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Wednesday 20 September

On my train out of Fossato a few minutes ago and approaching Nocera Umbra: I hope I haven't forgotten anything; the first leg of my trip home.

Monday was a bit complicated, as today will be; but I did most of what I wanted to do, despite one little hiccup. The plan was to go to Rome and see S. Sabina for the door, and some of the other churches of the Aventine; buy Suitcase; and find something nice for Agnes; with an hour's stop in Terni to drop off my last rolls of film and pick up the 73 rolls I'd already paid for.

I'd planned well, and had bought the various supplements I needed over and above my monthly pass to take trains that were either InterCity's or Eurostars; I came zooming into Terni at around 9, to zoom out at nearly 10: Monday morning, though, and Mr. Cervelli, like almost every other merchant in town, closes; I'd wondered about it, now I know. . . So back out to Rome, bredouille.

At 150 m from the station in Rome, a suitcase shop: after peering at a few for size, opted for the largest and most expensive at 288 ML, hoping it would be big enough; in it, I left my pack and its 40+ rolls of film, to pick it all up at around 5:30 — my last possible train back allowing a second stop in Terni was the Florence train at 1812. Forgot my map of Rome in the pack, but didn't need it: subway to Circo Massimo and found S. Prisca by memory from having spent all that time reading those maps; and from there it was a simple thing to follow the curve around the top of the Aventine to S. Sabina, which really does seem to be the church that most nearly approximates the feeling of an early Christian basilica. The door, on the other hand, rather underwhelms, partly because the (Renaissance? I forgot) restorers chose, wisely, to put the Roman panels high and out of reach, with thus mostly blank panels at the bottom, now behind plexiglass: so that it's difficult to look at the sculpture in detail; I saw most of it best thru my telephoto.

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Christ, Peter, and rooster; for the whole works, see my S. Sabina pages.

Saw (and even photographed, possibly successfully) the keyhole view onto St. Peter's; liked S. Anselmo: I hadn't realized it was modern — At S. Alessio, an open-air serving of lunch (rigatoni in tomato sauce, or more properly I guess, al sugo; at any rate, smelled very good) to, as far as I could make out, whoever happened to be at hand: some homeless, a construction crew, a group of Polish religious pilgrims, a couple of tourists.

In a way, the most interesting thing for me was the Aventine itself: I didn't realize how posh it was, and small. There are a couple of nice hotels — just 3 stars, but look quite pleasant, if only you taxi in and out of them and don't mind being a little out of the center; although in fact the hotel district around Termini is no more central to the great sights of the city.

Nice chunk of very old wall, too, down towards the Piazza Albania: click, click. Of course once I got out of church mode and into Roman wall mode, it was only logical to do another snatch of the Aurelian wall; which I did after an (ill-advised) stop at an otherwise pleasant restaurant at the beginning of the via di Porta Latina, called "da Orazio a Caracalla" — 25 minutes to bring me my antipasto, which I'd purposely chosen fast to prepare: bresaola. . . A waiter whose attitude towards me (and other foreigners) lay somewhere in a triangle bounded by surly, indifferent and rude —

Anyway, a stroke of luck at S. Giovanni a Porta Latina, which was closed; as I stood there going thru a few inscriptions in the porch preparing to leave, the sacristan opened up, expecting a photographer for some preliminaries for a wedding. Not me, but he let me in. Frescoes interesting but a bit pale; handsome church, though.

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The Romanesque church of S. Giovanni a Porta Latina
from the doorstep of the Japanese Embassy
(understandably, their security camera stayed trained on me thruout).

From there along the walls to the Porta Appia (via a nice public garden along the inside of the walls) then along the outside to the Ardeatina and on to the Ostiensis: a bit dull. Subway suitcasewards, but with time to spare; I got off at Cavour, absently hoping I'd bump into S. Clemente or the Quattro Coronati; instead I wound up first at S. Martino ai Monti, then at S. Prassede, where I took the photos I didn't take in 1967 or 1994: some will turn out.

This was about enough for the day: suitcase, Termini, Orte (a waiting train to take all of us commuters to Terni), and Terni; at Mr. Cervelli's well before his closing time. A few minutes to spare; at the bookstore 3 blocks S of the station I found one, only, of the 4 vols. of the Manuali per il Territorio:º wanted to pay VISA for it, but they don't have VISA and I didn't have cash; they set it aside for me, and I expect to pick it up this evening. Train, home, bed.

Yesterday a very different day, and quite relaxing despite the amount of ground covered, both figuratively and literally; because I didn't do a stroke of work: Franco squired me around — but in exchange (the second try was the charm) I found the Villa of the Vespasii; sort of, of course.

(About an hour after the last entry, so far everything running like clockwork: got to Orte, checked in, paid, showered, and back to Terni, now sitting quietly on platform 2 waiting for the 1647. . .)

So yesterday Franco picked me up at home a bit past 0830, and we made like bees to Piándoli; a bit indecisive bees, mind you, since I also had caccia ai comuni in mind (i.e., Poggiodomo and Monteleone on our way to a proposed Leonessa) and Franco, all accommodating, was uncertain which I wanted to do first: Vespasian's uncertain villa, or the uncertain interest of my two stray comuni. I opted for Vespasian first: this turned out to be almost certainly the right decision.

[and if you need it, here's help in using the map,
including my own symbols & added information.]

Other walks in the area, see Walking in Umbria.

First stop, in fact, Sellano; it's one of the comuni that are hard to get to: not only on foot, but currently by car as well, with road repairs for miles on end, since the road goes from the first epicenter of the '97 quakes at Colfiorito, to the second epicenter at Sellano. Thus the road is often reduced to one lane, with periodic pairs of alternating stoplights: slow going, and must have been irritating driving.

Sellano itself was once, and may yet be again, a nice little place; but right now, it is totally destroyed: the heavy roofs of houses, often of reinforced concrete, had pancaked down all over, and there wasn't a single useful building. Workers had started on the Romanesque church, in town; and on a little octagonal Renaissance church on the way into town, that was so totally shrouded in scaffolding and plastic sheeting that Franco didn't even see it: it was his first time back to Sellano since the quake, and my first ever; I was impressed: this is the worst earthquake damage anywhere in Umbria, including Nocera. To service the construction workers, the local bar had reopened in a trailer: we had a coffee and a cornetto there, morosely walked the ruins for a few minutes, and went on to Piándoli.

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Reconstruction: the main square of Sellano.
For a more obvious photograph of the damage, see Oct. 17, 1997.


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