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Saturday 28 February 2004

Up before my 8 o'clock wake-up call; nice hot shower although it took me a while to figure out the tap: the red hot water tap never actually turns on, but merely regulates what temperature the water would be if it were turned on, graduated in degrees C and with a red button I never did understand — then you turn on the blue cold water tap and the water comes out hot.

No news; weather wintry; at least it's not raining: we may get snow in pianura as far south as the Lazio, all of it being blamed on Ingrid, a Swedish depression (sounding like a psychology lesson from De Düve).

Yesterday finding Franco only took 2 passes thru the Pro Loco;​a he's at [. . .] not so easy despite map: finally an old couple out for their afternoon walk took me to his house. They had no idea where the street and number were, but asked me whose house, and they knew immediately. (For future reference, from the piazza [. . .]) Well I was in the doorway well out of view of the windows, so someone — Mariella, I learned later — looked out and saw my old couple, but buzzed the door open anyway, wondering gee what do they want — and Boobykins walks in at the foot of the entry stairs, and Mariella walks out at the top, and a double-take . . . as I expected. Big hugs, and as it turns out, Franco at home, so we caught up in their kitchen, new since last time, some of it paid out of earthquake relief funds but about a third of the massive work on the house not; not quite finished but livable again.

I'd done things in order, mind you, pouncing on the first restaurant I found on trudging up the hill (which for some reason, and encouragingly, was not as bad a hike as last time); at the Maggiolini a good solid simple Umbrian meal for 22E60: la bruschetta all' olio plain and simple, of course, strangozzi al tartufo with a good smell of truffle to them, Trevi sausages (duly photographed — I'm not Japanese for nothing), some awful-looking broccoli almost mashed to a pulp but if that's what it takes to make them taste like that I'd do it myself — house wine a coupla small glasses, clearly better than the other night's at the Capponi; no dessert, but a coffee. About the same price then as the Capponi but a solid B+ and the bruschetta, even if I'm primed for it, a definite A.

[image ALT: Three short fat sausage links on a plate. They are the specialty sausage of Trevi, in Umbria.]

Salsicce di Trevi, Maggiolini, February 2004.

From there to the Pro Loco to bug them once for theater tickets: they didn't know but suggested I go to the theater and poke around since the actors were there; I did, found a side door, stagehands and lighting people and the director setting up, I explained to him I'd come here for the performance, but kinda needed to know before the box office opened, since if no ticket available I needed to make my 1943 train in PSG. He called Perugia (the Teatro Stabile there covering the production) and I'd have a ticket waiting for me at 8:30 — thanked him and left, to go bug the Pro Loco a second time, this time for a hotel recommendation since I really couldn't stay in Pigge: how to find Franco's house, but I got lost anyway, although coming within 50 feet of him the first circuit round.

Anyhoo, in the Spellani's kitchen I sprang my erbe on Mariella — wintergreen and sarsaparilla, both North American herbs (took some doing actually! the only other I could find in Chicago was sassafras which is somewhat poisonous); Mariella immediately made a small pot of tea of each. The wintergreen was pretty good, the sarsaparilla was saved from being nasty by being insipid as well; I'd never had either any more than they, discovery for all of us: I hope she turns the rest into cordials.

Franco seems to have thought it a good idea to wander me around the Piazza Garibaldi and the beginning of the road out towards the Madonna delle Lagrime; full of stories and information as usual. These days he's worked up over the Perugino exhibits in Umbria: in addition to the big event in Perugia, which has regrouped Peruginos from the Met and Paris and even one from Chicago, reassembling separated pieces as much as possible into their original retables and so on — there are special showings of Perugino works thruout Umbria; and it turns out that Trevi has one, of the very last year or so of the painter's life, in the church of the Madonna delle Lagrime — which remains quite closed. Franco not happy about this (makes sense) and his typical commonsense solution is to announce it, let visitors show up at the Lagrime, where there is ample parking, and ring the bell and be let in by the porter at the nuns' convent, they're there after all. The way I understand it however, the scheme proposed by others was that the tourist should park in the piazza, go to the Pro Loco, and they'd send a bus each time for each visitor, to do the round trip to the Lagrime. . . ! This really doesn't seem very sensible, so, logically enough, it appeared to be simpler just to stay mum and keep the church closed. No difficulties, no revenues, no tourists: simple, really.

He also showed me a very big hole in the ground on the S side of the Piazza Garibaldi, about 2 stories deep: they're building a school to replace various existing schools. Franco says there aren't the children now to warrant it, plus they're destroying the Piazza — and when it was pointed out by someone that a complex of multi-story buildings would disfigure Trevi, they said, gosh right you are, as Franco put it, we'll inhume the children, put a few stories below ground. Franco has given up on this particular battle, he himself saying he's like Don Quixote tilting at windmills and not making too many friends either. . . . All of this delivered effusively with rollicking good humor and a historical sidebar for lo straniero americano, on how the cattle market had been held in this piazza for hundreds of years — further sidebar on the transhumance and pointing out to me the mountain roads down into the valley then towards La Bruna and Montemartano: it was clear enough to follow his finger along the lights and the roads all the way to the pass thru the Colli Martani towards Todi. In a corridor of my hotel he pointed out a 19c photo of the cattle market; with the two towers and the complete circuit of city walls, the section at the Piazza now knocked down, although commemorated (for those who — unlike me, once again! — know how to look) in the pavement in different-color bricks where the wall was, and stone where the gates. All in all a fascinating walk, if cold: couldn't have been more than 38° out there, I was glad to get back indoors.

Dinner at home with them: cannelloni with leeks and pumpkin, then fish filets — a seafish called nasello, pleasant​b — with an artichoke mayonnaise; in honor of Friday in Lent.

And unLentwise off at 8:33 to the Teatro Clitunno; lots of milling around at the box office — my voice a bit louder'n I always think, I thought I was quietly remarking to Franco that a group of 3 (taking a long time to transact whatever it was) must be signing the Treaty of Versailles — feeble joke picked up by the young woman in front of me and repeated with mirth to others, I felt like an idiot, but then what else is new.

The performance itself — my ticket, a box seat, 12E00 — well, it was odd. Teatro sperimentale: all the rôles played by women, and the usual late‑20c mannerisms, lotsa rolling around on the floor, shouting, rather more overtly sexual play than in Shakespeare's time probably including two or three spots which I'd probably have to call simulated sex; what with Shakespeare himself never easy to understand, and the puns and all that, found it difficult to follow, unlike my previous experience of Shakespeare in Umbria and the plays in Fossato last time. Oddly, though the production itself wasn't much to my taste, it had a definite connection with both Shakespearean acting of the time and commedia dell' arte too; and I found myself thinking as the curtain went down, then up to applaud the actors, that they were better than the production, and that it left a sort of impressionistic residue that spoke to the human condition: finally, it wasn't bad.

And with that, to bed at past midnite.

This morning, breakfast at the hotel, a rather nice spread, including rolls and yogurt and fruit juice and stuff, and coffee; had misgivings, breakfasts often winding up costing a lot — who knows what this one cost, since price cased yesterday for the night's stay was 40E and when he totted up the bill, 40E it was, including breakfast. I didn't have that much, some bread and butter, and, irresistible of course, the one item I didn't recognize, which turned out to be an excellent "torta alla pera", something in fact rather like a pineapple upside-down cake, except not pineapple nor upside-down: much the same texture though and good contrasting flavor­ful pear.

9:00 at the Pro Loco in gradually worsening weather; was relieved to see I'd beaten Franco to our rendezvous, or if not he let me think so, appearing out of somewhere of a sudden; I was on time though. He wound up introducing me to the vice-president of the Pro Loco, Sandro Verzari, then to the president a couple minutes later, Dr. Luigi Andreani (his family doctor as well and a good friend); I contrived to look bashful as Franco rang my praises, but fooled no one, I'm sure. Made small noises of various kinds although I didn't miss the opportunity to (a) tell them how wonder­ful the Pro Loco is so open right there in piazza every day; (b) ditto wonder­ful their website, the best comune site in Umbria, and they said well it was Franco's doing, but I told them yes but you maintain it and keep it online — told them cautionary and true story of [. . .], where they claimed in 2000 to have a wonder­ful website — on a CD, but not yet online (and still not online now); (c) d'you realize I've been here in Trevi something like half a dozen times now, and pass for this grand expert on Umbria and Trevi — but have never been inside the Duomo? Which has always been closed; as indeed it was both yesterday afternoon and this morning. . . .

Was carried along in the general swirl towards the Comune (where the Pro Loco was going to have a meeting with others, in part to consider a proposal on the Perugino), and was introduced to the Assessore alla Cultura e al Turismo, avv. Valentino Brizi, an earnest young man (actually maybe in his early forties) who listened to me with what looked like a mixture of real interest and a bit of amusement, and took me to the Sala del Consiglio, a former theater space (balcony, ceiling frescoed later with the arms of the comune surrounded by the smaller arms of the then members of the Council, and the names of the frazioni around the sides, including one, Pettino, now in the comune of Campello). Franco then had the dreadful idea of taking a group photograph of the four of us in the Sala Comunale; we did. Then he and I went away.

[image ALT: A high rectangular ceiling with rounded corners, the lower parts of which are elaborately decorated with semicircular niches, three to a side, and the center of which is a large similarly decorated panel: grotesques, escutcheons, putti, ribbons, inscribed tablets, medallions with portraits, etc. It is the ceiling of the Town Hall of Trevi, in Umbria.]

The ceiling of the Sala Comunale (the Council Chamber) in the Town Hall of Trevi.

Weather by now really bad, consistent rain, low clouds and fogs, poor visibility; Franco with his usual generosity telling me we could go anywhere I liked just say the word: but not having any kind of useful plan, plus bad weather, I let him drive me back to Umbertide so he could get back to Perugino, his current devil — some writing to do today. The drive here was an interesting account of the power plant at Ponte di Ferro (that I saw last time): it seems originally there was lignite, not too good but exploitable, but now, in order to keep jobs here, though the pits are pretty much exhausted, they import coal from Poland, ship it to Ancona, then by rail to Foligno, from there to PSG, from there by special trains (because they shut down the power on the FCU every night, for safety reasons) during the night to Marsciano and the last leg by truck to the plant. . . . When he worked for the FS, he authored what sounds like another perfectly reasonable study: truck it straight to Foligno if you must, only about 10 km more truck but cutting out the two trains to Marsciano, which he claimed would save enough in 10 years to build a plant at Ancona. My reaction instantly, but wouldn't jobs be lost here? And off we went on social policy — would never have thought of any of this as I walked by that plant a few years ago.

Toured Franco thru the house here, he said yes you got yourself a real tower alright, and it was the first time he'd ever been in a house in Umbertide. Offered him lunch or a drink — yesterday he insisted on gifting me my two liters of olive oil in the store, what could I do? — but he had Mr. Vannucci on his mind and off he went.

This afternoon as the skies started to clear I thought well I might walk to Niccone just to see; not much there but why not — and of course as soon as I stepped out the rain started up again, and then I found S. Maria della Pietà open after about 300 m of road, and took my photographs of the interior of the church: the jewel of the building is a side chapel, that oddly none of the local literature says anything about, but the TCI Umbria bless them comes thru — a "cappella gentilizia dei Marchesi Bourbon di Sorbello"; I'd guessed more or less from the funerary iconography (putto with reversed torch) on one side of the door, and on the other side a putto with what looked like Bourbon arms (fleurs de lys) but then I said to myself well that can't be right — but it was, sort of. Sorbello's not very big —

[image ALT: A surface of 3 horizontal weathered wooden boards, the center one of which has a small horizontally oval hole with a small piece of decorative iron grillwork in the form of a cross. It is a detail of someone's garage door in Umbertide, Umbria.]

It soon transpired (see diary, Mar. 1) that although there were no signs that I could see, the parish does not allow photography in its churches without a special permit. So, instead, this handsome detail of a door at 6, via V. Veneto.

Stepping out, worse rain, what the hell, home; and as soon as I got back inside, it cleared up ecc. ecc. Back out on several small errands: bread since tomorrow is Sunday; the supermarket 2 blocks down the v. Roma, 8E66 got me a household disinfectant, 4 rolls of toilet paper, a kilo of sugar, shampoo — what little hair I now have, seems pointless but who can resist olive oil and lemon shampoo? maybe my scalp will sprout rugola — and one of those little trays of Sheba catfood, 0E61, since I met one of Ann's cats, although it looks sleek and fat. On the other hand it met me at the door, and gobbled up the whole thing quickly; fortunately its eyes don't look infected, since Lord knows how much those drops cost.

Ed eccomi qua, battened down the hatch for the night; will probably have some more of that Tufino cheese, a bit of sausage, theme-and‑variations on today's lunch — then put the day's photos in order and to bed.

Later Notes:

a I.e., Pro Trevi. As I mentioned in the previous entry, it's one of the local tourist offices most on the ball in all of Umbria — and their website is without qualification the best city website in the region.

b (Back in Chicago where the dictionary is) — hake.

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Page updated: 7 Dec 20