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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. There were once two good pages online, one by ENEL (the Italian national electric company) about the electric station, and the other a commented view of the village — a little company town created by the dam in the 20c — by its parent comune of Narni. With the continued shrinkage of the Web, first one page disappeared, then the second, leaving only unsatisfactory skeletal pages on a well-known cult site.

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Page updated: 27 Aug 14