Greetings! We have been to Italy, Umbria mostly with a few spots in Tuscany as well, and have returned home to warm Spring weather and a swine flu outbreak. Well, no swine flu here yet but it certainly is the hot topic - the only good news being that the Church is recommending hugs instead of handshakes at the passing of the peace.
I kept a travel journal on the trip but it is too lengthy to post all at once (12 pages!). So here's a summary and then I'll post pieces with pictures which will, in fine computer style, be posted ahead of this post. The last shall be first....
Overall, we had a wonderful time in Umbria. Our agriturismo - the best way to see Italy is to stay at one of these and do day trips, I am convinced - was in Bovara at the foot of the town of Trevi. The weather was cool and more often than not also rainy. That only stopped prolific picture taking but not our travels. We went to Gubbio, Trevi, Montefalco, Orvieto, Spoleto, Bevagna, Bettona, Spello, Deruta, Assisi, Florence, Montalcino, Buonconvento and Sant' Antimo. We also spent a fair amount of time just resting in our apartment with a lovely fire in the corner fireplace, a bottle or two of wine and local cheeses and meats. We found some really wonderful little restaurants - the one in Trevi was so good, we ate there twice in one day and came back two days later - lots of goodies we simply had to buy, and fell in love with some of the local wines, most notably the whites which none of us usually drink at home. The day of the worst rain, we saw a double rainbow and then had about a half dozen more rainbow sightings even as the sky grew darker and darker.
The people of Italy continue to charm us and my Pimsleur Italian really did come in handy more than once. Sitting in the airport Wednesday morning waiting for our flight, I eavesdropped on a conversation behind me and discovered that I could understand some of what they were saying. This doesn't mean, of course, that anyone there would have understood me!
One of the renewed insights, though, is the marked difference between a church that is active and one that is merely a museum. There is such a different feel and smell to those places where people still gather for worship. It affects the whole space, even the art on the walls and the statues in their niches, bringing life to what would otherwise be rather dead. The loveliest painting in a museum cannot hold a candle to a fading fresco in a church where candles are lit in prayer, music is sung and liturgies are offered. None of that will likely come through in the pictures we took but it is a sense that we will always remember when we look at them again.