THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED - Part 1
A few years ago we received a book as a gift. That book was the Signpost Guide: Tuscany and Umbria. It's a great guide to all the major sites of both regions, and even better for us, it suggests some out-of-the-way trips that the average tourist just might not have time for.
We have a guest arriving in a few weeks and we've been putting together an itinerary that will give her a good overview of Umbria. Obviously we'll cover important sites like Assisi, Perugia, Orvieto and the Perugina chocolate factory, but we also want to give her a sense of why Umbria is called the green heart of Italy. As you know by now we love the countryside in this region and never tire of the scenery. One of the nice fringe benefits of having company is that we get to do a bit of exploring too, so we decided to follow a suggestion in the guidebook and take the 'back' road out of Assisi, drive along the back side of Subasio, and end up in Spello.
We wanted to check out the road before our guest came, to see how much time we'd need to allow, and to see if there was a good place to stop for a picnic lunch. We invited our friends Larry and Shelly to join us, and the four of us went exploring!
Once we exited Assisi at the top, the scenery changed dramatically. The hills of Umbria become more mountainous, with deep valleys in between. The road, although in fairly good condition, had barely enough room for two cars to pass in some places, but as expected, this was the road less travelled and we met very few cars along the way.
We found several spots with picnic tables along the way, and although none offered panoramic views, we still enjoyed a nice lunch in a peaceful setting. We were amazed at how many agriturismi were located on this road, but with such a spectacular location it's easy to understand why someone would want to stay in this area.
The first real 'town' we came to was Armenzano. We asked a woman if there was a bar in town, and when she said "no", we didn't stop. Perhaps another time we'll check it out, but we were in search of a bar for a coffee and a bathroom break. As we drove along, Mt. Subasio stretched upwards on our right and the deep valley and mountains beyond were visible - when the vegetation allowed - on the left. The guidebook had said that the drive from Assisi to Spello would take about 40 minutes, and although we knew it would take us longer due to various stops, I think this is about right.
The next place we came to was San Giovanni. Although there was a new sign out front welcoming visitors to the tiny village, it looked deserted. Intrigued, we decided to take a closer look. It became apparent quite quickly that the town was undergoing a complete renovation, and I guessed that perhaps this was work that had been put off since the 1997 earthquake. Everywhere we looked there was work in progress, although no one was working while we were there. The walls had all been re-pointed, plastic conduit stuck out in various locations, waiting to carry the new electrical lines, and quite a bit of re-enforcement had been done. It's hard to say how long this project might take to complete, but once it's finished San Giovanni will be a gem - a step back in time with modern conveniences.
There are more photos on our FLICKR PAGE, in the folder entitled “San Giovanni Umbria”.
To be continued...............