A year ago, I traveled to Perugia, Italy. I’ve been to Italy on many past occasions. When I was in college I decided to go on my own to a town in Italy and take language lessons-like Amanda, except for me it was Florence. I was not on a program arranged through my school- I had a semester off and decided to go. My original interest in Italy was not completely out of the blue, as I I had met and briefly dated an Italian woman while I was visiting England one year. The trip to Perugia was my third or fourth trip to Italy. On past trips I stayed primarily in the north, visiting Venice, Pisa, Trieste, Bologna, and, of course, Florence. This was my first time south of Florence.
Researching online, I wasn’t really able to understand how to get to Perugia by train. To get there from Rome required a transfer, and then the Perugia train station was some ways outside of the town center. Arriving by train, the first impression is of anything but a “medieval town,” which the English language media loved to call it. The buildings and the city looked quite modern- and sprawling. The vision we get of Perugia throughout this case is really of only the city center- the older part of town on the top of the hill. I recalled Amanda’s story of having to walk a long way, then hitch a ride, to get into town, and I wondered where she actually got off the train, because luckily, there is the mini-metro to take you from the station, under the center of town to the other side, where its a short walk to the city center. The mini-metro opened in January 2008, four months after the girls arrived in Perugia.
Yes, this “medieval village” has its own little metro rail! Its cute; its self-driven, and the cars spend the day traveling from one end of the track to the other. There’s an automated turntable at either end of the track that spins the car then sends it back the other way. Interesting fact- if you instead ride the metro away from the city center to the end of the line, you arrive right next to the Questura!
I started following this case about nine years ago, and during that time I’ve looked repeatedly at the the online maps like Google and Bing. But even reading the descriptions and seeing the maps, I still don’t know if I was quite prepared for the city. I really didn’t fully understand the topography from those maps, although with Google’s 3-d view its easier to see now. The main road along the top of the hill running south to north is primarily a pedestrian-only way. Its somewhat like an upside down J. At the north end, going down the hill takes you to the nook in the valley where the four girls lived. On the inside of that J (on the right in this photo)was Patrick’s Bar, Le Chic, and where Meredith’s British friends lived. The path Meredith took home on the night of the 1st was on the street that circles the hill, which made a lot more sense once I was there walking the streets: the easiest path from the British girls house to the house Meredith and Amanda lived in was not up and over the hill, but around the short end of the “j”.
One thing I was immediately struck by as I took this route is that there is a grade school almost right above the house. The plaza behind the grade school is the one with the metal stairs directly above the parking garage right next to the house! Meredith would have walked past the school on her way home her last night. The nearness of the grade school to the house in which Meredith was murdered surely worried local residents, and I would not be surprised if we learned that the proximity to the school, AND to the center of town, increased the pressure on the police to solve the murder.
From the house you can walk almost directly up the hill straight into town, and its an uphill walk! I did this walk several times during the time I was there as I was getting a feel for the town. As I spent time walking around town, I reflected both on my own impressions of the town and the events and stories of both Meredith and Amanda when they first arrived. Over the next weeks, I will be looking how my trip to Perugia helped with understanding aspects of the case.
While I saw these sites, though, I also got to know the city center for my own. I ate some great pizza, I hung out and talked to one of the wine bar owners, I shopped in the bookstore. Perugia is a lovely place, and I hope to get back there again soon.
While I traveled I didn’t get too much of an opportunity to speak to people about the case. I was surprised when I stopped in a bookstore in Rome to ask about books on the case, I didn’t get an immediate recognition from the clerks. I spoke to two or three people, and finally found one that had a recognition about the case, but then they had to look up in their computer if there were even actually any books written.
The other conversation I had was in Perugia… and that will be in my next post.