Thursday, October 8, 2015
We left the hotel about 9:30 and walked to the Termini rail station to pick up a rental car. Getting out of Rome was an adventure, but we did finally did it after learning to read the road signs (actually the signage was very good – but we were misreading them!) Our drive to Perugia was structured around driving on the Via Flaminia one of the ancient Roman roads that connected Rome with Rimini. I had read that actual ruins are scattered along the road, so that sounded like a fun way to fill the day.
Well, it didn’t turn out that way. We saw almost no Roman ruins at all. In one town, we stopped and asked people where to find them (because my article indicated that there was a stretch of the original pavement in that town). No one knew what we were talking about, though they did give us directions. Neither set of directions revealed anything!
However, it was not a complete loss as the road was a pleasant drive though the Lazio countryside, and through a number of small towns. Once into Umbria, the rolling fields gave way to a slightly more mountainous landscape and, surprise to me, castles! We even stopped to visit one which was closed. Fortunately there were interesting views and the opportunity to stretch our legs.
The castle was called “La Rocca.” I figured that was its name, but I found out later, in Assisi from a professional guide, that la rocca simply means fortress. During the exiled of the papacy in Avignon, a Spanish cardinal, Egidio Albornoz, was placed at the head of the effort to reconquer the city states of Italy for the papacy. He did it by building a series of fortresses, which now are beautiful ruins towering above many Umbria and Tuscan cities.
The drive went off without a hitch. We dropped the car off at the Perugia Airport and found a cab right way who agreed to take us to Gubbio for a mere 85 euros. (We ere expecting something like 120!)
The arrival in Gubbio was a bit of an adventure, with or taxi driver trying to back up an extremely steep and narrow hill to get us to our hotel. Fortunately we abandoned that plan before damaging his car or any people…but he did drop us off at the top of a narrow little street – pointing down the street and claiming that we should find our hotel, the Hotel Relais Ducale, down there because this was the street on his GPS.
It was the right street, and within about 50 meters we found the hotel and we ushered in and to our room.
Officially our walking tour of Umbria began that evening at 6:30. We met our guides, Dave and Donna Johnson, owners of Next Step Walking Tours, and our fellow walkers. Two of the couples are friends we have traveled with before, and we also met some new people. It promised to be a very congenial group.
We were given a quick orientation, a prosecco “benvenido” and some delicious antipasti in our hotel, and then we walked to the Taverna del Lupo for dinner. The lupo, or wolf, of the restaurant’s name is the wolf who terrorized Gubbio until he was tamed by Saint Francis in one of the legends of the town. We had a wonderful dinner and so this new portion of our trip begins.