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Sunday 21 September

Difficult to find the time to keep my diary [. . .] I've been very calm and controlled here despite problems — the worst of which was the computer (James plugged it in somewhere and fried it, apparently even seeing a spark at the wall outlet: thus depriving me of my notes on Ostia and any possibility of any communication with anyone, improvement of my site for two months, and checklist of Roman Umbria and other stored info, not counting a bit of work down the drain — I'd been inputting Pliny and debugging a section of my websiteº — and reducing $3000 worth of equipment to worthless), which was announced to me on waking up from an afternoon nap: to which my reaction was "oh well that's that" —

So, catching up:

Friday 12th I went and got James, we had a quick lunch at the place on the Viminal I like so much, then took the 1320 and walked a bit of the Pusterula and ate on the terrace.

Saturday and Sunday we wandered around Spello, including a little walk to S. Girolamo (the cemetery) and another to S. Claudio and the amphitheatre, which James didn't find very impressive, as indeed it isn't. Sunday was when the very hot weather finally broke, with a day of cold rain — we walked down to the station and back in it. Since then it's been near perfect 70s and clear.

Monday we went to Spoleto, which is disappointing in part because the façade of the cathedral is mostly under scaffolding; except for the aqueduct, which I found wonderful. We walked across the footway and peered at it every which way trying to see if the channel could be walked — We had a good lunch at an unprepossessing little restaurant on a back square, restaurant called La Barcaccia: the antipasto misto included a salt-roasted pepper and salume di cinghiale, good; James had strangozzi alla spoletina no longer the thick strangozzi I'm used to, but thickish linguini really: spoletino was tomato and parsley. I had farro ai funghi — farro here being barley — that was excellent. Secondi, James had vitello alla panna e al tartufo (OK) and I had a mixed grill. For dessert I had a sort of thick custard cake, a crescionda — grappa al Sagrantino, caffé.

There's a piece of Roman bridge accessible by a concrete staircase under a busy piazza — not much, but it's there.

Tuesday, Todi: meaning lots of waiting in train stations, and very little visit of anything. I spent an hour and a half at Mr. Ursini's examining photos, not as good as I'd hoped: he says that my lenses are not very good and absorb light, and suggested I remove the polarizing filters. Still, some good pictures. The Umbria was closed (Tuesday) so we ate at the Jacopone; having waited half an hour for the bus at P. Rio — now why doesn't the bus meet the only train? — we got to the top of the hill at 2 P.M. but still had a full meal.

zzz Wednesday I walked James to Collepino and S. Silvestro, which was totally quiet. We sat behind the church, which was closed. After the nuns' prayers (around 11) I got up my nerve and rang to see if they'd open the church: out the side shot a running grey-robed 25‑year‑old nun, opening the padlock and running away with just a nod — there's a vow of silence up there, and signs "Rispettiamo il silenzio" — so this time I got to see the crypt: utterly puzzling why the TCI gives it a star. Three columns holding it up, one of which has a very worn unreadable capital, another none, the third curiously uses an antique column base as a capital. A partly modern locked passageway leads off seemingly to the modern conventhouse: odd.

Thursday we went to Perugia, nominally to check train schedules from Milan and possibly to buy reading glasses for me — an arm had dropped off (I've since lost them on a train) — and shoes because for once, bad sneakers seem to be the source of my foot, knee and thigh pains. We did none of that; instead James took me to the little church in the fields basically — S. Angelo — an extremely ancient circular church largely built of Roman brick and supported inside by a ring of sixteen Roman columns with antique capitals, many of them matching: a very attractive place, and almost noone ever goes there. We ate at the Ristorante del Sole, another good meal; next to us a couple of middle-aged Germans with a little black dog that they sequestered in a tiny sliver of balcony —

Friday, rather accidentally, we went to Assisi, getting off at the piazza Matteotti and meandering past and thru S. Chiara and S. Rufino; a long palaver with an interesting old man in a little office of uncertain purpose next to the church of S. Maria sopra Minerva — now cleaned and the plastic removed — who told us that he was responsible for stopping workers midstream from filling in the space between the temple and his locale with plaster: he said the ancients knew better, and I daresay he was right on that score: the buildings on either side do not in fact touch the temple, and an inch or two of mortar is merely an aesthetic filling of the façade; expansion-contractionwise, I bet they're going to be sorry.

At the Basilica, I went into overload mode like last time, but we did follow the upper church Giotto cycle carefully; conking out downstairs. Tons of people, much more crowded than November 1994 — pushy noisy people, too; one group suddenly was marshaled into a rosary recitation in the museum area called the Reliquary Chapel where they've now moved St. Francis's coat

Before that we sat in partial shade partial broiling sun on the piazza right by the Temple, and had 2 piadine, and 2 little desserts (both me) and something to drink — 32 ML — a

The façades of both the Basilica and S. Rufino were scaffolded —

Saturday almost by equal accident we went to Rome; we walked the Forum again, after a little meal at the Nerone (nice site right next to the sparse remains of the Baths of Titus, tucked away out of the crowds under cool pine trees) with an exceptionally dour waiter — but one does eat well there, which is why I went and sought it out. b

The Forum is so to speak all moved around: lots of places we were in in 1994 now blocked off, and a few the reverse. The Basilica Æmilia cordoned off: I went looking for those supposed fused coins. At one point, along the Curia edge of the Basilica, where there were some excavations in a pit under some sheet metal, there were several marble flooring slabs with unusual round coin-sized marks, brownish — a couple even looked like they had heads — I took pictures but dubiously; the whole business might have been Rohrschach-blottery on my part: or indeed on the part of someone many years ago, with everyone (scil. Georgina Masson) repeating it after —

Similarly, an inscription ORACVLO on the steps of the Julia — took a photo and we'll argue it later — c


Later Notes for the Web:

a This is very, very expensive, and is because there is almost nowhere to sit in Assisi; especially not in the main piazza. Not recommended, folks! (More practically, Assisi is one of the very few places in Italy where you should bring a sammich and a bottle of water with you.)

b The Hostaria da Nerone — remember though that this was in 1997 — was pretty good: very central, very pleasant, and not expensive. It's about 2 blocks N of the Colosseum: walk up the Oppian Hill section of the Caelian; it's at the corner where the via Terme di Tito butts against the park: via delle Terme di Tito, 96. See also my diary entry for Oct. 4, 1994.

c One of the reasons this inscription was of interest to me was that someone had asked about it on a mailing list (in early 1997, if my memory is good). Unfortunately, I cannot find the e‑mail nor remember who it was, and by now the mailing list has vanished as well. If it was you, please drop me a line, of course.


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Page updated: 31 Oct 06