Discovering the hilltown of Bevagna was on my Umbrian itinerary, day four. The small town, which experienced a revival in the 12th century, has maintained its Medieval structure as well as some Roman ruins. Getting there is easy: take the train to nearby Foligno, then take a bus to Bevagna and then from there, take another bus to Montefalco. That’s what the nice people said at the tourism office in Assisi.
Great, I thought. I’ll see the Medieval piazza, the three churches that face it and some of those Roman ruins. According to my guide book, many illustrious citizens of ancient Rome built their country houses in Bevagna. The medieval Piazza Filippo Silvestri is the heart of the city. On the piazza stands the Palazzo dei Consoli and the three aforementioned churches – San Silvestro, San Michele Arcangelo and Santi Domenico e Giacomo. If I follow the main street, Corso Matteotti, I will find traces of the Roman era, including the ruins of a temple incorporated into the church of the Madonna della Neve, theater and baths.
I was set. I bought my bus and train tickets and I would spend the day discovering two more hilltowns of Umbria. It’s too bad, then, that I spent the majority of my time there trying to find a way to leave.
“Just take the bus from there to Montefalco” was what I heard. Reality, however, was, “Try to find the bus that takes you to Montefalco. We’re not sure where you get it. Ask somebody.”
After arriving in Foligno, and failing to decipher a very confusing bus schedule posted in front of the train station, I simply asked a bus driver when the next bus to Bevagna arrived. I had to wait an hour. OK. Train stations in Italy are people-watching meccas. I’ll get a cappuccino in the bar and hang out. The bar manager showed me other bus schedules (much easier to read) which were posted on a wall in a side room with some electronic slot machines. Because of course they were.
Finally the bus arrived and I was on my way. I get to Bevagna and walk the main street to the Piazza Silvestri. It’s just another sunny day in beautiful Italy and I’m discovering a new place. Maybe I’ll eat a leisurely lunch here and then head to Montefalco afterward. I take photos of the churches and walk around some ridiculous street construction on some plywood-cum-walkway only to find the church I was looking for is closed. This took all of 30 minutes. Since I had some time, I decided to find out when the next bus for Montefalco came and where do I get it. Then I’ll eat at an osteria I passed.
I went to the best place to find the answer: the tourism office. It was closed because the guide was giving a tour. So I went to a local sundry store, bought some postcards and returned to find the office open. I told the nice young man my quest to find the bus stop. He opened the big bus schedule book, said the Saturday schedule has recently changed and even though it says the next one comes at 2:20 (it was 12:30 at this point), he’s not even sure if there is a bus today. When they call the line is always busy. Oh. Sooooo, is a bus coming or not? I walked out of there unsure.
I asked a bus driver in a private tour bus if he knew where the bus arrives. He had no idea. I waited at the stop where I arrived, thinking that maybe, possibly, the next one will come by and I can ask that driver. No bus. I stopped in a restaurant and asked the owners, who were dutifully preparing for a big lunch event. They apologized nicely. They had no information. I went back to the bus stop outside the big entrance gate to Bevagna, and walked into the gas station that faces it. Surely, the people there would know something or at least have a schedule. Nada.
And so I stood on the side of this two-lane road, a gas station to my left, a restaurant to my right, next to a bus stop sign, wondering how in the world I’m going to get to Montefalco. How am I going to get back to Assisi? I’ll say this: everyone I asked was very nice. They didn’t have any answers for me, but they were all very nice about it. I’d spent almost an hour at this point trying to find a bus.
Finally, I took one more chance and walked into that restaurant and asked the owners if they had any idea whatsoever if a bus comes by here that goes to Montefalco. Si’, si’, they said. But the schedule has changed. “Didn’t the gas station have a schedule?” they asked me. A friend of theirs takes the bus every day, and one should be coming in about 20 minutes. They were right. The bus stops and I ask the driver, “Montefalco?” and he said no. Then yes. The bus went back to a depot in Foligno. He told me to wait here and the bus I needed would come along soon. He was right.
When the door of the bus opened, I immediately asked the driver, “Montefalco? And then another bus from there will bring me back here today?” I wasn’t taking any chances. He answered yes to both. And so I was on my way.