Visit Villastrada Umbria
Because of its position with various roads coming into it from different directions, it is tempting to drive through the village of Villastrada. But don’t just drive through. It is well worth it for you to visit Villastrada Umbria (there are several Villastradas in Italy hence my adding Umbria to its name). With Etruscan ruins on the outskirts, a beautiful church and a well-positioned bar/restaurant this village is worth a visit in its own right.
A Church You Can’t Miss – Literally!
If you enter the village from the Castiglione del Lago direction you will be immediately aware of the imposing church that stands out from the other buildings. This is partly because of its lighter brick work but also because it sticks out on a curve in the road. You can’t miss it! The facade of the church, Santa Maria delle Grazie, is particularly impressive. It has columns and archways carved into it, and an impressive wooden door.
Equally ornate and striking is the beautiful bell tower. This close up shows the detailed red brick and gargoyles, as well as the obelisks and balustrade of the tower. As you climb up the hill towards the village the bell tower is clearly visible towering over the other buildings.
Rent a Grave?
As you would expect, a country village like Villastrada has its own beautifully tended cemetry. In Italy people rent grave space and the right to have a gravestone on it. A grave can be rented for perhaps 10, 20 or 30 years, perhaps more in a small village like Villastrada in Umbria. At the end of the rental period the body is exhumed from its space and placed either in a communal burial area or perhaps in an urn in the wall of the cemetery. Therefore in large towns in Italy it is difficult to find a grave older than 30 years. This can puzzle people who come over to Italy from abroad to track down a long lost relative or research their genealogy and expect to find a grave stone!
The cemetery in Villastrada, is beautifully kept, with banks of graves lining the edges of the cemetery. The carved marble grave stones have details of the dead and often a picture of them set into it. The families lay flowers (often silk or plastic so they last in the hot sun) and many place candles. Traditionally these are white candles in a red container. Towards the end of October as we approach the Fiera dei Morti (Festival of the Dead – All Saints) the shops are full of these candles. It should be noted that the graves also have the benefit of more modern electric candles that are switched on at night.
A Cold Italian Beer Hits the Spot
A final reason for me to say to visit Villstrada Umbria is because of the local Bar. The Bar Sport is run by Sergio Burini and his family and provides a great service to the local community. As well as a bar and tobacconist (with the ability to pay bills and recharge mobile phones) it is also a small restaurant that offers a takeaway service.
Their pizzas are good value. During the tourist season there is an endless stream of cars stopping on the road outside to pick up their order of pizzas to take back to their holiday rental. They have a small outside seating area which is covered by an old vine and provides for a pleasant evening in the summer, sitting outside in the cool eating pizza with friends. Oh, and if there is a football match it is worth going to the bar where the locals will be lined up audience style in front of the large television – very little drinking and a lot of arm waving and shouting!
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Before you go
My name is Dorothy Berry-Lound an artist and writer. You can find out more about my art and writing at https://dorothyberryloundart.com.
Thank you for reading!