Those few hours in Bevagna trying to find the bus to take me to Montefalco were a distant memory once I was in my seat and heading into the hills of Umbria. The drive alone was worth it. We just kept going up, up and up. The view was wonderful. Upon arrival, I walked through Porta Sant’Agostino, a large Roman gate and tower, and, as per usual in an Umbrian hilltown, I walked up the street to get to the center of town.
I ate lunch at what appeared to be a touristy place, called Il Verziere, but I didn’t care. Apparently the owner collects things, like musical instruments, money from all over the world and credit cards. (There were several in a frame on the wall). It wasn’t really kitsch but it came close. The classic jazz swooning out of the speakers was a nice touch.
Par for the course with the way my day was unfolding, all the lunch specials contained truffles or mushrooms. I like neither. The waitress did her best to accommodate me but it seems every time she approached me with a new dish, there was something in it I didn’t like. Was this really happening? I was at a restaurant in a small town in Italy and I couldn’t find a local specialty to eat? I ended up with a plate of tagliatelle with tomato sauce. It was delicious, of course, but talk about boring. I was actually embarrassed.
But the antipasto was fantastic. This plate of big green olives was staring at me, and three big chunks of bread, already doused with olive oil and spices, was by its side. I then ordered the local gutsy red wine: Sagrantino di Montefalco. Hopefully that made up for my lack of adventure with the truffles. I was given this ridiculous-looking half-glass/half-bottle for drinking it. I assumed it was all about aerating the wine. I’m not a Sagrantino expert so I was game to try it. Glad I did. It was pretty bold and pretty delicious. I ordered some chunks of parmigiano reggiano to go along with it. It was a nice respite and I was content.
I continued the climb up the street and stopped to see the church of St. Agostino. The caretaker inside showed me around. The walls were mostly bare because the frescoes have deteriorated and some were destroyed during Napoleon’s era. Yet, inside the sacristy, the frescoes were beautifully preserved. Tip: Always talk to church caretakers. They are very knowledgeable.
I reached the Piazza del Comune, the center of town and soaked in the views. There’s something about a main square in Italy that requires a pause on a stoop or a glass of wine at an outside table. I skipped the latter, enjoyed the former. Then I took a few streets that branched off and enjoyed the panorama of the countryside. Green rolling hills, dotted with houses. Very green.
Next stop was the museum and former church San Francesco, the most important monument in town. Like inside the Basilica of San Francesco in Assisi, there are frescoes here that depict the life of St. Francis. These are painted by Benozzo Gozzoli, known for his frescoes in the Medici Palace in Florence.
What I found the most interesting in the museum, a former monastery, were the relics from the friars’ winemaking days. There were presses, casks, tools. (read about it here: http://www.museodimontefalco.it/en/the-franciscan-wine-cellars-inside-the-saint-francis-complex_13.html)
I lingered a bit longer in the center, relaxing, writing my journal and thinking about how, just a few hours earlier, I was a tad exasperated, trying to find a bus. I stopped in a wine shop (there seems to be one about every 20 feet) and bought a bottle of Sagrantino and headed out of town, back to the big bus parking lot.
And wouldn’t you know it. The 6 p.m. bus showed up on time. It brought me back to Foligno, again, and I hopped on the train back to Assisi. Once there, I stopped in a very popular bar in the center, just in time for an aperitivo with the rest of the town’s twenty-somethings. As I sat with a glass of Grechetto, my new favorite white wine, I thought about my week in Umbria. I enjoyed discovering the small towns and the people here are friendly and very helpful. It turned out to be good day after all.