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Wed. 12 October

In bed, with the washing machine grinding endlessly, after a lazy day in Todi and yesterday a tourist day in Perugia.

Yesterday in fact was close to overload: Perugia is chock-a‑block full of stuff, by square foot seemingly more than Rome even (excepting the Vatican of course). We took the 9:08 bus from the Oberdan Gardens to P. Rio and the 9:26 train to Perugia (7800₤ RT per person — exactly the same price as to Terni), arriving about 50 min. later at the station closest to the historic center, the Staz. Perugia S. Anna, which is still at the foot of the complicated topography of hills that is Perugia. Perfect perfect weather: bluest skies, scarcely a cloud, 70°; cooling down considerably by the evening.

We wanted to, and really should have, come up via the Rocca, the well-preserved medieval street, the via Bagliona, in fact under the Rocca, that a rather complete guide to the city I bought during the course of our visit characterizes as "alquanto teatrale" — true — but we got carried off to the east by a road and wound up visiting a spur now called the Borgo XX Giugno first, with a pleasant, large, somewhat empty church of S. Domenico, and at the end of the ridge — 'rione' here and in Todi is the name for these sort of ridge-based compartments of a town — the extraordinary church of S. Pietro, that the Blue Guide didn't prepare me for despite some detailed notes — The church indoors and out is a marvel except for the actual shape of the whole. There is a lovely 17th‑century stuccoed cloister as an entrance, a second much larger and earlier cloister we didn't see, off to the side; a medieval belfry with elegantly defunctionalized machicolations, and an incredible collection of artwork, some frescoes but mostly paintings, covering almost every square inch of the inside: much of it quite good. The church deserves about 4 or 5 hours to visit properly. By good fortune, one of the priests — a Dominican, the church is still Dominican — opened up the sacristy for some reason for some other people and then invited us in: it is even richer, except for four large frescoes covering the main extent of two walls, in terms of quality than the main body of the church, and my rather thorough 350pp. largish format guide to Perugia doesn't go into much detail — the ceiling and the lunettes over the walls are a rather well painted cycle of salvation stories would be my stab at iconography: included a Moses (or was it Aaron?) striking the rock to get water, a sacrifice of Isaac overhead of course, a Jonah being coughed up by a whale, etc. Small framed paintings here and there, incl. a wonderful group of three boys or angels possibly a Caravaggio, and an almost equally wonderful head of Christ possibly a Tintoretto in a corner. I with a dead pair of batteries and thus unable to snap away: it's just as well, it would have cut into James's time, and I'll go back and do the church slowly with about 4 rolls of film. (Chasing after batteries produced two batteries of different brands after stops in three shops, one twice).

At the end of the Borgo XX Giugno a very nice garden with views, with an alley of small trees that was quite lovely, and with a fountain which after cleaning was being refilled, its largish fish being put back in from a large white plastic drum by a rather striking blond operaio; back towards the center of town via a very beautiful Renaissance gateway the same way we'd come in; not far from another beautiful gateway of the mid-19th century (the Tre Archi) which proves that the modern age can occasionally come up with something —


[image ALT: antipasto table in Perugian restaurant]
	Getting hungry, by sheer happenstance we fell into an excellent restaurant with a fabulous view over the central third of Umbria: the ristorante del Sole — the sign on the street an unprepossessing vertical plastic thing spelling RISTORANTE in yellow on black and that's it, leading to a back alley — Our waiter, when I asked him what was the most Perugian thing in the restaurant, said he was — antipasto misto excellent: roast radicchio, a simple idea and nasty-sounding but was the best of the many things I sampled. A sort of veal meat loaf in an artichoke purée and a pounded veal cutlet in a sauce of liver and green olives, both quite good — a white Torgiano, somewhat fizzier than the other white Torgianos I've had. A tiramisú heavy on egg and apparently no mascarpone at all, undecided whether this was good or not — of course it was good, but is it a real tiramisú? An extremely beautiful woman in her late forties, aristocratic bearing, cheekbones, expression, surrounded by four or five old men, everyone Italian, at a table in the middle distance; at another nearer table, a rather animated but I don't know I'd like her cultured polyglot American blonde of say my age with an English priest of a rather obnoxious type and a sadly overshadowed younger woman in a mauve-to‑pink sweater with rounded shoulders and an air of depression and suppressed rebellion about her, James thought the daughter of the other; at an immediately adjacent table an iron-grey coiffed pudgy-faced matron, American, with a negligible American companion, who was like Cynthia, directing things: she originally grabbed two tables, one for 2, one adjacent for 4, both along the balustrade and the view, but apparently her foursome had vanished on entering the restaurant (which looked expensive — although it wasn't very), so she ceded it to a table of Germans who wondered how we'd got the antipasto: their efforts had them an insalata mista — grated carrots on lettuce basically —

Two and a half hours of this, then a bit of wandering and mild and not unpleasant disagreements over maps got us to the Galleria Nazionale dell' Umbria at their afternoon opening hour: two hours in there slowly ambulating thru a finally rather small but top-quality suite of mostly medieval paintings. The Perugino's I found disappointing, but the general impression was of extraordinary feel for color and lovely idealized portraiture — angels and saints — a wonderful collection.

The Piazza Grande is OK — the Duomo of no great interest inside or out; the fountain their great pride under a hideous protective plastic dome ugly in every way but providing a compromise between view of it and interdicting it so restoration could go on. The Piazza in Todi, as an ensemble, is bigger and better and in fact has more good buildings, although the Palazzo del Popolo in Perugia (pink columns around gemellated late gothic windows, good proportions overall) is possibly a better building by itself than anything on the Piazza in Todi — at any rate it is lovely. We sat briefly at a café under increasing cold and dark and I bought a postcard to send to Diane who apparently had mentioned to James that she'd been here — then found I had no pen; a coffee, an amaro, and a chocolate so that James, who'd been talking about chocolate from Perugia all day, could remember having eaten one there.

[image ALT: zzz]

The lion on the façade of the Palazzo dei Priori, fronting on the main piazza of Perugia.

James getting nervous about our not missing the 7:52 P.M. train, the last, to Todi, so we left at 7, walked to the station, and sat in an unchic but warm and empty and authentic caffé across from the station — another cappuccinoº and another kind of (vanilla-flavored this time) bitters. Bought irresistibly at 2000₤ = $1.25 a complete Divina Commedia at the train station. Didn't expect to be able to read it — accurate, although less than I thought, and some of the beauty even of the style comes thru nonetheless; but borrowing on the future, I wouldn't be surprised if 3‑4 years from now I do speak and read and write Italian: I continue to like the language and feel comfortable in it.

Omitted a walk down to the church of S. Bernardino via the Porta Marzia and the v. Bagliona and back up in the gathering coolness and dark, before our stop at the Piazza Grande —

Train back to Todi eventless except that there was a stop at Ponte Rio yet before the Todi Ponte Rio station, I nearly got off the train, but stayed on but with my hand and praise God my 2 books from Perugia to cushion it caught in the door; disengaged the hand with some difficulty but the Perugia guide remained wedged and will preserve in its back cover and last 20 pp. the traces of its adventure —

I've been at this diarizing for nearly an hour, it's 10:45, and I have wet laundry to retrieve and hang before I sleep — James has been sleeping (finally, after much sniffling etc. — his sore throat having degenerated into a plain cold) for a short while — I slept about 2 hours this afternoon after lunch at the Umbria — but a description of today's much quieter day will just have to wait 'til tomorrow.

I will note, however that these more or less unavoidable (and very pleasant) restaurant meals don't really help the weight situation; although this morning I was at 79½, after the Umbria at 3:30 I was 81½ — Plus I am embarrassed about my exercises; I suppose it is really absurd since precisely I am not a sportsman, still I manage to shut out the rink whether Crown or McFetridge or Casabianca to do my equally absurd warmups, and it's much like Christianity, a religion precisely not for saints but for sinners. . . .

No mail today (nor phone calls, either) — and 37 long days, soon totally by myself again before I get back to my own home rink —


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Page updated: 4 Oct 06