First impressions ... – Paradiso Ceramics Australia | Handmade in Italy


First impressions ...

“We’re going to Italy. Want to come?”

Knowing the old stone house in Paradiso could accommodate six people, Jan loved to invite friends (and even just acquaintances) to join us. Over eight trips to Italy between 2006 and 2019, more than 80 friends have taken up her offer, some more than once.

If we pick you up from the station in Santa Maria degli Angeli (the town below Assisi where the train station is located), your first view of the pink and white city of Assisi stretched across the foothills of Monte Subasio will take your breath away. That’s if you are not already hyperventilating if it’s your first time in a car travelling on the right side of the road.

From your position in the back seat of the hire car, you observe Marg in the front using both hands to point out landmarks and describe the beauty of the area, turning around and looking at you as she does so. You finally cry out, “Can you please keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel?”, only to realise she is the passenger, not the driver.

Arriving at the narrow arch in the upper wall of Assisi, it is hard to see any oncoming traffic, so Jan plays a game of Russian roulette and we scurry through.

It’s seven kilometres of winding road to the villa, so it might be advisable to collect some ‘sick’ bags from the plane for the trip.

Eventually we turn left into a ‘white road’ leading up to Eremo Paradiso.

It looks more like a riverbed than a road, with deep crevices gouged out by rains flowing from further up the steep hill, so check your seatbelt is fastened tight.

It would be an advantage to have a four-wheel drive, but we don’t. There are relatively few of them in Italy as they are too big for many streets. The trick to getting up the road is to pause at the bridge, drop down into first gear, and keep a foot planted on the accelerator for the whole way up to the house, no matter what gets in the way. (We did almost slip off the side of the track once, but that’s another story…) Praying you don’t meet a vehicle coming down is a good idea.

Parking is a little tricky as the house owns no land outside its gate. Driving into the blackberry bushes is an option if passengers don’t mind crawling out the other side of the car or boot. We rely on the precision driving prowess of Italians to squeeze past our car to get to houses above the villa.

The next challenge is getting your cases up the staircase to the bedrooms, a bit like Roma Stazione Centrale (see blog 'Travelling by train in Italy') except we won’t make you take them down again until you leave. We recommend you travel light.

Once settled into your room, it’s finally time to relax on the paved terrace under the grapevine. With a glass of local vino in hand, drink in the vista of hills dotted with vineyards, olive groves and little woods, with houses tucked among them. Look to the right and Monte Subasio looms protectively over the scene. Listen to the silence.

One thing you can be confident about Italy: it won't disappoint you.

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