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Monday 3 November

No longer in Umbria; on the train to Florence, sitting briefly in a tiny station somewhere after Castiglion Fiorentino: all my worldly belongings, or so it feels, in my plane bag, camera bag, and my new Todi suitcase, more about which in its proper sequence.

Saturday November 1st was my Rome and skate day. The Rome part was a total waste: arriving at 1140 (on time!) I spent all my day waiting in lines to buy various types of train tickets, supplements etc.: the schedule being leave Spello at 12:24, long wait in Florence (I could even leave at 14:24, but I'm playing it safe), then pendolino to Milan, half an hour to change to a direct train to Brussels getting me there at 0910 with my plane at 1120: a bit tight, but short of a hotel night in Brussels or some contorted, exhausting train changes, that was it. Reasonably, paid for a couchette, something like $20‑30.

Then I remembered I needed flowers for Irene who does the skate counter (and who did it three years ago, and when I left I gave Giampiero some extra cash to get her some flowers then, but he failed to do it, quite possibly misunderstanding it as some kind of American joke. . .). And then ah yes Saturday was a holiday, All Saints': nothing open.

Dim memories of flowers towards Piazza di Spagna, so off goes Booby. Found a lone flower stall in the V. delle Quattro Fontane: usually very busy, lots of flowers; in fact I think I photographed it 3 years ago, and possibly that's where the dim memories came from. Still, enough flowers to make an OK bouquet, not like the extravagance at Nemi but OK; on the other hand, the young Colombian woman selling them was quite a sharpie: eleven pink roses at 3 ML and two lilies at 5 ML coming to 58 ML and of course no change for 60, right? Like a sheep I let her do it, after all it's better than prostitution and I was grateful to have found anything at all, which (latter only!) I told her; and with ambiguous bouquet trudged back to Termini to meet the 1410 which would put me at the rink for the 3 P.M. session: but I'd failed to notice that the 1410 is only workdays — just a mess all the way around. Anyway, further checking showed that I couldn't leave S. Maria delle Mole by my usual 1858, for the same reason: the next one being 2000 and therefore no usual 1940 to Ancona. A 2055 to Perugia incl. Foligno but not Spello, plus a supplement.

Well I was getting cabin-fever so took a train to Ciampino knowing I'd have to change there to the same later train out of Termini I just didn't want to take. An inadvertently wise decision since at Ciampino it just took a minute to buy the evening's supplement, and at S. Maria there's no window while at Termini it would have meant a half-hour in line.

With all that, I got to the rink halfway thru the 3 P.M. turno; skated the rest of that, then all the 5 P.M., finally half an hour of the 7 P.M. Irene pleasantly surprised; I skated reasonably well by recent standards altho' the rink was way too crowded for jumping; the usual gatorades, the frequent enough excellent lemon pie; trains worked OK to Foligno, but a 40‑minute wait for the Spello putt-putt: I was tired and sleepy and would have taken a cab, but there was none. Walked up the hill, shades of Todi, at 0006h by the little digital clock at the electronics shop on the piazzetta below the Consolare — turned off the light at 1 A.M.

Yesterday was nice, thank goodness. I wasn't expecting anything, but the weather turned beautiful and perfect temperature; by happenstance I participated in a Spellano event — the first since the quake — and then my vaguely projected walk out towards Collepino to find the aqueduct, was crowned with success beyond my imagining: I'm still, even now, happy about that.

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With the representatives of Italy's armed forces past and present, Spello's mayor, Corrado Rosignoli, next to the gonfalon of the comune, listens to the band.

The day didn't start out that way; I had nothing breakfastlike to eat, so thought I'd go down to the alimentari at the P.zza della Repubblica — who, neither one, weren't open. But while I was waiting, the band started forming, so I stuck around: an old man came out with the flag and some streamers identifying him as representing the Disabled War Veterans; a young woman in uniform appeared with the attractive old rose gonfalon of the Commune — I tried to see from far away whether the bird in the coat of arms had a key in its beak or not; I think not — the band struck up, everyone walked forty yards around the bend, the Mayor showed up and made a speech: the occasion was the celebration of November 4th, which in Italy is considered the end of World War I rather apparently than the 11th;a but the Mayor talked earthquake, saying all kinds of things that needed to be said (no, there's no volcano under Umbria; Barberi is doing his best; thank you to everyone; I didn't go on national TV tho' invited, because it wasn't useful and I'm working very hard here in Spello; you guys in the Borgo should not be grumbling that the Paese is a burden — tourism represents about a third of our revenues here; etc.). Good speech, and I was actually rather moved to be among the sixty or so people standing in the curve of the street listening to him and the band and just feeling part of the community. The band plays well but jeepers band music is lousy stuff. . . . In its Italian incarnation, cheerful at least.

Finally, back to the apartment — catching Giuseppina in their store, unusually (they close on Sunday): good for some biscottes; and a sort of brunch with my shirt off in the sun on my terrace: tomatoes, olive oil, garlic; biscottes, mascarpone; coffee, fruit juice.

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Inside the Roman aqueduct of Spello.

The day being really nice, I thought I'd wander off on the road to Collepino and find what I expected would be a Porta Capena-type clump of ruin some distance off (a "ponte Parasacco" had been described to me, very vaguely, by various people). In fact I didn't find this Ponte Parasacco — it's apparently a good mile or so up the hill somewhereº — but almost right away found a 400‑ or 500‑m‑long stretch of aqueduct disguised as a retaining wall amongst all the others!

The channel is intact over longish sections, up to 50 or 60 meters sometimes, with regularly spaced inspection ports: pacing them off, almost exactly 20 shoe lengths; every once in a while, larger ports where a man can climb into the aqueduct: I did, both from one of these ports, and in another place where the channel is cut. Inside, it's very carefully built, with an upper cornice supporting large flat stones forming the ceiling; and at some, at least, of the inspection ports — mere meurtrièrelike slits — the channel section is cut in a door shape. (As for how old all this is, who knows: there are occasional modern cisterns along the aqueduct, with green-painted metal doors, not rusted; apparently it was in use until the British cut it in 1944 when they needed to get heavy matériel in thru the Montanara.)

Anyway, it felt like a real discovery, if of course it wasn't at all: but it was a real nice way to wind up my stay in Hispellum, and I was pleased as punch.

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A very small section of the Roman aqueduct of Spello.

Back home, more packing, then I caught Maria-Paola and Walter and did the accounts; he'd finally cashed my $1200 check — at the absolute peak of the dollar! at 1776₤: more pleased as punch, and of course to him it's all the same. During these transactions, involving a totalling of all my phone calls (some ₤500,000), Walter hitched on to my evening at the Pinturicchio — and of course, then insisted on paying — so I went back home and showered and stuff, to meet them at 8; we walked down and ate quietly — I was hungry, too: coratella as an antipasto, then gnocchi, than the agnello and a very good salad of odd green debris from the fields. Wine a very young rosso di Montefalco — I've forgotten the vintner — 1996, not bad. Dessert: they have Mont Blanc here! Monte Bianco: not made with crème de marrons, but with crushed chestnuts instead; and no rum — but very good just the same.

A bit of milling and palavering with Mirko and Lara and their very young-looking mother, the cook of all this good stuff; Internet and its uses for promoting Spello and your appartamenti: the Pinturicchio just opened theirs, the "Residenze Sant' Iacopo" about a week before the earthquake I think — anyway, they felt their timing was lousy. . . . Anyhow, off to bed at nearly one o'clock.

Later Note for the Web:

a For a clear explanation, see the note to my diary entry for Nov. 6, 1994.

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Page updated: 18 Nov 02