Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Driving in Italy, giro in Umbria and visit my favorite towns

We now are the proud owners of a new toy, a Claas tractor with a powerful mower and a very expensive weeder which will cut down on our hoeing work around the vines. Stay tuned for a future post with pictures, but today I want to give you a little tour of my favorite towns in Umbria which is our neighboring province. These can mostly be done in day trips from Nascondiglio di Bacco although to do things right, it would be better to stay a couple of nights in Perugia or Assisi.
1st, let's talk driving tips for Italy. Renting a car is easy and all cars come with basic insurance. You can buy more as in all places, but you are covered with liability automatically. Seeing the smaller towns requires a car, so unless you are doing the Rome, Florence, Venice tour, think about renting one. The autostradas all cost more than seems reasonable, but the alternative is to arrive at your destination tomorrow instead of in 2 hours, so use them to travel long distances. The speed limit is 130 km/hr or about 84 mph, but you will see people exceeding that in their Mercedes etc. The police use radar with cameras and autovelox machines, the latter being all well marked and even listed by location on the internet. The police must set up their radar within 2km of an indication which says controllo automatico della velocita' , which are blue signs with an image of a radar signal. If you slow down every time you see one of these, you will never get cited. The limit on side roads varies from 70 - 90 km/hr, but the same rules apply for radar posts.
Maps are key in Italy and the Michelin map of Italy you buy at Barnes and Noble is useful only for the major roads, so if you don't want to get lost, buy a map of each province you are going to visit. Michelin and Touring Club Italia make the best I have found or you can get maps of the provinces at tourist information centers for free which are even more detailed sometimes.
My favorite towns in Umbria are Assisi, Orvieto, Spello, Gubbio, Perugia and Spoleto and of course, Norcia in somewhat correct order of my preference. Assisi is a wonderful place, obviously famous for St. Francis and Santa Clara, but also for its castles, fun little tourist trap shops etc. If you stay the night, you will have the place to yourself as most visitors come for the day. A side trip up Mt. Subasio to see the sunset can be worthwhile and you pass the refuge of St. Francis where he went to hide from the bickering monks. Orvieto has one of the prettiest cathedrals in Italy with fantastic external mosaic work. It is also home to ceramicists, chocalate makers, woodcarvers and is located on top of a bluff which you access by a funicular train or drive up. Spello is just a few minutes from Assisi and is very cute and made for tourists with churches, art galleries and a plethora of shops to visit. Gubbio is famous for truffles as is Norcia and has an impressive castle and Roman ruins to visit. Perugia is the capitol of Umbria and is an historic city dating back many hundreds of years. It is a lot bigger than the other towns I have mentioned and has more amenities. There are a bunch of american students who attend university there. It is famous for a jazz festival held every year as well as a chocolate festival. Spoleto is nearest to Nascondiglio di Bacco after Norcia and has a wine festival every summer, a famous roman acqueduct and castle. Norcia is famous for cured meats and as you have seen in previous posts, truffles. It is the home of St. Benedict and has an external wall in the shape of a heart. Distances and times all depend on whether you drive like me! Norcia from us is 65 minutes, Spoleto less than a half hour farther with Spello, Assis and Perugia all within a 2 hour drive of us. Orvieto gets to a bit over 3 hours and Gubbio somewhat less.
The pix are of the duomo at Orvieto, a woodcarver's shop and a rainbow on the road from Norcia to Ascoli.

1 comment:

adrian said...

Nice images, Dwight.

Hate to say it, but Reggio Calabria bites the big 'Nduja. It makes my semi ghetto hood in Oakland, CA look like Beverly Hills.