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Monday 29 March 2004

Santarcangelo, waiting room in the train station, around 8:05 A.M. (with train at 8:26); going back home to Umbria, of course.

Yesterday morning very leisurely, Sunday after all; while Karen woke up, Vincenzo and I went into town — Santarcangelo — and had breakfast at the Caffé delle Rose, which he said was voted one of the top 32 caffés in all of Italy, which I can well believe: beauti­ful little rooms, a huge selection of fancy, meticulously decorated pastries, but also, the finishing touches as we were standing there (me with a plate of 4 tiny pastries, a sampler I couldn't resist, excellent), a very nice spread of antipasti quite enough to make a sort of brunch of. Beauti­ful sunny weather, even almost warm; by the time we got back to the house, clouded over and even threatening rain.

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Caffé delle Rose, Santarcangelo di Romagna: just part of the pastry case.

Notwithstanding, they decided to give me Brisighella rather than an exhibit of 16c art in Rimini — I'm not much either on expositions nor on the 16c — and off we went to Brisighella around 11:20; about an hour's drive, most of it a stretch of interstate to Faënza, board-flat built-up country; Brisighella though tucked away up the valley of the Lamone, narrower and more Umbrian than anything in these parts.

The town is a sort of knot to the side of the river, with three large crags brooding over it: the one nearest where the valley opens onto the plain has a clock tower on top it (built in 1290 and totally rebuilt in the 19c) with no room for anything else at all on it; the next one has much more room on top, and is crowned by a very attractive rocca, two power­ful cylindrical towers of different periods; the third, shading off into the countryside, the 18c church of S. Maria di Monticino.

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Brisighella: the Rocca.

Karen and Vincenzo had been here for a sagra a while back, and he knows his way around; we walked thru the piazza Marconi: one side much as in those piazze that came to replace Roman amphitheaters for example (like Lucca), I ought to have suspected something — we walked back towards the center of town via a covered street on the second floor of the arched building on that side: the Via degli Asini, or more genteelly, del Borgo, considered one of the sights of Brisighella, and attractive.

[image ALT: A curving continuous façade of stuccoed buildings along a quite two-lane street; the buildings are all three stories plus a ground floor. The upper two stories have wooden-shuttered windows, but the story above the ground floor has a series of semicircular openings as far as the eye can reach. It is a view of one side of the Piazza Marconi in Brisighella, Italy.]

The pleasant façade with arched windows
conceals a walkway, part of the medieval defenses of the town.

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We walked up to the Torre dell' Orologio; at the very top, we were met by a gate and a posted schedule, which, as it happens, we'd anticipated by a few minutes — then in fact by a few more, since the three girls who opened were running late; 1E50 per adult, but this is an egregious tourist trap: absolutely nothing, architectural, view, or other, that can't be seen just as well without paying the entrance fee — and inside, a "museum" in fact consisting mostly of things on sale with the vaguest connection with the tower (miniature astrolabes because them is medieval instruments that can be used to tell time, etc.). In the States, this would be what we call a "roadside attraction".

No further walks up long staircases into anything — the Rocca perfectly visible and beauti­ful where we were, and besides a large crane and I bet that had it been open, it would have been closed, so to speak. Instead we walked to the piazza Carducci, the main square — all torn up — and sat at a caffé across from the church; the Collegiata S. Michele, that I went off and squinted at: huge hulk of brick, much nicer from far away: a couple of good paintings inside, but mostly, just large.

Almost irresistible logic, carwise, set us up for a bit of zoom travel, a wander thru the center of Faënza, only about 13 km away. Piazza del Popolo, pleasant shape, arcaded, fun fountain full of dragons and lions and griffins; and another huge church, very likely the Duomo, tucked away in a sort of corner of the piazza, with what Karen very aptly called an angry façade, all bristling with bricks sticking out at various angles. Inside not much more success­ful, but we looked at it. A chapel is marked as housing the bones of S. Emiliano: I wonder if this is the same saint as the patron of Trevi.

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Faenza: the Fontana di Piazza, in the Piazza della Libertà.

In all this the weather had become positively beauti­ful; the plain still not great — highway — but with blue skies and large tracts of carefully espaliered peach trees all in bloom, pink for sometimes hundreds of yards at a stretch, not bad. Brief stop at an Auto Grill (I'd of course never been in one), and back to the house in Ciola, where I had just the time to write the week's letter to James before we went out to dinner around 8:15 at La Sangiovesa, an osteria apparently attached to a restaurant, light food mostly: I had an artichoke, a pinzimonio, and a little dish of tripe, a B; Vincenzo, who's worked in wine for years, chose us a Bursón (an unseemly name, but an honest one, the name of the varietal, that's what the grapes look like), quite good, and perfect with my tripe, which was in some kind of light tomato sauce. A piece of cherry cheesecake for dessert (torta allo sciacquerona e alle amarene: sour cherries to be more accurate) and an odd little liqueur, a mix of elderberry flower and quince — an infusion-type rather than a distillate unfortunately, so a bit bland, but pleasant.

And with that, back thru the floodlit piazza Ganganelli, brief car, and to bed.

Today of course quite eventless so far; up as usual a bit before the sun, out of the house by 7:20 or so — Vincenzo goes back to work, it's Monday; good-bye to Karen first, then after a cappuccino in town, to Vincenzo who dropped me off at the station: they were perfect hosts, and I had a very quiet pleasant taste of Romagna; now back to "work" in Umbria — five trains on the schedule today, I'm right now on the third: Santarcangelo to Rimini, to Falconara Marittima, to Foligno (now approaching Fabriano), to PSG, to Umbertide where I should arrive at 4:10 P.M.: a schedule which would have been much shorter had I opted to spend money on an elevenish EuroStar out of Falconara rather than the regular at 12:35; two hours in Falconara Marittima seems a bit much: I went walking a bit, a bit more than I've ever done there, but not much to see — along the sea it's businesses, railroad track and beach (reached by overpasses or under­ground passages, and the beach not one of the jewels of the Adriatic, although still fine sand); away from the coast, streets start to climb into the trees, big pleasant villas, but I found nothing old: I think it's all in Falconara Alta, a different town altogether at some few kilometers away. Anyhow, I'm on my way back home.

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