Though every inch of Umbria is worth visiting, this blog is about one of my favorite villages. Bevagna. Actually I write a blog about Bevagna every year, because every time I am there I discover new spots or new people.
My first time in Bevagna dates from 1992. It wasn´t crowded by tourists at that time and I hardly knew anything about it. Unfortunatly I arrived at lunchtime on a very hot day in august, with two little children (6 and 4) that were bored, complaining about the heat and yelling about `mutant hero turtles` in a very silent, more or less deserted piazza. I could only think of stuffing them with pasta to keep them silent, so I asked the only other living person I saw how to find a restaurant. This beautiful, impressing lady looked at me a bit disapprovingly and then said in a stern voice: `Good afternoon madame` in Dutch….
She happened to live in Bevagna for years and told me all about the town. Since then, I return at least once a year.
Bevagna is, to Dutch standards, a small town in the valley of Umbria, in the province of Perugia. Its original name, Mevania, comes from the Roman period, out of which some remains in the higher part of the town testify. I mention the Teatro Romano, the Edificio delle Terme where you can see a beautiful mosaic from the second century, the Tempio, and, of course the city walls, that are built in the Middle Ages on the remains of the original Roman ones. The many entrance gates in the walls also contain the remains from both periods.
Close to the Porta Molini runs the river Clittuno. In the old times it was not only useful for transport but also made the mill work and allowed the public washhouse, a lovely, rustic spot that is still in use.
Many monuments, in fact, the whole town, testify of the Medieval period. The splendid square with its famous buildings, il Palazzo dei Consoli, la Chiesa di San Silvestro and the Chiesa di San Michele can keep you in silent admiration for a full afternoon. Don´t forget to visit the crypt in the San Silvestro.
All churches in Bevagna have something special, but personally I really like the San Francesco in the higher part of the town, mostly for the outside.
I can only consider to roam around the town and enjoy the atmosphere of its picturesque streets and alleys. The pinacoteca contains some interesting pieces of which I like the Madonna by Dono Doni the best.
At the piazza you can sit down and have a coffee and enjoy the view and rumours of the always busy and always friendly inhabitants. Don´t be afraid to bother them, because they have their own way of claiming a seat. Infact, I made two of them stand up to take this picture, and I am sure they have been talking about a stupid tourist taking pictures of a chair for the rest of the day.
Another very pleasant visit I made was la Casa Medievale. It is a reconstructed Medieval house that is said to have belonged to a rather wealthy merchant. It´s is a guided visit and I can assure you that, thanks to the charming and very competent guide, after a few minutes, you wish you were born in those times.
Mercato delle Gaite
Speaking of the Middle Ages, I cannot leave this blog without mentioning the annual festival in june, Il Mercato delle Gaite. It is a contest between the quarters (Gaite) of the city. The whole town turns back to the period of 1250 – 1350 and it´s a spectacle you should not miss.
Every inhabitant -young and old – is dressed in Medieval clothes, the food you can try nearly everywhere is prepared according to medieval recipes and all the old crafts are represented.
I mention only a few: weaving, dying and washing fabrics the medieval way, old handwritings, making baskets, archery, alchemy, pottery, preparing all kinds of food and even an alley with living animals. Though the latter always grieves me a little, it is very nice to see.
The procession held by each quarter is an event at itself. Each quarter does its utmost to distinguish itself. The procession I saw this year was led by a team of oxen that pulled a huge wagon loaded with wine barrels. They were followed by a falconer carrying his birds (I at least they were falcons) and then the most beautifully dressed people approached. They didn´t allow me to come too close to the oxen, so you will have to go there and see for yourself. But I guarantee: you will be thrilled. I was, at least, even though I see it every year.