Rasiglia, a hidden water-wonderland in Umbria

Just a scant ten minutes outside of Foligno lies Rasiglia. I’d heard about its former history as a mill town, and since I’m such a canal nut (to coin a term), I was determined to visit when we were back in Spello this last summer.

So one day (when Nicolas had yet to arrive from Houston and Siena was taking language and fresco classes in Arezzo), Keith and I picked up Gabe from sports camp with a lapful of rosticceria pizza and fried olives to munch as we drove back into the hills behind Foligno.

Once we stepped out of the car, I never wanted to leave. The sound hits you first—the rustling, eager tones of water tripping over itself in its rush to cascade away. Then the temperature. It was hot in Spello that day (as our boy could have attested to, after chasing a soccer ball all morning in the field beside a former Roman ampitheater), but in Rasiglia, the air was gloriously cool.

Open-mouthed and wide-eyed, we followed the water. First to a former holding area for fish, where we watched water bubble out of the floor. Then alongside moss-lined channels to what seemed a man-made lake. We stood and watched the water rush in, then settle into a placid pool, before tumbling off again. Gabe looked around for a house to buy. He seriously never wanted to leave.

Threaded through town was a long woven scarf, a festive ribbon, but also a reminder of Rasiglia’s mill past. The town’s history was further underscored by the images scattered through town of women working textiles and families gathered around communal work. Even poems about water dotted the town. All this made real the power of water to a town like Rasiglia, and how the people once must have revered their power source, like many towns revere their churches. Their livelihood, their lives, centered on the water spilling out of the mountain.

There’s not a lot in Rasiglia by way of entertainment, other than the water and the town’s clear celebration of her birthright. There was a bar, but no restaurant. Signs indicated a possible coop of artisans, but we couldn’t find it. A plaque told the story of citizens lost in World War II, but we found no further explanation of the town’s history. So bring a picnic and linger.

I haven’t told you everything about Rasiglia. Not because I’m coy, but because I want you to discover some of the secreted nooks and crannies that make Rasiglia a town I’ll visit over and over when I need to imagine someplace ethereal and peaceful.

Dear Rasiglia, I’ll see you in my dreams.