12th April 2007
There is something real and earthy about Perugino despite him being a ‘minor player’ in the great opera of renaissance art. He has captured my imagination. Perhaps it’s his contradictory nature that appeals; a thick set, grumpy, thug of a man who could paint with a sweet deft stroke, a man who had no belief in God yet made his living painting religious frescoes of saints and virgins. He retreated to his home town when fame began to fade, a local boy made good who took a beautiful young trophy wife to salve his wounded pride when derided by the young contemporaries of Florence and Rome. He travelled these country roads armed with a staff to beat off robbers, always returning again and again to his beloved lake.
I read that the place that captures the true essence of Perugino is the small chapel at Fontignano where he died, a victim of the plague, still painting at the age of about 80. It is mid-morning when we arrive and the sign on the chapel door directs us to the bar from where you can ring the key holder who will come and open up. We ring Matteo and a few moments later he arrives. He is gorgeous, a ripening youth who fills his red, slim-fit t-shirt to perfection and in the dim light of Fontignano chapel his easy smile lights up the one remaining fresco. I am liking Perugino more and more…
The best thing I ate today:
A cornetto (not the ice cream), a rather dry, vanilla flavoured pastry that can be eaten plain or with a little filling of marmellata or crema. Plain for me, in honour of today’s first cappuccino.
Initially, when breakfasting in Italy, I bemoaned the lack of the ‘fat’ French croissant, indulgently rich and laden with calories. Now, however, I have seen the light. When eaten with a smooth, strong cup of foamy cappuccino the cornetto provides exactly the right counterpoint. Its sweet fragrant dryness is the perfect sop, and I wonder if the allure of the rather obvious French croissant isn’t craftily designed to disguise their weak and inferior coffee.