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Wednesday 21 October 1998

Saturday 17th was recovery day for both James (sick) and me (a bit tired): nothing to report at all. Laundry, housecleaning, meals; not very good weather, either.

Sunday 18th I thought James could see the Tempietto del Clitunno, which involves a minimum of walking, something like 6 km no matter what you do, the choices being Trevi and Campello train stations; so off we went, late because we waffled with the weather 'til I decided it would hold (it did) and thus arriving at Trevi Borgo with the 1231 train. We walked to Bovara — James hates highways and I'm constitutionally incapable of sticking to a plan, plus he was feeling OK; not quite by my previous route, so we bumbled onto what I think is a sweet little roadside oratory — James disagrees — possibly 17c? and up above the church of Bovara a little higher than necessary, and back down to it.

Since this was 'way better light than my lightning stop last year, I stopped carefully to retake my pix, plus I could see more, too. While we were there, about 2 P.M., up drove the parish priest, who seemed reasonably happy to show us around the inside of the church, which is quite handsome, and thank goodness only one fresco, otherwise I would have felt frustrated not to be able to see them all carefully!

He asked us if we were on our way to the Sagra del Sedano in Trevi — to which I replied that no we hadn't been, but change our minds easily for food: which in fact we did immediately, about-face and off to Trevi by the high road, to find throngs of people in the piazza surrounding a square counter selling mostly sausages on buns — being grilled inside the square — but also some pretty good wine by the plastic cup for 1000 lire: the white was grechettoº and the red, rosso di Monte­falco. We had some sausage sammiches first, then walked around. Down one side of the square, the celery all the fuss is about, huge quantities and workers hacking off the tops; behind that, under the arcades of the Palazzo Comunale, various food stands: rocciata, cheeses, hams and sausages, etc. We bought a rocciata (which turned out to be mediocre, too soft and gummy) and a large chunk, nearly a pound maybe, of stracchino (which turned out to be very good) and James put 'em in his knapsack, carrying 'em around thru nearly midnite. . . .

[image ALT: A clickmap montage of scenes of the Celery Festival of Trevi, Umbria (central Italy): the busy medieval square, a market stand piled high with celery (two views), the shakos of a band in a cluster on the sidewalk near a chair, the coat of arms of Trevi.]

Behind the Palazzo Comunale in the Piano, more animated throngs: a church raffle, some carnival candies, a rummage sale. The theater was also opened up for people to look at: it's bigger than the one in Montecastello di Vibio, but not by much; the curtain, painted in the late 19c, is famous since it depicts a Roman emperor arriving by boat at the Tempietto del Clitunno: utterly fanci­ful kitsch, but not unattractive actually.

The stage curtain of a small theatre, depicting the arrival of an elegantly carved rowboat at the foot of a river landing in front of a slightly elevated small Roman temple, with a crowd of dignitaries and attendants in ancient Roman dress. It represents the visit of the emperor Caligula to the Clitumnus River.

The emperor in this elaborately imagined pageant is Caligula, whose visit to "the river Clitumnus and its grove" is recorded by Suetonius (Calig. 43). Among the possible inaccuracies is one particularly interesting one: the three people standing in the water would probably have been considered as committing sacrilege. Taboos are recorded against swimming in various bodies of water, and specifically this one: Pliny the Younger, in his famous letter on the Clitumnus (VIII.8), writes (the translation in that link, adjusted by me to render the Latin original more strictly):

Several little chapels are scattered round, dedicated to particular gods, distinguished each by his own peculiar name and form of worship, and some of them, too, presiding over different springs. For, besides the principal spring, which is, as it were, the parent of all the rest, there are several other lesser streams, which take their rise from various sources; but they mingle in one stream, which is traversed by a bridge. This bridge is the boundary between the sacred part and that which lies open to common use: in the upper part only vessels are allowed, but below swimming is also permitted.

More faithful, however, is the depiction of the small temple in the background, since the ancient monument still stands, about 4.5 km S of Trevi: it is now known as the Tempietto del Clitunno. On the other hand, it's almost certainly none of the temples Caligula could have visited: scholar­ly opinion dates the edifice anywhere from the 4th to the 8th century A.D., but at any rate much later than the time of Caligula (mid‑1c): many people believe it never to have been a temple at all, rather a Christian church right from the beginning. The Tempietto, currently within the comune of Trevi, is near the edge of the Clitumnus river as shown here, but some 2 km N of the source of the river in the neighboring comune of Campello, which remains to this day one of the great beauty spots of central Italy (for a photo and further links, see 12 Sep 98; and for the theatre, see Pro Trevi's page).

James never having been to Trevi, we poked around: the Duomo, a very quick accidentally permitted free peek at the inside of the actual church of S. Francesco, now a sort of dependency of the museum.

There was to have been a launch of a montgolfière but that was cancelled, possibly because of some fairly strong wind. The tableaux of medieval life put on by one of the terzieri had as their theme the rebuilding of Trevi in 1214 after the town was destroyed by Spoleto: scheduled from 7:30 to 9:30; we bought tickets, but also reserved for two at the Taverna del Castello (not a regular eatery, but like the Taverna della Pusterula in Spello) where we were told to be at 8. This put a crimp in the time we had to see the tableaux, especially since they weren't quite ready at 7:30 — so we walked rather quickly down the one straw-strewn street, dark, lit by little candles on the ground all over the place — candles, straw, lots of people and high wind seemed like a nasty recipe but nothing happened — and were jostled by peddlers hawking brooms, passed peasant women at tables selling lentils and chickpeas (didn't look much different from the real sales in the piazza), and saw men hauling up sculptures and stones, made of styrofoam I think; one guy painting a fresco over a door; carpenters in their shops, etc. — a regular Williamsburg.

We wound up eating a rather large meal, at first by ourselves at the end of an otherwise empty table which soon though filled up with a group of young people noisy at our end and very quiet at the other end, although they were all together; at another table thirteen young people crammed in where only eight really would fit, a sort of exaggerated version of my own dinner parties. Antipasto — no ordering, of course, a common menu for all — was celery of course, al pinzimonio: very peculiar, and James found it a bit depressing, to see a whole large roomful of people chowing down on celery; good, though.

After which, pasta then more celery (stuft, this time: OK but not as good as mine of last year's) then a coupla spiedini and finally a zuppa inglese and out the door for about 45ML including a pitcher of OK local red. The piazza by then had died down to the post-sausage stage, with only a few dozen people milling, a cool night. We sat at a corner bar looking at mounds of celery tops on the piazza pavement — coffees, grappa for James and — particularly well-stocked bar, I noticed a "pera" but it was not really an alcool blanc, rather something between a cordial and a schnapps although not as bad as that sounds.

At about an hour before the scheduled train time — the 2305h — we walked down the dark hill: I'd never walked down, just up, and it's a far ways and steep, so safety. No problem though and we landed at the bar next to the building with the gym on the second floor and the gastronomic specialties on the ground floor; in front of which a young man of about 28 was almost certainly doing a spot of hustling disguised as standing by a very well lit phone booth as the occasional car drove slowly by — bad job at the best of times, but in rural Umbria surely worse — Anyway James and I walked to the station to verify our schedule; it was accurate and two heavy smokers were preparing to sleep overnight in the waiting room, so we went back to the bar and grappa'd ourselves again. Besides us and the two men and the woman running the bar, eleven middle-aged to old men, one loose group and one smaller knot of three; odd so many people should be in a bar going on midnight in Trevi Borgo, withal utterly dead.

At the station, our two presumably homeless had fallen asleep on their benches; our two little trains and the walk up the hill, James wondering out loud how I could stand doing this midnight climb twice a week after a long day of Romanizing and skating.

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