We were faced with a perfectly beautiful Sunday and nothing to do. This couldn’t be happening, so I quickly mapped out a day trip and we set out for the Green Heart of Italy.
Umbia is called the Green Heart of Italy for good reason. It is truly the heart, sitting right in the middle of the boot. It’s one of the few regions that does not border a coastline. To make up for this, they have Lake Trasimeno, the fourth largest lake in Italy. Trasimeno is an ancient body of water dating back to when this part of Italy was a sea. The Etruscans were busy around here in BC times, so this lake and the land around it have seen civilizations for over 2,700 years.
However, it was in 217 BC that Hannibal, after successfully crossing the Alps, whipped the Roman army to smithereens here. One of the key battles of the Second Punic War, it led to many other victories by Hannibal on his march through Europe. However, while he was traipsing around Western Europe, the Romans snuck down to Carthage and seized it, putting an end to this bloody war. But as we all know, one war’s death only leads to another war’s birth. So it was that this lake bore witness to a fierce battle in which over 15,000 Roman soldiers were killed and 2,500 of Hannibal’s troops lost their lives. That’s a lot of people to die in one battle in the times before the birth of Christ.
Today the lake is a peaceful, shimmering blue oasis surrounded on one side by mountains and the other a plain. Charming towns dot the area near the lake and driving around it is a practice in zen. Except on a Sunday in mid-March when there’s a road race going on and runners are hugging the narrow two lane road and cars are trying to maneuver around them. Regardless, we navigated through it all and visited two great towns – both of which have been on my list for a while.
It’s no surprise that the area around Corciano was an Etruscan settlement. They have an Etruscan museum there, but it was closed during our visit. The city we see today dates back to the 13th century, which seems old to us, but was built 1,000 years or so after the first humans settled here. I still cannot wrap my head around this antiquity and all the many things this land has witnessed.
Today Corciano is a small town with the characteristic charm of an ancient hill town. Stone steps and alleys flow through the town, winding around and doubling back on themselves. I love wandering down a narrow alley only to find myself in a piazza that I passed through on my last wander down a narrow alley.
This has been on my list for years. Now I know why. This is one of the most charming villages I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot of charming villages. It also has quite a spectacular church, albeit freezing cold inside. These old stone churches were not designed with comfort in mind. They are ice cold, sometimes even in the summer. This one had patio heaters lining the aisle to try and keep the faithful from turning to ice blocks during services. That was a nice touch, I thought. I also loved that the children of the church had drawn messages of peace for the Ukraine and they were proudly taped to the ornate altar.
Panicale is the kind of town that has winding alleys and streets and killer views. It’s not a particularly high hill town, but the views are of the valley leading up to Lake Trasimeno with the mountains hugging it in the distance. It also has a lot of shops and restaurants (all of which were closed on our March Sunday visit). Definitely worth going back to in warmer weather when things start to wake back up from their winter hibernation.
As we were strolling through town, my phone alarm went off reminding us of a concert back in Anghiari. We weren’t quite done with Panicale, but had to dash off to make this concert. Another time we’ll do it more justice.
We try to go to as many things as we can at the theater. We’ve been to a few things that were way over our heads (language-wise) so when performances that we can follow come up, we jump on them. This generally falls under the category of music. This was to be a performance of a soprano, a piano, and a flute.
The theater in Anghiari was originally part of a private villa. New by Anghiari standards, it was bulit in the 18th century. At that time, public theater was not allowed, so wealthy families built private theaters as part of their homes so they could host performances. The area that once comprised this villa has been reconfigured and the theater is now a free-standing building on a public street. It’s small for a theater, but has three rows of boxes rising above the main seating area, making it larger than it appears.
We got home, fed Millie, combed our hair, and rushed over just in time to get our tickets. I didn’t have time to change, so I was in jeans and tennis shoes. Further cementing our reputation as Americans! I only cared for a little bit – until the performance started. I love settling into my red velvet chair, surrounded by green marble paneled walls, getting ready for the performance to start.
I don’t know what I was expecting, but these people could have been performing at Symphony Hall. They were incredible. The soprano was perfection – the voice of an angel with the grace of a swan. Her body movements, while ever so subtle, were such an enhancement to her voice. I imagined her fingers as feathers, floating beautifully up and down as she gestured. This was a powerful performance, one that touched your heart and made you so very happy that God gave people such magnificent gifts to share. The musicians were wonderful as well and together they gave a perfect performance. At least to my untrained ear. But if the purpose of music is to touch something deep inside you, then they accomplished their goal.
A perfect way to end this glorious day. We were all very tired from our adventures and were happy to relax in our living room before falling into bed. When we got home from the theater, we realized that in our haste to leave, we left Millie’s collar and leash on her and forgot to turn any lights on. The poor dog was running around the house dragging her leash in the dark for an hour and half. She was glad to see us, if a little confused by the events, and promptly forgave us for our oversight. So much we can learn from our dogs if we only pay attention.