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Thursday 25 March 2004

— and I was just too tired to keep on writing —

— when I suddenly found myself in front of a sign that said "Il Vecchio Granaio";º stupidly, when the Hotel Lauri made me my reservation I didn't bother remembering the name of the agriturismo; but this rang a bell, and I climbed the hill: and sure enough, it was the place they'd reserved me at. Well, I thought I was further from Passo di Treia than I was; and I thought Passo di Treia would mean the place marked on my map, due S of Treia, that would save me some walking today — but it was in fact 1.6 km E of the crossroads, and at first I thought that was too much, so I thought I'd cancel my reservation, so started to do so; then convinced myself otherwise — the easiest won out, I took the room, freshening up and dropping most of my stuff in the room, reëmerging with the bare minimum camera bag, plus instructions for a shortcut up to Treia, since the drivers' road takes you first to Passo, then a circuitous route around back, about 5 km.

After listening carefully to the shortcut, I took the car road. . . . More nasty traffic to Passo, then a circuitous road, and none too pretty, but less traffic at least, up around the W side of Treia, that did, however, give me a good idea of the topography. Finally into Treia.

Now Treia was a place I'd got an idea about from the DeAgostini guidebook, and really from one phenomenal photo in it: somehow walking from Macerata I got my directions tangled and I labeled "Treia" the extraordinary views of Pollenza for miles and miles from Macerata; Treia less impressive, and often even invisible from that unpleasant road — but the Vecchio Granaio straightened me out. Anyway, given the circumstances, I realized I might be letting myself in for a disappointment, that Treia was in all likelihood a sort of nothing of a place, etc.; and from the back entrance, it pretty much looked like it.

[image ALT: A long ridge, about 100 meters high, rising out of a very flat farmland plain. Small knots of three and four houses dot a road that is not so much seen as guessed, winding its way to the crest of the ridge, marked by a small town with several church belfries poking up out of it. It is a view of Pollenza in the Marche (central Italy).]

Pollenza, not Treia.
The views of the town are mesmerizing, even somewhat dangerous from that blasted highway.

But in fact coming into the town I warmed to it; OK, so it's all brick, and by now I know myself well: I don't like brick; all these basically dingy places with brick belfries, mmph — gimme stone, for God's sake.

But Treia is different. Two things about the brick: it's clean, and most of it yellow rather than dark red and dirty; and it's structural. The Duomo for example on Piazza della Repubblica has one of those brick façades just like umpteen other Italian towns — except it's not in fact incomplete: look carefully and the brick façade is intentional and decorative, and beauti­ful (despite alas the restoration work and the construction equipment in the piazza). The Pro Loco: open; and a helpful pleasant gentleman there with good advice, who read me well. Map.

In sum, I spent an afternoon in Treia, prepared to be disappointed, and warming to it. The town is unusual in its use of brick, sober but there seems to be a tradition here of ornamental brick construction I haven't seen anywhere else, and it's a beauti­ful little place.

[image ALT: A triangular cracker that swells out on top into a sphere of bread. It is a calcione, a characteristic cheese pastry of Treia, a town in the Marche (central Italy).]

My calcione.

After spending my two hours poking around, I went and found myself a caffé; another piece of luck — Treia seems to have been lucky for me — at the Caffé Corradino (v. Bonvecchi, 3 — 62010 Treia — tel. 0733.215537), which, as it turns out, is named for Conrad of Antioch of all people, who was held prisoner here — not according to some vague modern fantasy, but according to medieval documents that can still be consulted in comune — in the actual caffé, which was the town prison in the Middle Ages: history never never very far from life in Italy! The owner behind the counter, Maurizio, his wife Carla and their daughter Cristina run the place, the bar surrounded with mirrors that let anyone there see every part of the house — I walked in hungry, a bit cold, and feeling like indulging in a good cup of coffee; a pastry case with calcioni: calcioni a special cheese pastry peculiar to Treia; cheese breads, though good, a dime a dozen thruout Italy, but these things are quite exceptional — a composite of a sort of cracker with a puff-pastry ball on it, very light-textured and with a special flavor, very good stuff, never had anything like it anywhere;​1 Maurizio said ya gotta have this with white wine, I said fine, I'll have what you drink with it; and he brought me a Sicilian wine he likes, nothing fancy but it did go well, Glicine —

I told him how old stone does something for me that no Perugino can: he took me into his cantina, mostly carved out of the live rock of Treia; and upstairs, a vaulted space with a small round skylight, which was, he said, the hole thru which food was dropped into the prison cells —

After my calcione (a tendencyº now to call them calzoni, but Maurizio said the proper form is calcione) my original idea of a cappuccino and a sweet pasta felt vulgar, but slosh out the mouth with a bit of fizzy water and I did have my cappuccino — I always miss the coffee when I go back home! — and a sweet pastry, a horn full of a mix of ricotta and raisins and a tiny bit of some slightly sweet alcohol —

In the course of what turned out to be a long conversation, I told them how I'd fallen in love with Umbria years ago and have slowly been extending it to the Marche since 2000, walking etc.; worried about today's projected walk to the Abbazia di Fiastra, with my last possible train back to Umbertide at 1348 — rather tight to leave the Vecchio Granaio at 8 and walk 21 km by then and see Pollenza and Fiastra too, I was worried about it.

The voice of God spoke from Carla, who asked me — she collects coins — if I had American coins with me. Well I didn't; they were, are, back at the house in Umbertide: and suddenly I realized I had to come back, and that that solved the problem today as well; if I come back, I don't have to run myself ragged to get to Fiastra then the station at Sforzacosta today: I'll do it then. I told her that God usually talks to us by kicking us in the but that's only because we don't listen to the other. To my horrific peril I now know better; and professional listener that I am (what else? of all people an interpreter ought to listen well!), I'm learning: I'll come back to Treia with her quarters: I have 4 quarters in Umbertide.​a And our conversation took a different turn after that; I can now see the frescoes at Maestà, the church at Rambona — they found out that it should be open in the afternoons 1500‑1830 giorni feriali — etc.; and they gave me a copy of the bus schedule from Macerata. So I should go back to Treia before I leave — the first excursion on this trip that I unambiguously enjoyed despite the awful road and the cold — and I'll now be able to see the SS. Crocifisso with the Roman lapidary remains; I'd inquired on arriving, but 2.5 km away, i.e. 5 km round trip on foot — I need to go slower.

Warm, good people — what else could they do but treat me to the calcione and white wine? and what else could I do but accept? And I left, regret­fully, at around 6, out the Porta Roma with instructions how to do it the pedestrian way, cutting out maybe 2 km from the drivers' way.

Natch, I got lost — dark found me somewhere, starting to head towards Macerata rather than my agriturismo. Slightly panicked call to the Vecchio Granaio from a dark road in the middle of nowhere; Rossano did his best but just couldn't figure out where I was — I finally made it back, mostly on instinct — after the phone call though I decided I couldn't pass the diningroom by (for one thing Rossano specifically asked me to let them know when I got back); at 7:45 I was sitting at a table in the diningroom.

An average meal, although maybe I didn't give them much of a chance: I had two primi, two contorni, e basta. Tagliatelle in rosso, B-; risotto ai funghi, C- (commercial-tasting and far too salty). Broccoli, with a fair amount of hot red pepper, peculiar but not bad, B; greens (of the kind old ladies go picking along highways), C- there too. House red, a glass: said to be della zona. Limoncello. 23E and I was, for the only time so far this trip, a bit full. Slept.

Note in the Diary:

1 The obligatory sagra del calcione (e del raviolo) is the 3d Sunday of June: used to be in the spring, but moved to insure good weather.

Later Note:

a And I did return to Treia: see diary, May 23‑24.

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