The rich we will always have with us

In this picture, we are standing on the terrace of the Casa di Palazzo Sorbello, a house museum in Perugia built in the 17th century. We were able to tour several of the rooms, which showcase the Sorbello family’s book, art, porcelain, textile and manuscript collection. The remaining marquis still lives in the building.

This is only one of so many palazzi that make up the historic center of this gorgeous Umbrian city. The via Corso Vannucci is lined with former homes of the wealthy and famous of 14th and 15th century.

Subtly inserted on this fashionable street were two buildings that give you a good idea of what made this town tick. The first was the Nobile Collegio del Cambio. It was the 15th century bank, and its reception chamber had the feeling of Gringotts in the Harry Potter stories. Photos and frivolous inquiries about overdraft privileges were equally unwelcome. The first two rooms were covered with fabulous inlaid woodwork. The bankers probably saw no irony in the third room being a chapel with incredible frescoes. (These photos lifted from the Internet.)

Very nearby is a sister establishment, the Nobile Collegio della Mercanzia. This merchant’s hall continues as a guild today, with a legend telling us that they still take the oath of the organization, whatever that could be. At least here one could take pictures. The merchants are a little looser than the bankers, but they were probably great friends.

And then there is – or was – the Rocca Paolina. In 1540, Pope Paul II wanted to show a very troublesome Perugina family, the Baglioni, just who was boss. He tore down their houses and took over a substantial part of the town, and destroyed much of what was nearby for construction materials. What resulted was more a fortress than a residence, and it was hated by many who resented the power the papacy was then exercising, and continued to exercise for centuries. When Perugia joined the Kingdom of Italy after 1865, the fortress was torn down. Its lower levels remain, however, and a series of escalators and walks are the standard way to come up from the lower part of the town. That must have been some papal residence. Guess those popes knew they didn’t have a universal approval rating.

Now one exits into a more 19th century space, with wonderful Umbrian views.

This was a major Etruscan state long before the popes made it their home for a while. Several interesting artifacts remain; a well that watered the town from the 3rd century on – which we toured –  and the city gates, also from the 3rd century BC. The upper part is Roman but the overall sensation of walking under the arch is one of complete amazement.

For a complete diversion, it was important to stop at the Perugina shop to sample some local confections. The fact that this brand has now been devoured by Nestlé is evidently very depressing to many here. At least the chocolate is still good and the packaging charming.

At the head of the Corso Vanucci is the Palazzo die Priori is another palace, constructed between the 13th and 14th centuries. It was once the location of the Perugia magistrates, but is now part of the National Gallery.

The piazza that it faces has a wonderfully medieval flavor, capped by the Cathedrale di San Lorenzo, and the Fontana Maggiore, a 13th century confection.

We also toured the National Gallery. Wonderful Renaissance art, but I have had my quota for one Sunday, frankly.

And then there are just the wonderful nooks and crannies of Perugia in general. (Forgive the length of this post. This is the fastest internet connection I have had yet in Italy and I am going crazy downloading pictures like lightening. Okay, maybe I went a little overboard.)

So, in summary, what is the nicest thing we can say about rich people in general, and those of the Middle Ages in Perugia in particular? It is the fact that they can’t take it with them, and they have to leave their riches for later generations to admire. Mille grazie!!

Don’s Food Corner

We took it easy today. After gorging ourselves on last night’s calzone and pizza (and this morning’s breakfast buffet at the hotel), we lightened up for lunch. Just one course each at a cucina tipica that turned out to be as advertised. Perugia is not a heavy tourist town, so I think that helps.

We both went for pasta featuring a local pasta shape umbricelli — a very thick form of spaghetti. Jo’s version was umbricelli cacio-pepe.  The pasta was tossed in a sauce of cream, pecorino and romano cheese and heavily peppered. I was only allowed one little bite, but the heavy dose of ground pepper really made that dish. I went for the classic all’arrabbiata, which here added porcini mushrooms to the peppery rich tomato sauce.

Very satisfying.  It’s what we would expect on a routine basis, but, alas, is not always the case.




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