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Saturday 24 April 2004

(Part 1 of 2)

(And on those good words I turned off the light and fell asleep like a rock; this morning Saturday a slow day — non semper arcus tendit — in fact courtesy of the FCU's weak rail schedules. I'm planning on catching the 1340 putt-putt N to Montecastelli and walking the quiet 9 km N to Sansecondo and putt-putting back at 1732 or 1843: more a matter of getting out of the house in this continuing good weather than anything else.

Back to Wednesday 21:)

The room at Hotel Dany was so comfy, the Falcinelli family all so friendly, the restaurant so good,​a and the weather by now coöperating so nicely — 95% blue sky — that I decided to extend my stay and do a small circular walk around Bastardo, since after all I'd only been here once before and in a fair rush and not the best frame of mind, so that the entire area remained to be discovered.

First stop of course, the Roman bridge, the famous Ponte del Diavolo. Well now I know why the name: it's impossible to get to — although no more than a kilometer out of town. The instructions given me were excellent: road out of town towards Foligno to the little church — chiesetta di S. Francesco, 19c brick with tall thin belfry, not unpleasant — then a bit further, a building materials company by the name of Cerasoli, and it's inside there, "non molto bene valorizzato".

I should say not. It's so covered with brambles as to be utterly invisible until you're literally 2 meters away, and only if you're in the stream itself. Behind a depot of re-bars and like stuff, right up next a chicken coop, a slippery mud slope about 50 cm wide — had to be very careful, didn't want to fall into the stream with my camera — and the only views you can get of the bridge are axial down the stream. Withal, the bridge itself quite handsome and well-preserved. Took my photos, passed on walking under it — a tiny mud path, else slosh thru the stream itself (Torrente Puglia) — but went up and around to the other face of it, where I was rewarded by another slippery mud and brambles passageway, and the corpse of a sheep, just the fleece and the hooves, the rest pretty much eaten by dogs: my hotelkeepers told me in the evening that there aren't any wolves any more.

[image ALT: A muddy stream about 50 cm wide and maybe only 1 or 2 cm deep flowing under a cylindrically vaulted passage of large square stones. It is a view of the Roman bridge at Cavallara, Umbria (central Italy), from underneath.]

Local flavor — I saved the better photos for my page on the Roman bridge of Bastardo (actually of Cavallara, in the comune of Gualdo Cattaneo).

And then the bottom 45 cm of me encrusted in fresh mud, out of the Cerasoli property — signs Don't Come In, This Means You, but workers agreeably taking the time to tell camera-toting stranger exactly where his bridge was — back to the chiesetta and turn right, heading off to Sumigni.

Well, sort of. Seeing up on a hill N of Bastardo this beauti­fully situated town not quite at the crest, I'd conceived this πόθος to go explore it, and the consensus at the hotel had been that it was Sumigni (in print, locally: Simigni and Semigni),​b and Roberto, he of the excellent Roman bridge instructions, who mans the bar and hotel in the mornings, gave me equally good instructions for Sumigni.

So when my road started curving farther and farther away from my pretty town on its hill, and even, I could see another road heading up to it off to my right; then when the sign for Simigni appeared to my left right where Roberto'd said it would be — I suddenly realized that (a) Sumigni was not my town, but a lone castle on a much smaller hill over­looking Bastardo; (b) I'd been to Sumigni: it was where I wound up on my Spello to Todi hike in 1998; (c) that my pretty little town was Gualdo Cattaneo, except the Torrione only the tiniest sliver can be seen from this side.

Immediately decided to ignore Sumigni then and press on to Collesecco; a nondescript place, mostly comfortable modern houses strewn over a low three-crested hill. How, on the other hand, I could have missed Collesecco in 1998, I don't know: it's the biggest town around, and quite visible. Stopped at the Bar Roma 2000, two Powerades and what should I see in these parts? Well you should really go to Marcellano; by now sort of in my plans already since only a kilometer away —

Marcellano a clump of houses, pleasant but nothing extraordinary, and its 14c church, 20c façade, closed though someone later told me it's beauti­ful inside. Signs all over, though, for the Presepe Vivente, and a tiny church-like building, open sort of, seemed to be the headquarters of it; workers doing some heavy-duty repairs, concrete, metal scaffolding, trucks: one of them volunteered the story of the Presepe and even went and found me a card with a website address; since I'd not so much as had the idea of asking questions, this was enriching: between Christmas Day and Epiphany, on the feast days and Sunday, the town reënacts the birth of Christ, with the arrival of Joseph and Mary, who go thru the town to try and find a hotel, and finally end up at a stable outside the walls of the town, down the hill 100 m away, in the center of a natural amphitheater. The shepherds — no shortage — but also the kings with camels (borrowed from the Parco del Sole somewhere towards Perugia). The setting is beauti­ful and I could imagine it all; it must be beauti­ful and moving. It's apparently one of the Christmas manifestations that makes it onto national TV; if I'm ever in Umbria for the season I hope I remember to see it.

Back to Collesecco, where, having seen a whole set of those brown signs for various churches — S. Andrea (the main church of Marcellano), Madonna del Ponte (a little church down in the Nativity area there), S. Angelo Sconcolo — what the heck, where's S. Angelo? Same bar, more questions and instructions: about a kilometer away, on the road to Pozzo; and off I went, which turned out to be a handsome Romanesque building of pink and white limestone with a round apse and blind arcading: nothing extraordinary, but beauti­ful.

[image ALT: The back of a small medieval building of courses of squared stone: a flat vertical wall onto the center of which has been applied a semicircular projection decorated with 9 blind arches in groups of three, supported by a total of three pilasters. It is a view of the apse of the church of S. Angelo Sconcolo near Collesecco di Gualdo Cattaneo, Umbria (central Italy).]

The apse, very probably 13c, of S. Angelo Scóncolo, about 1 km NE of Collesecco di Gualdo: a handsome example of blind arcading, to which yours truly is notoriously partial.

Back — again! — to Collesecco, since the road to Pozzo had nothing to do with my plans for the day: my next stop was the castle of Barattano W of Collesecco by its own road — I'd never heard of Barattano until this stay, when I saw a brochure lying around the McGarrell's house with a photo of it — except that my next stop was not Barattano at all: there's a turnoff to the right, only about 2 km, for S. Terenziano; I had no idea I was that close to S. Terenziano, and after 10 years of regretting my stupidity in walking thru the town or at least its outlying area without visiting the curious church, this was far too good an opportunity to be passed up — I went.

Views onto Saragano from the road, and behind it often Collazzone (with in the mid-back of my mind the idea of going there, too: since with Cascia, Sellano, and maybe Castelritaldi and Otricoli, Collazzone is one of the comuni I've been to but don't really know); my bivio, and the 2 km into S. Terenziano.

The old town of S. Terenziano is small, walled and medieval: atmospheric but little to see; the double church (upper: S. Terenziano; lower: S. Flacco) is about 200 m away, which is, on the scale of the town, already out of town — with a splendid view, too. The two churches, taken separately, are not extraordinary, though both interesting; but the superposition really is odd. My sense of three dimensions, as usual, none too good, so I'm not too sure what sits on what, but the entrance to the lower church projects out from the front of the upper, and looks more like the door to a cave than anything else. The upper church quite open; the lower looked closed, but was not. The upper church longer than the lower, as far as I could tell; so you'd think the lower could have no window except at the front: yet it has light from some small windows tunnelling upwards. The lower church looks like it has two front doors: but one of them dead-ends in a curious small room, vaulted and the ceiling mortar imprinted with basketwork or rush or something of the kind. A very curious place, and I'm very glad I finally repaired my mistake of 1994: which is exactly what I told the parish priest who'd stepped out of his adjacent rectory maybe for some fresh air — instead he got an American cooing over Umbria. Don Alfio one of three priests at the rectory, been there for 34 years; looked pleased when I told him how I liked Marcellano: it turns out it was a brainchild of his about 15 years ago (not absolutely exactly what he said, but I suspect that's what others might say).

[image ALT: A large squarish stone building standing on a proof of the same stone, from which a sloping ramp and a much steeper staircase descend. Under part of the platform, two arches suggest an entrance. It is a view of the two superimposed Romanesque churches of S. Terenziano and S. Flacco in the town of S. Terenziano, Umbria (central Italy).]

The double church at S. Terenziano (Umbria), somewhat disfigured by the ramp and the steps, both modern additions. S. Terenziano is the large blocky upper church; S. Flacco is represented by the two arches beneath.

But back to my bivio and to Barattano, Torri, and the Hotel Dany (the day, far from being a rest day, finally totalled 26 km, the longest walk of the 4‑day excursion, if only by 1 km). Barattano is something like Paradise: a very photogenic medieval bristle of a hamlet on the outside, and on the inside a cozy warren of stone streets with frescoes, gardens, and a great deal of character. Given good hot water and plumbing plus Internet access, life in there must be quite wonder­ful.

[image ALT: A fortified village in a wide hilly landscape. The crenellated and machicolated fort is a block of buildings about two city blocks in extent, averaging several stories high, pierced with a few very small windows. It is the village of Barattano, Umbria (central Italy).]

Torri about a kilometer away is quite different: a main corps de logis, which looks like it's owned by someone; and smaller houses around it.

Walk down into Bastardo quiet, unevent­ful, untrafficky; a shower and almost straightway time for dinner, which was good like the day before: this time only a half bottle of Sagrantino, so an Antonelli (2000) which in addition to being about a year too young maybe, also has less character than the top two. Meal itself: tagliatelle al pomodoro e asparagi selvaggi — the same thin fronds that my ride in Viepri had gathered Tuesday — a B; a saltimbocca alla Romana A-; a grigliata mista (not really ratable, but quite good); and a pair of desserts, which this time left me a bit disappointed: a "delizia al rhum e al cioccolato" — something between an icecream and a mousse — and a "crêpe al caramello" which was indeed a homemade crêpe but quite spoiled by being filled with vanilla icecream — banalized and losing any real identity as a crêpe: still, as sweets, well executed and not bad. And to bed, rather early, worried about what was to be a long walk the next day with an uncertain finish from Bastardo to Giano to Monte­falco to Trevi train station but (dumb, dumb) I'd failed to pack the train schedules for Trevi and Foligno, so a completely unknown arrival time.

[image ALT: A very young lamb in a field, staring straight at the photographer.]

Meadow near Barattano: of the whole flock,
this one lamb had the curiosity to stare at me.

Later Notes:

a Just in case you didn't see my note in the previous or following entries, 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, 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 Spello, 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

b An 18c map I saw towards the end of my trip made the castle much more prominent than it is now, and labels it Simigni; and GoogleMaps calls the road thru it "Via Somigni".

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Page updated: 25 Jun 23