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Sunday 5 January

Anyway, here I am in beauti­ful Italy with 5 or 6 days left — resuming my account of San Miniato where I left off.

After the Duomo — and thruout the day the weather varied rather quickly, from solid rain to tentative clearing and patches of gorgeous bright blue sky in the distance — I walked down the most promising arm toward the rocca; a curious seminary with dozens of inscriptions painted on it: never seen quite such a didactic building. . . Up to the side, a little irregularly triangular piazza with the bishop's palace, the cathedral and one of the two tall towers of the town (my Blue Guide it was once just a tower, and only later the campanile of the cathedral); and a small tower next to a hotel:​1 I ignored it but apparently shouldn't have, it was the birthplace of Countess Matilda and the general HQ of Frederick II; the staircase was useful as the farthest place I could get from the piazza to take a picture. . . The Duomo is peculiar for having a geometric pattern of ceramic dishes inset into the façade, some of which have been removed to a museum: it turns out they're not even Italian, but 12c North African —

Short walk up to the tower of Frederick II. Not the original: the Germans blew it up as they retreated in 1943, and this one was rebuilt with much pride and reopened in 1958 or so. The Germans also did their usual number of collecting the civilian population in the church and killing a bunch of them — 55 died immediately — the volunteer guardian of the tower, a man of about 70 who served his war on the Albanian front then stayed in Yugoslavia, Vojvodina mostly, with the partisans thru September 1945, told me about the massacre: in addition a plaque commemorates it on the façade of the Palazzo Comunale, with fairly strong language, but 3 further lines must've been stronger still and the brass letters have been removed.

I was lucky on the tower: the weather cleared and I could enjoy the views. A red and white helicopter of the Vigili del Fuoco buzzed the tower twice then scooted off —

[image ALT: A helicopter flying, banked to one side, seen from fairly far away against a cloudy sky.]

Past the church of the SS. Crocifisso, and attractive 18c building with a lantern, and into the Palazzo Comunale, where the Council chamber is still covered, ceiling and four walls, with its 15c frescoes, mostly armorial, but also a Virgin and Child not first-class but OK — the Council still sits there: some seats are apparently medieval, but portable chairs at the back of the room for spectators, a large head table for the Council, and a loudspeaker, which would seem unnecessary: the room is quite small, maybe 25 feet long, about like my living room.

From there a dismal walk in increasing rain to the Piazza Bonaparte; nothing much to see there and I didn't want to go further to either S. Francesco or S. Caterina, since it was 1220 and I didn't want to be late for Stefano.

So back to the bar, had a cappuccino and a coupla cornetti and read.

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The church of S. Maria a Fortino
in San Miniato al Tedesco (Tuscany).

At 1320, the weather having cleared and still no Stefano, I decided to make a run down the other arm of San Miniato all the way to the end to the tiny chapel of S. Maria a Fortino which I'd seen a picture of in my locally bought guidebook: a very beauti­ful austerely elegant structure set in the pine trees. A brisk walk back, including ducking into S. Annunziata, a small church with a hideous interior but an OK medieval fresco over the altar: and I found Stefano having a cappuccino with Senadasp?, a tall blonde Croatian with an Italian husband now living in Milan and working Stefano's showroom.

The three of us into the car and off to Forte dei Marmi to pick up Emmanuela, Stefano's second asst. [. . .] Forte dei Marmi was warm and the sun was out, it must've been 60 degrees? but anyway that just vanished as we got to the Apennines, and stayed that way when we got out: snow everywhere up to maybe 8 inches of it near Berceto at the high spot of the trip at the Passo della Cisa.

A rainbow for miles and miles: I was the first to notice it when it was just a small arc of maybe 20° climbing into the clouds, but it was eventually visible over the countryside — villages hanging on to the sides of hills, swollen caffé-latte rivers starting to spread their banks — and I pointed out that sometimes one could see a double rainbow; when Stefano finally understood, he said he indeed saw one, but noone else could see it. Some while after in fact — this was as the three of us stopped at the highway exit to pick up Emmanuela driven there by her brother — we did see it, but it was very faint. Still, it's only the third time I've seen one: I don't think my pictures will have caught it, but we'll see.

Milan, 35°F still, except now there's remnant snow all over; a caffé the four of us briefly, then dropped off Emmanuela, then Senada at the station, her husband to pick her up in their suburb, then back to Stefano's apartment straight away.

Note in the Diary:

1 all brick, like S. Domenico and S. Maria a Fortino, below.

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Page updated: 7 Dec 20