I’ve always had a fascination for old houses. When I was a child the Umbrian countryside was full of abandoned houses, castles, hamlets. Now they have all been renovated into anything from humble agriturismo to fancy spa retreats.
My parents loved to picnic near old houses. If they were safe to walk into, we would even use the fireplace to grill sausages and bread for bruschetta. What an adventure that was for us kids! The old stones told us tales of mysterious princes and queens, of secrets hidden beyond rickety stairs.
I have been “collecting” visits to old houses for a long time. It’s a wonderful way to bring yourself into the habits and culture of a place. Temples might have sublime art, but houses have stories of real people.
As a student I must have walked hundreds of times by Palazzo Bourbon di Sorbello never suspecting the wealth of art and culture hidden behind the imposing entrance. This stately mansion is not in the countryside, but in Perugia’s city centre. It’s built atop the Etruscan walls and affording breathtaking views over the old town and the Umbrian emerald hills.
Life has changed from the times I explored abandoned castles.
This is a place which is still alive. I have been recently invited to visit as the Palazzo has recently opened as a “house museum“. And what a fascinating history I have learned! The library holds an antiquarian collection of over 20 thousand volumes. The family has been in Northern Umbria for a thousand years and in Perugia for over 300 years, can you imagine? They have an Etruscan well in the basement, it’s 2500 years old.
And there is more: stories of poets and princes, of embroidery and porcelain, but I will not tell you everything.
Please go see it for yourself, it’s a truly special place. One more gem in the crown of our beautiful Umbria.