Switch over went without a hitch (except for the car issue): Cindy and Paul rode the rails back to Rome on Saturday, Sept. 10, and Claire and Dave drove up from Rome on Sunday, Sept. 11. Not people to let moss grow under their feet, we headed out, in their lovely, big Nissan something-or-other, on Monday to visit Assisi. None of us had been to Assisi in at least a decade and Claire had read that the church of Santa Chiara, which was under renovation when she was last there, was now open. Seemed as good a reason to go as any.
Although not as far as Perugia, the drive to Assisi is plenty long. It was hot when we arrived but Dave found good parking and we wound our way down and up to the Basilica di San Francesco. The last time Michael and I were here, it was with my mom and my auntie Billee; so, this return was filled with poignancy for us, as, frankly, are many of the places we visit it Italy. We always light a candle in the churches in memory of those people, those times, and those memories.
We wandered through the lower church, the upper church, the gift shop, before wandering out in search of sustenance. In a town in which the economy is built on a man who stood for poverty, chastity and humility, I don’t know where a poor person would eat. Our simple lunch of pizza (2), salad (1), eggplant (1) was just about 50 Euros; of course, it came with four slices of stale bread and a surly attitude, so, I guess that made it okay.
After fueling our engines, we sought out the Basilica of Santa Chiara. It was packed with pilgrims of some sort. They all had bib sort of thingies draped over their chests and backs with some saintly person depicted there on. And they were praying so long and so sincerely in front of St. Chiara’s tomb that it made it hard for real tourists to get a glimpse. What’s up with that?
Tuesday, Dave and Claire took us to Terni where we picked up our new car. At first, we thought we were going to get another Clio (the paperwork was confusing to us . . . for all I know we just bought a car), but when we were handed the keys we noticed the BMW logo and our spirits soared. Even with it dents, it is a very nice, comfy car.
We took two cars and went to San Gemini, so-so, and then on to Todi. Dave and Claire couldn’t find a parking place and they headed back to Narni. Michael and I found a parking place outside the walls and then began the LONG trek back up into the town. We found several LONG and STEEP stair pathways up. And by long, I mean almost never ending. What a good workout. At the tippy, toppiest top, we looked out and saw a huge thunderstorm rolling in. We chose to roll out, dashing down the streets back to our car. Check Todi off the list.
Wednesday, we headed west. We went to Civita Bagnoregio, where none of us had been. It was well worth the trip and gave us another opportunity for much stair climbing and up and downing. Michael wore his new green shirt and he really blended in . . . not as a local but as a potted plant and as table decor at the restaurant where we had a delightful lunch (the napkins and glasses were the same color as the shirt). The lunch was only a few euros more than our Assisi repast but was ever so much nicer, even if we did have to get by without the surliness.
Civita is a tiny place that is ever so slowly eroding away. We walked where one could walk and admired the views out over the surrounding landscape as well as the smaller, charming views within. As tiny as it is and as many people who must visit, it didn’t feel crowded to me. A lovely destination for a day’s outing.
But wait, there’s more. Since we were so close to Bolsena, we drove on to see if the gelateria we missed with Cindy was now open. It was; and each of us indulged in the award winning ice cream. The ricotta and cinnamon was a particular favorite but the cappuccino, the pistachio, the dark chocolate and the ezzelenza,* were all superb.
After ice cream, Michael walked up to where we had parked the car in order to pick us up, I dashed down to the little shop where I had bought dried beans before to buy some more, and Dave and Claire stayed outside the gelateria where they were serenaded by a delightful, toothless, red-bespectacled gentleman. When Dave asked the fellow how he had learned his English, he launched into “All By Myself” and then segued into “I Did It My Way.” He may have lost his teeth but his wit and grasp of his repertoire were firmly intact.
*Hazelnut, pistachio, pine nut and almond.