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mail: Bill Thayer 
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Wed. 23 September

New Italian pen, actually the original felt pen I remember from when they first came out, a Pentel — Japanese of course in fact.

Insane European washing machine: started a tiny load of about 6‑8 pair of underwear and dance belts well before sitting down to my usual breakfast; then showered, shaved etc. then went shopping in a very leisurely way, 2 stores plus a bit of browsing: still doing God knows what in there, grinding and running water and spending money — and for all that, my clothes aren't as clean as in the States.

Expected to find Italians better dressed than they are, a big disappointment; especially that I'd hoped to tank up on clothes that would make me look really good — on the other hand, haircuts here are very good; most of the looks Italian men can have is due to two things: smooth skin and good barbers. A somewhat odd mental attitude also helps, a kind of insolent lack of interest combined with a sort of alertness [. . .]

Washing machine still at it — water hard in Todi, to boot: possibly accounting for the supposed longevity of the Tuderti, I've noticed that places with hard water seem to be longer-lived altho' maybe that's just because rural and simpler way of life, not as much meat, more vegetables etc. —

Today qualifies apparently as a nice day in Umbria, only thinly overcast, one senses blue under the haze or outright clouds, and sometimes even it escapes — slight generalized muscle ache, but maybe this is a good day to walk somewhere — lunch first, even if it is only 10:30, I'm starving — Weighed exactly 80 on waking up; with exactly 8 weeks (56 days) till I get back to the rink, I'm on schedule to come back weighing 76 kg.


Washing machine finally stopped, clothes pretty wet also some soap possibly still, although that's probably due to my poor housekeeping skills. Water all over the bathroom floor but that's from the lack of a shower curtain just like in France — I can't believe people go thru their whole lives mopping up the floor after a shower rather than think of a shower curtain . . .

Lunch: strangozzi this time with parmesan and a fair dose of a pepper-and‑coriander sauce that smells, at least, pretty much like harissa actually; salad of lettuce & capers; a few olives; a touch only of Grechetto since I don't want to fall into the 3‑hour nap but rather, want to go walking!

You know you're a tourist when you cook your whole meal with a camera strapped to your waist . . .



[image ALT: zzz]

Very partial but accurately atmospheric view of the Piazza del Popolo, Todi.

Some time around 4, I think. I'm now sitting by suddenly coolish overcast windy weather — where was it when I needed it! — at the less fashionable but far larger, more central, more frequented by locals and with the better view of the two cafés in the Piazza, at a little round table with an imitation granite plastic top, metal chairs in imitation of bent wood with imitation cane plastic seats, all sounds awful, actually quite unpretentious even, and pleasant. I ordered a coffee and a plain vanilla ice cream, to which the good Lord has seen fit to add a tiny double dose of chocolate: a teaspoon if that of hot fudge in artistic dots on my ice cream, and a wrapped piece of chocolate not quite the size of the first joint of my thumb. This will be my first chocolate in a number of months, and after today's exercise, there's probably not much harm in it.

I've just come back from Cecanibbi; about fifteen minutes ago I crossed this same piazza coming from behind the Duomo to go to my apartment and swill down a pint of grapefruit juice — and check the mailbox — about an hour ago I was slogging up the hill from P. Rio, the first time ever. I was unable to make it without a rest at about 760 double paces from the bottom and only 120 from the P. Perugina1 but the heart was pounding, I was sweating rivers, and losing my balance, I thought I was going to have a heat stroke — maybe at 45 I'm being unreasonable. More likely I'm out of shape.

[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.

The walk to and from Cecanibbi, the way I did it, complete with getting lost and doing an extra 1500 m in part thru what I suddenly recognized as tobacco fields (one field was in bloom and looked very much like garden nicotiana) although I'd never seen tobacco growing — this on the way back to Todi, having taken a wrong turn and thought I could get away with it by being stubborn (I couldn't), was probably 17 km only, but basically a V in elevation with turns in plan: down to Ponte Rio and across the flat as the name indicates to Pian di S. Martino, then up to Cecanibbi which is at about the same altitude as S. Fortunato in Todi.

zzz On the way, in Ponte Rio, a little shrine, easily missed if you're not on foot, to some friar then only Beatus but now a Saint except I've already forgotten who, with some lovely tilework showing him in front of Todi; an inscription from the 16th century for which, exceptionally for post-Roman inscriptions, my Latin was not quite good enough, but recording a nocturnal translation of the body of the Beatus thru this plain on its way to Florence — also a very peculiar tile medallion showing King Jesus as a baby and the proud parents looking on — Mary and God the Father (no possible confusion with Joseph: he wears the imperial crown). Never seen that anywhere else. Hope my photos come out.

zzz Cecanibbi was worth going to. Over the little pass before it and the view suddenly opens out onto a nice swath of Umbria; Cecanibbi itself is a little agglomeration of about 6 large houses, some of it on a flaring fortified base; one street and a couple of culs-de‑sac; flowers, views — quite lovely. A small church about 100 m away, looks modern from the outside except for a Romanesque stone apse; inside, the choir is all painted, this century maybe? primarily in blue with stars and medallions with human figures — on the S. wall, 4 pieces of fresco carefully rescued — one of them dated 1577: an angel with a demon under foot — the others surely painted by the same man and probably at the same time — St. Lucia with her eyes on a plate as usual: hope those also pix come out.

Worth going to, well, yes, once I'd decided I was going to be doing all this exercise: for example, walking the last 200 yards home I immediately thought of what the last 200 yards to my house in Chicago are like . . . !! But the day was hot, I sweated and breathed a lot, have a slight sunburn in spots, item muscle ache — longdistance walking, esp. in hills, and even if I have 31 years history of it, and even if today (10‑11 miles) hardly qualifies as long-distance, is an exercise in masochism; although apparently every sport is — il faut souffrir pour être belle!

At the same time, admittedly, sitting here in the Piazza del Popolo watching life around me, soaking in the really very delicate beauty which I'd sort of ignored up to now of the pale pink and white of the Duomo, my muscles pleasantly stretched and my skin a bit tingly from the sun exposure, I do feel great. . . .

For about fifteen minutes now, a rather brutish-looking young man of about 25 has also been sitting at the café at an adjacent table, came on bicycle, small knapsack, baseball cap, tee-shirt with "Basketball - Georgetown - Notre Dame, Indiana" on it, pony tail tied up with electric pink garter — looks awful, but large arms mostly muscle; legs not quite as good as mine although deep brown tan — Frankly he looks awful, and I don't like overdeveloped brown muscles — still, it can be done, up to a point it's probably good for me — although I also note that our young bicyclist is a bit overweight around the tummy, and of course what I'm looking for is V-shaped.

Piazza mostly fellow tourists right now; at this café, I'm the only nonlocal (about 5 tables occupied out of 28) and I'm sort of local actually; but about 20 people, many with cameras, in about 3 major knots but apparently loosely related, milling around on the steps of the Duomo; other little groups strolling thru the Piazza itself, mostly Italians I think. One particularly iconic little group a few minutes ago, 2 Italian men, 3 women all middle-aged, probably what will be a marvelous picture taken of the three women huddled together in front of the steps: from a photography standpoint, everything wrong, the subjects too far, the church won't appear in the background, just a portion of the 40 or so steep stone steps behind them — but wonderfully iconic as I said.

Young bicyclist put his knapsack on and cycled away; in the middle distance, tall fellow with grey hair, coral shirt and sleeveless sweater walking a magnificent black chow —

Feel wonderfully relaxed: easy, of course, given a rest after 17 km of hills in the sun, and sitting quietly in the middle of a 15th century town square with maybe only 35 people in sight by lovely cool weather [. . .]

Tall man in black teeshirt and dark olive trousers and dark glasses, very short crewcut to mask balding on top, walking delightedly with tiny little blond girl all of 3 years old in a bright red gingham dress. . . In the 4‑story building directly across from me, on the 3d floor, somber-looking man in his late thirties, in a hideous dark greyish aqua suit and almost matching tie, both hands on the window sill, looking up and down the piazza with an air of concentration. . . Schoolgirl of about 15 with very large round breasts and a pony tail, bright yellow-orange sweater, called to the table of two old men, one of whom gives her a little roll of lire, rolled up tight like a cigarette — she's now gone off with two school chums, two more join them, exeunt via Mazzini. . . Two couples only on steps to the Duomo — one, at far right top near the little balustrade with the escutcheon, have been there some while, reading a guide book and sharing a Coke — the other, beautifully matched: lovely blond girl of maybe 22 with shoulder-length hair, coral-pink sweater, pale blue pants; he, taller, dark, angular sort of face, violet-blue shirt, very dark sleeveless sweater, white trou, happily sitting two-thirds of the way down, just chatting. . . Four boys about 16 traversing the piazza, three of them match (jeans pastel long-sleeve shirts: violet, pink, aqua), the fourth in a pair of coral sweats with a black top and a red sweater or jacket slung over his shoulders. . . Two young women on motorcycles stopped briefly, gone again. . . Young somewhat overweight man of 25 with a slight limp and a roving eye, white T‑shirt, white trou, carrying a small box of computer paper. . . Just for the record, as I prepare to go away too, I'm wearing my dark bluegrey trou gathered in at the waist something awful by 4 notches of belt, my bright aqua Allison shirt, my filthy ex-white sneakers, and my glasses on a cord around my neck so I can alternate easily between writing this and looking around — they keep falling off so I've propped them & the forehead against my left hand, elbow holding down the left page of this notebook so it won't blow shut in the occasional gust of wind — So I leave the piazza to its life, still under the watchful scrutiny of the man in the hideous suit, although he's only got one hand on the sill now.


7:05 and finito il relax; as I was doing my situps (I was at 46!) the phone rang, James, mass of problems [. . .] So after half an hour of talk about computer problems primarily but also of arguing with him for God's sake don't show up at Fiumicino at sixish A.M. without lire! etc. — I'm back to a ball of nerves. I tried to do 50 situps after the phone call but only made it reasonably to 31 —

Still, situpwise, I'm elated: 50 is close at hand. I notice that the first 12 to 15 are now more or less square, elbows out, heels on floor etc. (so that in fact I'm only doing 12‑15 real situps, but I'm not going to fault myself[. . .]).

Also notice that I will have got a bit of a tan today, back, arms, a bit on the tummy. (Dumb question: as I lose tummy weight, what happens to the skin the tummy was in, I mean it doesn't resorb or just vanish somehow? I'm really an ignoramus about the body: when I get back to Chicago I'll start learning about it — me —)


Note in the Diary:

1 another much longer stop just at the P. Perugina, three teenagers & a wonderful black dog "Terry" —

[image ALT: A large dog, seated by a man's knee.]


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Page updated: 1 Feb 10