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Trip Report Perugia and Rome by train and bus

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We shall see if DH and DR can, after crossing the Pond, travel via bus and train in Umbria and Tuscany. Will we be defeated and have to hire a car???
We will travel from 6-20 March. Hope to participate in a Rome GTG on the 18th.

Thanks for the advice about busses from Perugia. It's much easier to find trains than bus lines in Italy because the busses are so localized. So, stay tuned and I'll try to get a TR completed as soon after our return as poss.

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    Forgot to mention above, the AMEX we used for the last 2 trips has closed! So, we've done the air and hotels on our own (well, Fodor's and Eyewitness helped). I ended up just calling Air France as they had the best of the fares from DC and emailed the hotels.

    We are staying at Locanda della Posta in Perugia and Raphael in Rome. Please don't tell me any bad stuff now about either place-wait until we come back.

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    We, JR and DR, are 60's travelers. JR will not drive and thinks DR would enjoy it too much and scare him to death. This was our 2nd trip to Umbria and 5th to Rome.

    We did make the 45 minute connection from DC to Paris to Rome. We hot-footed it and jumped to the front of the passport control line (saying "sorry sorry sorry") and made it with 10 minutes to spare. Everything hinged on the DC plane being on time and it was. Ironically, we almost missed the return connection as the late-leaving plane turned a 2 hour layover into 1.

    In Perugia, Locanda della Posta was just the kind of place we like. A tad shabby but its past glories still evident. Price for 10 nights with breakfast was 1,100 euros. It was so well-situated on the pedestrian center and steps from busses and escalator.

    A warning to those with walking problems: the escalators have areas where one still has to walk up hill and up steps and some of Perugia's streets are really steep. Steepness applies to the hill towns as well. Even if your driver or bus stops right at the top, there are usually a kazillion steps to big churches and again, steep streets.

    In Rome, we loved Raphael for our last 3 nights and 31st anniversary. 567 euros (3 nights) was a higher price than we usually pay but we wanted to splurge. We didn't take their breakfast as it was 26 euros EACH! Hotel was steps from Piazza Navona and has a rooftop bar (in season) so we were ok with the price. They upgraded us to a junior suite at same price. Does anyone know why this happens?

    OK, more to come. Notes are typed but not proofed.

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    OK, as always, it's long and is my diary. Have patience!

    Some more things we learned: Perugia, after renaming streets at each block, hides the names cunningly. Going up a hill might not take you to the top of the town.
    Bus travel might get you there when all is closed!
    When all else fails, try a bar.

    Friday, March 6, 2009

    After 6 inches of snow Sunday night, it is going into the high 60’s today as we leave around 11:30 Dulles. Another almost empty parking lot there and on-the-spot bus so we are checked in, through security and sitting at Harry’s Tap Room at 2:05.

    Food is good there. JR had Cuban sandwich with cole slaw and fresh pineapple and DR had mahi mahi with pesto spinach and nifty fries. Beer and wine.

    Plane to Paris is on time and it is one with individual screens on seat backs. New movies to watch: “Slumdog Millionaire”, “Four Christmases”, “Australia”, “Vicky, Christina, Barcelona” as well as older ones like “Mama Mia” and “Singing in the Rain”. DR actually slept.


    We have been concerned about the 45 minute time frame between landing in Paris and getting to the contingent terminal. Air France guy says “no sweat”, Fodors posters say “ain’t gonna happen” and various people tell of different ways to get to our transfer. We end up following the signs, get into the line to which the Air France person directs us. This line is not moving so we ask for butts in another and power walk to Terminal F29 and make the plane with 15 minutes to spare.

    At around 9:15 an airbus has taken us smoothly to Rome. They gave us proscuitto and cheese with butter and jam and Nescafe. It only took 15 minutes to get our bags and we actually make the 10:06 train for the 30+ minute ride to Termini. There we have an hour to wait but it is a long walk to binario 4 and we are glad we don’t have to hussle. JR hunts up some water and DR guards the bags and rests.

    Train to Perugia is on time. A family with a baby has a teddy bear that plays Elvis’ “Teddy Bear” melody. Two Italian students, taking Punjabi (egad!) give DR the Italian essere conjugations she forgot to study. We reach Perugia around 2:30 and grab a taxi.

    Oh my, how we zig and zag in this city! Taxi lets us off (€11) and cabbie points to our hotel Locanda della Poste, Corso Vannucco, 97, maybe a 50-foot walk from the taxi stand. We are on the pedestrian-only historical center and it is truly cool and a little chilly (50s?). Perugia seems like a mixture of Siena and Aix.

    We sign in and our room is ready. It is also pretty nice. The hotel’s first impression is that it is basic. The halls are a drab gray with oldish red carpeting. We hear a violin from down the hall. Elevator holds 2 but a 3rd could squeeze in. We have an old-fashioned-looking key with a big oval attachment that is our electric stick. Such a great idea!

    Our room is a pleasant surprise. We actually have a second room and the bath is beautiful (although we will wet the floor each time we shower!) with flowers in a vase tiles and huge vanity area. Neat views also. We have asked for a quiet room-view of a back street from one window and the pretty countryside from another.

    Room reminds us of a fifties version of the Royal Victoria in Pisa. Walls are covered with fabric that coordinates with headboards. We unpack and head out to find food and look. Clerk recommended La Taverna and it is close but doesn’t open until 7:30 so we decide to leave it for another day. So we walk and gawk at the beautiful buildings and surrounding scenery. Place d’Italia (where we were left off) has taxi stand and is also a big bus stop. We find the public escalators there as well. Some are outside and some are under the buildings and pass old stonework.

    We stop at Lo Spuntino del Ghiottore and get 2 caps and a mini ham & cheese pannini (all for 3 euros). We go back up the escalator and see the market, pastry shops with gorgeous stuff. Seems like everyone sells wine so we get 2 bottles at La Botte for 5 euros each for Montefalco Rosso and Chianti Classico and what looks like the Rome cookies. See a sign for a free concert on Sunday.

    Pizza al Trancio: Fumé quattro formaggi and bacio gelato to complete our first dinner in Perugia! Chatted with guy from Naples while waiting for pizza. Back to room to crash.

    Sunday, March 8. Sunny and 50s

    Up at 7 and 8 to the sound of church bells. Great shower even though we haven’t mastered the art of not wetting the floor. JR kindly gets some coffee for us. No rushing today so took our time to breakfast. Beautiful breakfast room and sitting area with high, decorated ceilings. The usual stuff but real scrambled eggs and 3 wheels of cheese. The croissants in this area are usually stuffed with cream or lemon. There were also small danish rolls with raisins, cheese cake and cherry strudel.

    Music sounds like Bobby Rydell. “Money Can’t Buy Me Love”, “Quando, Quando” and “Save the Last Dance”. We are the only people.

    We are out by 9:30 with our only goal to explore Perugia by footmobile. Desk clerk has given us a nice city map and it looks like we should bear left at the big church to get to the very top of the hill. Wonderful views as we wend our way up. We find the Etruscan Arch and make a right up a set of stairs (gotta go up, yes?). At the top we find a nice bar viewing a beautiful church. Have some water and caps and stop in at the church. It’s nice but austere. We continue going up (still unable to find the street names on our map).

    See many Disney figures on clothes (especially undies) this time. We keep going up and finally find a street that’s on our map and realize that we have made a huge circle. The church we saw was the back of the Duomo on our street! We go back to the nearby taxi stand and, at 12:30 ask a taxi to take us supra! Driver was very impressed that such old people knew the words to Doors and Eagles songs playing on the radio.

    There is a church at the top (now there’s a shock) and we start working our way down. We are beginning to think that going down hill doesn’t might not necessarily take us down the hill since the opposite had not proven true. We are still laughing about our circle and decide to call each other “Boomie” for boomerang!

    Wend our way back and finally pass a street sign that says we are on Corso Garibaldi. This is interesting because we thought we were on Corso Cavour. Saw a laundry, old city walls and cute little cars. Stopped for crepes at #15. For € 20 we got a mezzo of red wine, liter of water, ham/mushroom/onion in white sauce (JR) and pear and gorgonzola (DR-hers was best) whole wheat crepes, tiramisu and caffe d’orzo (barley? bland). Nice waitress helped us with verbs. “Posso” means “May I?” if you have the right inflection.

    We find our way back to Corso Vannucci and go to room for a rest before trying the free concert and dinner. We found a concert but it was the wrong one-it wasn’t free and had already started so we bagged it. Walked around our area and find a cute place (La Musica et Tu) but it wasn’t going to open for another hour so we stopped at a nearby bar. Bartender is from Abruzzo area of Italy and working on Master of Arts. He served us a free Mimosa (said the same way in Italian) and we tried the wine with the same name as the bar, Bonazzi. A sign on the wall said “Marcollo ma non mollo” or “Don’t give up a drop”. Lots of bar food. Songs are American 60’s pop in Italian.

    Back to the restaurant. Our meal was Saltimbocca and Pork with field greens and radicchio. We may has misled the owner but he thought it was our anniversary so gave us a plate of sweets (macaroons, cookies and cake). Owner loves jazz and pix of various performers were on the walls. Sinatra being played. Back to room to CRASH!

    Monday, March 9-Cloudy

    We take ourselves to the local tourist info center to see what our options are for towns and cooking school. Woman is very nice but she is from Poland and doesn't seem to know the area so. On the other hand, she is an artist and gives us her card. She also gives us train and bus info for Umbria towns but suggests we go to Florence for Tuscany one. Too early for tours. Hmmm.

    So we go down the escalators to Pitigliani (sp.?) bus station and buy tickets to Todi. We have a little time to kill so walk around the area. Find another info center and get cooking school info (La Taverna has one!). Todi is 53 km from Perugia. We go through Deruta passing its kazillion ceramics shops and an inviting hilltop centre that DR hadn't read about.

    After assuring us that the bus went to the ultima fermata driver stops at the penultimate one. He waves us to a stop “over there”. Nothing is open except a bar. There is a beautiful church (not open) near the stop. We decide to walk and do-about 2 kms up hill-and reach the centre in about 25 minutes. It is so still. Definitely not tourist season yet! We go into the Duomo and a nice priest says he take us to the catacombs but we are both thirsty and hungry and say maybe later.

    Grab water, wine, beer and caps along with Salami Pizza and Ham/cheese Salad pannini at the Tomato Pizzaria in the Piazza del Popolo. Rosso di Torgiano is very good. We stroll a bit and ponder our possibilities. We can grab the next bus back or walk down the hill, see the other church and take the last bus. The TI opens so we talk with the nice person in there. She shows us where the bus should have brought us (so close to the top). We walk a bit and decide we’ll just go “home” on the early bus. Get a neat shot of Deruta with storm clouds behind it.

    Back to room for a rest. JR finds nice review in DK book for Cesarino pizza place so we decide to go there. Well, we can find the street but not the restaurant so figure it’s gone. Antiche Perugia looks cute though. A nice young woman points us to a table where an older gentleman is sitting with a newspaper. He sighs and moves to another table. Who is he?

    We decide to split the antipasta della casa (€ 7), then JR will have Scallippine Schef (the best and an interesting way to spell chef) (€ 10) and DR chooses Penne alla Perigia (€ 8). Wine is Le Mura Saracene, Montefalco Rosso (€ 18). There is a table covered with food and that is the antipasto buffet! We get fagiole, zucchini, carrots, eggplant, green cauliflower and brussel sprouts. All good. End with an excellent Limoncello tiramisu! € 54 total.

    As we are eating, another couple comes in and the man is moved again. Some mighty sighs and body language of the woman makes us think they are family. It’s a cute little place with lots of photos (including Don King) so we expect there is some history here. DR gets up and looks at photos and the man takes the opportunity to introduce himself. He is Rocky Bananas, retired boxer and restauranteur extraordinaire! Waitress is his long-suffering daughter. Wife no longer in the picture but we don’t know if she’s dead or just vanished. “Gone”. Talk about the murder in Perugia (“bah to lawyers”) and boxing (“Don King is mafia”). We vow to return.

    Tuesday, March 10-Cold but sunny

    Plan to go to laundry and then train station for more info.

    “Singing in the Rain” (Sinatra) and “Que Sera” (Day) playing in breakfast room and there are 5 other diners today.

    Conferred with front desk for laundry. DR thought she could find the one we passed on Sunday so took us on another circle! We finally found the recommended one. Bought detergent and return (up hill) to hotel (which is really down the hill) then take bus to train station. We read the automated ticket machine to get schedules for 4 cities. We bus back to bus station and get more schedules. We think Montepulciano and Montelcino will be more easily reached by car. Yes, Fodorites, you were correct!

    On our “kill time” walk the day before, we had passed the archeological museum that was on Perugia’s “must see” list so we walked back. The inside closed until April but we were able to walk around what had been a cloister to see Etruscan and Roman urns and vases. We read that mother’s surname was always mentioned. All manner of Homer (not Simpson, you fool) stories illustrated on the urns. One could see the faded colors on some of them.

    We stroll Corso Cavour and reach St. Peters church, another on the list. It also has a nice garden. For some reason, we didn’t go into the church itself. Retrace our steps to see if any of the restaurants we passed were open and find one that is another gem! NaNa Ristorante (#202).

    Terrina di gorgonzola e pere (€ 8), Zuppa di asparagi (€ 8), Raviole al pecorino “cacio e pepe” (€ 9) and an excellent Ruggeri Montefalco wine.

    Cute place and we chat with waitress who is Albanian. Walk back to bus station and to room for siesta. After, we go towards Duomo and stroll and shop down (and I do mean down) Via dei Priori. Find some gifts and chat with a couple of artists. One doing her own ceramics designs and another stamping and printing. Peeked into a pretty St. Phillip church and found a great shop filled with paper works of local artists. Paper handbag lamps, onion-like paper bases and a cool copper wire floor lamp with paper petal lamp shade. Bought a pretty hand-made paper book for catsitting neighbor.

    Found a second set of escalators and took them to a parking lot but it was beginning to get dark so we decided to explore more when it was light. Heard a wonderful Roberta Flack-like voice coming from a music store. Artist is Lizz Wright-nice voice.

    We come up (and I do mean up) a side street and don’t we find La Cesarina! We are, as always too early so we go to nearby Dempsey’s Bar. We can’t remember if it’s “di dove” or “dove di” when asking where one is from. We order wine and ponder this when the bartender finally has mercy on us and says “So, where are you all from?” He (Andreas) is from Jersey and after taking his classes in Perugia knew he had to stay on. We chat a while and find out that DR can use computer for free there and that the Kennedy Galleria is a traffic tunnel, not a shopping mall! We promise to return for our after-dinner drinks.

    La Cesarina is no longer a pizzeria but a regular restaurant. Painted yellow with many old b/w photos of Perugia, it is very attractive. Here’s dinner: JR had Stracciatella in brodo (€ 8) and Scalappa proscuitto e salvia (€ 9); DR had Braciola di maiale (€ 10) and Patate fritte (€ 3,50). A mezzo of house red. All for € 42. Nice meal and good value. JR has actually made stracciatella and his was better!

    Back to Dempsey’s and our new best friend Andreas. We meet some other students (forget names) and, between serving others, Andreas says that there are 6 universities in Perugia and that every three months a new groups of students arrives. He and about 6 other kids are great friends. Some will be going off to other countries, some staying on but they are having the great time that 20-somethings can! Checked emails and wrote one to office. Very nice group of kids.

    Wednesday, 11 March-Cloudy and cold

    The cap machine isn’t working this morning! Since we rather stumbled home last night, we were counting on that! The regular coffee is so strong that the amount of milk needed to make it the right color also makes it cold. Brrr. Anyway, off to laundry. We stop by front desk and ask about driver for our two towns and he says he’ll work on it. It’s a gray cold day so perfect for doing laundry. Although it’s so cold, we end up huddled against the dryer doors! After we bought detergent, put it in and started the machines, we read that soap is automatically dispensed. Will we cause a problem? No, all is fine. Return (up hill) to hotel (which is really down the hill) and leave off our clean clothes, grab a pannini and white pizza and we decide to go on a little trip.

    Sun is now out and we take the 1:30 bus to Passignano sul Trasimeno (€ 12,40). It takes almost an hour as there were many stops letting students off. Town looks very attractive and we find we have just enough time to take the ferry to the lace island and get back in time for the last bus. Bus schedule says 5:30, bus driver says 5:20. Hmmm. We stop for vanilla and choc/lemon gelati and don’t let the looming dark cloud keep us from getting on the ferry to see the Isola Maggiore and its lace museum.

    Everything is closed on this old old island. Only a multitude of cats seems to be around. One guy cleaning up garden debris. We stroll briefly then head back to the ferry’s covered stop before the rains came. Ferry on time and rain speeds by. We never needed to open our umbrellas then or at any time on this trip. Oh, we asked at Ferry ticket building if she had a bus schedule and she gave us yet another time and told us we’d need to change busses at Mangione. So 3 different sets of info but none of the times was correct!

    Anyway, we are back on land in plenty of time to grab a pizza, beer and wine. The bus comes at 5 and driver shows us where to pick up bus in Mangione. JR comes up with his most astute question: why isn’t Italy littered with cemeteries? Same for Greece and Egypt. The oldest places should surely have a pile of dead folks, eh?!

    Back to Perugia and Hotel Umbria’s Ferrari?? Restaurant. We split Bruschette a tartufo nero (€ 7,50), Scaloppine all’acetobalsamico (best) (€ 8,50), Ossobuco con pizelles (€ 10) and panna cotta ciccolate for dessert. Montefalco Rosso. Not a great meal but not bad either. There are several tvs and groups watching football. We have had truffles but don’t think they were fresh since it was in March. Back to the room.

    Thursday, 12 March-Sunny

    Fresh fruit today. For some reason we think the train to Arezzo is 10:55 but it’s an hour earlier and we aren’t going to make it. So we go to Gubbio instead (€ 18). We have time to stroll around the bus area again. Buy stamps for post cards (only sent to Aunt Polly this time) and pondered the advantages of bus travel compared to train or car.

    The trip to Gubbio (say goo bee oh) was uneventful (hour??) and we were left at a square somewhat downhill from main square. Up the hill and lo and behold there’s an elevator to the main square! Beautiful building but it is going to close in about 15 minutes so we don’t take the tour. We stroll and look at some ceramics and souvenir shops and find another elevator to the Duomo. It is a vastly high church with the beautiful art and many dead people.

    We still haven’t made it to the top so look unsuccessfully for funicular (which is really a series of open baskets!) to the rocco. Gubbio is very attractive and we are enjoying our walk. We missed the main street and come upon the Green Parrot restaurant and yet another gem.

    Woman is cooking over an open fire and there isn’t an English-speaking diner except for us! Hot diggity. They have a truffles (“not fresh, we must tell you”) tasting menu for € 25 but it looks like too much food. They agree to let us split it:

    Bruschetta al tartufa (4 different breads with truffles/oil/cheese, pate/oil, truffles/cheese/artichoke/oil and tomato/pate/oil)
    Tagliatelle al tartufo (pasta with oil/truffles/parmesan cheese
    Scaloppina al tartufo (tenderest beef with truffles)
    Insalato mista (romaine, tomato, carrots with wine/vinegar on the side)
    No dessert.

    It was a wonderful meal. While we were there, they were moving tables together for many of the town’s workers who order their meal in the morning, descend at 1 and eat in an hour. There was also according to the waitress an actress with her one-month old baby. A movie was being made in Gubbio.

    We stroll some more zigging and zagging down hill and along Corso Garibaldi. Back at bus stop we find a post card showing the Christmas lights on the entire mountain that is Gubbio. Very nice town. A favorite.

    Back “home” we stop for white choc./orange and choc./lemon gelati and go back to room to rest. Front desk has a driver for us on Saturday. He has some English. € 200 for the day. We say ok. Gulp. We try to play an Italian game show but only understand a question about Medici. We watch the news. In lieu of understanding a single word, we attack the spread collars worn by the people on the tube! There is a vignette of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet playing poker.

    At 8, we rally and go to Mediterranean Pizza recommended by Andreas. The pizza are huge (about 16”) and only cost € 6. We get ½ white and ½ 4 cheese plus some white wine (€ 5,5) so that was a great price. We are the only folks sharing one pizza! We stop by Dempsey’s and get Amaro and whiskey.

    Friday 13 March-Cloudy and cool

    Up at 7:30 for Arezzo. Chocolate covered muffins and seed covered croissants are added to the breakfast menu today.

    We are early enough for train to stroll around and find the minimetro station. Cute little trains going back and forth like little metal boxes. We look at the schedule for Rome and have to decide if we’ll take an express at 6:45 or leave later and wait an hour in Foligno. Anyway, we buy our Arezzo ticket, find the binario and the train comes along. We get on and just as train pulls out we realize we forgot to validate our ticket. We decide that JR will sprint out and do it if we pass a validator at the next station. Next station, no validator. We are getting nervous. Next station, good old Mangione, has one visible. JR runs out and validates before train goes on its way. Naturally, no one ever checks tickets!

    We reach Arezzo and find info office and an excellent clerk who gave us a good map and suggested an itinerary that we were able to follow easily. First stop are really ruined arena. We are pondering if seeing many people walking dogs means that a city is rich or dangerous! We go to San Francesco church as it is a big “to see” but one needs tickets and a reservation and we just don’t feel like being inside. See pix in DK book! Wonderful murals.

    The big piazza off Corso Cavour is being dug up but there is a huge church there and public building. Big antiques market once a month. We spied Osteria del Borghicciolo down a little alley so ate there. A separate menu in big type leads DR to think lots of old tourists come here. DR had chicken and JR had beef. Chicken really good. Got roasted potatoes with crispy sage leaves that were delicious. Instrumental versions of “New York, New York’, “Blue Moon”, and “Age of Acquarius”.

    Up hill to duomo which is closed for lunch. We decide not to come back but continued to Casa Varsari. He an Arezzoan artist and architect. He designed and built his house and decorated it mightily. DR snuck a forbidden pix of ceiling. No book available.

    We continue to Arezzo’s big art museum but it is € 20 per and we aren’t in the mood. It’s getting nice and warm outside and we think we can make it to stazione for next train and we do! We have 5 minutes to spare and, of course, the train is 10 minutes late. Still debating Rome trains. The non-stop is € 43 (Eurostar) taking 2 hours, and the 8:30 is 3 hours because of the change, but only € 21. What to do, what to do.

    We drop stuff off at room, run up to Dempsey’s to check email. A good friend went into the hospital right before we left so were happy to hear that he was home and back to work. Started looking for a dinner place when we ran into student Ludavichia who recognized us, said “ciao!” and did the 2-cheek kiss that made us feel very Italian! TV crews in next street over.

    We went back to Ferrari restaurant and had Beef and mushrooms with rosemary and veal scal with lemon and what turned out to be a huge pile of spinach with bruschetta! JR ordered a crema Catalonia-crème caramel with chocolate on the bottom. Really good. The Simpsons was on tv that night with all manner of Italian stereotypes in the story line. € 46,80 total. Back to room to crash!

    Saturday, 14th of March-Sunny

    We both slept for 10 hours! Bewitched on TV as we are getting ready for the day. 3 more tables were set up in the breakfast area anteroom. Three people eating when we arrived at 8:30. They are speaking enough English that we thought they were tv people. A marble cake is added to the buffet and it is good.

    Stefano meets us at 9:30 and leads us to his black Mercedes. Very comfy and JR is not allowed to sit up front. We take the A1 toward Rome and travel at a smooth 120 kph. Saw many fields of grapes and olives. Grapes pruned back and farmers trimming the olives and burning the branches. Stefano’s English is limited but we manage to talk a bit.

    He takes us to the top of Montepulciano and we agree on an hour and a half and place to meet. Another hill town but I believe this one is the highest. JR constantly wonders how they managed to schlep all those stones up the hills. We walked for about an hour then found Stefano waiting so we left, stopping at big church at bottom of the hill. It looked very much like the one in Todi.

    We passed a field of sheep with Pecorino cheese sign on the nearby farm. What DR thinks was Pienza looked very pretty in the distance.

    We zig and zag to Montelcino’s top. The town is known for its wine and there was actually a shop in the rocca charging € 4 to go to the top and might big bucks for the wine. € 95 to send 3 bottles to US! € 135 for 6. Despite the rip, the town is very sweet. We had invited Stefano to walk with us and be our lunch guest and he seemed happy about that. It was his first time there so he took some phone shots.

    The three of us strolled the main top street and chose l’Angolo for lunch. The special was a big pork cut but everyone said it was too big for one person so JR didn’t order it. Don’t know why we didn’t think to split it. Anyway, over lunch we learn that Stefano is married with a four year old (Alessandro) and his wife works at a clothing store. Driving is his job and he goes all over Italy. We had chicken, steak pork, mixed veggies and tempura veggies (our faves). I'd recommend him.

    Back toward Perugia, Stefano stops for a view of Lago Trasimeno and then again at Corciano (another walled town near Perugia). He drives us through the pedestrian section of Perugia “Only for you!” We buy him a drink and bid him a fond farewell. Oh, he said his favorite restaurant was Locanda Perugie near the U. for Strangers on via Fabbretti. We vow to go there. He also told us that the murder trial was going on (of boyfriend) hence the tv folks.

    Back to room to drop off purchases (no wine!) and rest then set out to find Stefano’s restaurant. At 6:45 we started to walk up hill once again. At 8:15 we are on a bus that goes to the station. We simply couldn’t find the street so grabbed the first bus that had any familiar names on it. We go ahead and buy train tickets for the 6:45 eurostar and take the G2 back to Place d’Italia!

    At 8:50 we go to Osteria la Lanterna (near Rocky Bananas). We were pretty hungry by then! Mushroom soup, Roast Chicken, Duck with Orange/Marsala Sauce (yummmy). Dessert was panna cotto-creamy pudding with blueberries and strawberries-we scarfed it up. Another good place to eat.

    Sunday, 15 March-Sunny

    Our last laundry day. 8:45 to breakfast. It was noisy outside last night. Someone has beaten us to “our” table. Nice soft jazz in the background. As we set out to Laventeria we worry that it will either be closed on Sundays or filled. We hoped that all the noisemakers from last night were still sleeping and not doing laundry! Perugia is empty! Only a couple of pastry shops are open and at 9:45 we have the laundry completely to ourselves. More Sunday morning bells are ringing all over-very neat.

    We read ads for real estate (prices not too bad but we don’t know the areas) and "the little blue", a book friend of Andreas has written and a nice gift as it has much in the way of coping if one is newly-living in Perugia. Amazingly it gives directions to via Fabretti so we decide to lunch at Stefano’s favorite place.

    We show the map to the desk clerk and he points to the exact spot we were standing last night. Off we go and there is the danged street sign on the side of the building! Don’t know how we missed it. We find the place and it is called Locanda Brizi. We couldn’t make waitress understand that someone sent us.

    Lunch was great: Tris di brushette (€ 4) (3 different toppings-pate, mushrooms, caprese); Arrosto misto (grilled lamb, chick, pork and sausage) (€ 8); Scamorza al Proscuitto (€ 6) (a shiskabob); Patate Arrosto (€ 2,50). Only Italians so far and we can not follow what people are ordering as they speak so fast. We order Crema Catalone and it comes out flaming! € 37 total for lunch

    On to the big art gallery-we really do need to go into at least one! It’s a pretty day and JR opts to stay out. DR spends about an hour looking at mostly huge altar pieces. Many painted with tempera so colors very vivid from 1200. Try to imagine the stylised crosses painted with tempera and gold leaf on each side and hung in open windows for easy viewing.
    Very unusual. Also of interest was early stained glass (first used in 9th and 10th C. in France and Germany). I had to giggle at Madonna dell’Orchestre. A huge “Anunciation” by Bonfigli (1400s) showing god blowing a dove into Mary’s heart. “Nativity of the Virgin” made me think of Dan Brown’s book. Perhaps he saw this gallery with its seeming emphasis on Mary. There was no per se guide of the gallery that I saw. Only books about individual artists and movements. Rats.

    We met outside the bookstore and JR is so sad to see DR empty-handed. He has found chocolates store and gotten stuff for office and docs. Bought a box of cocoa for our neighbors. We stop by Dempsey’s to say goodbye to the nice kids. We talk a bit about prices in Perugia and co-tender Tamara says that food is cheap but gas and heating costs high. She suggests a restaurant for dinner that night and one (Rust) in Rome to try. We trade emails. Per her suggestion we go to Il Settimo Sigillo and have Riviolini formaggi e noce (€ 7,50) and Torta al testa (€ 5), Zuppa di San Francesco (€ 6) and Flan caldo al ciocollato (€ 3,50) that was like a hot pudding cake but better. Good cheap food.

    Monday 15 March-Sunny and warm

    Bells are ringing the wish us well on our last day in Perugia. DR always expected Italy towns to be this way but for some reason we never heard many bells. We decide to go to the bus station and see about Deruta. We get there at 10 but bus isn’t until 11:50. Early again! We had seen signs for the feather (or pen?) museum so we decide to go there. DR has gladly shed her coat and is comfy in blazer and sweater. JR sees that it is 60s in Rome tomorrow.

    Museum is closed. We contemplate the Zen garden and cool spiral steps. Back to bus station and walk around in a nearby park and finally bus comes. Deruta is noted for its ceramics industry and I think reviews downplay the charm of the hill top. Bus drops us on lower town and we take about 25 minutes to walk to the top. It’s not as steep as Todi but more zig and zags made it about the same length of time. Where is that hidden elevator?

    Naturally, we arrive just at ceramics museum is about to close for lunch. Note to Perugia Tourist Minister-hire temps for lunch or make busses earlier! Furthermore, Deruta seems to be asleep for the winter. Clerk says only bars open as it’s too early in the season. So we go to a bar/tabbachi for pizza and ham/cheeze focaccia. And a cookie.

    We sit an mellow a bit and try to listen in to various conversations. Don’t understand. There are many magazines and one has what look like a big chocolate kiss in metal attached. Owner says it is a plastic onion keeper for the freezer. “Love Shack” is playing on radio.

    We decide to shop. No, DR decides to shop and JR holds his breath. These ceramics are not cheap! A handful of shops open at 2 and we finally meet a lovely man who is the stereotypically overly friendly Italian! “Welcome! It is my pleasure to serve you and your family!”

    We look and look and he says he has a 2 bedroom apartment for rent should we ever return and do we want to see it? We had time so go up and it’s very nice. I promise to let my friends know about it. (Fodorites, let me know if you want the info). € 400 for a week (no matter when) is not a bad price split between 2 couples. We buy some small items from the guy the wonder if it was really his apartment!

    Continue and see many artists “these are my own designs” filling in colors on ceramics. On to the museum and it has old ceramics from 14th century. DR is not in love with any of the designs and doesn’t that please JR! Walk back down the hill and see a big shop and meet Ditta G. Grazia who has a private client in Annapolis (didn’t say who). He shows us around and it turns out that this is a factory as well as a shop. After first firing, ceramics are stamped with design, then the workers fill in the colors. He shows us newspaper clips of his grandfather giving work to British Museum and of reviews he has also received.

    We leave, empty-handed and get some water and wait for the bus. The stop is near dumpsters and JR notices that trash is separated (organic, plastic, paper and other-yes he looked) for recyling. He is excited when a trash truck comes by. It picks up one of the dumpsters from the side of the truck. We see a truck with “Autoforgonoleggio” written on it. Can’t figure out what it is. Forgono is ‘mold’ and leggio is ‘music stand’. Anyone know?

    Back to Perugia and bus to our area. Stop at bar next to hotel for a wine and beer. Ask them about autofornonoleggio and they actually look in the phone book but can’t find the name. Oh well. Tents are getting set up all over Place d’Italia and Corso Vannucci. We ask and are told there will be a big Festival of Breakfast on Thursday. Since Italians aren't big breakfast eaters, this is curious to us. Rats, we’ll be gone. Back to hotel to confirm our need for 7 a.m. taxi and room to pack and JR crashes. DR takes a last stroll and picks up small proscuitto/cheese and a water.

    Tuesday, 17 March-Not yet daylight-31st Anniversary

    Taxi comes to the door (which clerk has to unlock) and we get to Stazione before the ticket office is opened. The bar, however, is! We get a croissant to go and sit for a while. Go to appropriate binario about 30 minutes ahead of time and the train is there! So we get on and settled easily. So often, it’s a huge crush of folks getting on at once. JR remembers about validating and does. He then reads on the back of the ticket that because we have reserved time and seats, validation isn’t necessary. Mama mia! Only about 7 more people get on the train in Perugia.

    On our way, we break out the croissant and find it is stuffed with chocolate! At Asissi, a group (8) of friends from Ireland get on the train and put themselves in seats in our car. Comments lead us to believe that they don’t hold reservations so we are interested in seeing an Italian drama unfolding. When the conductor comes by, he tries to explain that the Eurostar is a reservations train except for car number 7. They must each pay him 8 euros extra and understand that should the holders of the seats come in, they must move to the other car. He is very sweet to them. We had hoped for some drama! They decide to stay put and take their chances and at the next stop the group of French school kids comes in to claim their seats. The transfer is almost Keystonian as people and luggage must trade places in aisles wide enough for 1.5 persons.

    The rest of the trip is uneventful. Again, we try to understand the French and can not. But we are now confused because we forget we are not going to Paris. We land in Rome and had forgotten how big Termini is and about the number of shops therein. Undaunted that we are, we follow the taxi signs and join the line for same. About 11 euros to our hotel and it is sooooo cool.

    Hotel Raphael is on a little nook in the street. It is covered with plants not yet green-bet it’s cool in the summer. DR has booked it because of a rooftop terrace. A uniformed doorman wrests our luggage from us and we enter a wood-paneled, old-fashioned lobby. The desk clerk accompanies us to our room. “You have been upgraded to a junior suite at the same price.”

    Nifty, albeit dark with paneling, room with walk-in dressing area and 2 comfy chairs for watching the big flat-screened tv. We unpack and go out the door at around 10 a.m. for Piazza Navona (PN)-maybe 2 minutes away! We are accosted by the closest outdoor café’s hawk and we get 2 caps and 2 croissants. The Piazza is very calm. We notice a place for sale. Waiter thinks maybe 3 or 4 million euros. It’s probably a walk up.

    We have a church (St. Ivo) and a palazzo on the “yet to see” list and they are both in the area. Today is the only day of our trip that the Palazzo Pamphilf is open. A family member still lives there. We stroll over. St. Ivo is closed but Palazzo is open for business and it is awesome. Ceilings a la Vatican Museum, and hallway competing with Versailles-very ornate. World class art according to the English-speaking guide we tail for a while. We see a car called a Jensen Interceptor as we leave.

    We stroll through a pedestrian area. Pass by Pantheon and find Gesuti which we visit again. So beautiful. We agree that it gives us a peaceful feeling unlike other churches we’ve seen. Spiritually fulfilled, we search for Giolitti’s gelato. The family has a place in Annapolis. One has to pay first by the way. We get banana/choc. and lemon cream/choc and they are good. The best (and probably the first) we ever had was in Florence.

    We realized we’d forgotten to check the tourist info place near PN but see on our map another up the big street Via del Corso so we work our way in that direction. We pass by Parliament and see a big demonstration. TV crew with long-haired red headed producer is swooping down to speak to anyone of interest then retreating to a safe distance after. The demonstrators line up for pictures as if it was a class shot.

    By the time we reach site of the Spanish Steps, we realize we’ve missed the TI place so work our way back to PN where there is another and it is open. JR buys a good bus map for € 2,50 so we can plot a way to get to our old restaurant. We meet a woman and her daughter from Arlington, VA.

    Back to room and find a nice welcome present! Goodies, wine and a nice note are appreciated. DR decides to take a nap and check email and JR watches a Katherine Hepburn movie that takes place in Venice. It is dubbed in French with Italian subtitles.

    We worked on the bus map and found one that would take us within 2 blocks of La Fiorentina, where we had such an enjoyable dinner 10 years ago! Once on the bus, people overheard our plotting and helped us with the stop. We went in but didn’t recognize it inside but maitre d’ said they’d redecorated. We ‘splained about our wonderful dinner there and it being our anniversary and how we tried to find the place and the cookies over the years. They are touched and amused by us. Here’s what we ate: Amuse bouche was 1 french fry (no joke) 1 gnoccho, 1 rice ball (suppli di riso), 1 stuffed pastry and a slice of zucchini stuffed with creamed cheese. Starter was mixed bruschetta-mushrooms, tomatoes, chicken livers and artichoke spread. JR had a kabob of mixed meats and DR has Saltimbocca. “Are you sure you want the cookies and not a regular dessert?” asked our waiter. So we ate cookies and dipped em in our wine as we remembered.

    Talked with every English-speaking person we heard and at length with nearby table of Texans. One is a twin and she and her sister both exhibited morning sickness before they even knew who was pregnant. Taxied back to hotel and asked to be left off at PN. We weren’t paying attention and walked in another circle around it! Stopped at hotel bar and met another Texan who was talking his wife and daughter to Florence for the day in the early a.m. He working on a project of pulp wood as fuel. How smart is that?

    Wednesday, March 18, Sunny and warm

    We are out at 7:30 and nothing is open except a bar! We sit by a window as Roman workers stop by for a quick coffee. Owner drops the tray of dishes from the dishwasher and has a meltdown-kicking broken cups across the floor and saying many choice words. We would be afraid to return here.

    So, we start our stroll along the Tiber with the goal of returning to Piazza del Popolo. We turn at Ponte Cavour and pass Ara Pacis. TV crews lounge around its back door on Via di Ripetta. We stop a while, hoping to encounter someone famous. DR has her camera dangled around her neck so no one shoo’s us off! We get bored so start walking away when 2 limos pull up and a short person is surrounded by reporters. Anyone know a famous short Roman?

    On Via di Ripetta we pass a doll repair shop. Sleazy doll parts decorate a dusty room where 2 artisans paint and paste. Piazza is as we remember. Not terribly crowded and the gold man is getting set up. We peek into a couple of churches (mass going on at the prettiest so we don’t stay). Decide to go to the Colosseum area and find that the 117 goes close by. And there it is!

    We push into the full little bus and JR has fulfilled his life-long fantasy of being squeezed between 2 Italian women. He forgot to ask the capricious gods to make them young. We get off near Trajan’s Market. It is closed for repair. This never ceases to amuse DR. How can you repair a ruin….

    Anyway, we stroll and see a big map at the edge of a park. It has “you are here” on the page-not on the map. We find that hysterically funny. Once we got Colosseum in sight, we stopped for omelette and coffee and sat outside under the not yet blooming wisteria-covered pergola. Huge tourist groups today but still not like summer. We strolled around the area and got turned back by a fence but eventually walked up to Piazza Compadoglia. Michelangelo designed it all but didn’t live to see it finished. Big gallery but it was too nice to go inside.

    DR sees that we aren’t so far from the turtle fountain and Campo Fiori so we head in that direction. Yes, we made another circle or 2, missed the fountain, but do find a cute souvenir shop and the Campo. There is a big non-flower market going on today. A jazz band is playing. We realize we are very close to home so start in that direction but grab choc/frutti de basco and choc/cap gelatos at something blu (a gelato chain) for strength. Back at PN (not terribly crowded) we stop for wine and beer and they give us cute little spinach/ham/cheese quiche bites. Gorgeous weather to sit and mellow before going back to room to rest for a few.

    We have been advised that they are working on the rooftop terrace (“I am so sorry madam but she is closed”) so we, being Americans, sneak up to see if we could at least get a little picture. A guy is at work right at the door so we don’t barge in. DR has posted several question on the Fodor’s travel forum and tonight is a get together (GTG) for drinks with one of the “Fodorites”.

    DR prints out a map to “Cul de Sac” bar and off we go. Yes, we went in a big circle. Finally asked someone for help and he said to go up that street and turn right. So we did. We found the number but it wasn’t the bar. We also found the restaurant, Rust, that Tamara recommended so we ate there after stopping at the Abbey Theatre Irish bar. They had a 3-8 (now that’s civilized) happy hour and a list of drinks with very raunchy names.

    Rust had Zen-like atmosphere and the guy was tickled at being recommended by someone from Perugia. Here’s our dinner: An excellent antipasto dish of broccolli flowers, red peppers, stuffed red peppers gratiné, 3 different zuchinnis, eggplant, 2 cheeses, fried okra, and 4 bruschetti with tomato, truffle, pepper and artichoke toppings (forgot to write price-it was wonderful). Trancio di Tonno all Sicilicina (tuna with tomatoes, capers and olives) € 11; Pesce Spada al Salmoriglio (swordfish with oil/vinegar, lemon, parsley and garlic) € 11. As always, we are happy to hear that the other diners are Italian.

    As we return to PN for our dessert, guess what we find? Yes, “Cul de Sac” bar but DR doesn’t see the Fodorite. We get a tartufe and Irish whiskey at Tre Scalini and crash!

    Thursday, 19th March-Cloudy

    Our last full day. We are both awake at 4:30 so turn over and sleep til 8. News on tv is that French workers are going to have a big fat strike tomorrow. We are on a KLM flight but they are air partners with Air France so we wonder if we’ll be affected. Off to PN where more things are open. Get caps and omelette al formaggio (€ 12!) and croissant. JR finds the mosaic walk in DK. It’s a 3 hour walk. Waiter sees us looking at the bus map and says “Go over to Via del Corso and take the 85 to Porta San Giovanni”. So we do. We go into St. John Laterno church and it is stupendous inside. We can’t remember if we saw it before (we did) but it is worth seeing over. Went to Baptistery also (shabby) then on to a round church Santo Stefano Rotondo.

    We get to the round church just as it closed for siesta. Figured the other churches would be also so we hopped on a bus and got off at Argentina to eat. Stopped for vanilla fudge and amerena gelati and DR realizes we are near the turtle fountain again. We pass a big dig (was to have been luxury condos-ha! developers) and walk right to the turtle fountain. Lunch at nearby Ristorante Pizzeria Romana on via di Funari 24. JR decided he’d have spaghetti for lunch and pizza for dinner on his last day in Rome so he ordered Spaghetti Carbonara and DR had roast lamb-Abbacchio Scotfindito and a plate of carrots. All good.

    Table of 10 American students came in and all got pizza. We couldn’t tell if they were high school or college aged but they were having a wonderful time trying to order. The owner did his best crotchety, can’t understand a word you’re saying act. We didn’t intrude on their “authentic” Roman experience.

    Decided to “bag” the rest of the mosaics walk and go to the Spanish Steps. Just took our time strolling and kissing the vitrines (French slang for window shopping). Detoured to Trevi Fountain and it was mobbed. Had forgotten about all the souvenir shops and stalls on the way to it. Or maybe we’d approached from a different direction. Repeated our first walk in Rome by taking via Condotti. Saw the Jimmy Choo shop-we would have spent our life cheerfully unaware of this brand had it not been for “Sex and the City”. € 400 shoes don’t work for either of us.

    We sat on the steps for a few then returned to Condotti and followed it as be became Borghese. We passed the Pallazzo Borghese and the print market and slowly made our way back to the room to pack. We are now ready to go home but so sad to leave Roma.

    Last dinner on Piazza Navona (Ai Tre Tartufi-a place with heaters) where JR had a 4-cheese pizza and DR had ravioli with spinach/ricotta. JR did a timeline for HRE and Charlemagne and pagans as DR tried to figure out how Christianity could have flourished at a time that communications were so difficult and there weren’t that many Christians to begin with. There are too many statues of Neptune that the popes renamed Moses for DR to comprehend. Back to hotel to confirm taxi pickup in the a.m.

    Friday, March 20, 2009-Cloudy

    Cab to airport picked us up at 6:50 and we were at the airport at 7:15. We pass St. Paul outside the wall. “How did we miss that?” Taxi left us at wrong terminal but it was a short walk to the correct one. Loooonnng check-in line for our 8:55 flight (it is 7:40).

    We actually make it with 20 minutes to spare. Up escalators and down again. And up again. And we wait. And wait. Plane is an hour late. So our 2-hour layover has just become 1 hour. Amsterdam is a beautiful airport but we must go from one end of a wide ‘W’ to the other to reach our terminal. We have an hour so don’t power walk but we don’t dally either. Too bad-there were lots of tulips to buy! JR gets the bright idea to check the departure gate info and find that our flight has changed gates to a slightly closer one. Good. We get there and they are loading the plane. There is a security at the gate for that flight. Pretty smart, eh? We are informed that we are taking a different plane to DC. Because of the France strike? Instead of row 20 with 2 seats, we are now on row 58 with 3. Furthermore, there are no personal tv screens. Fortunately, we have a lovely seat mate and there is enough from for her to move after we eat.

    She is from Berlin and has children in Madrid, Philly, DC, Milan and Miami so she is having a ball visiting them and grandbabies. The KLM staff are smiling and friendly. Dinner great and they bring snacks and warm towels throughout the flight. For our final snack our choice is quiche or a brownie. Who thought that up? At long last, we are at Dulles! So good to be back, so sad to leave Rome. Well, our luggage apparently didn’t. We wasted an hour at the airport first waiting for our stuff then filling out the lost luggage report. We hit the beltway at rush hour and snailed along going grrrrr.

    Finally back home and all is well. Neighbor has turned on the light for us and Little Kittie cries and drools in welcome. We loved our boomerang trip!
    ps-Luggage is delivered at midnight the next day. This was the first time that JR put the souvenirs in the checked bag so we were a tad worried but all was exactly as we'd packed it!

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    This dropped like a rock so am topping.
    Speaking of rocks, Perugia "rocks" with its many universities and music background to a beautiful historic center.
    Palazzo Pamphilf in Rome is an extraordinary place and a reasonable walk from P. Navona.
    Gubbio is a gem of a hill town and our lunch there was a standout.

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    Thanks for this report. It brought back memories of my stay in Perugia (including that same bus ride to Gubbio).It also brought back many memories of arriving at a sight just in time to see it close for lunch . . . great report.

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    My kind of trip! I seem to walk in circles in Rome (and everywhere), although I suppose I know it "well." Glad you did this and have reported back. I love Palazzo Pamphilj, Gesu and Gubbio. I haven't visited Perugia but now I'd like to. Love all the food details. Thanks so much!

    This may have "dropped like a rock" because perhaps others, like I, thought it was a question, not a report. Is it possible to tag it now as a trip report?

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    TDudette-
    I loved your report and yes, it did have a similar feel to mine! I especially loved your Perugia report because that is a city I want to visit. I also loved the humor, your pace, and the places you visited. Thanks for recommending that I check it out. -risab

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