PERUGIA – We ditched cars for this vacation and have been walking or riding trains. The train from Florence to Perugia, in Umbria, is about a two-hour ride through a countryside that is redolent of western Sonoma County. My grandfather was born on the Swiss-Italian border and he wound up in Sebastopol, and it’s easy to understand why.
From the train you can see vineyards and olive orchards but also rows of corn and sunflowers. You also see small farms, with rolled bales of straw, and lots of sheep.
The train climbs into the mountains, passing through short tunnels, and it also passes by Lake Trasimeno, whose waters are good for swimming. “I was so taken by this splendid vision that I never forgot it, and it has become the stay or, at least, the setting for most of my paintings,” wrote Gerardo Dottori, the Italian Futurist painter.
We spent the night in Perugia (about halfway between Rome and Florence). It covers a high hilltop and is crossed by the Tiber river. The history goes back to the Etruscan era. It also is a universities town — and, yes, the home of the infamous Amanda Knox murder trial.
The views to the valley below are astounding, and you could spend days exploring the region. We sat in our hotel room with a glass of wine and admired the sweeping views, with the sound of church bells (and Vespas) below.
The swimming pool at our hotel was one-of-a-kind: “”Floating in the crystal-clear water of the pool you find yourself swimming over the age-old remains of an Etruscan settlement which are protected by glass.”
We are going to Rome next, where we’ll wrap up our trip visiting the Vatican, the Colosseum and Pompei. We fly home via Stockholm.