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Friday 23 April 2004

It's 9:40 and I'm in bed and all set to sleep no doubt wonder­fully well — but instead I'm going to write for hours and hours, without the slightest desire to do so: but if I don't, I'll lose, eventually, the memory of what turned out to be a wonder­ful four days.

The weather certainly helped: sun every day! and only for the first half of Day 1 Tuesday even any threat of rain. What a difference weather makes.

Leaving Tuesday by the 0945 it wasn't until about 1145, a few minutes later than schedule, that I got to Massa Martana Stazione under 20% blue sky: a place I've been three times before; and from there up the road N towards Massa Martana, a road I've now walked twice exactly and another third time approximately: nothing new then until Massa, and I resisted the twin temptations of going right to Colpetrazzo, where I've never been, and left to Villa S. Faustino where I was once briefly with an inferior camera and when I didn't get much of a chance to see the inside of the church. Still, you can't see everything, and maybe I'll come back yet again to Villa S. Faustino.​a

My original plan was just to walk up the road from the Stazione thru Massa — peer at it again see how it's doing now seven years after the earthquake (and remember, they had the earlier quake to deal with, too) — and a beeline for Bastardo; but on approaching Massa I found among the very many signs for churches most of which I've seen by now, one for a church I'd not only not seen but never heard of: this of course proved irresistible, and just before entering Massa I steered left to S. Pietro sopra le Acque — and with a name like that who can resist? although I saw not a single acqua it could be sopra; and, as it turned out, precious little of the church, completely closed and under scaffolding, in heavy restoration. Voices from within the church but despite circling it, they'd locked themselves in. Fortunately it doesn't appear to be very old —

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S. Pietro sopra le Acque from the W.​b

And having done that — i.e., detoured W around Massa — I was committed to a road some of which I'd done in 1994, revisiting my own past in effect: in part walking along the same roads of two different walks ten years ago, although this felt totally different; despite all the intervening problems I'm finally much more confident now than ten years ago — at least when it comes to walking around Umbria: for one thing I'm almost never lost.

So, "to" SS. Fidenzio and Terenzio it was: every bit as private property now as it was in 1994 and thus no access to the church —

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Often just called the abbey of S. Fidenzio.

but from there, to Viepri without so much as seeing Castelrinaldi of 1994 — yet happily, I found myself on the same ever windswept crinale with the glorious views of Todi, leading me straight to S. Arnaldo di Figareto; this time mind you I bearded the man in his den who lives in the house attiguous to the church, who swore he had no key — priest in Monticello 2 km behind me — but saw the inside of the church thru a window, hardly missed much: this particular church of more than average importance for me since (why, I'm not quite sure) it's my icon for "Churches of Umbria": and not a bad choice, something quintessentially Umbrian about this rugged building in the middle of nowhere, I bet no more than 5 non‑Umbrians a year so much as see it, yet with the magnificent view onto Todi a couple of hundred meters later (no one knows Todi unless they've seen her from somewhere along this road) —

From there, this time, to Viepri, where I'd never been: and a different experience, all of a sudden an old very medieval town, nothing to do with the windswept ridge, and a beauti­ful church, the abbey of S. Maria: wandering around it on the outside, I lucked onto a man who volunteered to take me to the person with the key to the church; he'd just gathered himself dinner — thin wild asparagi (and seven eggs in the dashboard, looked like a frittata in the works) — and off in his car about 800 m to the house of the Woman With The Key; Adriano passed me on to Giovanna, who brought me right back down to the abbey in her car: the constant kindness of strangers, who surely have better things to do than ferry Boobies from place A to place B. A beauti­ful Romanesque church — and, declining offers of rides, I walked from the church into Viepri proper, some 600 m away, with its own church and old houses and walls; very medieval feel to it, but lots of Roman travertine scattered thruout the town.

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Viepri: about 3 km from the road from Massa Martana to Bastardo.

Stopped on the way out to ask directions to Montecchio then Bastardo [. . .] and off to Bastardo, suddenly via a larger road now rejoined: not bad, though; little traffic, good walking surface, widish shoulders, gentle curving descent. By now, 50% blue sky — I actually saw my shadow occasionally. . . .

And thus to Montecchio,​c which I remembered so clearly bypassing on my Spello-to‑Todi insanity in '98. Montecchio nothing really much — medieval church once a castle — but stopped at the bar there and chatted with two guys (one better informed than the other: he worked in the Comune — Giano already — went and got his copy for me of the book on the comune of Giano, Felice Santini, Giano dell' Umbria e il suo Territorio, ed. Assoc. Amici della Terra di Giano, 2000 — but like all European books the damn thing, pure buono, no index so quite impossible to find whatever we was looking for); three aranciate amare, total 3E00: curious setup, the bar was part of an alimentari: the cash register of the alimentari had a glass door into the bar counter — the bartendress did checkout in the food store as well, yeeps.

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S. Bartolomeo, the parish church of Montecchio di Giano.

The descent from Montecchio to Bastardo — with already the crest of Monte­falco with its water tower, photograph not so bad mind you —

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Like Gualdo Cattaneo, the town of Monte­falco is visible thru much of central Umbria — as well as from the highway from Foligno to Spoleto, whence in part its greater fame among tourists. Unlike Gualdo, views of it are spoiled by a huge, ugly concrete water tower that is something of a running gag in the area. That's why I was surprised that for once, from Montecchio (11 km SW of it) and in the golden raking light of late afternoon, the tower should add beauty to the sight of the town.

and bimeby in Bastardo; with the Hotel Snack Bar Dany towards the entrance to the paese: I strutted on across the street — to be met at the door of the hotel by a young woman opening the door for me: she quite knew I was the guy who'd called. Admittedly I'd said I'd be around 6‑something (and it was a quarter to 7) but still, I've been thinking back to this for days now: there's plenty of pedestrians on that street, I found this an amazing piece of intuition.

Harbinger it was of the hotel;​d room excellent, good hot water, and nearly fell asleep before dinner, but was very hungry: ate at 7:45, and a good meal, too. Strongozzi al tartufo — the strongozzi Spoleto-style, rather more like tagliatelle than what we'd call strongozzi in Spello — a B; ostrich with sage and rosemary A- on a bed of rugola with a bit of vinegar; I presciently opted for a Sagrantino, Adanti. Still hungry mind you (walk was about 25 km), so asked for a cheese plate — caciotta, grano padana, pecorino di fossa, gorgonzola — then two desserts, mousse al torrone (A) and what they call a sbricciolata ("crumble" of puff pastry under a perfectly textured flavored cream, B+), limoncello to my room; and boy did I sleep well.

Later Notes:

a I did, read all about it; or rather, to the church of S. Faustino, which is what I meant. Villa S. Faustino is the village about half a mile away from the Romanesque church I was thinking of: and although it has its own small church, it's much less interesting. For the amusing but frustrating circumstances of my previous "visit", sort of, see Oct. 16, 1994.

b The restoration was called for not only by what seems to have been many decades of neglect, but also by the earthquakes of March and September 1997. (The famous Umbrian earthquake which caused the collapse of part of the basilica at Assisi was the later; but the epicenter of the earlier quake was much closer to Massa Martana and thus responsible for more damage here.) At any rate by 2013 the little complex of buildings had been fully restored and is now a luxury guest residence, with pool and restaurant, and conference center. The church may be visited; that site has informative pages on the church and on excavations of Roman remains undertaken in 2005.

c This Montecchio is the frazione of Giano, not to be confused with the full comune by the same name; nor with the frazione of Nocera Umbra.

d In my eleven years of traveling thru central Italy, the Hotel Dany has been my best hotel experience so far, so I'm going to go out of my way to recommend it to you; and no, I have no financial interest in it, alas. Granted that the little town of Bastardo has nothing to detain the visitor, but most foreign visitors rent cars anyway: you might as well stay somewhere pleasant, untouristed and traffic-free. Bastardo is in the center of the Colli Martani, one of the two or three loveliest areas of Umbria — rolling hills, fresh air and dotted with dozens of Romanesque churches — yet 10 minutes from Bevagna and Monte­falco, 20 minutes from Todi and Trevi, and 30 from Spoleto and Assisi. Not only is the Dany extremely reasonable, but more importantly the Falcinelli family are proud of what they do, and the restaurant is very good: I couldn't recommend them more warmly — and ten days after this entry, I took my own recommendation and was back again.

Hotel Dany

Largo Alcide De Gasperi, 7

loc. Bastardo

06030 Giano dell' Umbria (PG)

Tel/Fax (same number): (+39) 0742 99120

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