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Thursday 18 March 2004

Two more days back to back to try and save some money: yesterday a circular walk, no transportation costs and if I spent 15E70 on food, only 1E40 was on the road, the rest was house food. Today I went to Foligno, which as I told James in a letter, I really don't know, having spent half my time avoiding it and the other half maligning it. . . .

Yesterday's walk was my best jab at Romeggio - Polgeto - Borgo S. Giuliana - Eremo di Montecorona and back home. I left the house at 11:02 and was back at 19:02. I didn't quite see Romeggio — a very small place — because off the road by a few hundred meters; Polgeto, attractive castle lived in, according to people at the alimentari (actually, the tabaccaio, but had some food) ½ km later, by an American who used to be Italian but came back from the US with an American name, John Abbott, and — like the rest of this, very unclear — possibly runs an agriturismo or paid visits:​a the property did, though, seem to have a split identity, warning you it was private, yet bilingual signs "Uscita/Exit" rather unusual for a strictly private house. My memories of Polgeto will mostly be of the tabaccaio's beauti­ful 11‑year‑old setter (game leg, but still loves to go hunting), Briciolo — 2 days after he was born, his mother died, whence the name — sweet, friendly disposition.

[image ALT: An English setter lying on his side on a patch of asphalted pavement. He is Briciolo, a dog I met in Umbria.]

[image ALT: A castle, distinguished from a large house only by a square battlemented tower about 12 meters tall. It is Polgeto, Umbria (central Italy).]

The castle of Polgeto, about 4 km SW of Umbertide.

Montacuto was easy to get to, but after that, despite — or possibly because of — Angelo's explanations, path maps by the comprensorio, etc. I got quite lost, never found Galera that was supposed to be reachable from Montacuto by an OK road, and instead wound up clambering up a coupla hundred meters of Monte Acuto, eventually hitting a road which, however, decided to send me right back down into the valley to Podere S. Giuliano; from there endless switchbacks to what turned out to be Borgo S. Giuliana,​1 a gated community if there ever was one — a castle with one main entrance and a small back entrance, the restoration of which paid for by the Italian government, but private property bought up by Americans and an Australian (this according to Angelo today).​b

[image ALT: A huddle of about a dozen tile-roofed stone houses and a church with a two-arched open belfry of the type known as a \'campanile a vela\'. The village is enclosed by a stone wall, parts of which can be seen, and the main gate, on the right, capped by a square tower about 15 meters tall. In the foreground, a few olive trees; in the background, a steep pine-forested hill and no sky. It is a view of the gated compound of Borgo S. Giuliana, Umbria (central Italy).]

About 9 km SSE of Umbertide: the fortress town of S. Giuliana.

Even more endless switchbacks — beauti­ful weather, and rather warm, mid-70's, unseasonable — up to the Eremo di Montecorona, another gated community, several million dollars worth of it with apparently a phenomenal view, but very much a hermitage: what the visitor sees is a chapel with a sign telling you they don't have the money to provide heat, sorry; two other signs asking you to give them money; and a shop where they'll sell you religious artifacts and for that you can ring and a hermit will appear for the transaction. Not so much as a source of water — I'd run out — and I walked down to the Badia (pleasant strada bianca with an occasional view) then the dull highway back home.

[image ALT: The tiled rooftops of a complex of six or seven buildings, with an octagonal brick belfry jutting up well above the rest; in the background, a range of tall hills. It is a view of the abbey of S. Salvatore di Montecorona, near Umbertide, Umbria (central Italy).]

The belfry and roofs of the abbey of S. Salvatore di Montecorona, as seen from the road down from the hermitage. (For full details, see my pages on the abbey, of course.)

Today, Foligno by 10: wandered the streets until 3‑something, then got the 3:53 train to PSG and was home by 5:15 or so. Foligno still dismal but seems somewhat cleaner than my memories of it, although the Canale dei Molini still unkempt and surely a breeding-ground for skeeters. The main thing: I did get inside S. Maria infra Portas — thank God and Marco Prins for this camera; signs prominently repeated: NO FLASH — and I was able to do a good photo shoot of pretty much the whole church in varying shades of darkness, with no flash, of course: and no-flash photography gives much truer colors, too. A nice church, and includes a rare depiction of St. Dismas. Curiously, the back streets of Foligno reminded me this time, mostly pink stucco, of Cartagena; and it just this instant occurred to meº that my only previous St. Dismas was also in Cartagena —

[image ALT: A painting of a young bearded man, naked to the waist, holding an episcopal cross. It is a fresco in the church of S. Maria Infra Portas in Foligno, Umbria (central Italy); only the inscription \'DISMAS LATRO\' identifies him not as Jesus, but as the Good Thief St. Dismas.]

St. Dismas: fresco in the church of S. Maria Infraportas, Foligno.

I now have a clearer idea, too, of the Duomo: a sort of copy of St. Peter's, complete with a Confessio in front of the twisted-column baldacchino: leading into where the real stuff is, the 12c crypt apparently full of inscriptions and things, the only part that was closed of course.

But once the churches close — dismal, arid, dull; I held out for a while, but finally caved in and had a sort of lunch: a piadina, a glass of grechetto, a butter-cream pastry and a coffee, in a little caffé-tabaccaio right next to the church of S. Giacomo, a center of giallorossismo — striking poster on wall, fans waving red-and‑yellow en masse in a stadium; Franco the owner, who works 6½ days a week (chiusura: domenica pomeriggio) reminded me as I left to put out that he was a giallorosso. . . .

Walking back from the station across the moat into Umbertide centro, who should I meet but Angelo out for a walk (Thursday afternoon is his ½ day off, but he gives himself Sunday as well); who told me I should have rang and bugged the monks yesterday: I told him if they wanted to be left alone — every, every indication of it — I wasn't going to bother them; "wanting to talk to a monk" as the signs up there is one thing, but traipsing around to coo at the view and snap photos is another — even if I have a whole train of thought on just how a few fortunate people managed to get this luxury paradise at the expense of the church, and ultimately at the expense of who? a very sizable chunk of top real estate up there.

Dinner: a repeat of the other night's pasta piccantina, a beer; radicchio; bed.

Note in the Diary:

1 both accurate, and confirmed by maps.

Later Notes:

a A few weeks later I met a member of the family, who confirmed that this was indeed quite a garble.

b In 2007, this paragraph elicited an e‑mail in which an anonymous writer assured me that, contrary to what my local source believed and told me, "no funds were received from any organization — governmental or otherwise — for the restoration of Borgo Santa Giuliana". I have no opinion on the matter, one way or the other. The careful reader will have noticed that in my diary I merely report what someone told me at the time.

My anonymous correspondent was right, though: on p110 of the excellent brochure by Giulio Foiani and Eva Giacchè, A Spasso per Umbertide (Digital Editor srl 2021, 120pp) we read that the walled village had been abandoned and was on its way to ruin, when in 1975 it was bought by a consortium of foreigners of various nationalities and beauti­fully restored.

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