Thursday, May 29, 2014

Past as Present

     Although we're trying to stay put as much as possible during our final weeks in Genoa, we were tempted away by an invitation to spend a weekend in the Umbrian hill town of Gubbio - considered to be Italy's best-preserved medieval village. This also gave us easy access to surrounding towns, such as Assisi and Spello.  Once again we were struck by the depth of living history in Italy, including the highlights below.

Palazzo Ranghiasci 
     We were invited to stay in a palace in Gubbio, passed down over many generations and now as much a burden as a blessing for the family members who maintain it. The stone structure of the palazzo dates back to the 1300's, and we wished the walls could talk as we imagined what might have transpired over the last 700 years. Instead, the girls got to imagine their own noble status while exploring the palace and gardens.

Palio della Balestra
     Our visit coincided with a traditional crossbow competition, between the archers of Gubbio and nearby Sansepolcro. 
     We were woken by the early morning proclamation announcing the competition, which has taken place in the palace square since at least the 15th century.  
Video Clip Here

Early Saints
     Our visit also followed the steps of Saint Francis, Santa Chiara, and Saint Ubaldo. Admittedly, we cheated a little by taking a funivia up the hill to the Basilica of Saint Ubaldo (where his 900 year old mummified body is visible for all to venerate)! But walking the streets and hillsides of the medieval towns was breathtaking, both for the beauty and the sense that very little has changed about these places for hundreds of years.

Truly Ancient History
     Our wonderful hosts took us to the K–T boundary at the end of our stay. Gubbio happens to be the location where geologists first noticed the sudden change from fossil-rich white layers of stone (from the Cretaceous period), to the brownish/red Tertiary beds which are surprisingly depleted in fossils. Further study of these rocks (and others around the world) lead to the realization that this boundary line marks the mass extinction of dinosaurs, likely from asteroid or meteorite impacts. The impact for us was to conclude our trip by adding about 65 million years to the timeline we retraced!

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