Category: Topography of Perugia

All Gods Creatures

View towards Assisi (the collection of shining-white buildings on the site of Monte Subasio at center)

View towards Assisi (the collection of shining-white buildings on the side of Monte Subasio, center-top)

Perugia is not perfect.

First, it is hard to find a patch of green grass anywhere in the stone- and brick-paved centro storico. There’s one bit by the top of the scale mobile on the side of the hill with a fantastic view towards Assisi, but people use it to curb their dogs.

The park at Cupa

The park at Cupa (and its Etruscan fortification walls)

There’s green space and a playground below us at Cupa, but there one has to beware of drug dealing as well as dogs.

The Chiesa di San Francesco al Prato in Perugia

Then there’s a fine patch at the bottom of our street in front of the lovely Chiesa di San Francesco al Prato (begun in 1281), which in spring is full of students and lovers. (The complex also houses the Accademia di Belle Arti [Fine Arts] begun in 1573, and which has a wonderful museum of casts.) And the lawn in front of the circular Chiesa di San Michele Archangelo (started in 5th c.) near the city gate of the same name. There are larger parks on the edges of town, such as at Pian di Massiano, which are popular on weekends and holidays, and which are in varying states of upkeep.

Given all the hard surfaces in the town, and the nature of  its steep topography, which facilitates quick run-off of rain to the valleys below, one might not expect an insect problem. And generally, there isn’t.

There are some zanzare, the onomatopoeic term for mosquitoes, but they are not terribly numerous (unlike Minnesota). Nevertheless, every spring the sindaco, or mayor’s office, reminds the citizens not to leave out old tires or containers that might collect stagnant water in which they could breed.

No, the villain is one very nasty beastie, by which we have suffered, and which only this week we have at last caught.

Read on, if you dare.

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Saturday night we attended a concert in the main piazza to celebrate Perugia being in the Finals of the competition for the European Capital of Culture in 2019 (Perugia has a joint bid with Assisi). One city from Bulgaria (between Plovdiv, Sofia, Varna and Veliko Turnovo), and one from Italy (between Perugia-Assisi, Siena, Ravenna, Lecce, Matera, and Cagliari) will be chosen for 2019. The benefits of this award to spark local cultural and infrastructural development can be considerable.

The concert was by “Orchestra di Piazza Vittorio,” a group from Rome comprised of musicians from 10 different cultures. Songs were in Italian, Spanish, and Arabic, to name a few. They were good.

The boys, however, decided to express themselves in their own manner. I think it is impossible for brothers to keep their hands off each other. Even a passing toddler decided he wanted to be part of it.


Il Bartoccio – different versions of this Perugian character can be seen throughout the city. This is our local Via dei Priori version.

This weekend marked the end of Carnevale celebrations in Perugia. For much of February there have been parties and parades, and it seems that each district, school, and club in Perugia had their own celebration. As with other festivals, like Epiphany, Perugia has its local traditions when it comes to Carnevale. People dress up, especially kids, but costumes are not elaborate (like in Venice) and there is a certain pride associated with the do-it-yourself look. In keeping with Umbria’s rustic image, the traditional Perugian ‘mask’ of Carnevale is Il Bartoccio, an old farmer from the Tiber River valley. Il Bartoccio appears in Umbrian literature as early as the 1600’s. He is “rozzo, ma sagace, gioviale e saggio” (“uncouth, but shrewd, jovial and wise”).
Il Bartoccio is credited with the first satirical attacks against the ruling classes. In the 1700’s his character was banned by the Vatican (Perugians were always at odds with the Papacy) but he was brought back after the Risorgimento (unification of Italy) in the 1860’s. Today he is considered a symbol of Perugia.
On Saturday, we had our chance to parade with Il Bartoccio as Jakob’s class celebrated Carnevale on the Via dei Priori.

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The entrance to the Palazzo dei Priori. In the lunette, sculpted by an unknown artist ca. 1315, are three of the patron saints of Perugia: San Lorenzo, San Ercolano, and San Constanzo. San Lodovico was canonized in 1319 and is not represented in the lunette.

Today, 29 January, is the festa of Perugia’s patron saint, San Constanzo. There is no school (and no soccer practice!), but the rest of the city is open, especially the bakeries, which spent the night making “Il Torcolo” – a special pastry made only once a year. San Constanzo, who lived during the II century CE, was the first bishop of Perugia. On 29 January 175 CE, during the prosecution of Christians under Marcus Aurelius, Constanzo became a martyr when he was beheaded by Roman soldiers near Foligno. The Romans took his head to the Emperor, while his followers carried his body back to Perugia. They had to travel through the woods and across fields. Along the way, many (unspecified) miracles occurred. They buried his body by the small  hut in which he lived, outside the gates of city, not far from the site of the first Christian church in Perugia, San Pietro. In the 13th century, a church was built on the site.

Although there are four patron saints of Perugia, today San Constanzo is the only one to have his own holiday.

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Templars in Perugia

Jakob posing dramatically inside the church

Jakob posing dramatically inside the church

A few weeks back we thought we had spotted a Templar lodge, but we had got the wrong church military order. How interesting it was to discover that the only extant Templar church in Italy is right on the outskirts of Perugia (here’s a list of Templar sites).

The Church of San Bevignate is located on a windy road, Via Enrico dal Pozzo (‘Henry from the Well’) that extends northeast from the city, nearly to the civic cemetery of the town. The site of the Templar Church is not marked anywhere in Google Maps (which must be a conspiracy, of course), so I’m providing a map below (the church is marked by the red thumbtack), in case anyone wants to visit. You don’t have to wear a sinister cloak  when you visit, either. In fact, if you leave a form of ID at the desk, they’ll give you a tablet which has an audio tour of the complex (in multiple languages, including English). They also have quite the little Templar book display, though everything is in Italian.

Of course, Jakob loved it, and he spent a good amount of time exploring, or posing theatrically as an ‘Assassin’.

San Bevignate is marked by the red thumbtack.

San Bevignate is marked by the red thumbtack.

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Umbrian Images

As the year comes to a close, we thought we’d share some images that haven’t appeared in our other stories. Click to enlarge.

Happy Holidays, one and all!

Sasso e Spazio:

"An old couple"

“An old couple.” These two buildings seem to have known each other for a long time. Via del Silenzio, Perugia.

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