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Sunday 15 November

Five-something A.M., almost empty train traveling Fiumicino-wards at a good clip thru the northern Lazio in the dark; I finally wound up sleeping in Orte Scalo last night, across from the station, and so far Suitcase hasn't been too bad.

Yesterday morning, up a bit before 4: I really thought this time would be worse than last year, and that all my stuff wouldn't fit; in fact it went easier. About half my 3½ hours prep, I spent identifying my rolls of film and breaking out the negatives, which are now in my carry-on with my skates, my computer, and the wonderful 2‑volume structural teaching grammar of Etruscan I bought in Todi that I've been reading most evenings now since then; with a bit of persistence, I should be able to read most of the more ordinary stuff in a few months.

My pix, tho' patchy, are generally good — including most (that's why I thought of 'em) of my Etruscan inscriptions: the long Perusine inscription turned out remarkably well, very readable even in the single photo, and the three thirds are quite splendid. (Now other than webfodder, let's see: what am I going to do with 'em?)

7:30, the time we decided together was reasonable, found me ready (!) — no panic like last year, plus I emptied the fridge (not much waste) and washed the dishes and took out the trash; I did a logical pack — so far no mistakes — so that I could Narni-ize all day, and dress for airports out of a separate bag. Walter very kindly sacrificed a Sunday morning sleep-in to take me to Foligno station: Suitcase is the problem, of course; I can barely pick it up, and I believe it weighs even a bit more than last year's.º It won't stay closed is the only problem; I'm fervently hoping that, when I get to the airport in about an hour, I'll have the time to have them do the sticky plastic wrap number.

Anyway, Maria-Pa' also up to wave me off, as well as Giuliana literally from an upper window. Not as depressed as last year — right this minute, I even feel pretty good — probably because I spread the depression over several days, in fact along a rising curve from the day James left. Dull grey skies over Spello, but no rain, as I got my last views on our way to the station.

Suitcase, hug from Walter, train; Narni Scalo on time at 9. More Suitcase here, Alessandro Bartoli — on his way to work — putting in an unexpected and useful appearance: he actually carried the thing for 30 yards. . . Alessandra Pantella his fiancée — I think they expect to marry in September — my constant guide for the rest of the day though; she was very good about my general ignorance, but I spent much of the day feeling markedly inferior anyway.

After a very difficult but ultimately successful of course attempt to find a parking space in Narni, we left the car well outside town really, beyond the Porta Romana: an opportunity to walk the undoubted Flaminia (fonti and bibliografia for Narni very kindly provided by Alessandra) back to the Piazza; several options — jury still out, evidence buried under downtown Narni — for the segment between the piazza & the great bridge.

First pit stop, Narni Sotterranea, specially opened up for me by Giuseppe Pacciaroli (I'm not absolutely sure I have his last name right) [I didn't, his last name is: Pacciaroni], one of the members of the speleological group that did so much of the initial work on both this ambiente and on the aqueducts and that still does the volunteer guiding and the website. Thorough visit, thorough explanation of the S. Domenico underground: court chambers and prison of the Inquisition, prior church (nice frescoes, quite early) and sprinkled with small Roman cisterns, of the rainwater gutter type, artificial wells basically. Very interesting and unexpectedly attractive 17th- and 18th- century prisoner graffiti on plaster (Booby: click click, questions).

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Thence to S. Maria in Pensole — I'd asked about the Roman cisterns there — and more click click and questions. Human bones, probably 17c‑18c maybe even 19c, in small heaps in various more or less appropriate places (paleochristian tomb, etc.) but not in fact belonging there.

The rest of the day divided into excursions outside Narni (under clouds, drizzle, light rain) and a very good lunch. Before this lunch, the from my point of view most successful bit: the Ponte Sanguinaro (sic, altho' similarly named ones in Umbria are all otherwise "Sanguinario" with an I). On my walk to Otricoli last year I knew I was missing it; l'honneur est sauf, it is indeed not visible from the road, nor is there any sign: but it is actually still in use as part of a modern bridge, at that dangerous broad intersection that I must surely have mentioned in my diary last year — anyhow, I certainly remember it. The Roman bridge is of particularly attractive orange quadratum, in more or less alternating courses of endwise and lengthwise blocks, and one or two lower courses actually alternate the blox themselves. Mortarless or maybe just barely mortared bugnato, really very nice. The arch is gone, altho' there's a little prolly 17c‑19c archlet of bricks, looking about ready to come crashing down in the next earthquake, but fortunately it's obviously not needed at all. Wide riverbed, very little water right then; possibly never now any more. I'm very glad I saw it.

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The remains of the Ponte Sanguinaro Roman bridge S of Narni.

Lunch was terrific. I suppose I shouldn't be so surprised, in view of Umbrian hospitality, also considering how Alessandro proposed my whole outing at Narni after all, but we were guests of Piero and Vanna Bartoli his parents; who, Alessandra swore, really didn't put on any particular spread for me — I hope not — and in fact that's quite believable, Mrs. Bartoli's cooking is, much like that of my mother, that of a woman who knows what she's doing in the kitchen and the family just eats this way on a daily basis. (People who don't cook regularly, when they do put on a spread — I still remember clear as day Mrs. [. . .]'s lunch in my honor with chicken cooked in a mixture of peas, pineapple and peanut butter, and that was over 25 years ago!)

Anyway, tagliolini al tartufo, coniglio alla cacciatore (with no tomato; almost spectacularly good), peas with diced ham (that too unusually good, and I'm not too keen on the combination usually), potato croquettes, homemade bread; a good chestnut dessert from a pastry shop (not the one where I pigged out last year: apparently Narni has several particularly good ones). This year's Ciliegiolo di Narni, just out: I didn't know it, but C. di N. is always a novello, although other Ciliegioli are not; this one was particularly good, Mr. Bartoli commented on it — but then I always like the stuff — A good but very strong limoncello.

And of course with this meal, very nice people; they did me the honor of carrying on with their normal conversation — here and there filling me in. One of the things I brought up was that this good lunch saves the Internet reputation of all of Narni. . . . or anyway next to that awful meal at the Grifo last year there will be "casa Bartoli" as they put it!

(over Greenland a few hours later — the world's really strange and marvelous at times)

After lunch, with fogs rising from the Nera, we went — twice — to S. Cassiano (locally S. Casciano); the first time, locked, so we did the inscriptions at the Palazzo Comunale where I certainly wasn't at my epigraphical best — the quarter on the pinball machine syndrome — although I did have a flashlight. The walls of the courtyard seemed to have some new gaps, and Alessandra told me that very recently, within the last year or so, and thus probably since my last visit, several inscriptions were stolen. I wonder if I have pictures from last year; it is time for the Comune to hand over their courtyard collection to a more secure museum —

Our second trip to S. Casciano (after a quick stop at the Fons Feroniae, of which all the interesting stuff, miles of aqueduct, lead in to it from behind, underground) met with success: Father Narciso, a Catalan Benedictine, has been hermiting in it for many years and, if I got it straight, is pretty much singlehandedly responsible for arresting its total decay. It now has a roof and looks like a church again, and in fact is a church: Padre Narciso says mass etc., does everything except weddings; weddings have an air of commerce about them and the receptions get rowdy, and it's a place of silence: no Cana here.

We got a quick tour in a Wagnerian murk, very atmospheric — huge stone watchtower, a few caves (Fr. Narciso believes they're catacombs but they could be anything from Villanovan to 19c stables, at least from a superficial examination: the little ledges inside could have been Etruscan funerary beds, paleochristian arcosolia, or mangers for sheep or mules or all three), and the big hulk of maybe 13c church expanding a much smaller perpendicular apsed structure, about a foot's height of Late Antique-looking walls of this in the back. Inside the church, Roman columns, Byzantine-type capitals, a few small fragments of inscriptions.

I took very few pix. The outside needs good daylight; the inside, I felt sort of chaperoned by Fr. Narciso — fair enough, after all: even if a main purpose of a church is to serve as a repository of memory thus photography and antiquarianism is quite proper, the first purpose is still not to host the perambulations of the unchurched; finally, the inscriptions I didn't photograph because Alessandra was the first to report them, and has the right to publish them — although apparently the Soprintendenza is fighting her tooth and nail: they want to publish them. The kind of thing I abhor — and, in the meantime (surely this is being played out in dozens if not hundreds of cases thruout Italy), the inscriptions remain unpublished. There really ought to be a change in these pathways and procedures: whoever can report an inscription first-hand should on the contrary be encouraged to do it. (And the utmost in absurdity is stuff like the Lex Spoletina inscriptions, the first-found of which was over 100 years ago!)

And with this unsatisfactory visit to San Casciano — no fault of Alessandra's — she drove me down to the station where we parted at about 5:30; I thought I had a 6:12 train — I'd failed to see a "no Sundays" but luckily there was another at 1954. I waited it out in a large waiting room that became very unpleasant only when someone lit up a cigarette in defiance of posted regulations; at one point the stationmaster came in, opened all the windows and doors wide — kinda cold outside — and reprimanded one guy (I had nothing to do with this but it was a relief). Towards the end of my wait, some woman — very much like a whore, I think — came in, may've been on drugs too, anyway gathered three or four middle-aged Italian men around her as she sat on her bench puffing away — none of them took any train up to and including mine — I sat and read my way thru a newspaper and a trash gossip magazine and a bit — more concentration here — of an Archeo; 4 bags: Suitcase, camera bag, skatebag with only my suit & clothes for today (very light), and my carry-on with all 110 rolls of negatives, my skates, my computer, my diary and photo logs, and the Giuseppe Foscarini 2‑volume set "La Lingua degli Etruschi" that right this minute I'm using to raise the level of this notebook up off the plane's seat tray, but have in fact been chipping away at thru much of the flight —

Train; 20 minutes later, Orte Scalo. There is indeed a hotel right in front of the station. It's OK — rooms clean, tons of hot water — and has a restaurant. I didn't eat dinner, not in the least hungry: but a prophylactic double slice of a curious cream pie, lots of starch (wasn't expecting to eat today 'til maybe 11); glass of sambuca. Hotel room 70,000 (TV and phone): not at all a bad price considering the convenience of direct train to Fiumicino Aeroporto, plus several times hourly trains to Rome Tiburtina; future trips, maybe this could come in useful.a

Orte Scalo is quiet as a tomb, but the hotel from time to time is not: hard terrazzo floors and echoing halls that magnify a few inconsiderate guests — still, I slept fine, after casing my routes out of the hotel and to the station with Suitcase, to find the most rollable.

Up at 4 (automatic wakeup but I backed that up with my alarm clock); shower, clothes out of the skatebag, into which my camera bag reducing me to 3 bags; yesterday's clothes rolled up real small and threw away the old sox; navigated to the Fiumicino train easily with plenty of time: 0514 left, 0718 on time at the airport, cart, found a strapping machine and its attendant (10,000 and worth every bit of it, since Suitcase wouldn't stay closed) and despite about 15 people ahead of me at check-in, made it out of there by 8:05 to gate, plane at 8:25.

Plane to Munich eventless: a good breakfast plus rather comfortable; arriving that tight at the check-in I got bumped up to business, which was very lucky since the plane was 100% full when we left: what would have happened if I'd arrived 2 people later in the queue?

Munich only an hour's wait, half of it taken up by a line to the passport control; and here I am on this plane, which will take a bit longer than it should — no explanation, but the projector map shows us doing a more curved arc than we need to and I bet we've avoided a big Atlantic storm. Slept intermittently, worked on my Etruscan, ate the meal (not bad if a bit odd, especially a sort of cinnamon mousse?)

So right now — about 2‑3 hours to landing — I just want to get home and take a shower and have a long good night's sleep; I hope there won't be baggage problems or long lines of Kurdish women with their belongings wrapt in blankets like there sometimes are. Last year was zippy, but I got in around customs officials' dinnertime; here I'll be landing in full workday —

Longer-term, this time I'm going to have to do something now; here's where the worries start.


Later Note for the Web:

a I've stayed in this convenient little hotel one more time since, in September 2000. In large part because of the Hotel Calù, Orte is a very useful place to stay one's last night in Italy — rather than pay the prices of a hotel in Rome, plus the very expensive cab ride to the airport since the airport trains from Termini don't start until rather late in the morning.

For about a year and a half in 2003‑04, there was a note here stating that the hotel might be closed. I don't know where I'd got that idea from, but it wasn't true, and in the spring of 2004, checking, I found the Calù quite open. I also have a vague impression that there is another small hotel only a little farther from the train station.

Address:

Hotel Calù

Piazzale della Stazione, 13/14

01029 Orte Scalo (VT)

Tel./Fax: 0761-40.01.47


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Page updated: 11 Feb 14