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Monday 14 November

Ponterio, no shirts off today — at least down here and now: low rolling cold fog in the valleys; in fact today would be a good walking day, and I came close to dashing off to Loreto and Lorgnano and back, there would have been the time, just to fill in 2 of the 4 remaining places (in "Todi e Dintorni") that I haven't seen. Conceivably, I could do it tomorrow, my appointment with Renata to surrender the apartment being at 3. (The other 2 are Rosceto, also of easy access; and Camerata — not).

So it is not quite nine and I'm taking the early train rather than my usual to Rome so that I can buy shoes, so in turn I can bury my sneakers in the landscape of Umbria tomorrow. And now I'm ready to write up yesterday —

After the glorious sendoff from downtown Todi, I passed the Oberdan Gardens at 9:48 and followed the road — rather than S. Giàcomo — down to Pontecuti; in a mood of exultation, seeing (and photographing!) this road, which by now I've walked many times, as if it were fresh and new. . . Definitely cool: my sweatshirt for warmth — which I took off on the bridge at Pontecuti; the shirt, incredibly, came off at Canonica; at first out of what the French call "crâner", but then in fact pleasant if never really warm: still, by the end of the day, I must have actually increased my tan, since right now (passing Sangémini on the train, the sky now perfectly clear and blue) I have a tight feeling on the bridge of the nose, and after all yesterday most of the high-sun part of the day I was heading South.

[and if you need it, here's help in using the map,
including my own symbols & added information.]

Other walks in the area, see Walking in Umbria.

At Canonica, the delightful road to Cordigliano still nothing new yet; the 11:00 bells of Todi could clearly be heard where I was —

And at Cordigliano, something new; I took the 100‑m byroad to the church of Sant' Andrea, to go off and find Carlo; and I did, all right: I rang at his house at 11:40 — and woke him up! He looked half asleep, appearing in a white T‑shirt and a pair of boxers — offered me a glass of water, which I accepted altho' I didn't really want it — felt very much like Lucia at Duchess Poppy's castle. . . [. . .] my main feeling was embarrassment. . . Unfolded my map, I needed to find the start of a once-found clear path down to the Tiber to pursue my course; he didn't know, suggested his neighbors, longtime locals.

My instructions from one old geezer didn't quite pan out because I confused two similar-sounding roads — a loop of a few hundred meters, and I came back to Sant' Andrea determined instead to take a shortcut down thru the brush; this time the son set me right and I found my path; not quite what was marked on my map, but adequate. There have been enough new houses (maybe 5 or 8) built in the area to cause a new gravel road to be made: and while that shouldn't cause old paths to vanish, it does, in the sense that they are then gradually disused —

Anyhow I got to the road to Campi about twenty yards south of the point at which I had exited a couple weeks ago from the ravine after my swim in the Tiber: so, to complete the loop, I first went North — the wrong way — my 20 yards, then turned around and did my road; a marked turn on to Torreluca, a pleasant carless road with highish views onto the Tiber (not that swollen) shining in sheets of sun in spots —

My first view of Torreluca as I came round a bend, big field of sheep in front of it — a bit more road, and I found the chapel of Sant' Andrea — in fact the devotion seems to be due to a 13c Andrea, count of Casemascie;º altho' the iconography doesn't go with that) which I would never have thought was a church and would have passed by had it not been for "Todi e Dintorni" recording frescoes there. And I pushed open the little green door and indeed there was a fresco over the main altar, St. Andrew (of the saltire) between St. Francis and someone else: primitive, but nice.

Torreluca itself is about 150 yards up a hill, and is basically a square space surrounded by buildings, one of which is the ruined tower. I was wrapping up my usual picture-taking (Titignano up on the hill in the distance) when a woman from one of the houses comes out and engages conversation with me: pleasant square face, a former teacher — invited me up to the roof of her house — accessed thru a three-storey maze of tiny staircases indoors, the rooms strewn with mostly folk art; apparently the tower is for sale, not by her, for 120 MML which she said was too much (I agree!) and is therefore slowly falling into ruin. In fact, there is no roof and it would require $40,000 minimum of work to get a tiny house of say 500 sq. ft. maximum living space on 2 floors — She also told me that some foreigners had bought a ruined villa and had paid hand over fist to have it restored, but were not on the spot, so dishonest contractors had so bilked 'em that I could (and did) see the empty shell, without water or electric hookups, on the way out of town — the owners had run out of money & were trying without success to unload and recoup their losses. . . She also told me that some of the frescoes in the chapel had recently totally lost to water — Sad.

So armed with half the gossip of Torreluca and a snapshot of its roofs with the rust-colored fungus on their tiles, I thanked my host and left up the hills for Casemasce —

Which is nothing much: a small agricultural center (silos, an alimentazione in full expansion: cranes, scaffolding, catwalks) with a little downtown with in fact a number of the typical staircase-entries to the houses, the poor cousin of the Viterbese profferli (if I have the word right) — the ones illustrated in "Todi e Dintorni" looked exactly like, although just off-screen left on the near house they failed to include, or possibly got the owners to remove as unseemly, a few bleached bones from the skull of possibly a cow, desultorily hanging from a nail . . .

Out and up to see if I could cross the fosso to Titignano, beckoning from its hill; at S. Maria an old gentleman told me how to do it, but although close to S. Maria his instructions were clear, farther on they relied on a "poggio" insufficiently identified, and, it being past 2 I think, I lost my nerve and forwent Titignano, opting instead to find Renata Galletti at her country house.

Which I did, without much difficulty, after some fairly steep road up; her house is on a sort of spur off the main crest, with a grand view if rather wild for Umbria; Civitella del Lago a rather attractive focal point of the panorama.

Finding her house I circled it, seeing cars, clockwise: her surprise, when she came outdoors having seen a glimpse of a barechested man roving about her house, and recognized me, was amusing. She offered me pizza — I declined, I really didn't mean to stay and had miles to do before I got back to Todi — The inside of the house very rural; a nice soot-black chimney, an old millstone in a corner, a stuffed owl up on a ledge, a collection of porcupine quills, a good 8‑10ʺ long, on a chest, etc. — She was sitting indoors with a friend Caterina; Oreste was working about fifty yards from the house. A big enclosure for birds — a peahen visible — on top of what may have been stables or pigsties altho' no nose evidence of this —

Upshot of my showing up was that Renata pretty much insisted on taking me to Titignano, the local tourist spot; the three of us — Oreste staying in the field — piled into the car and in ten minutes if that of rather barren flat road, on the Titignano side outright gravel (rather than a good strada bianca) and with large fold of sheep in one field, we were in Titignano: the main square one vast parking lot, mostly Roman cars — the manor has been turned into a rather renowned agriturismo with a wood oven, a ricotta manufacture, wine cellars — when we got there, a couple of middle-aged women in work blues were taking large trays of fried potatoes out of the oven; both the ricotta and predictably their formaggio di pecora are reputed — A few fragments of old sculpture in the indoor walls of the manor — Overall, I didn't like Titignano: it's a tourist trap; as a restaurant it may be quite good if I lived in the area, but the little village has lost all its authenticity.

Not so Quadro (-Vecchio) where Renata then drove me, since I'd warned her before going off to Titignano with her that if I did, then, because of walking being so slow, she'd have to help me make up the lost mileage if I was to get back before sunset —

Quadro is a decaying kind of nowhere, the three of us did a sort of perfunctory walkabout (it's tiny, a very small block) thru the decrepit remains of houses and around the one sort of reclaimed stuccoed habitation which amusingly Renata deplored instead of the hovel it replaced — and then they dropped me off 200 meters away (insisting on me getting back into the car with them for this distance) at the beginning of a little rocky lane down off the hill, and within 5 minutes I was quite lost. . . . The idea was to cut across a bight of some 4 km of the Orvieto road so as to get back to Todi as quickly as possible. It eventually did work, but not before I forded a sort of irrigation ditch full of mud and astonished an old grandmother that no, I didn't have a car anywhere, please just tell me where this path is!

And then the sweeping glorious descent onto Todi; by now it was cool (wearing my sweatshirt again) and the light was turning first gold then gray and pink as the sun set behind me, over Quadro precisely; cirrus clouds high up and therefore a very clear sky, exceptionally so: vast panorama from Ponterio to almost the lake of Corbara, gold and green in the foreground, the magnificent block of tower at Monte Calvo with thinning yellow poplars and olive trees in front, mountains deep blue in the distance, and behind them one snow-capped; a waxing moon overhead, Todi turning gold with flashes where the sun reflected off a window, then pink, then slowly subsiding into grey; the sky to the east in bands of aqua and pink, you can see the origin of medieval painting of skies. . . Took pictures, which won't come out adequately, as a sort of reminder.

Pontecuti and S. Giàcomo and back technically still day, alarming deep orange band of horizon behind me or to my right, the Tiber glinting like ten little lakes down below — gosh, what a day!

At the apartment thus at 5:30 — washed up, recorded the day's walk, bathed, dressed in the best clean clothes I have (dark grey trou, white turtleneck, my horrid sneakers); fielded two phone calls, first James, lonely I think, had a cold — then immediately no sooner had I put the phone down, Renata: was I back OK? when would we do apartment stuff? Finally settled on 3 P.M. tomorrow Tuesday, which will force a late train to Rome and probably miss a skate —

My meal, then the Teatro Comunale for Molto rumore per nulla — the performance rather good than not, with the Prince perfect for the rôle — elegant, somewhat sad, depth to him; Beatrice fairly good, thank goodness — one of these odd semimodern stagings, she with long matchsticks geishawise in her hair, striking them on various incongruous objects to light her little cheroots . . .

The theater itself, though, got my raves: it's not gold as in the pictures, but faded Victorian pastels; the ceiling vaguely Pompeiian garlands and festoons, tondi with cherubs, little tabulae with each the name of a playwright; their selection most peculiar; counterclockwise from front center: Aristophanes, Euripides, Epicharmus [!], Aeschylus, Menander, Plautus, Terence, Afranius, Ariosto, Macchiavelli, Gozzi, Pellico — The boxes outlined in pastel masques and each framed with a little conceit of a red curtain edged with gold: so that from the outside, each box is like a little painting where you can — and I did — watch people being ourselves in all our variety: like 71 little stages — one of them with four lovely young women and one absurd little gay guy who could have been quite handsome with a different haircut (he had a sort of pageboy bob but parted down the center); another, three pleasant-looking young women sort of oozing over a young man, easily the most handsome man in the room, bold disdainful eyes, carried himself beautifully — who relaxed, all of them, as soon as he was joined by his rather attractive (male) friend. . . in another, by themselves (the red plush banquettes seat 6 in each box) a pair of lovers kind of cuddling sweetly — the theater (196 seats in the parterre, 4 tiers of 19 boxes with the bottom tier out for the side and main entrances, and the top tier omitted in those closest to the stage: a total thus of 622 seats) almost full, at least 90%; the poulailler as usual the most lively, cheap student seats, lots of young people — A fair mix of types, and every age including young children; a particularly characteristic pair of Tuderte matrons on the main floor just below me: as usual, I got myself a box close to the stage (in which I was by myself, as it turned out), pretty much the same seat I had at the Marivaux in Paris in April — All in all a pleasant night.

And so, today. Up at about 7 with the sun; skies blue, another lovely day: a pity to spend it on trains, etc. Still — but at 8:42, train to Rome and hit the Corso searching for shoes; Lord, why do these people close shop all day?! Italy loses more business this way; I may not find shoes if this keeps up — if so, there's another $100‑150 lost business — I did find, I think, Eleanor's gift in a jewelry store in the via della Croce: they have dozens upon dozens of sterling animals, including a few birds. . . Of course they were closed, but Wed. morning I ought to be able to manage it — Anyhow, I crisscrossed the whole Corso — v. Babuini — p.zza di Spagna area almost block by block: almost nothing, or not open. One store open with shoes, Salvatore Ferragamo, not very nice shoes, and expensive. (I found some shoes almost on arriving in Rome, on the v. Crispi — very nice; walked in, big tall fellow, makes 'em himself, 1.200.000₤: sadly I have neither the time nor $800 for a pair of shoes, custom — but they were nice).

I omitted mentioning that out of stubbornness I wound up doing the Viale del Muro Torto on foot, no possible exit, a highway between the P. Pinciana & the P.zza del Popolo: mild screwing ground, presumably at night, along the walls; interesting to note amidst the various trash, almost as many rubber gloves despite their presumably greater expense, as condoms (also makes you wonder what on earth they're doing) —

And now, having had a coffee granita and an orange juice at the Caffé de Paris on the via Veneto to a great extent to wait for a shoe store round the corner to open at 3. To my left until a minute or two ago, two young Japanese women; to my right, an elegant German woman in a shepherd's check tweed, who's left her table a couple minutes to phone a block on her Diner's Card that she's lost — as I arrived, an American couple were quarrelling with the waiter about not having ordered something and didn't want to pay for it; from the looks of it, they'd eaten it anyway — the waiter was gently holding firm — I gave him a 5000₤ tip to make up for my fellow Americans and told him so — (Now I'm trapped here until my German woman comes back, at her request I'm watching her coat. . . .)

I've noticed a creeping tendency to take pictures of people, usually as part of a context but today it sort of broke out of the closet and I just took pictures for their own sake; if I start doing this, I'll need a good powerful telephoto lens and one of those angle gizmos where you're facing one way but are in fact pointing your lens 90° square to catch us unawares . . .

Train to Velletri, 4:02. I was pleased to read in the De deo Socratis that Socrates, because he had such a passionate or noble soul, needed no spur to action but only rather only to be restrained by his δαιμων from time to time — it sort of validates restraint for me; now if only I could also get off my duff and do something!

And I have my shoes. Nothing very special, but comfortable and as simple as I could find 'em —

On the train back to Rome, 7:45. Another icky lesson, although Giampiero says the back crossovers most of them were "belli"; still, the very ones he found "belli" were the ones I felt were horrible: meaning I haven't the slightest feel for what I'm doing; and of c. until I do, nothing's any good. . . Three-turns bad, mental confusion — so discouraged (inside, at least, only) that I didn't even enjoy the rest of the session, I kind of floated around listlessly. I've got to change this skating-lesson depression [. . .]

Paola will probably skate Wed. evening at 11‑12:30 — I almost certainly won't; and tomorrow looks unlikely — so we said goodbye —

I've removed my sneakers, camera, and this diary from my skatebag — as well, unfortunately, as my sweatshirt and my windbreaker (it is cold out there), in preparation for leaving my bag at the Valle (I asked) — but we've been sitting at Ciampino for a long time, it looks like I may not have the time to get to the Valle and back and still catch my train —

Anyway, my return to Chicago is fast coming up; I feel sad or worse [. . .]

On my train to Perugia, having left my bag at the Valle. For the record, it was 8:11 when I got off the train from Velletri at the far end of the station on track 25; 8:15 when I got out of the station; and 8:27+ when I got back to the far end of Track 3: useful information if I ever have to do it again; except for inside the station, most of that was running, hard. (I already had a slight sciatic pain in the left leg from the hip to the ankle; now I have a cramp in the same calf.) Anyway I made it — and that'll simplify the luggage situation tomorrow: with all those books it'll be bad enough.

I wonder how many ounces that took off. . . Today I've had two cups of coffee and two yogurt for breakfast, plus a rather large lunch at a pastry shop at 171 via del Babuino: I started with a cappuccino, a tuna-and‑tomato sammich, and two pastries because I was hungry, but both the sfogliatelle and the budino di riso (solid in a kind of cake) were so very good I had two more — an apple tart and a strudel — that I saw come out of the back; the strudel was wrong, altho' it tasted good — It was starch for the rink, plus I only had a cappuccino at the rink because I've run out of cash — it'll be interesting to see what I weigh.


And then — I was very hungry — I ate leftovers: a small block of some kind of pecorino, a third of a can of tuna, a yogurt, a grappa. Now I'm in bed. The limp up the hill was not really painful, it was just slow. I still took the 47 stairs two at a time . . .

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Page updated: 1 Feb 10