By Jim Ferri
I love Italian hill towns. Which is why I chose to stay in Trevi, a little town perched on a hill about a 2½ -hours drive north of Rome. It was well situated as a base to explore Umbria for a few days.
I hadn’t even been in town for a few hours when I realized two things. The first is that people there drive like maniacs. On hilly streets the width of a car plus another three feet or so, you only need to look at the scars on the corners of buildings to appreciate that fact. When you hear a car coming you quickly learn to seek shelter in a doorway.
The second thing, and probably more important, is that there aren’t many tourists out here. I always liked that since it allows me to get a more intimate view of what life is really like in these old towns and villages.
I’ve found one of the pleasures of travel is to sip my morning coffee while watching people going about their business, opening and closing their little shops every day. It’s all the more better when there isn’t a neon sign in sight. Even if the plumbing in the hotel isn’t all I had wished, there’s something very gratifying about looking out the window and seeing tiled roofs and cobbled streets that have been there since only God-knows-when.
One evening two days after we arrived in Trevi, my wife and I and our two friends decided to take a stroll along a little quiet street near the entrance to town. The road, canopied with trees and lined on the right with some nice homes with little lawns and flowerbeds, ran along the hillside for a little way.
But what drew us here lay across the street, a beautiful view out over the valley. Trevi is surrounded by groves with 300,000 olive trees and they clothed every hill in sight with their soft leaves. Not far off in the distance was an old church and the setting sun was glistening off its steeple that was poking up through the groves. I remembered looking back to Trevi, and seeing another church steeple pushing up from the rooftops, and thought it odd there would be two churches so close together.
As the sun slowly came down from the sky and the evening haze began to creep across the olive groves, I had this incredible serene feeling. It was a spectacular view, and I couldn’t help but envy the people who lived in these homes, witnessing this spectacle out of their front windows every evening in each of the seasons.
Turning back towards town we came across the community playground, where a lot of children, from young kids right up to teenagers, were gathered with their parents. Off to the side in a cobbled square boys were running about playing soccer. Next to it was a bar and outdoor café area filled with groups of friends and couples and families, all of whom obviously had stopped at this communal gathering place on their evening passeggiata.
There was no hubbub of traffic, shrill of distant sirens or everything else that has become the hallmark of big cities. In Trevi the evening was tranquil and as quiet as the breeze. Pretty much, probably, what all these Italian towns were like before we tourists arrived.