Leaving Umbria for Lake Como

The early departure means the capture of the mists rising amongst the hilltops around the valley creating a mythical landscape of mystery & legend.

20140906043353_IMG_3628

The drive up past Milan to Como brings us to the grand Italian lake where elegance & romance mix in culture, buildings, landscape & people.

20140906131826_IMG_3713

The town of Como has the usual old centre where the well- to-do while away their Saturday with long lunches amongst the towers & spires of the mediaeval buildings & piazzas.

20140906124619_IMG_3649 20140906125738_IMG_3680 20140906124738_IMG_3658 20140906130555_IMG_3700

Tourists wander the same streets & squares and then to cool down take a two ball gelato or queue for a ticket on the old steamers for a quick cruise on the water.

20140906134257_IMG_3735

The locals find shade wandering through the trees of park. Who said romance was dead? Well, the guy in the van sold a can of coke for 6 Euros. Steep enough to kill any thought of  romance don’t you think?

20140906135633_IMG_3762 20140906143549_IMG_3809 20140906142743_IMG_3797 20140906143656_IMG_3813 20140906135538_IMG_3759 20140906141208_IMG_3770 20140906143902_IMG_3817

We leave Como, and, sadly, Italy, with a magnificent drive through alpine passes and the St Bernard pass & tunnel in particular. This route is thoroughly recommended for awesome, gob smacking glimpses & views of peaks & ranges & streams & glacial rivers & lakes & castles & churches & forts & farms. Awesome.

Advertisements

The mediaeval hamlet of Anghiari

Only a conversation over dinner with a friendly waitress opens the delights of the small hamlet of Anghiari. It is not mentioned in the Rough Guide and so is almost deserted except for a few tourists. The hamlet is situated on a hill overlooking the Umbrian plains. A Roman road connects it to the town of Sansepolcro a few miles away. The old town nestles its narrow streets within the old walls that are no more than 100 metres across. It is like going back in time to wander the steps & narrow, dark alleys.

20140904130729_IMG_3542

 

20140904104841_IMG_3443 20140904104832_IMG_3442

 

20140904105154_IMG_3448

20140904110802_IMG_3455

20140904130244_IMG_3537

Stepping through the gates in the walls leads to the small piazza and the adjoining Roman road that links the peace & silence of Anghiari to the outside world.

20140904112105_IMG_3489 20140904112720_IMG_3502

In the distance you can see the town of Sansepolcro – a quiet town which holds a crossbow competition in a few weeks time, so continuing the mediaeval history theme that every town & village in the area seems to promote.

20140904132156_IMG_3543 20140904134849_IMG_3576 20140904135404_IMG_3578 20140904140054_IMG_3585 20140904140136_IMG_3588 20140904132944_IMG_3549

 

A gentle drive around Lago di Trasimeno

Lake Trasimeno is the fourth largest body of water in Italy and on its banks Hannibal thrashed the Romans. There are two main settlements around the shore. Passignano is small with a cluster of bars around the shore, a small church & some dilapidated battlements. Short piers straddle into the shallow waters from where passenger ferries depart for the outlying islands.

20140903135410_IMG_3332 20140903140328_IMG_3343 20140903143326_IMG_3350

Around the lake on the opposite side lies Castiglione del Lago – as it suggests a ‘castle on the lake’ with the duomo on the land end of a narrow ridge & castle remains & a tower on the part that juts into the water of the lake. A narrow street joins the two.

20140903155109_IMG_3384 20140903154851_IMG_3379

Along this main drag bars, restaurants, pizzarias, gelaterias & shops selling local products to tourists stretch in a thin line from the small piazza, with its essential fountain, where all the action takes place (well, action is an over exaggeration for the handful of locals passing their time away).

20140903154205_IMG_3367 20140903154307_IMG_3370 20140903162559_IMG_3413 20140903164346_IMG_3428 20140903165154_IMG_3436 20140903163405_IMG_3418

Jousting in Arezzo

Frequently in Italy you come across a place, a town, a smell, a sight or a site, music or sounds that will hit all your senses and take your breathe away and it will be by pure chance. That is what happen in the city if Arezzo.

It started well walking up from the carpark down in the modern part of town through the stone streets up to the main piazza. Art installations have been hung across between the tall buildings & tourists and locals  eat ice creams, drink coffee, studybuildings, visit churches and a few enter the very classy & rather expensive antique & jewellery shops.

20140902145018_IMG_3025 20140902145914_IMG_3039 20140902152355_IMG_3049 20140902172105_IMG_3300 20140902151134_IMG_3044 20140902172233_IMG_3306

The first sign that something special is going on are the flags that are hanging from the  buildings all the way up and all the locals are wearing different scarves or have flags draped around their shoulders. At the top off the old town this guy is waiting down a narrow side street with a group of horses and the piazza can just be seen with a suggestion of something special taking place.

20140902154034_IMG_307320140902154431_IMG_3093

The full splendour of the event unfolds – practice for the annual jousting competition which takes place between different quartets of the city (hence the colours & flags).

Enjoy the images and feel the atmosphere.

20140902154627_IMG_3102 20140902161015_IMG_3162 20140902162858_IMG_3222 20140902154606_IMG_3100 20140902155813_IMG_3128 20140902161148_IMG_3166 20140902170559_IMG_3276

Spectators support their teams, applauding each successful pass/hit of the target; the riders avoid the swinging wooden balls as in mediaeval times; others enjoy the bars while they wait for their practice session; shopkeepers wait for the action the be over to get a bit of trade; photographers capture the events for local media.

20140902165250_IMG_3273

20140902164030_IMG_3244

20140902170420_IMG_3275

20140902162441_IMG_3213

20140902163039_IMG_3226

20140902161929_IMG_3201 20140902161756_IMG_3194 20140902160410_IMG_3139 20140902160845_IMG_3158 20140902160850_IMG_3159 20140902170624_IMG_3277

Finally, as the sun sets and plays chasing patterns with the clouds, the day is tapped off with wine & pasta.

20140902174651_IMG_3326

A flavour of Perugia

Perugia is anothet hill-town with a mediaeval centre. Narrow, dark streets spread down the hill from the main piazzas with an almost Dickension feel as tall tenament terraces reach up to the shy and compete with each other & bell towers & spires for the available light.

20140901134949_IMG_291620140901140639_IMG_292520140901145416_IMG_2992

The town hinges around a single wide street with the duomo at one end and a view over the valley at the other. At street level modern facades house a range of cosmopolitan shops, bars & cafes and 4/5 floors of offices & apartments & cultural exhibitions tower over them.

20140901141557_IMG_2939

20140901142330_IMG_2958

20140901154125_IMG_3008 20140901150818_IMG_3007 20140901145303_IMG_2987

Locals go about their everyday business.

20140901142432_IMG_2963 20140901145802_IMG_3000 20140901142656_IMG_2973

The local radio station houses some quirky images in an old wine cellar

20140901140933_IMG_2928 20140901141119_IMG_2931

On the way home we discover the delights of the Girasoli di Sant Andrea restaurant. They make their own wine, they press their own olive oil, rear their own beef & cure their own ham. This all makes for a magnificent meal topped off with dessert – ‘The Five Deadly Sins’.

IMG-20140902-WA0000

Start in bottom left corner & work your way around clockwise. The last element is a cocoa covered profiterole with 72% chocolate. Heaven! Stuffed!!

 

 

Umbria – ‘the green part of Italy’

Umbria – a beautiful region of rolling hills, woods, streams & valleys with classic hill towns each completely individual & crammed with artistic & architectural treasures. Our base to explore the region from is just outside Umbertide on the western edge of Umbria bordering Tuscany.

Some images of the house which has a definite medieval castle feel with thick stone walls, huge, dark rooms including two vast sitting areas with equally vast open fires.

20140831064406_IMG_2898 20140831064457_IMG_2900 20140831081801_IMG_2906

The terrace is shaded by a rambling vine and overlooks the Umbrian hills & our own private view of the neighbouring castle. Mind you it is like a 2 km hill- climb over stoney tracks to get to the place.

20140831065339_IMG_2902 20140831065423_IMG_2904 20140830141907_IMG_2885_1 20140830145645_IMG_2889

And then, when those colossal lightening storms come over and the Etruscan gods start to shout at each other and pour their urns over the Umbrian hills, there is the opportunity to replay the 1966 table football world cup.

20140901101059_IMG_2910