Category: Rebecca

Gubbio: the Hard Edge of Light

20140507-082040.jpgOn Sunday, while Perugia was wrapped up in soccer fever, we got out of town and headed into the hills to visit the medieval town of Gubbio. Gubbio is an old mountain town, an hour from Perugia, whose Umbrian culture dates back well into the first millennium BC. In fact, the longest and most detailed liturgical documents from the classical world were found in the 15th century near the theater at Gubbio: seven bronze tablets of the 3rd-1st c. BC (the Iguvine Tablets) inscribed in Umbrian using the Etruscan and Latin alphabets, and now displayed in the Museo Civico.

The tablets are concerned with religious rituals: purifying the town, purifying the mountain above the town, purifying the town’s army, procedures for sacrifices, and the operation of religious funds. As it was an auspicious day (Rebecca’s birthday), we took the opportunity for a visit.

We arrived just after an important medieval-modern religious ceremony had begun to occur — the beginning of the Festa dei Ceri (Festival of the Candles). Essentially, the Festival centers on a ‘race’, held on May 15, from the town up Mt. Ingino to the Basilica of St. Ubaldo. Groups of men, affiliated patrilineally to one of three saints: Sant’Ubaldo (patron saint of masons; his color is yellow); San Giorgio (patron saint of merchants; his color is blue); and Sant’Antonio Abate (patron saint of farmers and muleteers; his color is black), carry heavy wooden ‘candles’ topped by statues of their saints.

Models of the candles from the Basilica museum

Models of the candles from the Basilica museum

Previous statues of the three saints, from the Basilica museum

Previous statues of the three saints, with their colors, from the Basilica museum

Heavy and awkward candles: 263 to 287 kilos (580-633 lbs.) each and 4.9 to 5 meters (ca. 16 ft.) tall. Ubaldo is the shortest and lightest, giving his team a significant advantage as they traverse 4.3 kilometers (ca. 2.5 miles) and about 320 meters (>1000 ft.) of elevation. Every 70 meters (230 ft.) or so, the bearers switch out — at full speed — so that they don’t kill themselves with the effort (though sometimes this happens). At the top of the course, Ubaldo always has to enter the Basilica first, and his bearers then shut the doors on the other two saints. We were not there for the actual race (the town would have been packed with visitors), but for the slow transfer of the candles and statues from the Basilica down to the town. Still, the bearers were dressed in their outfits and colors, accompanied by bands, and celebrating the start of the festival period. The exit, and return, of divine images is one of the most ancient of religious traditions. Jill and Matt wonderfully described and photographed the May 15 race on their blog last year. Here’s a video to get a sense of the mass intensity and insanity of the race day:

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Sunday lunch: spelt and lentils


Bavicchi, Via dei Priori 15

Umbrians love their legumes and cereal grains. Since early autumn, soups made with ceci (chickpeas), lenticchie (lentils), and farro spelt) have been appearing on menus around Perugia. We have sampled several variations of these warm and hearty creations (such as the soups Pedar had two weeks ago at La Taverna) and I have been trying to recreate some of them at home. Yesterday (Sunday), I read in the Giornale dell’Umbria that this week Monteleone di Spoleto was celebrating its “farro d’oro” (spelt of gold), also known as “farro di San Nicola,” the patron saint of Monteleone (see more below). I was inspired to make a zuppa di farro for lunch. Fortunately, the Antica Spezieria e Drogheria Eredi Bavicchi (Bavicchi, for short) is open on Sundays and it is just up the Via dei Priori from our apartment…

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Elfo’s Pub

The magic door

The magic door

Just down the Via Sant’Agata, at no. 20, is a short flight of steps and a worn iron railing. Attached to the railing are three planters containing herbs. One is stuffed with cigarette butts, because you can no longer smoke inside bars in Italy (thank goodness). At the top of the steps is a dark oaken door with cast-iron fittings. Behind that door is another, with stained-glass cut in red and gold. The heavy limestone doorframe features garlands and ribbons centered on a broken shield. Above the lintel is a light. The light is bright green. The green light shows the way to Elfo’s.

This post is dedicated to Chris, Mac, and Shmed. Wish you were here.

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Sunday City Amusements

Old advert for Città della Domenica

Old advert for Città della Domenica

We had a Sunday afternoon free, so we went to Sunday City (Città della Domenica), on the outskirts of Perugia, on its next-to-last weekend before it closes for the winter.

Città della Domenica was the first large-scale amusement park in Italy; it opened in 1963 (they are celebrating 50 years). While updates and additions have been made since, it retains the feel of an old-style park, with: animals to view, pet, and ride; castles, tree-houses, rockets and labyrinths to climb in; train, go-kart and boat rides; fairy-tale houses to peek into; statuary of all sorts dotting the grounds; and lots of room to run through the forest, sometimes in the company of the deer that live there. At first it seemed a bit run-down and sad, but by the end of the day we all had had plenty of smiles. Here are photos of, and comments by, the boys.
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Dancing for Chocolate

DSC_0148Eurochocolate officially started yesterday. After soccer practice, homework, and music, we decided to brave the crowds. Micah was eager to find his friend Bianca, he was certain she would be there, and he was right! We ran into her (and her parents) just a short way down via Vanucci. Although Perugia is celebrating chocolate, the first thing Micah wanted was cotton candy (zucchero filato in Italian). Simon and Jakob have decided to try all the varieties of cioccolato caldo (hot chocolate) in search of the best recipe.

Once Micah had his sugar fix, he danced his way through the streets:

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Julia and Alex come to Perugia


Micah is so happy to have dinner with Alex at our apartment

This week our friends, Julia and Alex, came to visit. Julia is a dear friend and colleague at DePauw and she has been on sabbatical in Germany for the last eight months. Her son, Alex, is Micah’s very best friend from home. We have missed them a lot and we are so glad they could come to Perugia as we begin our year in Italy and they prepare to head back to the US. We spent four days finding the best kid activities in Perugia (including frequent stops for gelato), playing Uno, and trying some new restaurants. We also took a day-trip to Assisi.

Julia and Alex arrived by train from Florence on Saturday afternoon. Micah could not wait to meet them at the station and to show Alex how to ride on the mini-metro. It was hot and humid on Saturday, so we took it easy and made dinner at home.

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