Surpassing my initial apprehension, with all of them having an Italian heritage, some of them having ancestors from Sicilia, Sardegna and others, they were genuinely interested in learning and sharing. So there were many questions that I would have liked to ask them. But its just too bad that I feel rather shy when meeting new people.
I is cheeken. A dead cheeken
Anyway! Bevagna is a very charming little town in Umbria which is about 2 hours drive from Rome. And much like our trip to Terminillo, the roads were filled with interesting roadsigns as well as vineyards and olive plantations. Umbria, by the way is a famous for its greenery and also their quality of wines and olive oil.
Hm, suddenly that reminds me of my trip to Malacca with my Vespa Club friends where I saw acres and acres of Palm trees and Rubber plantations. Alright, so its not the same, but it still feels similar
Another thing about it that reminds me of Malaysia is that to pass through different regions, we need go through a toll gate, and just in case you were curious to know what an Italian toll ticket looks like, here is one.
And just in case you were curious, it costs 3.40 euro which is enough to buy me a nice pack of patatine.
And right after going through the toll station, I saw a sign called Bastardo. I kid you not!
I’ve no idea why any village would want to call their town Bastard. This town could probably be friends with this little town in Austria. Hopefully Cart and I could stop there one day to see how the scene there is like
At long length, we reached Bevagna.
At first look, it was such a charming little town! It looked very similar to Leonessa, with the rows and rows of charming little buildings along a narrow stretch of road. There were quite a fair bit to see along these little shophouses and I was sorely tempted to get this adorable broom made of straw (Not the drinking straw :p)
I love every little detail that they put in every nook and cranny. These Bevagnans seem to take pride in what they do. Like flowers in vases on almost every table I see.
I find it very charming … as if I’m in Europe
We had a quick meet with the mayor who welcomed us, and off we headed to see the different sights of Bevagna.
One of the first places that we visited was an old church which was built at the end of the 12th century. Woah, that’s really old. Its amazing that something so historical could last and still be standing till today. Something interesting that I noticed was that there was a metal beam across the church.
If you look carefully in the picture, you’ll see Assasin’s Creed getting ready to swing.
Ok, I’m kidding! The truth is, there was a strong earthquake some years back and the beams were constructed to strengthen the build. I hope that it’ll hold. Its a shame that a number of historical buildings did not make it during the earthquake of Abruzzo last year.
Like all prayer houses, its very peaceful inside.
But what lies beneath could have a more sinister meaning … as this looks just like a scene from Phantasmagoria. You cant even escape from the window above it. I tried. Its really tiny.
We then headed to the Francesco Torti Theater who is a scholar by the way, not to be confused by the well loved Roma Soccer player Francesco Totti. This theater was opened in 1886. That makes it over a century old. Woah.
It might not be a huge theatre as it only holds 251 people, but my gosh, how beautiful it looks like. The seats are so plush, and the bannisters were golden.
And oh my, even the ceiling were beautifully painted. The artist responsible for this was Mariano Piervvittori. And he envisioned the arts as dancing muses.
We were so inspired that even the students felt moved enough to do an impromptu performance. One was reciting some verses from Shakespeare, one was playing the piano and another even sang opera.
After admiring the lush theatre, we then then headed to an ancient Roman thermal buildings. It was built towards the 2nd century AD, so its pretty old! The mosaics were interesting to see, but pictures aren’t allowed here. Nevertheless, I’m sure there could be something that could be found through google.
Actually, I’m looking forward to experience and enjoy a genuine working Roman thermal bath. I’m not sure where I could find it though. Hopefully we could find one in time
After seeing the thermal bath mosaics, we had a lunch break. And by this time, I was so famished! Walking does bring the appetite!
We stopped by a museum where there were a feast waiting for us on the table, lovingly home cooked by a group of Italian aunties.
All of the food were prepared using ingredients that are found in the region. I especially liked their sweet and sour onion, their parmiggiano cheese which tastes uniquely sweet as well as their Farro.
Farro is a type of wheat that remains crunchy even after boiling. And you could prepare them in many ways, like a sort of salad.
I was so enamoured by my farro that I had to say something to the Italian aunties. Even with my lousy Italian. She was happy anyway and began to teach us the recipe.
Cart was so inspired that he made a whole bowl the next day. Its easy! Maybe I’ll show you in a future blog post
After our lovely lunch, we were raring to continue exploring. And then we were informed that we will be seeing a feature 3 traditional artisan jobs were featured.
Turns out that once a year in Bevagna, starting from the 17th of June, there will be a medieval fair that the entire town will participate in. For the next 10 days, the entire town will recreate how it was like during the dark ages. So anything modern like lights and roads will be covered or removed.
Would be interesting to have a look see during these times. Its like a giant medieval cosplay! And I’ll go in my sarong since thats what Malays probably wear during those times :p
In any case, the first artisan job that we saw was how paper was made in the dark ages.
Life of a paper starts from cloth and fabrics being donated by the town’s people. Its put into sacks and then weighed.
Following which, it will be cut into small pieces with a sharp machete looking device. I was amused when one of the students were remarking about how dangerously fast the man was going. For sure its something that takes practise like a chef chopping skills.
But for some reason, it reminds me of the days when my grandparents were still living in Pulau Tekong – which was an Island in Singapore before it was taken over by the military. I remember how my uncles would get rid of the coconut husk with a device that looked something like that. But now that I think about it, what a dangerous chore it was if they weren’t careful!
Anyway, the chopped up cloth are then placed into boxes where they will be smashed to a pulp with this wooden device. Traditionally it was generated by the river current. But as there was no river to generate it, electricity is used instead. The device is still the same since the dark ages though.
And its pretty hypnotising to watch.
After that, the pulp will be mixed with a mixture of water and salt to be softened even more. And when its ready, it will be shaped with specific moulds as seen right next to the guy here.
And then finally be air dried and probably squashed even more for a thinner paper. The paper is then given its final touches to neaten them and then finally decorated if needed.
The whole process for traditional paper making takes about a month. And even longer for this lovely Mona Lisa watermark paper. If it took a month for paper to be made, would their newspaper be oldpaper since they don’t carry new news?
Then we headed to see how candles are made in the dark ages.
The first thing that I detected while going near the candle maker was how the area smelled so much like honey. And indeed, the candle maker explained how they collected honeycombs to extract paraffin wax for the making of the candles.
What’s interesting to me was that there were different shades of yellow for the candle since the colour is affected by the types of flowers being extracted due to the seasons. Dark yellow for winter and lighter yellow for summer. And the way that he twists the candles is pretty interesting too. Kind of like making epok-epok.
Check out the clip below.
And we had a bit of time to see a traditional herbalist
This is I guess is a apothecary during the dark ages.
And there were a plentiful of dried flowers and herbs, giving the shop a lovely fragrant smell.
That and the glass jars and all, doesnt it totally look like a scene out of Harry Potter? I’d like a be rich spell please
And finally we saw how silk threads are made traditionally. Unfortunately for Cart and me, we stayed a while to buy the candles and when we popped out of the shop, the group was gone. It took a while for us to find them again. So we missed a good 15 minutes of ‘how silk is made’ explanation.
Oh well. Serves us right -_-
But in any case, we did get to see how the threads are traditionally spun in the original machine using human power. According to the lady, it takes about 9 hour to completely fill the spools. Hm. I think I wouldn’t mind it if I had cable tv in front of me or maybe an internet ready netbook. Of course people in the dark ages dont have that
Here’s a short clip of the machine in motion.
It looks interesting. And you know what? Even spiders are motivated enough to make their own spindle. Check out this intricate spiderweb I noticed this just at the door.
We enjoyed ourselves so much that without us realising it, we’ve come to the end of the tour and we said our goodbyes.
As we were both old fogies, Cart and I ended feeling quite tired.
Nevertheless, it was such a nice day. And we look forward to visiting Bevagna again during their Medieval Gaite Market. Anyone wants to come with us?
Oh. And do wear sunscreen.
I spotted this out at the bus where the students were taking
Italians sure do love their coffee don’t they? They even have a coffee maker installed in the bus!
Updated : Check out my post on the Medieval festival in Bevagna