Thursday 13 February 2020

Gubbio in Umbria, Italy

The town of Gubbio in Umbria, Italy, is a must-see for anyone visiting this part of Umbria (Perugia is 45 km away to the SE). Its location on a steep hillside surrounded on the higher levels by alpine forest, is especially charming. Gubbio's historical centre has a good selection of mediaeval, Gothic and Renaissance structures built of gray limestone and has great views over the beautiful countryside. Just outside the town is a Roman amphitheatre, one of several substantial Roman remains in the area.

Gubbio Umbria Italy
The town of Gubbio in Umbria.

The main sights of Gubbio include:
  • The Roman Theatre dating from the first century BC.
  • The Roman Mausoleum.
  • The Palazzo dei Consoli (14 C), housing the Eugubine Tablets.
  • The Palazzo and Torre Gabrielli.
  • The Duomo (Cathedral - alte 12 C) with its striking rose-window.
  • The Palazzo Ducale, built starting in 1470, for Federico da Montefeltro.
  • The Church of San Francesco (13 C). The frescoes in the left side date from the 15 C.
  • The Church of Santa Maria Nuova, a typical Cistercian structure of the 13 C.
  • The Basilica of Sant'Ubaldo, with a nave and four aisles, is located outside and above the Gubbio.
Gubbio is famous for a festival known as the Corsa dei Ceri, a race held annually on 15 May, in which three teams, devoted to Sant'Ubaldo (the patron saint of Gubbio), San Giorgio, and Sant'Antonio, run through crowds of cheering supporters (clad in the distinctive colours of yellow, blue and black, with white trousers and red belts and neckbands), up much of the mountain from the main square in front of the Palazzo dei Consoli to the basilica of Sant'Ubaldo, each team carrying a statue of their saint 4 mm tall and weighing about 280 kg, mounted on a wooden octagonal prism. The race is one of the best-known folkloric events in Italy.

More about Gubbio and its sights.

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Thursday 6 February 2020

What to see in Perugia Italy

Perugia Italy sometimes has its reputation as one of the great cultural centres of Italy obscured by its more recent reputation as "party central" for American and European students abroad. Either way, Perugia should be at the top of the list of sights for any visitor to Umbria. Here we provide some links on what to see in Perugia, Italy.

The frescoes of the Palazzo dei Priori and the Sala dei Notari alone are sufficient reason to spend a day in Perugia. Add to this a myriad of exquisite churches, one of them, the Tempio di San Michele Arcangelo, dating from Roman times, plus the charming ambience of Perugia's piazzas.

Useful information on the sights of Perugia and Lake Trasimeno is provided on the following web sites:

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Monday 3 February 2020

Italo trains, Italy's new high-speed train routes

Today I want to review briefly the Italo trains, Italy's new high-speed train routes.

First some background on high speed trains in Italy. For several years we have had the excellent Frecciarossa fast trains belonging to Trenitalia running on the main north-south route from Turin in the north west as far as Salerno in the south, plus the slightly slower Frecciargento trains on routes to popular cities such as Verona, Venice and Bari. The first thing we saw when these fast trains were introduced in Italy was that the standard prices were high on the Frecciarossa. The old trains still run and are much cheaper but also much, much slower. HOWEVER, if you can plan your train travel ahead of time and if you are flexible regarding departure time, then there are a number of discounted rates, the cheapest of which compares with or surpasses the old slow train ticket prices. A little bit of effort on the Trenitalia website can result in major savings, especially if you're booking two to three months ahead. Reservations can be made on-line and tickets are sent by email. The cheapest reservations cannot be changed.

TIP: Look carefully at the discounted offers, especially on the Frecciarossa trains - from time to time you can travel business class for the same reduced price as second class. The seats are much wider and there is much more space in general in the first class / business class carriages.

Some useful information on the difference between First and Second Class on Italian trains.

Note that some but not all American credit cards can present difficulties on the Trenitalia website. However, as of today's date, some US cards definitely work. European cards work without a problem.

The main site for booking Trenitalia trains, including the Frecciarossa is

Italo trains, Italy's new high-speed train routes
The Italo train, Italy's new high-speed train

So what is the difference between the Frecciarossa and the Italo Italian high speed trains? At present, they are covering very similar routes. There are therefore two main differences. The Italo is competing on the basis of price. Italo standard prices are lower and the speed of the trains is the same. Inside, the Italo trains are very nice indeed. They have the comfortable seats seen in the Frecciarossa, plus WiFi and other facilities. Furthermore, there is excellent on-platform assistance and a dedicated Italo reception area in the stations that the Italo serves. This really makes life easier for tourists.

HOWEVER, the Italo trains often depart from stations other than the main station of any particular city (e.g. Porta Garibaldi rather than Centrale in Milan, and Tiburtina rather than Termini in Rome). For local people or tourists staying in a given town, this is not really a problem since in the bigger cities the relevant station can easily be reached by public transport. However, if you are changing trains, this can be an inconvenience and result in significant lost time. Study the on-line timetable carefully. The Italo is an excellent option in many cases.

This the Italo Train website:

Today's top links: For everything you need to know about what to do and where to stay in Chianti and Umbria:

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