Umbria Blog | Prehistory and the Abbey of Farneta

On a beautiful sunny day in April I participated in a guided walk in the area of the Abbey of Farneta. Farneta is a small hamlet in the valley next to the Trasimeno lake in Umbria, the Val di Chiana. Coming from the A1 or from Siena, driving towards Lake Trasimeno and Perugia many times I just drove by and never bothered to take the exit for “Abbazia di Farneta”. But now I did …

In a landscape of gentle hills, typical of the Val di Chiana, stands an old Romanesk Church. Once it was a Benedictine Abbey of which one can still see some remaining walls. For 65 years, from 1937 to 2002, the church belonging to the abbey has had the same pastor. Don Sante Felici was a very unique man who not only led his parish with much verve. He was also very interested in ancient times and made sure that the Abbey of Farneta was preserved from downfall.

The Etruscans left many remnants in this area and the pastor made sure that the cellars underneath the church were dug out. And he was right: nowadays one can visit the crypt underneath the altar dating back to pre-roman times. Legend goes that when digging they found enormous amounts of human skeletons and living snakes; an image of Dante’s inferno.

Our walk continued from the Abbey to the former school building of Farneta where to my surprise a small paleontology museum is made with … yes … prehistoric fossils, all found near Farneta! Who would have thought: a million years ago the Val di Chiana valley was a savannah where elephants, hyenas and rhinoceros lived. Even longer ago, the whole environment was a sea. In the museum you can see many fossil shells, but also bones of prehistoric elephants, fossilized feces of hyenas and more.

But why in Farneta? That certainly involves the pastor – through the stories of our guide I imagine a kind of Don Camillo. In the 1950s and 1960s the construction of the A1 took place for which a lot of sand was needed. In later years the same happened again with the construction of the highway Siena-Perugia. In the area one excavated a lot of ground for the construction of these new roads.

Don Sante made arrangements with the workmen: they had to warn him if they found bones or other valuable relics. In this way, even two whole skeletons of prehistoric elephants were found, which are now in the paleontological museum of Florence. To this day farmers in the area or workmen during new construction projects find prehistoric bones or Etruscan remains.

It is thanks to the erudite priest Don Sante that many relics found around Farneta can be seen today. His heritage is now managed by a voluntary organization.

Our guide was Laura Gremoli. If you would like more information about the Etruscans and the history around the Val di Chiana, then let yourself be guided by Laura. She has an incredible knowledge and is a passionate story teller. I already experienced this at a guided tour about Etruscans at the Maec museum of Cortona. She is an inexhaustible source of information. You can call her on + 39 3494949604, or email info@cortonatouristguide.com. She speaks English.

Umbria Blog | Walking with Anime Pioniere

I often receive newsletters and activities from the Oasi La Valle, a nature reserve at Lake Trasimeno and a paradise for bird watchers. This time I found an invitation in my mailbox to join a walk organised by a fairly new organisation called Anime Pioniere. They organise walks in nature often in lesser known areas along the Umbria Tuscany border: Trasimeno, Cortona, Città di Castello, San Sepolcro.

Sunday the 12th of March the morning started at the Oasi La Valle where we witnessed the ringing of birds and where the walk started. 6 km, not too much height difference, hence also adapted for families with children like ourselves. We climbed the hill and over the hills’ ridges we walked from San Savino to San Feliciano. Of course we finished the walk with a small lunch, a good Italian habit. We had some antipasti and fried fish from the lake with the local fishermen.

We paid euro 15 p.p. for the tour at the Oasi La Valle, the walk and the light lunch.

It was a wonderful early spring day. Here is an impression:

Do you enjoy a walk in nature with trained guides in mostly undiscovered parts of Umbria and Tuscany? Follow the Anime Pioniere: they organise interesting walks all year round, mostly on Sunday or on Italian bank holidays. We were quite a group with almost 50 participants, all Italians. They hope they will also have tourists to join them during the summer period. During the walk we learned about the area, its history and its fauna. They also speak English. It is recommended to wear proper shoes for walking and also ask for the difficulty when making a reservation, especially when you have kids.

Have fun!

Umbria Blog | Restaurant Pizzeria La Serra

Everybody knows “pizza”. Maybe it is the most famous Italian dish in the world. Italians themselves love eating pizza. On every corner of the street you can get a slice, a “pizza al taglio”. The toppings on the pizza vary from fish to meat, from fresh fruit to only vegetables.

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La Serra is a restaurant-pizzeria outside the city centre of Perugia. La Serra literally means greenhouse. It used to be a greenhouse: nowadays the restaurant has a long and narrow structure and is very large serving many guests. At the entrance are large craft beer brewers, though they do not seem to be in use. The restaurant does serve some special beers, though.

Often the restaurant is crowded with mainly local people. La Serra is not known by tourists because of its location outside the historical centre of Perugia. It is close to the football stadion.

Coming here for the first time you’ll be surprised by the size of the pizza. One pizza takes two plates to serve! It is hard to imagine finishing this mega pizza, but no worries. Within minutes you’ll finish the first half. It is a very thin pizza and not difficult to digest. You’ll love it!

The menu of the mega pizza is variable. On the placemat menu is a list of the “Super Mega Pizza Speciale”. But the menu also offers classics like the Pizza Margherita or the Pizza 4 Formaggi. For children there is a “baby pizza” which has the normal pizza size. If you don’t feel like having a mega pizza, the restaurant also offers good pasta and meat dishes.

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If you really can’t get to the end of your pizza, you can ask a take away pizza box. Don’t hesitate to ask for a box, many people do!

Address :
Pizzeria La Serra
Viale dell’Ingegniera 35, 06125 Perugia
Tel. +39(0)75-5058672

Buon appetito!

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