On Thursday night Andreas and I embarked on what promises to be another epic summer. This year’s itinerary begins with a week in Italy, after which Andreas and I will part ways for a few weeks. He’ll go to Ikaria, then to Chicago to visit our son Kosta, then on to Los Angeles where his family is. Meanwhile, our daughter Alekka (who is here in Umbria with us now) and I will make another stop in Italy, then France, then the Isle of Lewis in Scotland before flying out of London to meet up with Andreas in LA. From there we all go to Portland, Oregon, then home to Medford for a few weeks. Alekka will return to London mid-August; Andreas and I will enjoy our last two weeks of vacation relaxing in Portugal. We return to Cairo just in time to get back to work.
Our plan for Italy this time was to skip the cities and instead hole up in a small, pleasant, mildly interesting (and therefore hopefully uncrowded) town where we could spend a quiet week taking walks and eating good food.
I can’t remember exactly how I decided on Spello, but I was looking at different hill towns in Umbria (not Tuscany, as it so popular) and it seemed like this one had everything we were looking for.
It’s on a train line, making it easy to get there and around.
And I liked that it has limited automobile access inside the city walls; traffic is stressful, and we weren’t going to drive a car ourselves anyway. Although we saw some pretty cute cars here we wouldn’t mind taking out for a spin.
I reserved an Airbnb in the attic of a medieval building. Now here we are.
The prehistoric Umbri lived here first. When the Romans colonized it in the first century BC they called it Hispellum and built a wall around it. There is a lot of ancient stuff here.
Some important Renaissance artists (Pinturicchio and Perugino, for example) were here. We saw some of their work in the 20 or so churches of the town, some of which were built as early as the 11th century. They are all filled with beautiful frescoes, paintings, and statuary.
The old city has ancient streets and alleys that beckon the walker with no particular destination. There are shops, cafes, and views to be discovered around every turn.
Flowers everywhere add color to the stone buildings, and there is a city-wide contest for the best decorated homes and businesses.
The biggest festival of the year in Spello is the Infiorate, for which people create elaborate flower petal carpets overnight in honor of the Corpus Domini feast. It usually happens in May or June. It’s kind of like the Rose Bowl parade, except here priests walk on the floral creations. Ephemeral nature of earthly existence and all that. I’d like to come back to see that someday.