Ciao tutti! By way of introduction, I’m Amina Quargnali-Diehl. My relationship to La Romita School of Art is as follows: I’m a member of LRSA’s Board of Directors, and the daughter of Paola Quargnali, Enza’s sister. Paola died in 2003, but for many years was an equal partner with Enza in running LRSA. My brother Alessandro, also an integral part of La Romita School and a Board member, is the School’s web-guru and the architect of all things Internet and social-media related. Yeah Sandro for our awesome new website!!
So…. I just came back from a Christmas trip with my family (husband Dave, son Cameron, and daughter Gabriella) to check up on La Romita (the building), see friends and family, and generally enjoy Natale– Christmas– in Italy. Some thoughts about Christmas in Italy later…. For now I wanted to share some pictures and impressions of the hilltowns we visited, starting with Perugia!
We visited Perugia on a gray and almost-rainy day, fortunately not too cold. Where to begin….
It had been years since I’d been to the capital of the Umbrian province, and so I’d never ridden on the monorail, or “minimetro” as it’s locally called. This time, following Antonio Meloni’s advice (the La Romita bus driver, who I called on his cell phone), we parked the car in a huge parking lot at the base of the city and rode up, George-Jetson-like, in this futuristic monorail that operates on a system of belts and cables, very cool. To paraphrase from one of my kids’ favorite books (Papa Please Get the Moon For Me, by Eric Carl), up and up and up we climbed..Once there, many delights greeted our eyes, starting off with a beautiful view, over rooftops, of the Tiber river valley below (the large plain, in central Umbria, bordered by both Perugia (northwest) and Assissi (northeast). Just inside the city, street vendors selling chestnuts, typical of Christmas throughout Italy. Right past the street-vendor, a merry-go-round specially imported for Christmas (Terni had one too). Then of course a beautiful shot of the Palazzo dei Priori, in Perugia’s central square, albeit forbidding on account of the lack of sun.
But the highlight of our visit came when we visited “La Rocca”, shorthand for “La Rocca Paolina”. The history’s a bit much to get into here (check out http://www.lifeinitaly.com/tourism/umbria/rocca-paolina for more detailed information), but essentially “La Rocca” is the underground remains of an old fortress built by papal decree in the mid 1500s, and destroyed in later centuries by the Perugini themselves, leaving behind the foundations. One way into modern Perugia is via escalators that take you from parking at the city’s base, up underground through the foundations of this medieval fortress. The truly special thing is that during the Christmas season, this entire underground area becomes an arts-and-crafts market, with local vendors selling everything from hand-made toys and trinkets to artisanal honey, cheese, and sweets. We spent the better part of an hour wandering the roots of Perugia… the kids were beside themselves.
On the way back on the monorail, we were treated to a live performance by two actors, Federica and Mauro, hired by the Comune of Perugia to present improv skit on the monorail system during the Christmas season. The title of their program was “Anche le Renne Prendono Il Minimetro” (Even Reindeer Take The Mini-metro), and from what I could make out, they were riffing on the arrival of the Wise Men to Bethlehem. And as a bonus, the kids each got their very own set of antlers! A great end to a great day.