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Monday 1 March 2004

In all this, carried away by the good stuff, I haven't recorded the less good; since this morning I got a small shock of bad news, this must be the time for all the bad stuff.

The first one is minor, but now one more piece of unpromising runaround: somehow on arriving in Trevi the other day and putting my lens cap back one, I heard a click I didn't like, registering only subliminally, but later found out that one of the clips had snapped off, and I seem to have lost the cap, and at any rate if I find it it won't stay on: I hope I can find it in Rome, probably get a spare or two.​a

Second worse item: Mariella said I absolutely shouldn't go wandering around, at least certainly certainly not in Puglia of all places, sleeping outdoors. Roving thugs will kill people for much less than $2000 worth of camera gear. Bad news since (a) I apparently will have carried an extra suitcase for nothing and wasted $200 on camping gear which I have no other use for; (b) not having money to go spend on lots of nights in hotels, I will probably, almost surely, forgo my projected trip to Puglia. I have time to make a final decision, since early March, my original idea, is too early because of the weather anyway.

And third piece of bad news, although I don't know how bad it is, or even whether and to what extent it's true — went to do my morning grocery shopping, and while I was there the parish priest comes in and Angelo introduces me, we fall to talking and he asks me if I'm doing a website on Umbertide, and I say well I have a tiny bit now, but hope to have sites on the various churches — whereupon he immediately looked disapproving and tells me oh no you can't do that, it's illegal, there's a law against publishing photographs of the insides of private buildings (on the grounds that they're private), and that includes most churches. It turns out that most public buildings can't be photographed either (on the grounds that they're public, of course). I said I'd seen no signs — which I grit my teeth and respect — and he: doesn't matter, it's the law; of course I'll be glad to issue you the permits for the churches of Umbertide — the parish office is in my little street, come see me, etc.

Needless to say if this is true, it puts me in a real bind; at the same time in 10 years of coming to Italy and 14 months going around taking pictures of everything, and hardly being shy about telling people, this is the first I've heard of this — although it makes sense in some ways, surely one shouldn't be able to plaster photographs of someone's dining-room all over the Internet or in a book, for example; but churches, really. This is apparently not the law that Italy was trying to shove thru whereby one was not to be able to take a photograph of anything at all (monumenti culturali, etc.); but it's another manifestation of the same desire to control information. Internally, all it does is make me mad; practically, I don't know what it does to Tentacle-Baby. And from their standpoint, incredibly short-sighted. Anyway.

Groceries, 22E29: 2 pears, mouthwash, 500 g of chestnut honey (wanted local, but Angelo says this is not a good idea, lots of toxic pesticides sprayed because of the tobacco crop), 800 g can of whole tomatoes, 4 yogurts, a liter of "ace" (arancia-carota-limone), 250 g of fresh mozzarella from Scheggia, and a bottle of wine, also Donini, a step up from the Fratta I finished last night, "Fonte del Duca" IGT Umbria 7E50.

Telephone still can't make outgoing calls; I checked it with Angelo, it's not me being stupid, he says I should go back to OmniTel with my receipt and see with them, why. He said Omnitel not open of course — it's Monday morning — but will open after lunch; OK. Asked him if he knew Irene Minelli — no — or Karen Fronduti — no, and with great puzzlement, since he's a relative of the Fronduti family; I suggested maybe someone had a spare wife we didn't know about — I'm definitely not having the slightest bit of luck getting in touch with Ann's people here.

Well, after that ([. . .]) I was so depressed I just wanted to go to bed and cry; wasn't helped by my trying to leave town — in overcast cold weather — for Niccone and getting tangled up twice and having to backtrack to the house. But I gave myself a push and stubbornly decided to go to Niccone, and found the road, leaving town at about 1:05. Niccone is on the busy main road to Città di Castello; that was so nasty, at least in my frame of mind, that when no more than 300 m from the house saw a sign, "Migianella 3", I branched off on it: I'm back home and still haven't seen Niccone.​b The road to Migianella was rather similar, at least to the body, to yesterday's road to Montino di Sotto, with the same kind of low but steady gradient; the countryside less inhabited though, and the hills seemed higher, so that the road, instead of going more or less straight up a crest, wound around the sides of the mountain, switchbacks etc.

Three kilometers came and went, no sign of anything that might be Migianella — neither castle nor hamlet of any kind (for all I know, Migianella is a town and Migianella de' Marchesi is the castle) — and on and on it went, with widening views of the plain far below and all the mountains at the same height round the plain in a big circle, about half of them snow-capped or at least dusted with snow. Individual houses every 400 m or so; I passed voc. Ripa, Scorione, S. Croce and estimating by then I'd done 6 km or so, was preparing to turn around, convinced either I'd gone past Migianella like I did S. Lorenzo yesterday, or that I'd missed a cross-road or a sign (although this the only paved road at all), or that some prankster had turned the sign down in the plain. I saw at least two castles a ways off, but I didn't seem to be going there, then went way past any chance of it on my upwards way into the trees: the area much wilder than yesterday, maybe 80% forest rather than 15%.

[image ALT: A niche with a small plaster or stone table and above it a small niche. It is a vandalized altar in the ruined church of S. Maria e S. Croce at Migianella de' Marchesi near Umbertide, Umbria (central Italy).]

Vandalized altar.

Finally the road stopped, to turn into a strada bianca, circling around the back of the mountain — this just across from Monte Acuto to my left the top of which maybe only 2 km away and that much higher — but there was a largish cubical mass of what looked like medieval wall right there, so at least I went to investigate. Behind that, a ruined farmhouse, and behind that a sort of little street a couple of other equally ruined buildings, one of them belfried. The door of this one-room church was open, a surprisingly large almost cubical space for so remote a church: over the door an inscription identifying it as the church of St. Mary and the Most Holy Cross. Inside, fairly recent plaster, but all the fixtures torn out; behind the main altar a big empty architectural frame of Renaissance style which must have once been rather nice; a side altar completely ripped apart, but with a single remaining presence, a small tile next to it stating that the altar had been erected in 1950: so as recently as that, S. Maria e SS. Croce was a living church with a congregation. (A small sacristy on one side: not absolutely then a 1‑room church.)

Back outside out of this depressing place, more ruined stone buildings in the back — one of them with a white porcelain plaque under a window, writ in blue with a text I know well, the story of Migianella dei Marchesi I first read posted on SlowTrav: I was there. 3 km my foot, 7 is more like it. A sort of lawn-like space with the two parts of a millstone, the lower stone inscribed with a Roman numeral in the hundreds. A few photographs and I left, my cold hands cursing Deborah thru and thru: the place is not, as they say, a granché — although yes, it might make a lovely hotel or manor, with something like $1.5 million poured into it. I left at 14:54 fonino time, and was down in the plain at turnoff, "Migianella 3", at exactly 16:00, having stopped no more than 30 seconds total, to adjust clothing etc., not even any pictures — overcast, plus by and large not the kind of scenery I like — and walking at my usual fair pace of 6 km/h. By 4:06 I was home; I'm calling it, today again, 14 km. A couple snow flurries near Migianella, and hips and ankles a bit sore, I'm really out of shape.

[image ALT: In the foreground, a somewhat weedy sward of grass; behind it a two-story building of irregular and heavily mortared stone and brick masonry. It looks somewhat abandoned, and attached to its right end, there is an archway, only the arch remaining, with neither door nor structure above it, that leads out onto a sharp drop: our building is on the top of a tall hill, and in the distance thru the fog can be seen other hills. It is a view of a ruined property at Migianella de' Marchesi near Umbertide, Umbria (central Italy).]

Archway onto nothing: Migianella de' Marchesi.

The WIND shop having opened at 3:30, I went there with my phone. Well . . . after 45 minutes of palavers, presenting my passport, inputting things on computers, etc. a long complicated spiel to the effect that the SIM card had been allowed to run down by the owner while it was priced in lire, now with the changeover to euros the card is blocked by Omnitel, so they transferred it to me and oh hell it still doesn't work, why don't you come back around 7:15 tonite just before I close, surely they'll get it to work by then. Thru all this watched an intermittent parade of people come in for various things, not one of them simple: people sent away to come back with the proper documents and codice fiscale, others photocopying more documents to buy something or other, others whose car adapters sullenly refused to work (in and out to where the car was parked to try out various things, I think that one finally got his money back); but I seem to have been the day's prize Booby, bravo, with the most intractable and incomprehensible problem.

A spot of shopping at the supermarket (milk, limoncello, Viparo, olives, salsa primavera: 15E50) and back to a sort of high tea here, I was starving. Three slices of bread with the salsa primavera (a sort of mirepoix with hot pepper and oil), with the salsa piccantina from yesterday, with Tufino; olives; a glass of Fonte del Duca, decidedly good, enjoyed it. Tonite after my second foray to the phone shop I'll make a proper dinner.

As I sat down to this snack, at 5:20, I set the dishwasher in motion; now 6:30 it's slogging away, still, and probably to judge by the dial for another half an hour yet, cheerful if soporific trainlike noise.

7:45 and the dishwasher still at it, albeit in a rinse-and‑dry cycle; waiting for the pasta to cook. Dinner: I've had the radicchio, then strangozzi salsa tartufata, yogurt, the prophylactic banana, and probably a glass of limoncello and to bed. (The phone shop, zilch, although I have a second SIM card and some instructions. . . .)

Later Notes:

a For that expedition (useful if the same thing happens to you), see diary, Mar. 4, continued on 5, 2004.

b I eventually did get there; see diary, Mar. 3, 2004.

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