We haven't blogged much lately, and for good reason. We've been travelling in Italy, enjoying a bit of la dolce vita. But only a bit, since Italy in July is notoriously hot, and this year is also (like so much of the United States) brutally dry.
Still, Umbria in a summer drought is still Umbria, and that is nothing at which to sneeze. At the moment, we're sitting at a guesthouse in the hills, typing away while children frolic in the pool, in full expectation of some indescribably wonderful supper. Umbricelli tartufato? Quite possibly. Pork sausage with fennel? Stewed wild boar, or turkey meatloaf with spinach stuffing? Wouldn't be the first time this week.
And of course there are churches.
Little Preschooler Anonymous isn't much of a sightseer. He found Rome utterly without interest. We've frankly never seen anyone so unmoved by the Piazza San Pietro or the sight of the Colosseum. Even our most extravagant tales of gladiatorial combat could not move his little heart, or silence his demand for gelato.
But he did like Orvieto, and who can blame him? We went to Sunday Mass at the duomo, one of the treasures of Italian Gothic. It was novus ordo, with a modest (unvested, all-female) choir (in the front pew!) and some Protestant hymn -- not so very different from our own Sunday duties, apart from the quantities of incense. We had forgotten just how remarkable the church itself really is, especially that stunning chapel in the south transept -- Fra Angelico and Luca Signorelli, opening up a clear and compelling vision the final judgment, the tortures of the damned and the joys of the elect.
There's a lot of Signorelli heareabouts, and yesterday we saw a special exhibit at the Palazzo dei Priori in Perugia. It was a stunning effort to put Signorelli on context, showing how he shared ideas with his contemporaries and collaborators. (The duomo, San Lorenzo, is odd-looking, and managed to leave us a little cold.)
And then today in Spello, as we entered Sant' Andrea, Preschooler A. instinctively doffed his ball-cap in respect. We considered this a sign of excellent judgment. Rather than trying to run up the pulpit steps or hide behind the altar -- familiar hijinks in churches foreign and domestic -- he asked to sit together in a pew, and take it all in. Then he walked carefully through the church and its chapels, admiring the simple altar and crucifix (school of Giotto?) as well as the porcelain depictictions of famous Franciscans over the side altars. He was especially interested in the cool, austere and seemingly unused chapel of the Blesssed Sacrament, and in its aumbry.
Santa Maria Maggiore -- in Spello, not the one in Rome! -- interested him a little less. He found the baldacchino curious, but was otherwise content to race through the thing. We don't really blame him; a lot of Counter-Reformation tat. But, for reasons we cannot quite fathom and despite the best efforts of both parents, he even raced past the Baglioni Chapel with its magnificent Pinturicchio frescoes. This makes us wonder whether his judgment is really quite so good as we like to imagine.
Anyway, it's all over soon. In a day or two, we return to real life -- which is all too real these days, for reasons we'll describe some other time. We have some difficult days ahead of us, and it is good to be refreshed by pasta, wild boar, and beautiful houses of worship.