of my favorites is above the entrance to Niba, a high-end clothing store next to the duomo:
“This is the house of God and the gate of heaven”
I guess Italians have always known that €500 Miu Miu shoes will get you into heaven.
I have never actually gone into Niba, but I am in the alimentari by our apartment practically every day and only yesterday noticed the inscription above the door (see photo above) and then the inscriptions over each window frame of the building’s two upper stories.
The inscription above the door reads:
ET DIV ET FELIX
“Both Divine and Fortunate”
The inscription above the windows extends over six window frames on two levels. Here they are from the top left to the bottom right. Jinyu deciphered the text by zooming in on her iPad:
We had a lot of trouble reading the words until Jinyu figured out that the M’s followed by vowels share strokes so that they look like one letter (e.g., ME and MA). The full inscriptions reads:
BONO PROBARI / MALO QUAM / MULTIS MALIS
MINOR NE / TIMEAT MAIOR / NE DESPICIAT
“I prefer to be approved by one good man rather than many bad men.
Let the lesser not fear, let the greater not scorn.”
This evening, Jinyu and I went into the alimentari to ask about the facade. Francesco, one of the owners, explained that the building had once been a church and proceeded to point out details in the architecture that, once again, I had not noticed.
The original building probably stopped at the point where the stones are sticking out of the wall. Beyond that point is a different structure with a brick vault. Francesco says this was the top of a cistern or a well (there is a well in the basement of the building that is no longer visible).
We have just two weeks left to discover more of Perugia.