Day 12 (Fri, Sep 28): Free Day in Perugia

Today was our free day. Some of the group took the train to Arezzo and other a van to Cortona, Arezzo and Lake Trasimeno. We chose to stay home and relax a bit.

Chiesa di San Pietro    In the morning we retraced our path from yesterday's visit to San Domenico and continued along Corso Cavour, through Porta San Pietro (St. Peter's gate) to the Chiesa San Pietro, a Benedictine Church and monastery which dates from the 10th Century. San Pietro is easily the most beautiful church we've seen in Perugia, with "acres of paintings" as one guidebook put it. We visited a beautiful little side chapel with lovely frescoes, probably early Baroque; the sacristy, with paintings by Caravaggio, frescoes in the grottesque style and beautiful inlaid woodwork, another side chapel with work by Vasari, and - most wonderful of all - the choir stalls, decorated with carved animals and mythical creatures and decorated with magnificant inlay. What a place! The holy water font had fish sculpted inside it.

Oreto Medievale    On our way out, in the courtyard, we saw a sign saying Oreto Medievale. We followed through another part of the building to a beautiful garden that is maintained by the "Agraria" students of the University of Perugia. From the seal planted in the law, it appears to date from 1308. Part of the old monastery is occupied by the Agriculture Department (or School). It's a wonderful garden, very tidily kept, with all the trees, shrubs and planted labelled. There were light purple fall crocus blooming under the gtrees. Our favorite place was a small formal garden surrounding an old olive tree, forming the zodiac, with lavender plants shaped into the various signs and typical plants for each time of the years planted among them.

Lunch "up top"    We returned briefly to the hotel, then went up to the city center where we had lunch an outdoor cafeacute; on the Corso called Luna Bar Ferrari. Karen had wonderful penne with eggplant, cherry tomatoes, sausage, radicchio, yellow peppers; I had penne with gorgonzola, cream and parsley (my cardiologist, Dr. Coletti, might or might not be thrilled ... he is Italian after all). It was breezey and chilly all day, and we got cold sitting at lunch. So we returned to the hotel, stopping at the Perugino Chocolate shop to buy a little gift for Chris along the way. We thought the shop was a bit Disneylandish.

Had a nap in our room, then spent some time reading about Orvieto and looking at maps. We returned to "the top" later in the day. Had more wonderful hot chocolate at the Caffé di Perugia (map, outside), then went down to the Piazza Matteotti. We followed Via Bagnoli south to a fantastic viewpoint beyond Piazza Italia (in the Giardini Carducci, as we later learned). There was a sweeping 230° view of lower Perugia and the Umbrian countryside, including Assisi and Mt. Subasio. There was also a statue of Pietro Vannucci (aka Perugino - works), for whom the main drag was named.

When we returned to the hotel, we decided to take our books out to the reading room in the lobby. Dick and Joyce Wolfe were there, back from their train trip to Arezzo. Babette was visiting with a young Italian man named Spiro, who had lived in Houston while doing medical research, and who was Babette's go-to guy if she got in a pickle. Had an enjoyable last dinner in Perugia, capped off by creme brulée so delicious that a reverent hush fell over the table. We packed before bed.