Every writer has their spot, a spot where the words wash over the dam of broken thoughts and paint the page a whole new color. J.K. Rowling raised Harry Potter in a slew of quirky cafes. Dickinson poured far and wide with poetry written in an isolated room. Lorde wrote her latest album in a New York City diner famous for its onion rings while Hemmingway became a master of his craft standing at a typewriter in Cuba. From one spot, a writer can draw a plot line which bends into a place and then explodes into an entirely new world. Simply put, the right kind of spot leads to polka-dotted brilliance.
I have a very spotty method when it comes to writing. In one day, I’ll hop from park bench to grassy slope, stone step to shaded monument until that iron-clad tangle of words finds it rhythm. Like a laser dot, my spot is constantly changing.
But in Italy, when my crop of thoughts is in desperate need of sowing, destroying, or resurrecting, my spot usually morphs into a marble window ledge, beautifully cool to the touch in the land of eternal sun.
Italian windows, with their wide mouths and absence of teeth, were made for writers and sunburnt thighs. In my case, both descriptors apply. And as a furtive scavenger of metaphors, a window overlooking humble and exquisite Umbria is the perfect spot to lay claim to, even if it’s only for two days.
Perugia is the perfect spot for writers but also for street art appreciators, gelato-gobblers, and cappuccino-guzzlers. Again, all descriptors apply to me. This large hamlet, small city, place-that’s-somewhere-between-town-and-metropolis is packed with pocks of perfection, which are contagious, so prepare yourself because you may just catch the Perugian bug if you enjoy:
Absurdly Fun Public Transport
Perugia is worth visiting for the mini-metro alone. Like a standard metro, the mini-metro is quick, cheap, and convenient but unlike large-scale metros, it’s adorable, sparkling clean, and so unbelievably fun to use. After I got off a crowded Flix Bus from Rome, I jumped on this self-maned, mobile form of perfection with such glee, too much glee as evidenced by the puzzled glances of my fellow passengers. I wish the ride had lasted longer, much much longer because my spot at the forward-facing window, cool against my beaming hands, was blissful. Frankly, the mini-metro should be UNESCO-protected.
My first afternoon in Perugia, the sun was smudged into invisibility by a gray, spongy sky. The rain tickled the ground lightly at first until a slew of rainbow umbrellas dared it to fall harder. After a month of sun, sun, sun, I more than welcomed the dripping hair and soggy shoes. My skin could finally breath without the thick, globby restraint of children’s sunscreen (smells much better than adult’s) while my eternal sunburn lost its rageful tone. I splish-splashed, tip-tapped against the pebbly piazza until my canvas sneakers shivered against my toes. Just before I ducked back into my hostel, I spotted a lone, rainbow umbrella floating so pridefully by a line of slate-shaded buildings. Color against rain, shining brighter, pulling deeper, is one splendid sight.
I’m not even sure if I like coffee but I’m more than willing to drink it if it’s topped with milk foam shaped into a heart. Just around the sharpened corner of my hostel was a large cafe teetering on the edge of the main piazza. This cafe, appropriately named “Jolly Caffé”, was my favorite, post-run spot. I could spend upwards of two-hours here, sipping on a beautifully-crafted cappuccino while glancing at neighboring tables. The cafe regulars, with their freshly-pressed, Italian papers and grand leather shoes made me slightly envious. When I return to Jolly Caffe, I hope to do so with my own Italian newspaper in hand. To be able to read a local paper, to understand it, to know how perfectly it pairs with a true, Italian cappuccino would be grand!
In a country known for a national personality that’s both laid back and passionate, you’re hard pressed to find a truly mean Italian. But in Perugia, kindness exists in higher doses. Shop attendants seem genuinely happy to see you while pigeon-chasing children giggle in your direction. People will stop you on the street just to tell you how brilliant the chocolate is and how brilliant it is that you’re in Perugia. Perugia is a place for smiling with your lips, body, and gelato-nourished soul.
Perugia introduced me to its gorgeous friend, Appretivo. Appretivo, an endless buffet of Italian favorites paired with a free cocktail (you can never go wrong with an aperol spritz) is a friend to us all. I quickly appeased my appetite with an appretivo at Umbro, supposedly the best in town, with a fellow American I had the pleasure of meeting back at the hostel. For seven euro, I got a heaping plate of pasta, breaded zucchini, toasty focaccia among other dishes. Finished off with a palate-cleansing custard and the watered-down ends of my aperol spritz, I left Umbro content and appretivo-enthusiastic.
To those hesitant of slumming it in hostels, let my time in Perugia serve as a reminder that hostel-living is luxuriating in other ways. At my spacious hostel, I met a very confident and loquacious American named Barbara. Barbara, middle-aged with a good handle on modern Italian fashion, opened my eyes to what now seems like an obvious pile of opportunity.
Barbara, a go-getter woman who loves to inspire strangers and eat truffles, published a book called “Living Without Reservations.” In the book, Barbara talks about working a typical 9-5 job that paid for private school, a fashionable car, all the things we consider necessities. But in her blurb, Barbara states that she quit life or rather life quit her. She went through a divorce, got engaged, then grappled with the sudden loss of her fiancé who died of a heart attack. After all these horrible things happened, Barbara basically said “I’m done” in the most positive, bad-ass way.
From Florida, she left on an RV headed for Alaska with her dad on board. She then worked on cruise ships in the Caribbean, wellness centers in Bali, and a winery in Tuscany which she visited as a tourist and ended up staying in for seven years!! (She fell in love with the winemaker, Guissepi.)
Since then, Barbara has avoided the States like the plague, carving out a comfortable living abroad by launching motivational e-courses geared towards middle-aged women with itchy feet.
My mindset has really changed since meeting her. Suddenly, it seems crazy that I haven’t noticed all the possible opportunities peaking behind the stone buildings of just about every town in Italy. However, I’m not sure if I can count on falling in love with a winemaker in Chianti.
A Deep Breath
Italy is always bright, caffeinated beyond belief, and blinding in its beauty but with Perugia, I reintroduced some much-needed peace in my life. I could take a deep breath without the aid of gelato and appreciate the simple magic of my spot. Cooling marble beneath a wide-open window overlooking perfect Perugia brings out my inner Hemmingway, fills my head with Lorde, christens my journal with a touch of JK Rowling while carving out a spectacular new world out of Dickson-branded isolation. But the best part of finding your own spot is it’s you: unmistakably, irrevocably you in a grand world of polka-dotted brilliance.
Hit the Spot,