SpoletoPosted: February 25, 2011
Spoleto begins at the bottom. A fairly nice, fairly new kind of town.
Then we saw the Escalator. Well Escalator system really. Imagine the subways in London! This city, hundreds of years old, has a wall of over one dozen modern escalators, reaching up one after the other, taking you to the top of Spoleto. They are brand new, just opening a few short weeks ago, and whilst I am glad I did not have to walk all the way up, it was odd to have something so modern in a town so old.
At the top is the beginning of “the old town,” and the Rocca! A very big fortress commissioned by a couple of Popes in the 14th Century. It was also built to house the current ruler of Spoleto, who male or female, went by the quirky title of “Duchy of Spoleto.” The Fortress is quite stunning and beautifully restored. It is easy to let ones imagination travel to a Medieval age, attending banquets of whole pig, wearing long flowing frocks and head wear.
BUT, its past the Rocca I want to get. When we first visited Spoleto it was with Paulo and our 3 hour visit felt like only a fleeting glance. As if a 10 minute movie was on really fast forward and took 10 seconds. We have returned to savor the sights and revisit a room I loved.
Modestly resting behind the Rocca, not perturbed by living in its shadow, quietly holding its place, sits the Hotel Gattapone. When we came upon this hotel with Paulo, the first thing I noticed was a smiling gentleman at the tiny reception desk. I popped my head in the door to ask about the possibility of buying a coffee, whilst at the same time craning my neck to get a better look at this beautiful room, part foyer, part guest lounge, part bar.
The kind gentleman, whilst advising me of a lack of coffee available, did avail my curiosity and a gracious hand offered me inside to take a better look.
I was in awe, the room, reminiscent of the 60’s was sumptuous in its simplicity. Dark timber, a spiral staircase leading up, and a bright blue cloth furniture, set the perfect frame for the full sized window view of The Ponte delle Torri! The view across the wooded ravine housed a stunning bridge built in the 14th century but on ancient Roman footings, it has also served as an Aquaduct bringing water from the Monteluco to the towns basins.
We have returned to explore Spoleto and stay at Hotel Gattapone.
Spoleto is a town that’s beauty has crept up on me. It may not surprise anyone else, but I still expect to arrive in a town and find a city center, a “High Street”. Of course this is not the design of these old Italian cities. Spoleto in particular requires time. Time to explore and discover, like a treasure hunt. Its a long way up on the excalator, and a long, lovely stroll down again. Narrow winding streets that seem to twist and turn around themselves, always going down. Small stone buildings in a nook may house a contemporary book shop; around a corner, behind an old facade, an exquisite stylish store selling modern furniture or clothing. A small fruiter or delicatessen will be tucked in an arched doorway.
The city is stone, as of course are most of the old Italian cities. Stone arches span stone walls across stone steps, paths made of pebbles encrusted in concrete.
If Italy is food, Umbria is the Truffle. And Spoleto is the capital of the truffle. At this stage, at the risk of sounding a philistine, I am not a fan of the flavor of the truffle. I expect it’s an acquired taste, and for a foodstuff that can cost up to $3000 a kilo , it must be a most desirable acquired taste. My theory is that a little Truffle at a time will build my acquired taste into what may become an expensive indulgence, I tasted Antonio’s white truffle pasta sauce last night – not bad. We were tempted in tastings at the wonderful delicatessen of the Padrichelli brothers of Truffle cheese and a Truffle oil you spread on bread – getting better!
The Hotel Gattapone itself was converted into a hotel in the 1960’s and still maintains all its original decor. From the street you enter at the first floor. Led down the spiral timber staircase to our room, we realize we are descending into rooms that are hugging the side of the cliff. Whilst the communal areas are sumptuous, the accommodation could do with a bit of a lift. The owners joined a 14th Century Villa and country house, and named the hotel after the architect who designed the Rocca. The highlight for staying here is the location. And now we sit and savor the magic hour. Sitting, sending travel stories to friends via the Internet, watching this stately bridge of arches, standing still over the ages, change in color from daylight beige, to sunset plum, ending in electronic rust!