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Saturday 24 October

(On a train Narni- and Amelia-wards, cloudy weather with occasional patches of drizzle)

Monday 19th started out with weather-induced indecision compounded by the constriction of train schedules, but turned out to be particularly successful & instructive: out of désespoir de cause, we wound up going to Chiusi, one of the very few accessible places not too far away that I hadn't been to; although I knew about the tombs and the museum, it's not in Umbria and looks like a dump from the train station in the dark (it's on the line south from Florence to Orvieto, our first Umbrian experience in late November 1991), so I'd assumed it was nothing much: but of c. I was quite wrong and I may even go back after James leaves, for one thing the cathedral is extremely old and honeycombed thru with Etruscan tunnels and a Roman cistern and so forth, with a visitable belfry and its own museum all attached and closed when we were there.

Which was fine, since we only had time to see the Etruscan Museum; we'd arrived S from Terontola (the northern terminal of the Foligno-Spello putt-putt) at 1155, on time, and had bought our little green bus tickets for "Chiusi città" to take us the 3 km uphill to the Museum: waiting for the bus in front of the station, we were instead offered a lift by a fellow would‑be rider who saw his girlfriend drive by and flagged her. Not the first time this has happened to me in Italy; I wonder if it would happen to me in a comparable region in the States.


An elaborately carved stone box about 80 cm long and 40 cm high, with a stone lid in the shape of a reclining man with a dazed expression. It is an Etruscan sarcophagus in the Museum of Chiusi, in Tuscany (central Italy).
	We were dropped off right in front of the museum, an imposing building, if not that big, with the Duomo forming the center of town; happily, they run on orario continuo, 0900‑2100: we walked in and basically only walked out again at 7 P.M. to leave Chiusi. It's rather tightly and maybe not quite as clearly laid out as it could be — a large sheaf of typed paper serving as Ariadne's thread rather than labels and panels in the cases — but full of good stuff; too good: the Museum had to be closed for a while some years ago for them to clear out the fakes, a whole Clusine cottage industry having sprung up to supply it obligingly with urns and sarcophagi. A few of these spurious productions are still included and flagged in their text: I would have caught maybe half of them. There are also some samples of over-restored (i.e., repainted, tarted up) sarcophagi, 19c work in which the Etruscan traces of polychromy have been followed up with a complete garishing in red, yellow, curious blue, purple: bad by current practice, since not guaranteed to be the exact type or amount of color, but good in the sense that when the work was new it must surely have looked rather like.

The staff, about one person per room, are unfailingly courteous and obliging — eager to run and get answers to questions, which so disturbed me that I stopped asking the questions — and range from casually proprietary to fiercely draconian and spylike, the degree of their watchful paranoia being inversely related to their knowledge of the material displayed. . . Morale among the staff is manifestly very good.

Other than us, there were two couples of visitors while we were there: some Americans I think who transited rather quickly, and an engaging Dutch couple who turned out to be a godsend to us, since the Museum arranges visits of two tombs a coupla kilometers out of town, but the guide goes there in your car, and we of course don't drive; Ben and Janny, who were staying at a nearby campground, and who said they were most glad to help since on a visit to Tarquinia 17 years ago they'd been in the same position as us. The 5 of us — counting our animated and intelligent guide from the Museum — piled into their curious beige car, 30 years old although the style was more late Forties actually, and didn't have to push it up any hills despite's Ben's casual threats we might have to here and there, and dispatched the almost adjacent Tomba del Leone and Tomba della Pellegrina. I felt a bit rushed, but these two corridor-type tombs filled a gap in my feel for Etruscan tombs. Between the two, the archaeologically more important since painted Tomba della Scimmia, firmly closed; presumably precisely because it is painted.

This visit at 3:30 and dove back into the Museum for a couple of hours; and the last bit of daylight peering at the Duomo and a little lapidary display outside it down an arcade; a tower in front of it, marked by a modern bronze Wolfie, on closer inspection includes a readable inscription to Sulla, the only one I remember seeing anywhere —

CORNELIO L

SVLLAE FELIC[I]

DIC


A very worn stone inscription, reading CORNELIO L SVLLAE FELIC DIC. It is a contemporaneous Roman inscription to the dictator Sulla in Chiusi, Tuscany (central Italy).

Chiusi: inscription to Cornelius Sulla, the famous Roman dictator.

and the inside of the church, done too hurriedly (and again, without the fancies I mentioned earlier) is fascinating, including for example an attractive polychrome mosaic with a Christian inscription; also a 19c apsidal mosaic in the style say of S. Maria in Domnica but surprisingly good for 19c, quite attractive.

Altogether a successful and pleasant visit; and it looks like I'll be pulled kicking and screaming into the Etruscan world: the LacusCurtius "garage sale" (as a fellow site, reviewing me, puts it) having already acquired tons of Etruscan material, not counting the curious tagliate around Pitigliano.

Tuesday 20th was a near-nothing day, James's sporadic cold having descended to the Rivers of Sniffle and Torrents of Snorting stage; but at about 5 P.M. I left him asleep to go, for a few minutes as I thought, photograph the stone coats of arms in the via dei Molini about which Pierluigi'd told me on the train Friday: and to drop off those pictures I took of the orange kitten for his daughters — who were quite delighted. Pierluigi showed me some pictures of his of a now reburied pair of underground chambers next to the via Fontanello 1o — sketched maps, brief expedition in situ — and then we went into his workshop where he lifted a piece of flooring and we both scriggled into his piece of the mill conduit; flashlightless (altho' using my camera flash helped) and unprepared for this: but it may easily be Roman, and he mentioned a little off-channel of it, also downward-flowing out of rather than into the main conduit, suggesting a tap, possibly even of the illegal kind discussed by Frontinus; I hope I get another look, with a flashlight this time.

Wednesday 21st was James's day in Ostia, his cold seeming better by nightfall the evening before: we took the 0524 to Rome, which put us at the el station of Ostia Antica a bit before opening time (9) but we went into the little town, which I hadn't yet been to; a tiny bit of Roman stuff in the church of S. Aurea, but important: about half the tombstone of S. Monica, who died here and whose body was only moved to Rome — why does everything have to be taken from them that have little to be given to those what got everything? — about 1000 years later. Pizza and water at an alimentari, along with some cookielike things that looked exactly like waffles but weren't: feratelle; or A Life For Wafer, as they say.

Ostia, James and I did what finally is more characteristic of him than of me: around the back and periphery of everything, in this case the east edge; I was rewarded by the Campus Magnae Matris, which — not prone to reading guidebooks in advance — I didn't even know about: the first shrine of Attis I've ever seen, also of Bellona; also a Temple of Cybele — what James now thinks of as "the rocking end of town". We had lunch in what seems to have been someone's kitchen, sitting at any rate on the edge of a little well in Regio V, Insula II, 13 or very near it. I was a bit itchy to get moving but James was still a bit sneezy —

I still have to go back anyway (the whole area near the sea gate including the synagogue, plus see if I can get into the major mithraeum although we saw the floor of a smaller one), so that was fine; I took James to the House of Amor and Psyche that I liked so much — although this time we'd seen some even better preserved marble revetment in a little nymphaeum before that — and thru the theater and the Piazzale quickly around 2:15; I figured I needed to leave the scavi at 2:45 to get to my 4:06 train, and James suddenly started to fade and decided to go back to Spello.

Which we did in ample time; by good fortune and without running, we got to Termini at 3:16 with his train leaving at 3:18 otherwise a two-hour wait or a EuroStar supplement and the wait in line to reserve it. He took my camera bag with him; and I'd managed to leave my skating bag with the porters in Ostia for the four hours we were in there, so the day was low on carrying, which was nice.

Thus to the rink on time [. . .] where the rink turned out to be more crowded than usual, including some very young children; which put the usual crimp in my skating, of course. I also felt self-conscious for some reason, and my blades are still getting dull of c., so the whole session was a bit off, although one excellent spin. Still, I worked edges and I had a relatively concentrated time: a strong tendency to try to think in Italian while I skate, as much as possible, to shield myself from the filth of 4 years ago. . . . (Maybe that would work back in Chicago too?). Back to Spello.


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