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Monday 10 May 2004

Yesterday morning awoke to bright blue skies, hope it lasts (it didn't quite, but the rain only started when I was safely ensconced in the evening's hotel); but I left Leonessa much later than I thought because the one church to see in town, S. Francesco, was precisely the one I hadn't: and it opens Saturday 1030‑1230 and 1630‑1830, and Sunday 1030‑1230; so I hung around for the 1030 opening, walk the streets for lesser sights the while, and as a result have a rather complete idea of Leonessa (and about 230 photographs of the town).

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The first photograph of the day, before I even started visiting: the view from my hotel room.

10:45 S. Francesco opened: a large late-medieval building with the usual endless tons of stuff. Good frescoes, the Nativity scene that was put on a Christmas postage stamp the same year asº Spello's Cappella Baglioni, and a beauti­ful stone door from another church, rescued along the N wall of the nave: partly of the characteristic red stone flecked with white as on the façade of S. Pietro and elsewhere. Also a very nice cloister with interesting capitals on the second floor; but before which long interesting chat with Prof. Mario Polía, an archaeologist and anthropologist who worked 30 years in Peru and is now the Direttore del Museo Civico di Leonessa, housed in part of the cloister. Museum just starting up, rather more ethnological than archaeological, virtual exhibits on computers, but also lapidary fragments and other stuff. Prof. Polía made sense for me of a lot of loose bits I had floating around in my head, plus told me of an Etruscan tomb he reported to the Soprintendenza, at Valle Fana near Ocre — directions and a sketched map, but fearing weather I didn't do the extra four kilometers, besides only the shell of the tomb of course left in situ — I didn't get out of S. Francesco until nearly 1, especially since the crypt, actually a first church that the current church is built on top of, separate entrance not from the inside of the church, Prof. Polia went got the young woman with the key, who then guided me (very well) around it: so much of it destroyed, but what's left is interesting and beauti­ful, and some of it extraordinarily so — a very lovely and unusual Madonna especially.

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Detail of an early medieval door of S. Maria extra, a church now demolished; the door is preserved in the nave of S. Francesco, against the N wall.

Cleared out of my hotel just after 1; and it wasn't 'til I checked out that I realized how lucky I'd been. Off-season, both hotels in Leonessa are quite closed Monday thru Friday; of this I knew nothing, yet scheduled my visit for Saturday-Sunday. Had I come on say a Wednesday, I could not have stayed in town (in theory, at least: see Porano) but the nearest room would have been 8 km away.

Left Leonessa then at 1:10 — ha‑ha, not quite: 2 more churches on the road, the first of which open and with beauti­ful frescoes; Leonessa one of the gems of this trip. 1:25 and I was finally on the road.

The weather held during my walk, if cool; much of it I wore my sweater. Leonessa sits in a large circular basin surrounded by mountains; attractive landscape, and I had the presence of mind to look behind me — the better views are rather towards Leonessa, with the higher snow-capped mountains as a backdrop, than in the direction of my walk.

At about 3 km out, a place of very little, Villa Gizzi, but only 50 meters off the road to my left, how could I pass it by; 2 km later, at km 17 exactly, a war memorial to I think father and son, shot by Germans in 1944,​a Francesco and Giulio Gizzi — so I'm glad I saw the family town — Francesco 80 years old.

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Monument to Francesco and Giulio Gizzi, at Km 17 of road No. 471.

Crossed into Umbria not much later; the first time I've ever really walked into Umbria: the other day's 25‑yard hop across the border into Viterbo province at Villalba hardly counts (by the way, I've heard since that there was a good restaurant about 100 m further into Viterbo right there), nor much more my hop to Pierle and back. Scenery quickly shifted to Valnerina mode; Monte­leone pretty on its hill, at the foot of which Ruscio, small modern sprawl that, scared about weather, I didn't go and poke around in. The walk up to Monte­leone a good 2.5 or maybe even 3 km; all the maps are in error as to the mileages from Leonessa to Monte­leone and from Monte­leone to Poggiodomo: the red dot should be at the fork at Ruscio, so that it's 9 km from Ruscio to Poggiodomo but only maybe 11 km from Monte­leone to Ruscio. That and the non-existent bridge of Piedicolle, maybe I should write someone (and will they pay any attention).

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The "prow" of Monte­leone di Spoleto (its orientation page will explain that): to the left, S. Caterina and the Porta Monaca; to the right, the Madonna della Quercia.

By this time it was 4:00, the weather was worsening, Monte­leone looked like it was worth more than an hour or two visit (as I'd first thought), the distance, so I thought, to Poggiodomo was more than two hours, and I was worried about tightness in my calves: put it all together and I found the Hotel Brufa for the night; a wise decision since within the hour it was raining, if lightly, and Monte­leone turned out to be worth a full day, or truth be told (and churches be opened, which not) two days.

[image ALT: A man wearing a mitre and a robe reaching to his feet and his hands, standing in the shape of a cross; under his right foot, a chalice, and under his left, a small loaf of bread. It is an extremely unusual representation of Christ crucified in the ceremonial dress of a bishop, in Monteleone di Spoleto, Umbria (central Italy).]

Christ crucified in the ceremonial dress of a bishop: 12c fresco in the church of S. Francesco, Monte­leone di Spoleto.

The Hotel Brufa a family outfit, my room with a wonder­ful view, and Manuela the woman at the desk very helpful in sorting out my scheduling and route problems for today and tomorrow, and brochures on Monte­leone etc.; but realized I'd better start visiting while I had light, and walked into town, under the medieval gate — "Sir! are you interested in participating in a photography contest? since I see you clicking away —" A young woman scurrying down the stairs from the offices of Archeoambiente, an archaeology buff, more chatter for me, let me show you a bit of the town; me: fine, let's go — and by the same kind of luck that brought me to Leonessa on the weekend, the town's biggest attraction the church of S. Francesco, opened for a group of 50 or so people on a tour: it's almost always closed, Giuseppina & Marianna, quieter, and me slid in. Fascinating place, seen way too fast, and around the margins of this large gabby group: but the essentials of the church and its cloister I saw, the most exceptional item a Crucifixion in which Christ represented as a fully clothed bishop, with a chalice under one foot and a loaf of bread under the other, something I'd never seen or even heard of anywhere else (closest: the clothed S. Sebastian in the church of S. Giovenale of Orvieto). The church requires a minimum of an hour, and concentration; I had to zoom thru it in 15 minutes — but had I got there half an hour earlier or later, or this morning, would not have seen a thing. Outside again: quite cold, and rain: called it quits, despite "sun" for maybe two more hours; back at the offices of Archeoambiente, I insisted on buying lottery tickets (10 × 0E50) to help out with financing 3 medieval costumes for next year's Sagra degli Strascinati in August — back to my hotel, gave these tickets to Manuela, what after all can I do with them even if I won? Dinner — OK — hot shower, diary, dinner.º

Later Note:

a Late 1943, actually (see photo).

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