A SURPRISE IN PERUGIA
You know how sometimes a visitor can tell you something about your hometown or local area that you didn't know? I guess as locals we don't read the guidebooks or research the history of places we take for granted. We had such an experience the other day. Even though Umbria is our 'adopted' home, with the rich amount of history in the area I think it's safe to say we'll never know all the stories and all the history! We were surprised though, when our friends from Seattle, Jill and Larry, asked us if we'd seen the totem pole that Seattle had donated to it's sister city, Perugia. Uhhh....no we hadn't!
We did know that Perugia and Seattle are SISTER CITIES, but we hadn't heard/read/seen a thing about this new totem pole. The four of us (along with 2 year old Daniela) decided to meet up in Perugia to check it out for ourselves. Larry said it was at one of the MINIMETRO stops, so this was also the perfect time to take our first trip on this new way into the centro or Perugia. After having received not one but TWO $100 tickets for driving illegally (but unknowingly!) in the centro a few years ago, we support any alternative means to get into Perugia.
We took the Madonna Alta exit just outside of Perugia and followed the signs for the soccer stadium. Just past the stadium is a new, huge, free parking lot, and although not well signed, we walked up the steps to some buildings, even though we weren't really sure what was up there. Once at the top of the stairs we found a little mini-mall, complete with a huge, upscale bar, a toy store, optical shop and a few other rather unusual shops, at least for this location.
Tickets for the minimetro trams are available at the bar or in machines at the entrance to the tram. One way tickets cost €1 each and the trains are frequent. Each car holds maybe 15 people, and for our journey on Saturday we had the car to ourselves. We wound up the hill to the centro, through a series of tunnels, stopping along the way at other stations. We got off at the last stop and watched our tram turn itself around for the return journey via a turntable like they use for trains.
A short walk up into the centro was made even better when I spotted a new GROM gelateria on the corner opposite the Post Office. We'd have a sweet treat for the ride back down to the parking lot! Once on the Corso Vanucci, the main drag in Perugia, we strolled, people watched and took a few photos. We discovered some Deruta ceramics for sale just behind the duomo, and Jill and Larry went to the police station to ask about the totem pole. And guess where it was??? Give up? It was down at the bottom of the hill, at the very first stop of the minimetro, right where we'd parked! We were all a little confused since we certainly hadn't noticed it. Although Larry had called it a totem pole I had Googled the internet and discovered that it was really an orca fin, decorated with Native American as well as Etruscan symbols.
When it was time to head back to the parking lot we of course stopped for a gelato (chocolate lovers, try the extra noir if they have it when you're there!), then took the quick ride back to the parking lot where we would search for the orca fin.
A quick walk around and all of a sudden, there it was!!! Yes, it was an amazing orca fin, rising out of a small pond on top of a hill! The landscaping left a lot to be desired, but still the sculpture itself was impressive. I'm not sure what the Perugini think of it, or if they understand the significance, but it's certainly not what you expect to find in Italy.
More pictures of Perugia and the Minimetro are on our FLICKR PAGE, in the folder entitled "Perugia and the Minimetro".