Short URL for this page:

[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
mail: Bill Thayer 
[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]

Friday 26 March 2004

On the 8:01 to Perugia — the last train out of Umbertide this morning, because of the 4‑hour strike — and still one day behind. Long trip to S. Arcangelo di Romagna today should get me caught up, maybe even on some letters.

Yesterday morning then, having scotched my original plan (which would have involved 21 km walk, the visit of one entire town and that of the by all accounts wonder­ful abbey of Fiastra, then finding an unknown station in a small place, all by 1:48 P.M., the last train providing the one, two, three connections needed to get me home),​a I left my room around 8:15; no breakfast, not at 10E, plus still coasting on dinner from the night before.

The busy highway to Passo, a bit past the intersection to Treia, another intersection up to the scenic Pollenza; with at the foot of the hill, having crossed the Potenza River and thus into a place called Molino, a choice of roads up, both arrowed Pollenza: I chose the one that looked less travelled, and I think it was actually the back road — much more pleasant walking, at any rate. Pollenza carefully out of sight until it pops out at you at the last minute, starting right away with the (former) Duomo: huge medieval belfry, square, stone,​b that contributes so prominently to the picturesqueness of the town, at close range is attached to a very moderately attractive yellow plastered neoclassical façade.

[image ALT: A large brick and stone building, consisting of a main body on the left looking much like an 18c theater, with pedimented 4‑column portico, and of a square belfry twice as tall on the right. It is the cathedral of Pollenza in the Marche (central Italy).]

The Duomo of Pollenza (S. Biagio).

From there, the main street, a straight line into the center of town, a largish piazza with the comune, the attractive brick church of S. Maria del Suffragio, other buildings, a caffé. Pollenza is more or less on the same plan as Torgiano: main church at one end, central street, and two other streets one on either side, that bow out then reattach at the other end (gate). Walked all three of the main streets then — clean, brick but rather little of the decorative effects you find in Treia, and more plastered houses — and some of the small connecting lanes; and found the Roman altar (which the TCI says serves as a Monumento ai Caduti, although I saw no sign of this, and the Palazzo Comunale's tower has the usually impressive plaques) in the middle of its small square, the piazza Ricci: no graffiti or other defacements, and the inscription still quite readable despite exposure to the elements for who knows how many years.

Back to the main piazza to scour up some breakfast. From the closed caffé I was directed to an inconspicuous door at the corner of a building, the Circolo; misgivings, since of course not a member and had never been in one, but the front room — back prominently marked off-limits to us non-soci — like any other bar. Had a cappuccino and two pastries (Booby not getting particularly thin this trip) and did some of my usual appreciative chirping about how good the coffee is and how beauti­ful the countryside is — which is certainly true: stunning panoramas from Macerata and Treia and Pollenza all, and gently rolling hills of harmonious green thruout, gorgeous walking country but even from the train — and as I prepared to leave, found that inadvertently I'd again paid for my coffee with this chit-chat of mine (I hope I'm not subconsciously developing a dreadful habit of mooching off people and paying with my mother's notorious charm): Consuelo — the young woman at the bar, wearing a Bart Simpson sweatshirt; not Spanish, her mother named her after a character in a movie — absolutely insisted my coffee and (good) pastries were on the house; Maria-Pia, elegant woman in her forties also behind the bar concurring. What can you do? I thanked them, and left.

Funeral though, cortège just leaving S. Biagio — and of course my exit route was the same as theirs, the gate at the other end of town; I therefore followed at a respect­ful distance. A large funeral with nearly two hundred people and dozens of wreaths: Barbarina Carletti, aged 91, died Wednesday; and most of the town was accompanying her to her grave, the bells of S. Biagio tolling three times on each bell, high, middle, low, then over again, as the procession crossed the entire town down the main street and thru the piazze.

[image ALT: A narrow street between three-story buildings, receding into the background; in the mid-ground of the photo, the street widens out some, and a crowd of several hundred people, walking away from the viewer, occupies most of the street, with only a small bit of pavement visible in the foreground. It is a funeral in Pollenza, a town of central Italy.]

Pollenza, the funeral of Barbarina Carletti.

At the back gate, I eventually found my road, a small one more or less bisecting the angle of two more travelled roads, which I hoped would take me to the station at Sforzacosta: it eventually did, probably 7+ km. Beauti­ful countryside, not much traffic, and near perfect weather with good blue skies and much warmer than Wednesday's sometimes gelid walks.

Before Sforzacosta, an excrescence of it, Casette Verdini; twenty years ago, maybe even twelve, it may have been a few small houses,​c but not any more: developments of a dozen five-story apartment buildings, shopping centers, industrial and commercial outlets, large concrete buildings labeled "Ristorante", you name it. The Casette being in the comune of Pollenza, they must pump up the population and the prosperity; Pollenza itself is small and not as inhabited as it could be, although, or so it struck me, more so than Treia — and both places undergoing widespread restoration.

Sforzacosta station though unmarked wasn't too hard to find; and because of my abbreviated walk I got there in time for the 13:12 instead of the 13:48 — an apparent difference of only forty minutes, but because all connections were much better, instead of getting me home at 8:20 P.M., I'd get home at 5‑something. (My decision to cut out Fiastra was a very good one: that would have been a very rushed frazzled walk and I'da had to zoom thru both Pollenza and Fiastra, hardly worth doing it.)

One further thing, though. No ticket window at tiny station, but as I learned in Papiano that won't stop them from fining you; a sort of truffa much like speed traps in the American South — but still, they'll get you just the same. So: fine print at the station said a rivenditoria autorizzata, 113 v. Nazionale; I found it about 2 blocks away, a tabaccaio — dead closed of course, and shuttered too. Came back to the station and told a couple waiting there, also no tickets, let's try and hang together, not let 'em stiff us.

Train arrived on time; and bimeby the conductor — me: I need to buy a ticket onboard; him: 5 euros; me: 'zat including some sort of fine? coz y'know, no ticket window, plus rivenditoria closed, that ain't fair — them too (wave at couple across from me). Him: well, OK, I'm going to trust you, 3E36 — and he opens his booklet, and a postcard in it of the Madonna della Ghea which of course I instantly recognized and being me said oh, the Madonna della Ghea! Conductor peers at me rather more friendly now, turns out he lives within a few hundred yards of it, so I told him I lived in Fossato for a while in the paese, next to probably pal of his since a ferroviario, though now retired, Paolo Rossi — yes, pal of his — we talk about Mrs. Rossi, hanging in there poor dear but now very old; all this quite immaterial but firmly nails down my trustworthiness in the matter of the ticket. . . . My couple from the train station a bit surprised at all this, and their attempt to place Fossato (let alone the Madonna della Ghea) not as success­ful. . . .​d

Eventless series of trains back home, everything on time: change in Fabriano, change in Foligno, change in PSG; with the added fillips that the last leg cost me nothing: a program whereby anyone travelling in Umbria between 0900 and 1700 travelled free — no good for tickets from elsewhere, but who's arguing. To bed after two loads of laundry, essential if I'm to have anything to wear this weekend, and as a guest too; dinner: pasta, garlic, grated parmesan, pecorino; yogurt. Gotta get some more fruit and vegetables —

This morning the plan was the 8:01 out of Umbertide, taking me all the way in to Perugia before the 9:00 witching hour when the strike began; visit Perugia during the 4 hours of the strike — lots of stuff I haven't seen yet — and leave by the 13:18 for Foligno, then the series of changes to put me in or near Santarcangelo di Romagna.

The first part went just fine; and sure enough, plenty of things to see, starting with my first careful look at the Fontana Grande, which took nearly an hour. Surprisingly uncohesive iconography: the lower tier starts with the trivium and quadrivium made to add to 8 out of at least a semblance of cohesion (since they come in pairs): interesting folk-respelling of RHETORICA as RECTORICA, hand representations of numbers​e under ARISMETICA — then Romulus and Remus and other Roman stuff, then a handsome calendar, starting in January (which in itself is interesting). The upper tier no better organized, at least that I could see: allegorical figures, saints, Old Testament figures; some of whom I couldn't identify, although I suspect the legends will be readable back home when I blow up my pix.

[image ALT: A pair of two vertical rectangular stone panels separated by a slender hexagonal column. The panel on the viewer's left shows a robed man seated and holding a large ledger, taking dictation from a crowned woman on the right. The panel on the right shows another seated man making precise gestures with the fingers of each hand, in response to the similar gestures of a woman facing him to our right. The carvings are details of the Fontana Grande in Perugia, Umbria (central Italy): they represent Rhetoric and Arithmetic.]

Perugia, Fontana Grande: Rhetoric and Arithmetic.

Marble, last quarter of the 13c, by Nicola and Giovanni Pisano.

After that, I meandered back down towards the Torre degli Sciri to see if today I'd have any better luck with the churches that last time were closed; and S. Agata, at least, was open. Most of the frescoes there are pretty deteriorated, although not that bad in the sense that it's the colors that have all turned to blacks or greys (I vaguely seem to remember that this is the effect of either nitre or saltpeter?), but the designs remain quite readable: they'd have to do something to reverse the chemical damage — this may be or become possible. The most interesting item in the church, though, stares you in the face as you walk in, but it wasn't 'til I was leaving, by the same single door, that I noticed it: a representation of the Trinity as a man with a three-faced head. While strange — well the Trinity itself is strange — it's much more success­ful than the bizarre fresco in the Rocca Flea in Gualdo that I wasn't allowed to photograph.​f

[image ALT: A fresco of a haloed man standing in front of an embroidered curtain; in his left hand a book, his right is raised in a Christian blessing. His head has three faces, looking toward us, to the right, and to the left. It is a representation of the Trinity in the church of S. Agata in Perugia, Umbria (central Italy).]

Three-faced Trinity in the church of S. Agata, Perugia.

The tiniest pieces, supposedly, of Roman road under glass in the same via dei Priori, like Amelia​g but on an absurdly small scale; most of the Roman road can be seen in bits and pieces in the walls of buildings on or near the v. dei Priori, including S. Agata: very often placed in the corners — bigger, more structurally satisfactory stones.

An open door, two large pastries and a cappuccino — this will have to be lunch — at the Pasticceria dell' Accademia, where I got to sit down a bit and read the newspaper; inauspicious headline: guy goes into a bar, asks for a glass of water, quaffs it down in a flash except good Lord it was an industrial detergent. (Newspaper's comment on the damages sought — the victim is a lawyer and won't be able to appear usefully in court for months, of course — 750,000 E — was that this is one of those dream awards. . . ! This certainly isn't the US: imagine an attorney settling a case like this for less than a million dollars!!)

[image ALT: The top of a small round table; on it a cup of coffee with a swirl of milk, a plate with a rectangular slab of strawberry tart and another pastry sprinkled with powdered sugar, and further back, a folded newspaper showing the headline 'Al bar detersivo invece di acqua' — commented on in the text of this webpage.]

Lunch and reading material.

Up to the terrace with the view above the Viale dell' Indipendenza and from there down to S. Giuliana, trying to do it by the scenic route: succeeding for the first third, a couple of handsome gates and a very narrow and very steep street called the via del Paradiso: I want to imagine the name due to someone a few hundred years ago with a sense of humor (and a good exegetical sense as well), but the real reason will probably be something blander — S. Giuliana itself closed, as always (actually: open 0900‑1300 on Sundays) since it's part of the Italian equivalent of our Monterey language school — down to the station a bit early (you never know, and in fact I turned out right, a train left earlier for PSG than I expected).

So far so good; but then my "expected" (actually, hoped-for) 13:18 to Foligno, on which depended the whole edifice that put me in Rimini by just after 5 — was canceled; the few additional minutes wait at PSG now make me get to Rimini around 7:20 if all goes well from here on: the reverse of my luck yesterday in Sforzacosta. So after a wait of nearly an hour and a half in Foligno, I'm on the Ancona: one more change, in Falconara for Rimini where I suspect I'll be picked up — vediamo.

Later Notes:

a A 21 km walk, the visit of one entire town, then the abbey of Fiastra: with so little time available, deciding against this was wise. I eventually did see Urbisaglia, Maestà and Chiaravalle di Fiastra (diary entry: May 24, 2004); it took a whole day — and even then it was on the fast side.

b A curious mistake; as you saw in the photo, the belfry is not stone, but brick. The mistake is probably due to the unadorned brick looking much more solid than the plaster. Still, students of history should notice that even a fairly attentive eyewitness writing within a few hours is not to be trusted; occasional other examples in my diary as well.

c The turn my diary takes might mystify those with no Italian; it's a gloss on the name of the place: casette means "small houses".

d Despite having lived 3 months in Fossato di Vico, I'd never actually seen the church of the Madonna della Ghea; I got my chance during this stay in 2004: see diary, Apr. 16.

e The hand gestures in the relief below aren't random at all, or shouldn't be; you may want to try and see what arithmetical problem is being given by Arithmetic and whether her student's solution is correct: using as your guide the Finger Notation section of J. H. Turner's Roman Elementary Mathematics.

f See diary, July 30, 2000; the fresco in Gualdo has three distinct heads, though, rather than one head with three faces as here. Not long after this visit to S. Agata, I saw yet another three-headed Trinity at the Pieve di Canoscio, and in the last few days of my stay in 2004, yet another, in the church of S. Maria in Ponte. Given the many, many churches in the region, though, these curious images remain rare — and S. Agata's Picasso-like single head with three faces is still the only one I've seen anywhere.

g Diary, Sept. 18, 1998.

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 7 Dec 20