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Saturday 30 August

Landed in Brussels, people filing off now. Perfectly uneventful flight, exactly on time, three-point landing.

And now, sitting in a grey area of Brussels airport (no decent breakfast to be had anywhere) in the transfer area, the first real problem of the trip: my PowerBook is apparently kaput.

It worked at O'Hare, where a security inspector had me turn it on for her. And apparently during the flight it got jolted and now I have no computer?

(1) I can't retrieve Mr. Zurlo's phone/address. This isn't much of a problem. Spello is small; and if I need it I can call James from Rome, waiting for him to wake up of course —

(2) I'm out a computer and will have to have it fixed in Italy: almost certainly in Perugia; if I'm lucky, in Foligno; very lucky, Spello. Mind you I was quite planning on a breather from it, and it is not essential —

(3) I have got to get on another plane. If they make me test it, I can't — and then what?

Anyway, I'm calm: there's nothing I can do —

Well not quite nothing: I used a public Internet terminal (439 BF on my credit card) to send an e‑mail to James at both his address and mine, with cc: to Bill Thiry who will pick up his mail (James usually doesn't over the weekend), saying I might call from Rome or even Spello asking for Zurlo's address/phone —

And with that I can settle down into relax mode, pretty much. Time to find a strong cup of coffee.

P.M., express train to Foligno. Well, other'n the computer, I'm lucking out. In Brussels I was only supposed to have one piece of hand luggage, they let me on with two. I slept almost all the way to Rome, waking up just in time to see the characteristic outline of the peninsula of Orbetello. Fiumicino, absolute breeze, a mere glance at my passport, walked (as always, mind you) thru the green no-customs gate. Express train to Termini in 15 minutes, employed with a piece of torta alla nonna and a cappuccino. A seat on the train, unlike last time. Termini, I checked the schedules and found an express! leaving in 5 minutes — dashed onto it, and bought the ticket onboard; including the supplement and the penalty for being ticketless, 41.500₤ — and I'll be in Foligno in just over an hour. Nice air-conditioned car with only one other person in it. . . so I'm spread out happily and have one of the big writing tables in the center all to myself.

The other fellow is a train machinist going home to Macerata, we talked a bit — mostly me bubbling on about how wonderful Italy is; and indeed, already three times in the two hours I've been here — we landed at 1:30 — I've seen evidence of the fundamental reasonableness and ease of character making things so much easier on everyone.

We're already at Nera Montoro. . .a Now the extraordinary glaucous waters of the Nar to my left (I'm facing backwards, as I usually do on trains when I have a choice) as we approach Narni of which one only sees the great Roman arch, the city being [up arrow] up 60 meters —

[Just passed it —]

Foligno train station, binario 2 alongside the little putt-putt for Spello. We arrived at 1620 from Rome having left at 1455: the Spello train leaves for the last 6 km of my trip at 1653; I think we're waiting for the arrival of yet another train to meet. There are a good dozen trains a day to Rome out of Foligno, starting at 0530; the last arrival from Rome is around 10 P.M., so this is much better trainwise than Todi. Mind you, the stazione in Spello is not quite smack in town; just how not smack I'll be finding out in a few minutes — although I'm not really very tired, not as tired as I thought I'd be, for sure.

The final step will be to find InUrbe . . . .

Umm, that was easy enough but the least pleasant part of the trip, at least physically. The bus-stopless taxicab-stationless train station is maybe 700 m from InUrbe: uphill of course, wearing heavy winter coats and carrying suitcases . . . .

Spello, fortunately, is a gem: much nicer than what I was expecting from the guidebooks. Mr. Zurlo seems very nice as well, and indeed, had a wonderful surprise for me: instead of the apartment I'd rented, I have one maybe twice as large, with two large bedrooms — and most importantly, a terrace, a private rooftop terrace with an eastward view, a panorama from M. Subasio thru Foligno to the Monti Sibillini!! When he took me up there and sprang it on me, I gave him a big hug on the spot. I'm sitting up there now in the spotlit dark, in my bathing suit (it's maybe 67°, gorgeous weather) —

After a dinner at the Trattoria Il Cacciatore just down the street: on a terrace like the Umbria in Todi except both the food and the view slightly less good and Il Cacciatore's view not as good as mine. . . Meal: antipasto misto (mostly Umbrian hams and sausages); crêpes/crespelle (Mornay); faraona alla ghiotta, quite good, on a little bed of cooked lemon peel; a salad; a crostolata and a glass of vin santo. The meal itself with a fair amount of local red, every bit as good as Lungarotti's Sangiovese from Torgiano: an unnamed rosso di Montefalco. Tired but revivified.

Before dinner, called James — everything OK, Pliny heard my voice and licked the receiver; so did Boo! then had a very nice hot shower/bath (no shower curtain, etc. . . but water very hot). Then went grocery shopping (paste, wine, yogurt, milk, sugar, salt, capers, truffle sauce, red pepper, grappa, limoncello, fette biscottate, 2 jams, fruit, tomatoes, coffee, toothbrush, razor blades, shavecream, al‑Chermes, ricotta, parmesan, a few other things) at the alimentariº 16, via Giulia (I'm at 97, via Giulia): ₤133M. Came back, packed it away, went out to dinner — and was met by the owner of the alimentari, 16 ML and itemised bill in hand, walking to return an inadvertent overcharge to me — Most impressive of course — but then nobody ever said Umbrians were dishonest.

Good news also: computer not broken, just — apparently — the battery run down. Plugged in here it worked fine. Good.

Smell of pine rather strong walking up from the station (a short and attractive walk); smell of wood fireplaces in town. The "season" has wound down — the tourists are basically gone; I do know when to travel — Walter Z. is going on his vacation in a few days —

Well, what an indulgent evening: bill was 58ML at the Cacciatore; weight/waist!! Monday I find a tape measure. Tomorrow I look at Spello and photograph it a bit, then I start thinking Rome and hiking and skating, plus eating at home: or else I'll be fat and broke!

Now to bed —

Later Note for the Web:

a In all my time in Umbria (totalling, by the end of 2005, fourteen months) I've never seen the actual village of Nera Montoro; only the very prominent electric power generating station, and the little train station near it. For a commented view of the village, however, see the comune of Narni's page; ENEL (the Italian national electric company) once had a bit about the electric station, but with the continued shrinkage of the Web, their page has disappeared.

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