“It’s another party” is the first thing that Bob says as we approach the main Piazza (Piazza IV Novembre) in Perugia. Now that the beautiful spring weather has arrived, the piazza has been the place to hang out.
When we first arrived here in late April, the weather was still “variable” as the Italians say. It rained on and off and the winds were strong at the top of this high hill town. But, when the weather suddenly became warm and balmy, all of the tables and umbrellas came out and the people soon followed.
Our beautiful little apartment is on a quiet street about four blocks north of the main piazza. So, when we reach the piazza, we never know what we’ll find. This Sunday morning in May, we could hear the sounds of activity before we passed the duomo (main church). The streets were filled with hundreds of athletes, young and old, who were about to run or walk a 10K (or 5K). The race T shirt was red, so there was a sea of red for at least 200 yards along Corso Vanucci, the main street. The race was scheduled for 9 a.m., so the runners took off, Italian Style, at 9:30.
We had a relaxing espresso as we watched all of the activity. Then, we walked to the west end of town to watch the race below. Since Perugia is a hill town, the runners began at the top of the hill and circled the old walls as they ran downhill to the finish. After watching a bit, we did some grocery shopping for our dinner and took our goodies home.
As soon as we put away our groceries, we headed out again to check our emails back at the piazza that has free wifi. As we turned the corner, the piazza was now filled with classic race cars! Apparently, there was a weekend giro of old cars. We saw some beautiful old Fiats, along with a nice selection of British racing cars. They had a few Ferraris, MGs, lots of Sprites, and even a Ford Mustang. The red-shirted athletes were replaced by stylish drivers (some in period costumes) and their fans, along with the ubiquitous tourists and lots of Italian families. The students weren’t out of bed yet.
On warm weekend evenings, the students start their happy hour on the steps of San Lorenzo, the duomo. It’s a bit strange seeing everyone with their bottles of beer or cups of wine hanging out on the steps of the church that keeps the Virgin Mary’s wedding ring. But that’s Perugia. There’s no law against walking the streets with alcohol, as long as it’s before midnight. After that, you need to be in a bar.
It’s not even summer yet, and there’s so much to do. On almost any night of the week, there are too many choices. The music conservatory and the university often offer free concerts. Two weeks ago there was a conference for journalists with many interesting and free lectures. This week, we had the Retro Film Festival. And the concerts that charge a fee are very reasonable.
But, the event that put Perugia on the map is the Umbria Jazz Festival, held in July. Jazz artists come from all over the world to perform in the big stadium or other smaller venues throughout the city. Our barista tells us that there are stages in almost every piazza for the free concerts held there. For six days, there’s music everywhere and everyone enjoys the biggest party of the year. This is the party I’d like to attend some day.
Below: the switch to cars, Mary’s ring, the Duomo steps during the party, then, after the party