domenica, aprile 20, 2008

hidden umbria

hidden umbria

Posted by natashalardera

Ah… Umbria, land of enchantment, of endless rolling hills and steep slopes, of green woods and expanse meadows, of savory food and DOC wines, of myth and reality, of spirituality, peace, mystery and secrets. A favorite tourist destination for years, Umbria has not completely uncovered itself - the hidden Umbria, its small towns and ancient villages, can now be reached by train, a secret that the inhabitants of this region have kept all through these years.

In fact, the region owns a private railroad, called the Centrale Umbra, which has been used for years to satisfy the demands of the locals who need to reach the different boroughs or “Comuni” for work or pleasure. The line starts from Terni and travels north through the valley and the surrounding entrancing slopes to end up in Todi.

The “Comuni’ touched by the train are: Acquasparta, Citta’ di Castello, Deruta, Fratta Todina, Marsciano, Massa Martana, Montecastrilli, Perugia, San Gemini, San Giustino, San Sepolcro, Terni, Todi, Umbertide. All stops, known or less known, have endless beauties and points of interest to offer to those tourists whose spirit of adventure leads them to discover new places and not just the traditional destinations. To decide where to go, the adventurous tourist should buy a map, prepare a plan and divide the locations by itineraries, just to make things easier.

ART ITINERARY - Citta’ di Castello has a fascinating landscape but is more known for being the hometown of one of Italy’s most beautiful actresses, Monica Bellucci. Locals will stop you just to say that the luscious celebrity used to eat lunch at their bar or used to buy books at their bookstore. Others, instead, will tell you that their town was also home to one of the most famous representatives of Italian Modern Art; Alberto Burri. The city hosts the Museum Collezione Burri, where 130 creations, 32 of which donated by the artist himself, are exposed to be enjoyed by all. Last but not least, every year, from August 21 to September 4, the city welcomes the Festival delle Nazioni, one of the most prestigious manifestations of chamber music.

Deruta is the ideal destination for all art lovers, especially those who love ceramics and hand made artifacts. Known since 1290 for its production of lacquered and hand painted ceramics, in vibrant colors and cheerful designs, Deruta is ideal for shopping for small or big presents. The Comune of Marsciano is also known for its artifacts especially those in terracotta. Visit all the small stores but don’t miss the Museum of Terracotta that showcases pieces that date back to hundreds of years ago.

Perugia hosts one of the region’s most beautiful theatres, Teatro Morlacchi, built on an old convent in 1777 on a project by the local architect Alessio Lorenzini. In 1781 it was inaugurated and given the name “Teatro Civico del Verzaro.”

HISTORY AND RELIGION TRAIL - But Perugia is not a destination just for art lovers…it has much more to offer. History freaks will be taken aback by the Rocca Paolina, a fortress with a hostile look, that was erected on a vast piece of land that is now called Piazza Italia. The fortress has always been considered a symbol of injustice and sacrifices by the peaceful locals, in fact the squads of soldiers that inhabited it were never active thus they were called the “Guards of smoke.” Perugia also has an Etruscan Necropolis, it is in fact known that some Umbrian tribes have roots in the Etruscan society, that is open to the public, and several archeological sites, including the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, that is located in one of the city’s most beautiful squares. The Museo Etrusco-Romano of Todi showcases several objects, coins and artifacts of Etruscan origin found through the years thanks to the research of many national and international archeologists. The city is rich of churches and beautiful palazzos, but it is also known for the production of delicious DOC wines. Church lovers should stop in Massa Martana, Fratta Todina and its Franciscan Convent, Umbertide, San Giustino and San Sepolcro, all towns touched by the hand of Saint Francis.

HEALTH ITINERARY - Acquasparta is a small town who owes its name, in Latin ‘Aquas Partas’, to its geographic position because it is located between the Spring of Amerino and that of Furapane. The former is also known as the Spring of Saint Francis, because, according to legend, the Saint had blessed the waters which turned therapeutic. To this day the waters conserve their powers and are famous for their calcareous qualities. The spa is located in a breathtaking green park where people can take care of their ailments, take a stroll or just breathe in the fresh air. Water is the honorary citizen of another “Comune,” San Gemini, a fascinating medieval town that stretches out on the hills of the most southern edge of the region. The natural springs of San Gemini produce fresh and uncontaminated water that has medical and diuretic properties. The cycle of formation of the water lasts more than thirty years and that’s why it is considered one of the most precious waters in the world. The springs are hidden in rocks and in unpolluted earth and are under surveillance by the local authorities day after day. The historic center of San Gemini hosts numerous churches rich of frescoes and ancient history but archeological aficionados will be enthralled by the ruins of Carsulae, the ruins of an antique city that were brought to light by the excavations that took place from 1951 to 1972. At the moment we can see the Forum, the Theater, the Amphitheater, part of the Via Flaminia and some tombs.

Montecastrilli is known for its ideal and healthy climate. It’s the perfect place to relax and regroup just by walking around its winding streets, by stopping at a café for a glass of wine, by visiting the numerous churches and Casteltodino, a medieval castle enclosed in its walls and four towers.

Terni will take your breath away with its Cascata delle Marmore, an artificial waterfall created by the Ancient Romans. Inserted in a spectacular natural scenery of incomparable beauty, the waterfall is open to the public all year around although its water is released only at certain scheduled times. If you end up at the wrong time and the water is not being released don’t give up, Terni has much more to offer, like its Roman Theater and its Duomo, and will not let you down.

The Centrale Umbra was created from a project by the colonel Cherubini and permission to be built was granted in 1908 by the Administration of Perugia. Through the years more towns were added to its line and today’s line is the result of a very complex history of discussions and changes of plans. Once in Umbria walk away from the tour bus and just ask one of the locals to direct you to the local train station and start your adventure through its secret towns and spectacular views.

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