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Tag Archives: Perugia

On Travel and Earthquakes

No one likes to think about natural disasters when traveling–it would be rather depressing to consider when you’re trying to enjoy time away from work and stress. But sometimes we have to consider the reality. Recent earthquakes in central Italy and Myanmar, two places I have fond memories of traveling through, got me thinking a little more about what can happen while on vacation.

San Domenico in Perugia, Italy

San Domenico in Perugia

I’m no longer a stranger to earthquakes. I live around the Pacific ring of fire. Fortunately, most of the earthquakes here have been mild–in fact, I don’t notice the majority of them, particularly if I’m asleep.Bagan Pagodas

My second week in Tokyo was my first earthquake. It was early morning before I had to wake up to work online and I felt the shaking. I froze. I didn’t know if I should wait inside or run outside. I was living in a small two-storey apartment building. The earthquake shelter was a school just down the street.

I later discovered that it wasn’t even a strong earthquake. I was approached by Mormons in Shimokitazawa the following weekend and mentioned how it had woken me; neither guy even noticed the quake.Shinjuku

After two months I felt plenty more earthquakes–some stronger than others. The only strong one was when I was out to dinner with a friend. Everyone at the restaurant stopped immediately and waited to see how big it was before returning to their food. Another one that wasn’t as strong struck Tokyo as I was waiting in the United Club at Narita Airport on my way to Hanoi.

Kanto Earthquake Memorial Museum

Kanto Earthquake Memorial Museum

In Taipei as well I’ve felt a few, although at this point I only notice the bigger ones when I’m awake. At the office, some coworkers’ phones give an alert when a stronger earthquake has struck nearby and will probably be felt in Taipei. I’m not sure if a 5-second warning is really enough to be effective, but it might be better for placating concerns from citizens.

View from Myauk Guni

View from Myauk Guni

Of course, now I worry less about earthquake as typhoons are a more pressing matter. Even as I prepare for a trip to Hong Kong next weekend, I have to be aware that a typhoon could throw off my plans (fortunately, Hong Kong and Taipei are well prepared for typhoons).

The earthquakes yesterday brought back memories of two of places that hold great memories–Perugia and Bagan.

Perugia steps

This is my favorite view of Perugia–how I’ll always remember it

The former was where I worked for a couple weeks before getting laid off. Rather than depart, I hung around looking for things to do. I met people–travelers, expats, and locals–who became acquaintances during my month-long stay. I was never bored walking along the winding alleys even if I had been there before. And there was plenty of time to sit in a park and read.

The latter was a shorter stay. I was stuck in Bagan due to my own lack of planning. It was the best travel mishap I could imagine. While most people zip through Bagan on their tours of Myanmar, I had five days to slowly explore the area–the dusty streets and quiet pagodas, the friendly residents, and the amazing food.

Bagan balloons

Balloons over Bagan

As I found out from Reddit, Perugia is in good shape following the earthquake that devastated some Italian towns. Meanwhile in Bagan, about a hundred pagodas were severely damaged, but fortunately only three casualties were reported. I’d like to think that the traditional bamboo houses in Myanmar saved lives–there’s not much that can fall apart during an earthquake and injure people living in those houses.

Both of these are places I’d love to see again, but I’m certain they wouldn’t live up to my memories as so many other places would not either.

I’ve traveled through many places that have been destroyed by earthquakes–most occurred a long time before, like in Chiang Mai and Yogyakarta. I’ve seen the damage nature can inflict on what we build. More devastating, however, is seeing what has been destroyed by war in places like Cambodia and Korea.

As more news about the earthquakes flows in, I’m reminded about the people in these places–those who have lost homes and loved ones. There are things we cannot control, no matter how cautious we are.

Streets of Perugia

Hope your road is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you enter harbors you’re seeing for the first time;
C.P. Cavafy, Ithaka

While Perugia isn’t a top tourist destination in Italy–it’s even overshadowed by it’s neighbor Assisi–it does have its charm for visitors and residents.perugia-city-wall

This quaint town in the hills of Umbria is picturesque–the medieval architecture mixed with modern structures against a backdrop of rolling green hills and distant towns provides a beautiful view at any time of day from the edges of the old town atop the hill. Sunrise is a particularly wonderful time with the dissipating fog in the valley below.San Domenico in Perugia, Italy

The streets were never straight and I didn’t know which direction I faced as I wandered through alleys and peered at the buildings constructed centuries ago. I got lost like so many times before, but the roads all seemed to interconnect and I soon found myself back where I began–all roads don’t lead to Rome when in Perugia; all roads just lead into themselves once more.perugia-steps-2

Taking the stairs through the historic archways through quiet narrow streets and into the sunlight that radiates off the buildings in August, I found myself lost within myself, thinking of poetry and literature before picking up a bottle of organic Umbrian wine for 5 euros. I could take a glass of wine into the Piazza IV Novembre to sit on the steps in the shade opposite the Cathedral of San Lorenzo. I sat there reading Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars, even now and again looking up to watch the crowds slowly walking through.Piazza IV Novembre, Perugia, Italy

Every day I walked through the streets, turning down alleys that I thought I hadn’t tried before. Even down the streets and alleys I recognized I found new details missed on previous wanderings–it was never boring to see the same sights each day for a month. I watched the sun set over the hills and waited for the lights to  illuminate the main street leading to the town square where the people would congregate for drinks and merriment on the steps surrounding the fountain.

MiniMetro Musing

“The coach I got in was about as dignified as a match-box. The train rambled on for about five minutes, and then I had to get off. No wonder the fare was cheap.”
-Natsume Sōseki, Botchan

Before I arrived in Perugia, I researched public transportation in the town of fewer than 200,000 people. I really only wanted to find out how to get to my apartment from the train station–the town wasn’t all that big, but there was a significant distance to walk between the station and the apartment with all the luggage I had (e.g. my hefty backpack and medium-sized suitcase). What I found was that the university town has what is known as the MiniMetro.perugia minimetro

This automated, single-car public transportation system is limited to one line that runs from the center of town on top of the hill down to the train station and into the outskirts of town for total length of 2 miles and seven stations. The MiniMetro cars run every 90 seconds and can carry up to 25 people, though I wouldn’t expect it to be comfortable with more than 10. Although most of the town is concentrated in the old center on the hill, which takes about a half hour to wander through, Perugia is spread out over 173 sq. mi.

Traveling slowly through the tube

Traveling slowly through the tube

I took this small cable car two stops to the train station on my trip to Florence–it’s like riding a roller coaster that goes at a snail’s pace. When I returned, however, I found that the MiniMetro, which started operation in 2008, was suspended for annual maintenance for the next three weeks–I wasn’t able to take it again until I departed for Venice. Fortunately, there are plenty of buses around the town that are more convenient in some cases.

Reflection in the MiniMetro

Reflection in the MiniMetro

I had a difficult time understanding the necessity of such a transportation system with the buses in town and the size of the population. I only met a couple people who took the MiniMetro on a semi-regular basis.

Italy and the Death of Diet

Perhaps this title is a bit hyperbolic; however, it fits my feelings about staying in Italy for a little over a month. More than anywhere else I’ve been, the temptation to gorge on foods that are generally unhealthy in such quantities is ever-present here.

italian cheese

Can I just live in the cheese section of the grocery store?

I was trying to lose some weight

After two months of losing weight in Korea (not to mention a bit of an effort at the end of my stay in Taiwan), I’ve come to Italy to face the temptation of all the foods that the country has to offer. Fortunately, with the high cost of eating out and my odd work hours, I’m forced to at least eat breakfast and lunch in my apartment, and I have managed to find healthy foods to cook in the limited space I have.

Cheese is everywhere in Italy

I knew I’d be tempted by the cheeses and cured meats that are so prevalent in Italy. I cut down on cheese for over six months before heading out on this adventure, and Asia lacks cheese, which means another nine months without that deliciousness.

That's all for me, right?

That’s all for me, right?

Gelato beats the Italian summer heat

Italy is also home to some wonderful gelato. Some of what I had in Rome was good, but nothing exceptional–or at least good enough for me to want more all the time. I mostly wanted it because it’s hot walking around in late July and August. I was quite happy having a refreshing mojito gelato while walking around Florence two weeks ago. The other gelato I had the next day was overly sweet.


You mean I CAN’T eat all the gelato now?

That was until I discovered this little gelato shop in Perugia. I hate how businesses throw around “artisan,” but here it means something. This shop even makes its own gelato bars dipped in chocolate (the Nutella and coconut was wonderful) and gelato sandwiches. This shop is also much cheaper than the 5 or 6 euros some shops tried to charge in Florence–I only have to pay 2.50 euros for a medium cup. This is reason enough to visit Perugia.

perugia gelato

I have no idea what to get

Of course, it’s obvious that this is a university town when another gelato shop advertises cannabis-flavored gelato. Somehow I doubt it tastes good, but I may give it a try anyway.

Should I try it?

Should I try it?

Where have you been that offered too much culinary temptation to resist?

Sunrise over Perugia

“to scant the truth
of the light itself
as it was reflected from”
-William Carlos Williams, “Cézanne”

perugia sunrise

Early morning sun shining on St. Domenico Basilica

There is an advantage to working Hong Kong hours while living in Italy, which makes me feel better about missing out on life while here.italy sunrise

When I take my lunch break, it’s 6 AM here in Perugia. The streets are quiet–the only people out are the sanitation workers cleaning up the evening’s empty booze bottles and cigarette butts.

perugia sunrise

First peek at the sunrise

Just a short walk away from my apartment is a scenic overlook facing east. It’s a great location to watch the sunrise over the hills below Perugia. After a week of overcast mornings, I found clear skies this Friday. There was an added perk of fog rolling through the fields in the distance.

Long Stopover in Italy

Last week I was on vacation in Italy. I met my parents in Rome and, after a few days of sightseeing, we headed to Capri for a wedding. In between, we stopped in Sorrento and took time to see Pompeiiperugia

While it was great to be on vacation and go sightseeing on consecutive days, I’m back to work. I took up short-term residence in the old university town of Perugia. Unfortunately, I’m still working on Hong Kong hours, which means I get to watch the sunrise during my lunchtime walk (if it would stop raining).

perugia alley

Typical alley around Perugia. I don’t know where they all lead

Perugia is a beautiful town in the mountains of Umbria–every building here is historic, including this hundreds of years old building in which I’m staying. There’s even a church around the corner that has a fresco by Raphael. I have managed to have a few moments of sunshine to grab photos of surrounding area and narrow alleyways.

Don't think I could get tired of this view anytime soon

Don’t think I could get tired of this view anytime soon

There will certainly be more weekend traveling while here–it’s only two hours to Florence and a few hours further to Venice. Unlike my other destinations, there won’t be as much time for interaction with locals on my work schedule.