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Sunday 11 April 2004

Good Friday, the 9th, still not feeling great, and occasioned in part by the hot water question; Irene's husband Angelo at the house, then later the heater guy, who explained to me there was a serious leak somewhere in the system, but that all I needed to do was make absolutely sure never to turn on the hot water until I'd gone in under the tank and filled it up manually to 1 bar or more, then turn on the hot water, and everything would be OK. Hot bath; and in the evening, as planned, attended the Good Friday observance here (rather than some fancier more theatrical Good Friday somewhere else like Gubbio or Assisi — since after all, right now, I live here, not there).

The Good Friday prayers and procession start at 8 P.M. at the church of S. Bernardino; Good Friday is not a holiday here, rather surprisingly. S. Bernardino, which I'd never seen open, is a small one-room church, 18c stuccoes and dirt, water-damaged ceiling. On arriving I found about 15 people milling, and in the center of the church, flanked by pews facing it, a black-and‑gold velvet catafalque with a statue of Christ, painted wood or plaster, representing his body just taken down from the Cross: people stood by it or caressed it or kissed it. I did what I do at any other funeral, stood at a respect­ful distance away and looked at it, and pondered, fruitlessly and with my habitual mix of respect for suffering and blank rage at a world where suffering is the senseless norm.

After about twenty minutes of this — weather a slow cold drizzle, and in S. Bernardino it wasn't much better, clammy mildew — a few more people showed, including a man in vestments, not Don Pietro, who led us in antiphonal readings from scripture and a rather long prayer about being decent people, helping others, and shunning abortion; by the end of which there were maybe 40 of us in the church: much to my surprise, mostly men. Then Don Pietro appeared, and it was decided, in view of the continuing rain, that there would be no procession: we'd just stand there and recite the Fifteen Mysteries of the Rosary. I was stuck in a very awkward place from which I couldn't escape without crossing in front of quite a few people and thru a group of others — but finally after the first two decades, I definitely started feeling worse and was stifling coughs, so finally excused myself thru the crowd inside the church (and outside by then maybe 100 people in the rain, umbrellas on the piazza) and went home and went to bed after a hot tea.

Yesterday Saturday, other than battening the hatch for the long weekend, making sure I had supplies thru Tuesday morning, and writing letters and mailing them, I wasn't really doing much, and in fact was in bed feeling a bit depressed around 2 P.M. when James called, wanting me to go to Sicily by train, to stay in hotels, to feel better. Net effect of this was to make me feel better, and since the weather wasn't bad at all, I decided to go for a little walk — I hadn't walked anywhere for over a week. By 3:30 I was heading out of town on the road that takes you to Monte; before the highway, I took the one-lane road on the left marked "Petrelle" to see what this little plain is all about.

Nothing much, and some kind of industrial facility near the hamlet of Petrelle (probably Petrella: but contamination with Petrelle, a much larger place in the comune of Città di Castello); then it occurred to me that there's said to be the oldest structure in the comune somewhere around here, near the river: I did bumble on to it, or at least I thought that's what it was — a small polygonal stone building, with only one face anywhere near intact: large rectangular blocks of stone I don't remember having seen elsewhere in the neighborhood, and an arched door that looked more Roman or Etruscan, yes, Etruscan than medieval — although a second type of stone much like the poor stone of Castello: yet not spalled and eroded as I would have expected. Looking at it all and taking my pictures, I finally went to the neighboring farmhouse to see what they might tell me; and found two men, one my age, another close to 80, who confirmed that yes this was indeed what I had in mind, and that a local writer by the name of Guardabassi​a felt it was probably Etruscan.

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The old building at Lame (or Lama), supposedly thought by Guardabassi to be Etruscan. I have several more pictures of it on its own page. I should add that, after quieter consideration back home, the door surround looks to me clearly not Etruscan or Roman, but of a type of timid Gothic seen elsewhere in Umbria; which doesn't prevent some of the structure from incorporating, as I believe, a fair amount of Roman stone.

The old man turned out to be someone Angelo's told me about, known as "Il Migno" by antithesis since in his youth strong as an ox; we sat in his garage drinking his wine — I with initial misgivings (I've by now drunk some pretty bad wine like this), but in fact both his homemade white and his red — wave of hand towards bottles and rubber hosing further back in the garage — were quite decent, though light. Il Migno remembered that during the War whenever the bombs would come, the Germans would pile into the small building: the British pilots would guide themselves on the castle of Romeggio then on Montecastelli northwards. He also reported that the building once had a pyramidal roof, polygonal, rising from each side — though even he never knew it that way, but when he was a young man the old men used to say that's the way it was.

After this quiet sit, I went away, with directions for getting back home simply; a road that I could see, but the better, more scenic route was to go to the river and follow a path there, that would take me right up to the walls of Umbertide: and that's what I did. The path was set up with numbered fishing posts for sport fishing, and maybe two dozen fishermen, quite a few with telescoping aluminum poles maybe 25 feet long, along my route back home.

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View of Umbertide taken on that same walk, from just after the fishing area.

Back home discovered that, despite my very careful obedience to Mr. Boiler, I was screwed again with the hot water, the safety device having kicked in again that only a visit of his could fix, same damn thing. My first reaction was blind fury, but it lasted all of ten seconds, after which I immediately made my peace with it: I've decided to do without hot water and baths, to say nothing to anyone (neither Irene nor Karen nor Ann nor even James) since all that would do is get these other people worked up in various ways, and make me very very upset, and at this point the most important thing is to keep my nerves stable. I do expect to be moving about with nights in hotels in Umbria, the Marche; Tuscany, Chioggia, and the Valle d'Aosta: with good scheduling I can arrange to alternate such hotel nights — with attendant hot water and washing — with nights here; and even, towards the end of my stay, I might get weather warm enough to make cold showers a useful and maybe even pleasant possibility.

Last items of shopping to make triply sure, including a bottle of Prosecco di Valdobbiadene, a cross between celebration and medication for today; and to bed.

Today by around 9:30 I'd pretty much decided to go on a day hike probably to Serra Partucci and S. Benedetto Vecchio (I need to work back up to walking again after my sick week) — when my cellphone rings, Franco asking me what I was doing — nothing much, I said — then whether I'd like to come spend Easter lunch with them all; I jumped at this generous offer, and in an hour he'd picked me up Piazza XXV Aprile, and I knew that bottle of Prosecco would come in useful: I'd subliminally bought a nice hostess gift.

Now it really is an odd thing that in all my visits to Trevi I'd never yet caught either the duomo or the Madonna delle Lagrime open, and had no memory of having seen the Museo S. Francesco:​b Franco toured me thru the latter very carefully — I bought the card for Trevi and Monte­falco's Perugino circuit, then shortly afterwards found myself being given a second card free by a young man who sort of runs the show at the Museum; more importantly, permission to photograph, and there are a number of interesting items, chief among them a set of 10 ex‑votos from the Madonna delle Lagrime — and not so very long ago (early 20c) there were said to be over 100 of them, but now this is all that's left. The cloister of S. Francesco was where Franco went to middle school — the Salesian school closed in 1962 or so — so Franco had school memories much like those I have of the Liceo Cristóbal Colón in Veracruz.

[image ALT: A small square panel of wood painted with a scene of a man kneeling before the Madonna and Child in heaven. It is an ex‑voto in the Museo S. Francesco in Trevi, Umbria (central Italy).]

Ex‑voto (ca. 1810?) in the Museo S. Francesco di Trevi.

The inscription (see detail photo) reads:


Unno Marco de Marreta da Beroitu, amalatu de siaticha, recomanatuse a Santa Maria dele Lagrime e fo liberatu.

"A certain Marco de Marreta, from Beroitu (now Beroide), ill with sciatica, placed himself in the hands of S. Maria delle Lagrime and was freed of it."

my photo by kind permission
of the Museo S. Francesco.

Long Easter lunch, Mariella the cook and also hers my invitation; eleven adults and two small children (Laura and Mauro's) saved from being thirteen at table by the fact that never at any one time were we all actually seated there, between Mariella and one or more women helping in the kitchen, the tots off in the next room playing, etc. I'm not completely sure who everyone was, but there was Franco and Mariella, Franco's mother who must be 90 but alert and elegant, Mariella's Dad Carlo now 91 and in very good shape, his wife by his side; Laura and her husband and the two tots, one still a baby and the other just entering helliondom; an aunt said to be in her eighties, who still drives; a man of about 45 who enjoyed his meal at one end of the table — as indeed did I: sausage and torte di Pasqua, hard-boiled eggs, penne with "bitter herbs" — asparagus, artichokes and rugola, very good — battered fried lamb chops; the colomba but also a pastiera napoletana,º excellent, not completely identifiable (but with candied citron and orange, and rose water, definite Arab influence); Mariella's usual assortment of interesting liqueurs, including the famous pepper digestive and a glycerine-textured rosolio.

After lunch Franco decided to give me the grand tour of the Duomo; it really does seem strange that after all these years of coming to Trevi it was the first time I'd ever managed to get inside! A fairly typical 18c reworking of a much older church, much smaller and oriented quite differently; a tiny crawl space off to the right as you come in, the former apse of the church, with bits of fresco: Avv. Carlo was basically the man who happened on it after a few hundred years; a good 15c? wood statue of S. Emiliano (may well have been someone else originally, but by the 16c it was sold to Trevi with a new head as being him),​c and a later (18c?), larger silver-gilt statue, mounted on rails and kept in a sort of closet except for Jan. 24‑27: on the 27th he beats the bounds, following the 2d set of walls; since the 3rd circuit of walls was built in 1264, that's viewed as dating the procession to the 13c or before.

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Duomo of Trevi, statues of St. Aemilianus.
(Scale: the 18c statue, on the right, is nearly twice the size of that of the 16c.)

From there to the Madonna delle Lagrime, which again I'd seen many times from the outset yet never the inside. This inside is a large hall with various funerary monuments, mostly, applied to some of the walls: plus the Madonna chapel itself, and another luminous Perugino.

And from there finally Franco drove me to the station at PSG for my 1943 train, and even sort of stuck around a bit — in part out of curiosity since it was his old workplace not that very long ago, mostly out of courtesy I think, but I shooed him gently away, I'm sure he had much better things to do than stand around PSG.

Later Notes:

a This is in fact not a merely local writer (viz., a "storico locale" of the Umbertide area), but the 19c archaeologist Mariano Guardabassi, who wrote a detailed book cataloguing ancient and medieval remains thruout Umbria. His collection of antiquities is now part of the Archaeological Museum in Perugia. I've now read his book on the antiquities of Umbria — and transcribed it onsite in its entirety — but if he ever said anything about Lame, that's not where he said it.

b Because I'd visited it when it was just setting up, and pretty empty (Oct. 22, 1997).

c As Franco tells it, basically deaccessioned by some other richer place where such old-fashioned stuff was no longer the thing.

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