It’s annoying as hell walking around Perugia with Miss Baldoni. Everyone, it seems, knows her. Waiters at the sidewalk cafes across from the duomo leave their tables to rush over and give her a kiss on the cheek; a young woman selling daffodils in the piazza offers her a free bouquet. Even a capuchin monk, on his way to Assisi, stops his journey to give her a hug and then prattles on for 10 or 15 minutes about god only knows what.
Finally the bearded monk in his pointy little hood hurries off and we are able to continue on, heading down a narrow street until Maura suddenly stops and looks all around her, as if for the first time. “I love this street,” she says. “Via Maesta delle Volte. It’s one of the most sensual streets in Perugia. Do you see what I mean?”
Frankly, no. To me, it’s dark, dank, narrow. A bit claustrophobic.
“You are blind, aren’t you?” She sighs. “Look,” she says, pointing back up the street. “Focus. Pay attention. This street is like a woman, full of arches and curves. It is vuoto and pieno—empty and full. You see?”
Slowly, I do see. The gorgeous arches above the vicolos, the inviting openings that entice you onwards. The play of shadow and light, the different textures and colors. She’s right. It’s incredibly sensual. Why could I not see this before?
We continue down the hill as Miss Baldoni explains to me that Perugia has always had the lines of a woman. “It was founded on two hills,” she says, “with the flat space—Corso Vannucci—between them.” She stops and faces me. “You see,” she says, directing my attention to the mounds of her chest with both her hands, “this is what Perugia looks like.”
Point well taken.
We end up on the edge of town where a round church sits on a nob in a tranquil setting of rose gardens and cypress trees. She has brought me to San Michele Arcangelo, one of the oldest Christian churches in Umbria, dating to the late 5th century. It is intimate, simple, peaceful and quite beautiful. There is no one inside. I walk around its circular walls, touching the well-worn stone.
“It’s something special for us, this church,” Miss Baldoni tells me as we sit on a wooden bench. “A very popular place for Perugians to get married. Do you understand why?”
I do. This time she does not need to explain the romantic nature of the architecture to me. There is something sweetly feminine about this little church. Something that invites you into its intimate space, something that makes you feel tranquil and happy. A post-coital emotion that even I can sense.