HOW TO VISIT SPELLO
On Palm Sunday, the streets of Spello overflowed with tourists. The Spellani gathered on chairs to watch the visitors parade by with their blessed olive-boughs, eyes peeled for gelato. Later that night, I asked Angelo if he preferred Spello when there were no tourists or when there were many. In his characteristic way, he stopped walking to answer me. Then started walking, only to stop again with further reflections. The man will not be hurried, but by then we’d been in Spello for a week and the urge to move! move! move! had vanished, leaving only a deepened gratitude for the moment. He said, and of course I’m paraphrasing from his intentional Italian, “I love Spello when the streets are utterly empty. And I love Spello when it’s alive with the energy of tourists. But you know, I love Spello when it’s hot and I love Spello when the cool fog weaves around the corner and it whispers of the Medieval days. I love Spello all the time.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
If a trip to Spello is in your scopa cards, here’s how I advise you to make the most of your visit.
First of all, don’t try to “do” Spello in an afternoon. If you do, your trip will be summed up in this way: “Look! Flowers! Look! A cat in a flowerpot! Why is it so hot? Is there an elevator? Where is everyone? Look, an arch.” You might as well pore over google images of Spello and save the calf work-out.
You need long days to savor the gifts Spello offers. So first things first, find accommodations in Spello and plan on spending a week, more if you can. You want to have time to decide if you prefer your afternoon Spritz in Bar Bonci’s garden overlooking the countryside or Bar Tullia’s patio where you can watch old ladies fawn over babies bundled in their strollers. You’ll want to pop into the bakery a few times—the choices vary daily but everything is always wonderful. You’ll want to enjoy both sunrise and sunset. You’ll want to watch the town wake up. You’ll want to enjoy Umbrian cuisine, and most restaurants aren’t open for lunch. You’ll want to lean out of your window and do nothing but watch the swallows dance.
Now, I’m not saying you need to keep your feet planted in Spello for the entirety of your trip. In fact, it’s the leaving and returning that can start to make it feel like home. So take a few side trips. When you land in Spello, keep your eyes open for signs—usually on boards by parking lots or posted in cafes—announcing festivals. Festivals are Italy distilled, a celebration of the pride and care towns take in their history and traditions. Especially food traditions. Barring a festival that draws you to a specific town, worthy side-trips are Assisi, Foligno, Bevagna, Trevi, Gubbio, Perugia, Orvieto, Lake Trasimeno, Montefalco, Citta di Castello, and really you can just drive around or drop a euro on a map and stumble across thriving market towns or abandoned villages (like the ones I talk about in IBC). Umbria is a choose-your-own-adventure made manifest.
And now, for your Spello days, I’d advise the following itinerary, but in the same breath I recommend you finding your rhythm, your flow, your Spello magic.
Santa Lucia, the Serialized Novel
Last year, I wrote my first novel, Santa Lucia. I posted a chapter here on my website three times a week, which propelled me through some unusually dramatic storylines. The story revolves around the people of Santa Lucia, a fictionalized town on the border between Umbria and Le Marche. With short, punchy chapters, I conceptualized this book as the literary love-child of espresso and a telenovela—full of suspense, mystery, betrayal, and seduction, and told in dialogue-filled narration. Readers tell me that it is a page-turner firmly spun with the magic of Italy. That was exactly what I'd been striving for, so I am beyond thrilled with the reception thus far. The paperback is taking awhile to transition platforms in the US (but it is available on Amazon UK). As I've just launched the book, the electronic version is promotionally priced at $3.99. So you can get a copy for yourself and a friend! Then you and your buddy can get together and swap suspicions about Massimo just like the villagers of Santa Lucia.
Il Bel Centro: The Book
Leaping into an unknown is never easy, but it's made all the more extraordinary when that leaping involves three children, two cats, a lack of ability to communicate, and a town unchanged by time.
More than you ever wanted to know about any writer, ever.
Festivals are Italy distilled. Here is your guide to celebrations in Umbria throughout the seasons.