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Jun 28, 2015

Ah, Italia! Part Four

Hello Perugia!

City on a hill. The capital of the Italian province of Umbria and a former Etruscan city (the indoor pool of our hotel allows a glimpse at some of the ruins through a transparent bottom).

I've decided I really liked Umbria. The Perugia city center is on the top of a really big-assed hill. Where our hotel is, there's no parking. There's really no parking anywhere at the top. People who actually live here must pay premium prices for a sliver of garage space.

We resigned ourselves to trudging up from one of the public parking garages (at the bottom of the hill), dragging our suitcases behind us. But wait!

On the way down down down from Perugia's city center
There's escalators that go all the way up. And up. And up. All the way to the top. It's a miracle.

This picture doesn't really do the whole system justice. To get where you're going you may have to change escalators, walk, and get on another escalator. It really is a system.

The steepness won't impress anyone who's been on the London Underground or the subway in Prague. But the really fun thing about the whole Perugia escalator system is that there's a culture going on in there.

While you're walking from one escalator to the next, there are shops and market stalls selling chocolate, cheese, and crafts. There's even a restaurant. You could spend a whole day in there.

Market stalls next to one of the escalators

There's some cool pictures here and from the Perugia tourism portal here with all kinds of information about the city and events.

So once we got to the top, just a very few meters from our hotel, we decided to explore the city's main drag and give ourselves a treat.
the view from our hotel room

Happy hour Perugia style

It was only around five in the afternoon, but, you know, it's always six o'clock somewhere. The beers are what w paid for. The rest was on the house. We decided we needed to come back here again the next day. And we did.

San Pietro abbey

But business comes first and the reason for making our stop in Perugia was to visit the Observatorio Sismica Andrea Bina in the basement of the Benedictine abbey San Pietro.

The well-maintained and well-worn basement where the seismic observatory resides seems to have left the outside world behind - with the exception of the seismic signals, today collected digitally. Father Martino Siciliani, the director of the observatory, is  well-maintained but doesn't appear well-worn at all for his age (I won't tell, but he's terribly fit, typically Italianate stylish, and I'd guess ageless).

One of the oldest seismic observatories in Italy, the modern observatory was established in 1931 and contains a treasure trove of antique seismometers. The oldest is a pendulum of the design for which the observatory was named. The concept of suspending a (lead) pendulum over sand originated with the philosopher and monk Andrea Bina in 1751.

Andrea Bina's treatise on ground motion
Another rarity includes an Agamemnon seismograph, which utilized drum recordings on smoked paper and were one of the first seismographs to be employed in the late 19th century (in Greece) to measure seismic waves.
the drum and recording of the Agamemnon seismograph

After our short but instructive visit to the observatory, we spent the rest of our time walking the city center and basking in the ambiance of this lovely relaxed city. I think April is probably one of the best times to visit. It wasn't too hot nor too crowded.

Piazza IV Novembre - everyone gathers on those steps
I developed an instant fascination for the Perugia griffin (due to my innate love of anything chimera!) and have made it my goal to learn more about this marvelous beast. I had hoped that the griffin - head and wings of an eagle and body of a lion - would turn out to be Etruscan, but the city symbol was adopted in the Renaissance period as a symbol of strength. He can be seen on doorknobs, frescoes - everywhere - throughout the city.