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Wednesday 10 March 2004

8:52 A.M., Umbertide station, on the train to Sansepolcro with, supposedly, one minute to spare — though nobody else on train and no sign of impending movement.

Yesterday I went to Torgiano; a carefully calculated route; train to S. Martino in Campo, walk to Torgiano, then to Deruta, to the Madonna dei Bagni (di Bagno, del Bagno, depending on the signs or books), finally back to a northward bound station at Papiano. I could have done it in the opposite direction, but figured I'd be much safer finding the Madonna di Bagno, and making sure it was open, where to find the custode or the key, etc. by going thru Deruta first.

I'm glad I gave myself a bit of margin in getting to the station: my printed schedule had 0947, theirs at the station 0945; I immediately checked all the other Umbertide arrivals and departures, no other discrepancies: and in fact we left at 0947, a two-minute mystery.

More about S. Martino in Campo:

[image ALT: A rectangular marble plaque on a brick wall, with a seven-line inscription. It is a plaque commemorating King Umberto I of Italy, at S. Martino in Campo, near Perugia, Umbria (central Italy); the text is transcribed and translated on the linked webpage.]

At PSG the usual 20‑minute wait between trains, and we left at 10:43 arriving at S. Martino, the first station out, at 10:51. Now I didn't expect S. Martino to be anything much, and it isn't, but there's no point being somewhere and not looking around, so I found the center, sort of, of this diffuse little town, and looked at it. Monument to the war dead of the Great War, and on the 1960's? brick façade of an ordinary house across the way, a 1900 plaque commemorating King Umberto, assassinated that year; that looked like all, except for large hotel-restaurant complex Alla Posta dei Donini (pleasant gardens and I think I saw a pool in the back but I didn't poke around too much, private property after all) and Ristorante Pantagruel, billing itself on the next line "ristorante eccellente" — hey, somebody's got to do it — but dogged Boobykins kept on going and behind these low houses, inexplicably, a very tall church, brick, late 18c early 19c, closed; and across the way, a Madonnina, in bad shape.

There; now I've seen S. Martino in Campo. Got my directions, and made my way to Torgiano only 4½ km off; indifferent road thru mostly pastureland slowly being taken over by habitations, along the road at least: contrary to what I expected, few vines.

Torgiano sits on a little hill, approached by the usual highway ramp with a more direct ascent for the rest of us; before this on the left the Cantine Lungarotti, a big rectangular building with an adjunct, the office and outlet store. I went and stood in there for a while, about 4 people doing things, although whatever it was was very disorganized; by the computer at the main desk, a small plastic alarm clock: so either the computer is not on very much (it was on when I was there, big clunky gray Windows machine), or, speaking of Windows, frequent crashes make it more convenient to have a little red alarm clock. Anyway, I was eventually told the visits need pre-arranging, and at any rate these days (this very vaguely) she thought they were on vacation or something. Card: [. . .];​a website. My view, of course, that public relations starts at that office where I stood around . . . . perfectly understandably, mind you, early March hardly peak vineyard time, and Boobykins not overly interested in wine tours (and not fond of Lungarotti wines) — but still, you never know, and I tried. Off and up the hill and in under 10 minutes I was in Torgiano.

[image ALT: A lane of cypresses leading to a small church. It is the World War I memorial park in Torgiano, Umbria (central Italy).]

Torgiano: World War I memorial park, looking E from the Torre Baglioni to S. Maria dell' Ulivella. Note the flower-decorated memorial markers at the foot of the trees.

Torgiano's not much of a place, easily taken in in an hour; for which I was relieved, since happy discoveries like Corciano also cost money and time and rescheduling. The old part of the town (there is of course the usual rectangular sprawl along the roads) is the lens-shaped hill, with three main streets, that more or less reintersect at either end: the Porta S. Biagio end thru which I came in on the W, and the church end on the E. Nothing much to see — bits of medieval fresco on the outer walls of a house; in the middle of the town, the church of S. Maria, a small rectangular with 2 so‑so paintings inside, but mostly a fresco on the outside on the street (church immediately next to large restaurant Le Tre Vaselle, about which periodic talk on SlowTrav; but the only English I heard in town, and it was a lot by Umbrian standards, from large draggling group of college-age kids, Americans, who didn't look like they were here for expensive gastronomy); and the parish church, large brick thing built in 1797. The S face of the hill gives on balconywise to an extensive view of central Umbria: Bettona, attractive on her hill, and Deruta, but also in the distance Todi and farther still; a parking lot has been put here, with an outer trellised walk (March not at its best, must be very pretty later in the year) and a flourishing hedge of rosemary, parts of it in bloom, maybe 75 m long.

Beyond S. Bartolomeo the parish church, a downward-sloping lane, bordered with cypresses, to a lone tower — all that's left of the town's fortifications, Torgiano had a rough time of it in the Middle Ages fought over by Perugia and Assisi and others — the clear pride of the town, the Torre Baglioni. Beyond that, slopes gets a bit more pronounced, the church of S. Maria dell' Ulivella, the cemetery church. Beauti­ful, between these cypresses, but very quietly moving: each cypress has a little stone next to it, of some local soldier who never made it back home from the Great War: I counted at least 74 of these markers, many of them with fresh flowers (fresh, very few plastic), a whole generation of twenty-year‑olds cut down. Name, date, summary details: deceduto per ferita (most) — per malattia — in prigione — per asfissia — and maybe worst, disperso. Choked up when I walked among them, choked up now recording it.

[image ALT: A roughly cubical stone about 30 cm on a side, on the bare ground next to a tree. It bears a rectangular plaque with the inscription: 'Soldato | MICHETTI DAVID | deceduto per ferita | 1916'. A few low ornamental plants and a tall cylindrical votive candle complete the picture. It is a memorial marker, in the Umbrian town of Torgiano, to an Italian soldier who died in World War I.]

One of so many: memorial marker to David Michetti.

Out of Torgiano after just under two hours, an adequate visit of the place, down, W then S, traffic; towards Deruta. Pit stop at bar about 1 km out, next to another large closed brick church: a real slice-o'-life bar, a cross between the one in Cesi a few years back and the little place in Piedivalle in 2000, except smaller. Three farm workers smoking up a storm, old woman behind the counter a bit hard to understand (not quite enough teeth, I think); aranciata, a liter of fizzy water, then a large panino — flat country bread, capocollo, soft-paste cooked cheese in small wheels marked "Caseificio di Bettona" thus local — 6E00; wiser to eat, finally (I'd consumed my emergency chunk of sausage by 11:30 before I left S. Martino; for some reason very hungry all day yesterday).

Traffic to Deruta on road that was dull to unpleasant; stop at Ponte Nuovo, another late‑18c brick church (1793 according to a much weathered and only semi-readable inscription), closed; there seems to have been a program of building them at around that time.

And the instant I crossed over into the comune of Deruta — why the pottery starts, of course. The main drag of the borgo, the via Tiberina, an endless strip of ceramics; some of 'em don't even bother to label themselves "ceramiche" or "majolica d'arte" or whatever; after all what else could there be? plus all those windows, you can see plain as day — turning out to be a rather nice sunny day, too — that it's pottery.

Found a climbway up into the centro storico, and roughly 3000 steps later, I was standing in front of the museum. Caught my breath a bit, went in: no Katia colla K (four years ago, not even, and nobody's heard of her), but a gaggle of 4 young women; got the attention of one of them, told her no not today the museum, saw it in 2000 (right now, banners outside: Deruta Ceramics in the time of Perugino: on the current Perugino bandwagon but I doubt whether anything's changed in any major way — why should it?), but I hope you can tell me about the Madonna dei Bagni, whether it's open, when, where do I go if I need to get a key, etc.; and — I always dread having to say this because it can result in off reactions, chatter, dissuasion, you name it — I'm on foot so I really do need careful information, once I'm out there I'm stuck, you see. Well they were polite and gave me clear (and as it turns out, accurate) instructions; but I had a feeling somewhere that at some level, polite is in fact exactly what they were not being, but couldn't put my finger on it — Anyhow, slip of paper, with opening hours, 1500‑1730; since it was exactly 4, I thanked them and hustled back out, down, and continued my slow road, an extension of the via Tiberina; at the hotel Melody (big concrete hulk over­looking the highway) my road suddenly turned narrow, quiet, friendly, although twining its way around the Rome-Florence superstrada A1 — and I got to the chapel at 4:40; which had just been closed for the day, two middle-aged women getting in their car to drive away.

[image ALT: An ornamental majolica plaque giving the opening hours of the chapel of the Madonna dei Bagni, near Deruta, Umbria (central Italy).]
The opening hours as posted at the entrance.

I was, of course, furious — realizing at the same time that these two ladies had zilch to do with it; but as I told 'em (suddenly realizing they were nuns: a discreet badge with a cross on the inside lapel of one woman's coat) I'd done absolutely everything right, and trusted people to give me good information — oh I was livid. . . . The good sisters offered to ride me back to Deruta (which of course would have been even farther out of my way), and finally — pretty much against my wishes and needs — insisted they'd take me to the station in Papiano (all I wanted was info how to get there) — what a mess.

The weather in all this had got very good, 98% clear and not too cold; couldn't stay upset very long with Umbria — although I did spend five minutes wondering about passive aggression, finally concluding with a likelihood of about 60% that it was just carelessness somewhere along the line. My two nuns said they'd had problems of this kind with the museum before, and they'd sent off the opening hour schedule not very long ago (to Perugia for some reason, not to Deruta).

[image ALT: A very small free-standing brick chapel, with a footprint no greater than that of an average modern bedroom, although it is about a story and a half tall. It is the chapel of S. Catherine of Siena in Papiano Stazione, Umbria (central Italy).]

Papiano Stazione: Cappella S. Caterina.

Papiano Stazione, about 3 km from Papiano, which is up on that ridge W of the railway that goes all the way to Perugia, was hardly a place I expected to find anything of historical interest; but — in front of the train hut a tiny chapel, brick, with a tile lunette over the door: thank you St. Catherine for saving us from the bombing raid of April 30, 1944: and an unexploded bomb set up behind the chapel, on an inscribed base! Papiano Stazione much more fortunate than Umbertide just five days earlier; and unfortunately, Umbertide much more populated: if I'd been St. Catherine I'd have tried to save Umbertide.

And my train, on time; my second, on time too, and back home a few minutes after 7. The beauti­ful clear weather gave us vignette-like views of Deruta on its hill (and to the south Collazzone surely it must be, on its much higher hill), then Torgiano, with behind it Subasio its top 200 m covered in snow.

For some reason (only 14 km walking, 14 km seems to be what I do these days), I was exhausted as well as very hungry: ate two platefuls of pasta (oil, garlic, parmesan), half a pear, some cheese, a banana, two yogurts, olives, bits of sausage — then to bed, and fell asleep almost immediately kerzonk.

This morning, the weather report was overcast, maybe rain; the soles of my feet hurt (this is definitely not good! I've been doing very little walking, there's no reason for it): put it all together and I took myself to Sansepolcro, the end of the FCU rail line; plus I had to be back home before 4 when Karen Fronduti would be here.

Train left at 9:10 this morning (I'd misread the schedule) and got to Sansepolcro at 9:55, on time. Before Castello, fairly nice landscape; after, solid houses all the way to Sansepolcro, on the starboard side; on the W side of the train, almost, but not quite: between S. Giustino and Sansepolcro, which I guess could be called densely inhabited countryside, flat as a board with distant high mountains behind it.

Getting off at Sansepolcro, sort of mentally pinched myself not to start my usual "here be Tuscany, there I don't like it", telling myself not only that's foolish, but besides, Sansepolcro after all is just a km or two across the border. So I step off the train and in 50 m see a plaque on the (long) fortifications, Cosimo Medici, duke of Florence and Siena. . . .

I spent my time in town looking at churches, mostly S. Giovanni Evangelista or more precisely its contents: lots of good painting, some nice sculpture as well; and the Madonna delle Grazie, a much smaller church but more congenial to me since it's the actual fabric of the church: a very good carved wooden ceiling, 16c; the Madonna got the colored paint and the central place, but Christ on another of the coffers, and lots of panels with skulls — church was the chapel of a burial confraternity.

[image ALT: A coffered wooden ceiling panel depicting a skull and two crossed tibias surmounting a stylized group of three hills, and in turn crowned by a Greek cross with trefoiled extremities, and flanked by the letters M and G. It is a detail of the ceiling of the chapel of S. Maria delle Grazie in Sansepolcro, Tuscany (central Italy).]

Can't stay I know the town backwards and forwards, but a fair idea of it; weather turning cold and totally overcast — it'd started out sort of half-and‑half — took the earlier of my train choices back, and home at 1:40 P.M. Lunch (strangozzi), then a bit of housecleaning, fed Big White, watched a TV segment on the Tasmanian "tiger", which I didn't realize was a striped marsupial wolf in fact, nor that closely related to the equally Tasmanian devil, nor for that matter that Tasmania is as big as Ireland. I hope we find a way of rebuilding all these lost species from DNA, poor things (not a very logical train of thought, I guess, since it's the individual life that is of value and of course everything dies — Booby in full sentimental swing here).

At 4 and a bit, Karen Fronduti banged at the door (no ringer, and heavy door knocker, not prepared for it!) bringing with her Cristina Migliorati, archaeology dottoressa student of Coarelli's, huge thesis on Etruscan presence in Umbria: makes perfect sense, and I'd never really given the matter the thought I should have, that the Tiber, the further you go upstream, becomes less and less of the academically convenient magical dividing line between Etruscans and Umbrians; she notes that Pliny says that the Tiber separates Etruria from Umbria for a determinate number of miles (just checked: III.53 = 150 miles) which means that at some point, it does not. All of which makes great good sense, especially when you see the terrain up here: yesterday I was struck how much bigger the Chiascio is than the Tiber before they join (I crossed both near Torgiano). Anyhoo Cristina personable, attractive and bright, what more might one want? and her son Alberto, about 8 maybe? shy and remarkably well-behaved considering how boring the afternoon must have been for him; although I did take them on a tour of the house, which really is kinda neat: it was after all the widdle boy in me that had such a good time when I arrived here 15 days ago, how time flies.

Karen less subdued in person than over the phone and speaks perfectly decent Italian (as one might expect after umpteen years of marriage and life here), though with a strong American accent, rather like my own mother, married all those years to an American, never lost her French accent, and she a phonetician to boot.

Cristina brought me pieces of CIL for Castello and Umbertide; for which I'm grateful: including the inscription in the Palazzo Comunale here, which she hadn't seen, so off we went to peer at it in the staircase; although add to the usual problems of epigraphy and my inexpert Latinity my deteriorating eyesight, frustrating. And we parted in the piazza XXV Aprile — I returned home after a quick shop for essentials da Angelo, to find Karen's cellphone; called the first name on the list, reached her son Carlo, hey your Mom left her phone at my house: in a few minutes Karen on the horn, will swing by some evening soon to pick it up.

And so — three yogurts, swig of pear juice — to bed; now 9:15. News reports that the scum that murdered Leon Klinghoffer died in prison of a heart attack, far better than he deserved, and hope it's not true, that we did something horrible to him: but we probably didn't, alas.

Later Note:

a At her request, and in the interest, among other things, of keeping automated trawlers from collecting the e‑mail address and flooding her in‑box with spam (amusingly, at the time most of mine was coming from Italy!), the information on the official business card of the director of Public Relations, Cantine Giorgio Lungarotti, which is transcribed in the diary, is omitted here. The gentle reader may of course write me for the information, useful since this is where you need to go to make prearrangements for any visit to the vineyard and its cellars, and oddly, the information does not appear on the Lungarotti website. [Sep 2021: the information is surely by now long out of date.]

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Page updated: 4 Sep 21