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Monday 7 September

On a train homeward bound from Spoleto, 6:15 P.M. — So Saturday 5th I "did" Tuoro. I didn't expect much, and that's what I got. Just before alighting I read a stray phrase in the DeAgostini about there having been found hundreds of "ustrini"º or funeral pyres that, authoritatively, do indeed date back to the aftermath of the battle of Lake Trasimenus. Well, there are two in a private house, the Palazzo della Capra: but advance authorisation is required. In fact, at and around Tuoro I saw nothing — except for a much reworked church, downtown, in its latest incarnation 1874 restored 1964.

When I got off at the train station, down by the lake about 1½ km from the centro storico, no sooner had I walked a hundred yards than I was ridden up the hill by a young man I'd helped on the train: he had one of those single-seater mini-pickups; I sat on the flatbed, that was kind of fun — He dropped me off in front of a map in the centro.

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Tuoro seen from the south.
Lake Trasimenus is about 300 m behind us; in Antiquity, the shore was about here. The plain in the foreground was (roughly) the site of the battle between Hannibal and the Romans in 217 B.C.

There is a "percorso storico archeologico" with 9 stops. Each stop is supposed to have informational panels about some aspect of the battle. Well, they don't: they used to (and even then, just text, no diagrams, no photos), but the panels have been taken out of their frames, so that at each stop all you find is the map of the circuit, and sometimes a nice little stone mini-theatre, capacity about 30, perfect for seating your class & lecturing them with the plain of Tuoro as a backdrop. I did about half the circuit, to be gulled no mo', and took a strada bianca straight back into town from Sosta N° 3 (I'd done 7 on the N of town, and 8‑9‑2‑3, somehow skipping N° 1 despite good signposting, on the W of town), Sanguineto: where I didn't even see a trickle of a creek that might have turned red with blood accounting for the common name; I doubt very much that any watercourse ran red: a calculation to be made when I get back to Chicago.

[image ALT: A two- or three-year‑old cat sitting on a brick wall in a little thicket of bamboo. She is pretty interested in the cameraman.]

This picture isn't all 'fluff', actually: the strident red of the bricks is characteristic of Tuoro, and I wonder whether local red earth may not be more responsible for the name of the Sanguineto than any battle. At least one of my sources says that archaeological data do not confirm the location of the battle.

The weather had been wavering between half-sunny and sticky on the one hand, and windy with a few drops of rain on the other. I got back to the main square, chose one of the two bars, got myself a rosemary pizza but mostly 2 of those carrot-lemon-orange Pago, sat down in the square under their parasols, and bingo! a downpour ten minutes long: couldn'ta been better timing.

When that was thru, I squinted at the Visitors' Center, now open, in the attractive gardens: all the maps and theories about the battle — every German savant who ever lived, lots of arrows and dotted lines — and walked down to the station, which has a bar-gelateria open 'til 2 A.M. Sat there and had another Pago and a little cup of mixed icecream. Chatty young waiter with not much to do, eager to quiz me about Chicago. Left.

Back in Spello, having done a quick spot of groceries, found that Giuliana'd changed her mind, that there was a full-blown festa in the Cantina Pusterula (alias S. Ercolano), and that I was due there, in costume, at 8. It was 7:40 . . .

Eight o'clock and one togate Booby was in piedi, starving, with a bunch of Roman soldiers listening to people eat. Reminded me very much of my interpreting days. Chatting mostly with the Mayor's son, who decided to quiz me about my sex life — Bozo and Monica much on everyone's mind, anyway I went along with the spirit of it all . . .

At ten we ate, guards and senators and pastel-garbed maidens all: some penne rigate in tomato sauce, some pork cutlets and excellent little sausages, a perfectly normal lettuce salad under the inauspicious name of "Insalata Messalina", local white wine. AnnaRita, who finally turned out to be most constant marching companion for the 3 nights of Romanitas, organised a drinking game for us youngsters — L' acqua fa male,a 'l vino fa canta' — hilarity and no more than 2 tablespoons of wine when you lost; after all, most of us were teenagers: I was twice the age of the oldest other.

To bed at midnight or nearly.

Yesterday Sunday I just couldn't get in gear; for the second day in a row I did Melvin's little set of exercises (despite not feeling too well, just can't quite shake this sore throat, still have a bit of it now), and showered and breakfasted — and fell asleep.

Woken up by Giuliana needing translation help — in fact she can manage without, but feels safer with — and went back to Perla and slept almost four hours, 'til 4 P.M.!

Well at that point I just had to do something — can't let my time here slip away like that — so, acting on a tip from Maurizio, one of Giuliana's neighbors in piazzetta, I went back to the Chiesa Tonda, and got in, this time; nowhere near as bad as S. Simeone di Stroncone: for one thing, there was much less there to start with, so there's little to vandalize and no evidence of art theft, although six square holes in the floor to the — I think — burial vaults below; I passed on them, they looked both unsafe and not interesting enough to warrant the danger. Back home via the anfiteatro — Maurizio'd told me where the "mosaics" were, but they've been covered up by the archeologists, with about a foot of gravel: I didn't feel like digging about. Giuliana — or was it Maria Paola? — reports that, if I understood her correctly, we're talking about a solid-colored floor of little red tesserae, not figurative or even geometric designs. If this is so, in fact, I think that would be quite unusual. Anyway, zilch but no great effort.

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The main altar of the vandalized Chiesa Tonda in Spello.

Up to the 9 P.M. disfrase — Giuliana insisted on feeding me first: cutlets lightly floured oiled and grilled, sounds awful but pretty good; tomato and cucumber salad. I really didn't want to eat, since I hate being late. Well, I did and wasn't —

This time the cortège (no trumpets) straight down to the Consolare and right back up to the spazio S. Andrea, where there was entertainment: two very young children doing some very dangerous things involving bottles of gasoline, spitting flames, jumping a flaming rope, a sort of yoyo on fire, etc. . . Then Lorenzo (in a curious getup out of a paleochristian fresco but with a gauzy aqua stole much as might have been handed to Venus emerging from the ocean on her way to her first dinner party with a conservative Cypriot family) delivered a long and rather successful funnylogue about le donne — damned if Lewinsky Monica didn't show up amidst the hendecasyllabic doggerel. . . .

Walter and Maria-Paola are back from vacation; after changing back to 20c I went and found 'em for a few minutes at the Cacciatore, then to bed very late but setting the alarm for 4 for Rome.

Thayer's Note:

a A reminiscence of Heraclitus: cf. Athen. 423F and note there.

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Page updated: 22 Aug 11