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Thu. 24 September

Today I think is the changeover of the new rail schedules; tomorrow at 0300 clocks go back an hour: the good Lord chose to wake me up just in time to catch that on the morning news, my 8‑minute dose of TV every day (Italian TV seems to be even dumber than American). Weight: 79½ securely. Alas, starving hungry, and planning a long walk (the weather looks good and the forecast is partly cloudy with chance of scattered showers, high 84, low 66 in Rome): so I made myself breakfast of eliche (spiral pasta) in an ad hoc recipe of onions sautéd in olive oil, plus mushrooms chopped, ricotta, an egg, and parmesan — pretty good — 3 glasses of grapefruit juice; tea.

My fascination with the washing machine continues: it's been at it for an hour and ten minutes, sloshing, grinding, whoofing, spinning, draining, blowing, vibrating . . . .

[. . .]

Anyway, back to earth with a bump: time to get cracking (I get to take my shower to the music of the washing machine from close up — 1h20m and still going strong, although it just got excited, I'm afraid it's about ready to come. . .).


About 7:30 P.M. and back at the caffé in the P.zza del Popolo, different table this time, no longer really daytime, twilight ending, and the piazza much more crowded. Feeling happy, touch of excited, not too I hope: just came back from my walk (at 6:30 in the apartment) to Doglio; distance about 35 km — absolute bare minimum of 31 by the straight route roundtrip to the place on the road to Orvieto where I came out from the loop through Canónica and Doglio, and I had a false start of about 1½ km —

[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.

When I woke up this morning I weighed 79½: then I ate a large meal, and during my walk I had 1½ liters of bottled water, a peach and three biscuits and got back to the apartment — feeling fine, although a bit sore-footed — weighing 78½. Despite ingesting at least 3½ kg of food (after breakfast I weighed 81½), I lost a full kilo. Liquid, of course, and at the apartment I rehydrated with a good pint plus of iced tea and milk and I'm now having what they call a birra 'media' which in fact is pretty large — but still, the 78½ is 173 pounds and a record low. On the strength of which before coming here, I left the apartment once in between, to a very neighboring clothing store I'd previously spotted, and bought two pair of (rather expensive) trou that look very good both in themselves and on me: one of tropical wool, the other of lovely combed wool (a name for it, which escapes me just now), the former light, the latter dark grey: my waist is 85 cm; three months or so ago it was 38 in. = 96.5 cm — so I've lost 11½ cm = 4½ʺ around the waist. My little pink tummy is gaining definition and the love handles have lost a good deal of flesh being reduced more to mere folds of excess flabby skin which I hope will go away [. . .] Now to recap the day.

The start was not completely promising; thinking to leave on my walk quickly, I got it in my head to send a fax advertising my availability for work to the Academy — this time, the fax was sent in only 2 tries — but still, I didn't leave the house till 10:30. Then I got the idea — a good one — to get some shorts for walking. I went to the wrong place, a sports shop, where I was sold a pair of itchy stretchy design-type clingy shorts "per correre" (I kept on repeating I couldn't care less about correre neither about the famous name nor even what they looked like as long as they were practical) and another one of a less famous make and cheaper when it turned out the merchant only had one of the more expensive. . . anyway, I also got a "marsupio" — wonderful name for those nasty-looking but exceedingly practical belt pouches everyone is wearing these days, I finally caved in after ascertaining that everything in the pockets of my trousers would fit: passport, wallet, glasses, notebook, pen, keys, little pad of toilet paper plus my camera (it all did, tight, but did).

So back to the apartment to change. Forgot to mention that in the sports shop, there was ahead of me a man and his wife and little boy; the man, for whom the clothes, tall dark and reasonably handsome, spoiled (not like Robert Redford improved) by moles, 2 on his left cheek — with a big cast and elegant dark blue canvas boot on his left foot — fifteen minutes by the clock discussing various (all hideous, like the stuff I got: loud clangorous asymmetrical patterns or in off colors like puce and greyish aquas) things he could wear; I don't know how I'll ever be able to get interested in clothes . . . .

Anyway, out again, down and out the Porta Romana and a ways past and something bethought me not recognizing the road to Pontecuti to ask, and no, I should have gone out by the Consolazione,A small astrological glyph representing the Sun I was a bit peevish as I got my directions corrected and went back to the P. Romana and sidled down to the Consolazione and out finally on the proper road.

A small astrological glyph representing the Sun

a parenthesis here: at this point I broke off — it seems to be music night on the piazza — a jazz band has set up under a few projectors — but also a group of some 35 to 40 young women, in white blouses and green-and‑red skirts with large flowers, casually standing on the steps of the Palazzo, and singing — I went closer up, to hear, since caffé noise and a few motorcycles — quite lovely; a classical number, I think from an Italian opera I ought to know; then Sole Mio — and, puzzled by the number of blondes among them, I then heard "ещё раз" from their conductor, a short dark-haired woman of 45 to 50 at an electronic piano — it turns out the group are Poles; they then sang Sole Mio in Polish, very very moving indeed — I've gone and talked to the conductor in Russian, who gave me a brochure about the choir, Chór Dziewczecy WIWAT (Szkola Podstawowa Nr 92 / 01‑756 Warszawa / ul. Przasnyka 18a) — They'll be singing later again this evening — it's now 9:05 and a pleasant breeze somewhere between cool and lukewarm —

Anyway to resume my account of the day, I finally left by the proper road behind the Consolazione just as the noonday bells died out; nothing eventful, by warm hazy but sunny weather, until Pontecuti where I pushed a woman's car out of the parking area above the bridge. I decided purposely not to go find my hundreds of cyclamens again and take a picture, precisely to keep the memory of them alive — you can never go back —

And then the road up to Canónica, the most glorious, magnificent views of Todi [. . .]

Dóglio, finally, is a place from which I can look down on Todi! Actually, not from Doglio itself, since the last view of Todi is about 1 km before as you go over/round the pass — and it immediately got cooler, shadier, walking fairly flat thru oak forests; stopped even, briefly, in a particularly cool and shady spot, sat on a stone parapet over a tiny creek now dry — saw a lone adenophora in bloom, much like the ones in my garden in Chicago.

As it turns out, my little sit was about 800 m before Doglio proper; I was getting thirsty, wondering about water, and the good Lord sent me a peach — from a tree on someone's property on the other side of the road, one fell down and tumbled across almost to my feet — excellent although it didn't look it —

Doglio itself, nothing much, except views for miles over an area not previously in sight; I stopped at the local bar (there was one): a long small cool dark room with scarce a window onto a garden, grillworked in; a man and a woman playing cards using an old-style deck (where the suits are those of the tarot rather than the modern HSDC) — another woman kibitzing, they were all of five feet apart, all of them shouting and waving their arms, the most extraordinary gestures — and I've noticed, how could I help it? that you walk 50 yards by someone's house and you hear all the conversation inside loud and clear as a bell. . . Long complicated story about stopping and roads and the man this and the wife that. . . I had three half-liter bottles of warm fizzy water, slightly sulphurous-tasting; three little wrapped biscuits of puff pastry with a hazelnut cream filling, quite good, and a chocolate-coated vanilla ice cream bar to bring the body temperature down.

I left a bit uncertain as to where I'd wind up, having with some difficulty for some reason made myself understood as to where I wanted to go — admittedly complicated, since I wanted to go back to Todi but by an indirect route as opposed to the natural way which would have been to go back thru Canónica.

The "strada bianca" as opposed to "asfaltata" took me up to the actual top of a hill rather than around it as is usual; oak giving way to mixed more pine than oak, with towards Orvieto to my right more abruptly geological landforms, far less cultivated than near Todi, primarily pine-forested. Sun bright although hazy all day to the end — sunburn starting to tingle slightly —

My road finally met the Todi-Orvieto paved high road, wonderfully paved and marked yet almost no traffic (on the average, one vehicle, usually a truck, every 800 m or so) — at km 26.3 from Orvieto; with fairly frequent cool breezes 15‑20 mph —

And the long incredible sinuous descent towards Todi: I was well above Todi, possibly by 150 meters, and the city, planted on what the French with characteristic realism would call two breasts, the Duomo breast and the San Fortunato breast slightly higher, appears as the Heavenly Jerusalem, a place of pilgrimage, with the Consolazione so extraordinarily sited as to bring goosebumps several times — one of the most incredibly beautiful landscapes in the world, utterly mesmerizing and driving away every thought from my mind . . . .

[image ALT: zzz]

Looking roughly NE. I'll have to go back with a good camera.

Descent to Pontecuti and reascent to Todi not notable for much, other than extraordinary visions of the heavenly Jerusalem; "not notable for much", quod fecit consuetudo!!! Glorious, glorious countryside; about 8 km still out from Todi, a hill called Montecalvo, a huge square ruin of a tower, possibly Roman, probably medieval — many beautiful scenes, which attempted to capture on film knowing full well that under this ultimately rather harsh while also hazy Italian sun the pictures will wash out (but be reminders at least, I hope); maybe I could learn something about photography [. . .]

So reascent from the bridge at Pontecuti, in fact I'm in fine shape: the Ponte Rio hill was rough because I insisted on basically racing up it, at the same speed per map meter as if flat, when what counts is altitude change, and at 18.4% as the highway signs instruct one, I was basically running up the hill yesterday — and up to my apartment having been on the road about 6¾ hours for some 35 km —

And here I am on the Piazza del Popolo still, a wind band under klieg lights playing Bugle Boy from Company B — the two Palazzi and the Duomo floodlit, the former two in white, the latter in sodium vapor accentuating the delicate rose — several hundred people on the piazza, about 11 P.M., applause, conversation, music, occasional car or motorcycles, fifteen people sitting in clumps on the steps of the Duomo, a dog who barks at the end of every number the band plays: after all, he's got a right to applaud, too — a van with four carabinieri in their splendiferous dark blues with the red stripe down the trou has come and gone — the actual concert of the Chór Dziewczecy Wiwat over an hour ago was wonderful — what I recorded a while ago was in fact their warmup — I wept at Sole Mio sung in Polish, then Italian; they also did Va pensiero — some Piaf in Polish, some Broadway tunes in English (mixed with French oddly at one point), some Polish folk tunes, a beautiful concert, 39 girls some of them very lovely indeed but the most memorable of whom a somewhat overweight not very pretty really young woman with great intensity. . . their conductor under the floodlights, her dark blue dress become diaphanous, you could see her bra thru it —

It's been a wonderful day, I'm loath to leave it — as the Chór Wiwat sang an hour ago in English, "When the dawn comes, this night will be a memory and a new day will begin" —

[image ALT: zzz]
Girl's School No. 92, Warsaw (Poland): the "Vivat!" Choir
in concert from the steps of the Palazzo del Capitano, Todi

And with all this description, so much in the last few days omitted — pomegranates and little white solanum in front of a farmhouse — Giampiero in his peculiar bright pink jumpsuit & his method of physically handling a skater, dance- rather than sport-like (disconcerting when I want to put my arm somewhere else) although he is carefully gloved thruout — little gentian-colored solanumlike flowers on low plant, seen only in a short stretch of road from Canónica to Doglio — unrecorded Q. Anne's lace, centaurea, many other flowering plants that I don't recognize (or do, but can't identify), demoting my supposed botanical skills — little blue and also red star-shaped flowers seen once only, in a box drain after Canónica — vivid virid green (the one with the orange chickens last Saturday) now identified as lupine — Morgan dollar-sized purple blotch on my right knee where I fell skating Thursday (Alex would be disappointed) — hundreds upon hundreds of little birds who stay a while in the vines in my courtyard, chirping very very loud until they see you, then flying away in waves upon waves, maybe six or seven (resuming within 60 seconds) — Chór Wiwat among others singing in Polish Morley's "Sing ye and chant it" that I too have sung with Dan Labar and the Ravenswood Choral Society and Eleanor in fact some thirteen I think or fourteen years ago —

Piazza now starting to empty — wonderful, memorable, magical day —


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Page updated: 1 Feb 10