Personal · traveling

Spello (and travel anxiety)

I visited this little town located in Umbria, my favourite region in Italy, during a week I spent on holidays in a neighbouring city, Assisi, a few weeks ago.

Spello frightened me.

As someone who have struggled with anxiety for the most part of her life, I sometimes don’t react very adequately when faced with a situation that I’m not prepared for. We were staying in my beautiful, beloved albeit pretty touristy Assisi and decided to take a day trip to Spello which was just a short train ride away.

Don’t get me wrong, it is a pretty place. Spello is famous for two things – Art and flowers. This little town has more Art galleries and artisan shops than I’ve seen in many much bigger cities. As for the flowers – they’re literally everywhere. Every tiny narrow street in Spello where a bicycle could hardly squeeze through (although they still seem to have bus stop signs in those which remained a mystery to us) is covered in flower pots. There’s literally no escaping the all-consuming blossoms. From what I gathered, the city hosts quite a famous flower festival. I am fond of flowers although I much prefer blooming trees or wild flowers, as opposed to homely pot-based pelargoniums.


However, it took me rather a long time to be able to see even a glimpse of beauty in this city. Spello immediately caused me an anxiety attack, one like I haven’t experienced for many years.

The city is not popular with tourists so walking through its streets you immediately notice a crowd of eyes directed at you. It’s a foreign country and a new city so these kind of looks are most unwelcome to me. I wouldn’t call the locals “friendly” either. The prices are high and the people seem to mostly ignore you and go about their day even if it’s their shop you’re in and you’re desperately trying to get hold of some coffee which it would be in their interest to sell. The sounds that most characterize this city for me are the yelling of schoolchildren, the running of water in empty squares and the moderately annoying sound of bad TV programmes watched by some local women in dusty and rather tackily decorated sitting rooms.

When my anxiety reached its peak and I couldn’t walk anymore, we sat down at a little coffee place with a terrace facing a beautiful old church that was more reminiscent of the Roman times than the Middle Ages. The crumbling white stonework with rose windows has become a favourite resting and nesting place of some lazy pigeons. Not ten minutes have passed before a sturdy van arrived and a few men in black suits came out of it carrying a casket. It seems that the little church became a place of final farewells to some locals that day. The whole scene looked like it was taken straight out of a Fellini movie. The lazy little square bathing in sunshine, the quiet crumbling church, the coffee shop, the funeral procession and the four or five men in black suits who, after the casket-carrying job was done, sat down right next to us in a café as if it was just another job that has finally earned a break. At that time I started seeing the charm of this city.


Spello is not the town a foreign tourist expects to see. It is not all friendly and welcoming, but it is a place where real life takes place. With its suspicions, jealousies, annoyances, griefs and daily toils, but also not, I believe, without its charms. I still much prefer friendlier cities but it was interesting to catch a glimpse of an Italy that’s not straight out of a tourist booklet. Honest, tired, raw.


10 thoughts on “Spello (and travel anxiety)

  1. I love your pictures too – it looks really beautiful, although I’m sorry to hear it brought on your anxiety, maybe not the friendliest place. However, a new experience brings new wisdom, so you have that to take away from it. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks a lot! I certainly feel like I’ve gained new wisdom about myself and my reactions. It’s good to know what can set off your anxiety/panic attacks etc as I think it’s easier to control them when you’re prepared. Thanks for reading x

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey, I totally understand how an experience like this can ruin what should be a beautiful and calming time. Especially if it sneaks up on you. Well done on being able to write about it, it can be hard to explain these kind of things to others. Do you have certain techniques you use to calm yourself down?
    I just did a post about the techniques I use, I don’t know if any of these will be helpful to you but maybe have a look and see. I hope you continue to travel and see the world.
    Em x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, thanks for reading! 🙂 My no. 1 technique right now is to accept the feeling, realise it’s not going to last forever and that it’s not an objective danger. Sometimes you just need to patiently wait through it, knowing that you have a certain condition but it’s just a condition, it’s not YOU if that makes sense. Thanks, I’ll make sure to check out your post as well! x

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes I totally agree, it is kind of like letting the emotions and feelings pass through without letting them affect you if that makes sense? like a guest? I was really fortunate to have a friend with me that knew exactly how to calm me down and when to give me space, hopefully one day I can travel alone, but we will see 🙂 thank for looking at the post, I hope it helps others x

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I still snap a bit, but five minutes later I would apologise and remind her it wasn’t about her, but me taking it out on her, she was really understanding, but I held a lot of my snaps back, and kept calm in situations where she would be the one freaking out, so I feel improvement is happening slowly 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi, as someone who has battled travel anxiety for the last decade and spent a lot of time travelling in Italy (including Spello) I found your post very interesting. Having a panic attack is an incredibly frightening thing and I’m sorry to hear your experience in the town was a bad one. Funnily enough I tend to struggle more with cities – crowds, noise, lack of a safe place to run and hide etc., rather than small places with few people around. I found Spello a pleasant enough little place – don’t remember it being particularly friendly or unfriendly – but I think once you are in the throes of a panic attack it’s really hard to associate the place you’re in at the time with positive thoughts and feelings. It’s sometimes difficult to ascertain too exactly what triggered an attack. I wish you luck with your future travels.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey thanks for your lovely comment and for sharing your experiences! Personally, I can get panic attacks in places that are either too noisy or too quiet. I believe it also depends on many other factors like how I’m feeling that day etc. Like last Christmas I got a really bad panic attack being in the city centre with all the people rushing about with their Christmas shopping. Nevertheless, I love traveling even if at a risk of an anxiety attack! Thank you, I wish you luck too 🙂


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