When we hit traffic, I knew we were in trouble. We needed to get the car back by 10:30 am, and it was already 10:30. Further, we had yet to navigate the twisty, turning allies of Perugia’s city center to drop our bags at our hostel. Driving in Italy is a headache, because of both its excessive, nonsensical traffic laws and its city streets, most of which were originally designed for horses. The streets are simply a maze of one-ways, many of which are reserved exclusively for buses and taxis. If you make one wrong turn, you’ll likely have to drive the circumference of the city before getting the opportunity again. The woman at the hostel later told us that the city center cannot be accessed legally unless you’re a resident. In order to ensure that we wouldn’t get a fine, we needed to give the police our license-plate number. Which we hadn’t.
The fact that we didn’t have a street map was clearly an oversight, but we eventually found our hostel. After driving straight across Perugia’s crowded Piazza 4 Novembre, we found the little alley on which the Ostello di Perugia is located. We parked in a handicapped space, hazards flashing, and relayed our bags into the hotel. It was now 11:05 am.
I left Kristin at the hostel and headed straight for the rental place. It was easy to find. Fortunately, like most car rental agencies in Italy, travelers are given a 50-minute grace period. Once, when returning a rental car to Florence, I’d gotten totally lost and stuck in traffic; I’d returned the car two hours late and had to pay for an extra day. In Perugia, the man at the SIXT office was friendly, and all I had to do was give him the keys and get onto the Mini Metro.
The Mini Metro looks like a Volkswagon bus on a high-wire. It might be the cutest method of public transportation on the planet. When you get in, it feels as though you’ve just stepped onto a roller coaster. But when it starts moving you realize that you’re not going anywhere fast. It is slow, and I mean slow.
Our hostel’s patio has a simply stunning view, showing off Perugia’s beauty. A university town, Perugia advertises carefully aged Pecorino cheese alongside vodka shots for 1.50 euro. It’s a great town for young and old alike: these qualities are in balance.
Tonight, we cooked in the hostel’s enormous kitchen. I wanted to taste the region’s traditional cheese, so I bought one soft and one semi-soft Pecorino. Pears are tasting excellent around here, so we made a chicken, sweet bell pepper, pear, and Pecorino involtini. We hit a bump in the road when we forgot to buy toothpicks, which we usually use to keep the cheese from seeping out while cooking. Looking around the kitchen, the only thing we could find was dried spaghetti, but what do you know: the hard pasta was sturdy enough to poke through the involtini, keeping them closed during the entire cooking. It turns out that the spaghetti worked even better than toothpicks: they soften while cooking, so you don’t need to take them out before eating.
Tomorrow, I have to find an Umbrian gourmet and ask some questions.
Written by and photos by Mattie Bamman for EuropeUpClose.com