Perugia. The name of the town in Italy’s Umbria region conjures up two things for me.
The memory of what was possibly the happiest and most idyllic time of my life; days by the pool and evenings by the fields, drinking wine and eating homemade Italian food.
And the very different memory of reaching into my bag in a bar to realize my wallet and phone were both gone; the horror of realizing I stupidly had no other way to access my money and all the tears as I tried to come to terms with how dumb I was.
I arrived in Perugia exhausted and kind of burnt out. I had booked four nights in a gorgeous farmhouse hostel, hoping to use it as a base for daytrips around Umbria. When I got there, I immediately abandoned the idea of daytrips. This farmhouse is the most perfect place I have ever seen and I had zero desire to leave.
Oh my god this pool. I have never loved a place more. First of all, it was a kajillion degrees in Italy in August, so a pool was practically a necessity if I didn’t just want to be constantly crying about how hot it was. So I would have settled for practically anything…a 4 foot square plunge pool. ANYTHING.
So to get this flawless pool was above and beyond. My favourite thing was the view – floating in this pool, gazing across the deck to the rolling hills of Umbria – it’s like every Tuscan stereotype you’ve ever imagined. Except that, you know, you’re in Umbria. And there are way fewer tourists.
I spent an inordinate amount of time lounging by the pool, reading every single book in the hostel’s book exchange, getting the best tan I’ve ever had, and practicing my relaxation skills.
As you may know, I will absolutely book a hostel solely because reviews mention that a dog lives there. (Case in point: Romania and Istanbul.) The farm has dogs, horses, goats, wild boars, and a bunch of other stuff. How could I say no?!
Walking up the road to the hostel for the first time, one of the hostel’s horses was galloping across a field and whinnying. I almost thought it couldn’t be real because it was such a perfect scene. At that instant, I knew this was a special place.
The dogs are amazingly sweet even though they’re tied up most of the time, and staying on a farm was basically the coolest thing ever. Reading reviews, it sounds like you can take the dogs for walks and interact with the animals in other ways, but as you may have guessed I was too lazy and hot to do that.
When I read reviews of the farmhouse before staying, almost every single one mentioned how awesome their fellow guests were and how much everyone bonded. I was hoping for the same experience, but with hostels you never know who’ll end up in your room.
Luckily, I hit the jackpot. The first lovely person I met in Perugia helped me figure out what bus stop to get off at, and even walked me all the way to the hostel’s door and then called the owners to make sure I got in safely. I love Italians. The owners were delightful, allowing me to extend my stay and then letting me wait until I got back to Canada to pay for my week-long stay.
The hostel also has a thriving volunteer program, where you can stay for free (minimum 1 month) and help out around the farm. They definitely worked hard, but they also got to hang out with us guests, and they were so lovely.
And of course, the guests – I meet a lot of people travelling, but usually as far as the friendship goes is following eachother on social media and messaging every now and then. The people I met at this hostel are an exception; I’ve stayed with two of the people I met here: Lauren, who lives in London, and Andrew, who lives in Tokyo. It’s so great to stay in touch with (and actually hang out with!!) people who you meet on the road.
Lauren especially was such a lifesaver; when I got robbed she calmed me down, let me call my parents on her phone about 12 times, and lent me money. We had so much fun together and I’ll never forget how kind she was!!
But my favourite part of the story:
In October (three months after my stuff was stolen) I checked that inbox on Facebook where all the random messages from spammers are. I was shocked to see a message from an Italian man, who had found my wallet (emptied of cash) in Perugia’s main square and turned it into the police station. The policeman messaged me on Facebook too (thank god for social media) and I immediately contacted him, and ended up getting it mailed to me, free of charge!! Nothing in it was of real value, but the wallet itself was a souvenir I had just bought in Morocco – and I couldn’t believe how kind all those people had been.
An experience that could have left a very bitter taste in my mouth turned into one of my favourite travel stories. Evidently I wish this hadn’t happened, but if I had to get robbed – I’m so glad it happened when I was with my favourite people and in my favourite place.