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Monday 24 May 2004

Wrapping up lunch at the CA.RE.MA restaurant in Umbertide, the block after Cristo Risorto, a pretty good lunch. [. . .] Anyway, continuing with Treia —

Friday 21 I finally managed to do something like what I've been wanting to for months now: I did get to Urbisaglia, Urbs Salvia, Maestà, and the Abbadia di Fiastra, and walked back to Treia — but it was hard going.

Ideally I'da done a circuit via Rambona, leaving say in the morning, coming back late in the evening, and covering 38 km or so; but (a) I felt insecure about the distance — as it turns out, rightly; and (b) the young women at the Pro Treia and I had made an appointment for 9 sharp to see the Pinacoteca and the theater. So finally I made arrangements thru the hotel to get myself driven to Urbisaglia by Angelo, a retired cabbie,​a for 30E — for that price he even volunteered to wait for me for hours and bring me back! but as usual it was important for me to cover at least one way on foot; our appointment at 11:30 in the Piazza della Repubblica.

At about a minute to nine I was at the Pro Treia; at 9:00 sharp — the bells ringing — my young women were opening it up: more Treia on the ball. The Pinacoteca surprisingly large for this small town, and of some interest, if all 16c‑19c paintings. My lead guide had some English and would occasionally translate herself into English for me, at least at first: the stop to this was when she referred to a stone coat of arms as a "bulge" several times; we finally got to the bottom of it: on a previous tour with an English-speaker in tow, she didn't have the word, so pointed to one of the stone coats-of‑arms and asked; since they bulge out, she was told oh that's a bulge . . . after which for some time she's been telling people that this or that was the nice bulge of Cardinal Grimaldi, etc. —

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The Council Room (Sala del Consiglio) of the Palazzo Comunale of Treia.

My photograph by kind permission.

The theater is just a theater, but nicely kept up, and in fact the night before there'd been a performance of some thing about the life of Pasolini: I'd toyed with going, but I've never seen a Pasolini movie, know nothing about movies, and would prolly have been bored.

This tour took over an hour; afterwards, with thanks (and in the middle of it, a sort of thank-you call on my cellphone from Carol M), pit stop at hotel, then tanked up on Gatorades da Corradino, and Carla made me a little panino for lunch with no mayonnaise, and at 11:30 almost on the dot, Angelo in piazza: they seem to make a habit of punctuality here —

Angelo drove me to Urbisaglia via, at my request, a somewhat circuitous route that avoided my route back, so I'd have the pleasure of discovering it for myself; we almost couldn't do it, or so it looked for a while: there'd been landslips recently and the Entiggese, the strada comunale we needed to take, was supposedly cut, but in fact just unpaved for a couple of short stretches, and we got to Urbisaglia at about 1150.

Urbisaglia is tiny; it's smaller, I think, than Pollenza, which in turn is definitely smaller than Treia. I'd formed a distorted view of it mostly because of Urbs Salvia: the Roman city seems to have been something like four times the size of the modern town, if the walls are anything to judge by. And in fact the main sight of Urbisaglia was where Angelo left me: the square brick rocca with its conical corner towers, Senigallia in smaller. A couple of churches, the archaeological museum (open until 1:30, but I didn't know that, so fairly ran to it lest it close), a Roman cistern (closed), found in 1948 I think: two very long narrow deep vaulted passages, like Amelia but 2 not 5 — Regretted not being able to see it, the only real regret of my fly-thru.

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The Rocca of Urbisaglia (early 16c).

At the museum — two monumental inscriptions, a marble statue of an athlete, bits of pots, free — I learned that the theater is in excavation or restoration, no visiting; that the amphitheater maybe the guy was down there, maybe not; that Maestà, which I very much wanted to see, might be closed but would surely have opening hours posted; finally that no road or path ran along the N walls (there are two long stretches of ruined Roman walls: N and S of the modern town, running down perpendicularly from the crest of the hill which is the only part now inhabited to the SS 78 which more or less follows the Roman "Salaria Gallica". The best odds for me to see what I could, given this layout, were to walk out of town N thru the Porta Vittoria to the cistern (see if open: no), to above the theater (slight view: the building itself is nothing to write home about, though, so not much lost), to the top of the walls (see if path anyway: no, except a bit at the bottom), then a perpendicular to Maestà (hoping it was open), double back to the amphitheater (see if open), then retrace my steps to Maestà and beyond, to the rest of my walk.

The only part of this that was really success­ful was the part I least expected: the chapel of the Madonna that gives its name to the village of Maestà. It wasn't open, mind you, so the first thing I did was circled it snapping pictures: it doesn't look like much, but incorporates a bit of Roman wall or tomb at least; then off to find the key. Bearding the neighbors in their house, no they don't have the key, but the people who do live in the slightly greenish lemon-yellow apartment building 50 yards N of the church: I was lucky, they were there, and I got in. [. . .]b the woman didn't even stay with me — you don't need explanations, do you? — just told me to turn off the lights when I left [. . .]

The church is one more or less square room crammed with votive frescoes, many of them dated in the 1520's: the usual S. Rocco's and S. Sebastians, but also S. Lucia and S. Nicola who after all was a local boy. Behind the altar a tiny alcove rather than any real choir, where the actual Maestà is glassed in between Rocco and Sebastian again: naively stuccoed Baptism of Christ, stuccoed vault — tiny, intimate; a beauti­ful little church.

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The Baptism of Christ,
a 16c painted stucco in the choir of the church of the Maestà.

The amphitheater, fenced in, locked, no one in sight; very easy to jump or scale, but not worth it: what I saw of the cavea thru a couple of vomitoria was a plain sward of grass, and they've allowed large trees to grow on top of the seating stands. I sat on a bench near the entrance and ate my panino with a Gatorade, then hit the road for the Abbadia di Fiastra, about 4 km away — passing in front of the Maestà on the way.

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The Roman amphitheater of Urbs Salvia (now Urbisaglia).

The road, like every other road in the valley in the whole area, is nasty: traffic and no shoulders, and you have to be very very watchful. New twist here, though: some moron in the oncoming traffic (with three vehicles behind him, including a truck, with no space between them the way they do here — must cause some horrific pileups) decided actually to stop and lecture me, waving his arms that I should walk on the other side of the road! People here have no sense of pedestrian safety, and do tend to want to hit their pedestrians from behind but I prefer to see what's coming. . . . At least he didn't blast his horn at me, as some have done, scaring me out of my wits and making me jump in unpredictable directions.

Fiastra was a surprise followed by a disappointment. I expected an abbey, and found an entertainment complex: a huge green area, barbecue grills (construction work was going on to build more and add buried gas lines), a good hundred people sunbathing, a souvenir shop, a large bar, etc. The disappointment, on the other hand, was my fault after all the build-up: the church is a huge place, but Cistercian so spare, ditto for the cloister and refectory. Handsome and very Romanesque, but not much to occupy the mind; I did find a pair of Roman inscriptions, though, behind a locked glass door to an area housing a "Foundation" of some kind: unsatisfactory photograph of the nearer one on the slant thru the glass door, but discovered a door off the refectory that led to the garden on the other side, in which a very unCistercian nobleman's palace — and pushing the front door, found myself on the other side of the room with the 2 inscriptions, and a doubtful-looking cleaning woman mopping between me and them: I eventually got my photos — a pair of rather standard tombstones although one of the women had a very unusual name — and even a couplet from Cerberus, who told me that they'd thought to build Rome at Fiastra, but that the river here didn't have enough drinking water; don't remember her verse exactly, but the gist of it was

Hanno messo Roma sul Tevere

Perché a Fiastra non c'è da bevere.

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Badia di Chiaravalle di Fiastra: the abbey refectory.

One more mile or so and the blessed relief of the turn-off on the series of little roads, with no traffic, taking me to Pollenza Scalo — views of the castle of Rancia to my left, under scaffolding — and Pollenza and Treia, with no "sights" but beauti­ful landscape, and I now have a sense of the area, and the typically Marchigiano topography: parallel valleys — here I crossed the hills from the valley of the Chienti to that of the Potenza. And — after all this time prowling around Treia — I finally found the shorter road up to the Porta Roma, taking a gamble on my right after the first sharp climb: nicely paved but not the slightest sign; was rewarded by the 19c chiesetta dell' Addolorata. Arrived at the Porta Cassara — thus the inscription over it, but I never heard anyone call it that (it's the gate right next to the Corradino) — at the stroke of 8, still nice light, and the last 4‑5 km very pleasantly cool thank goodness. I was unusually tired for such a short simple walk, only 19 km; drank three aranciate amare and had a guanabana-and‑ginseng yogurt with little swirls of toothpaste blue in it (quite good despite the chemistry). Maurizio walked me to my bus stop for my 0710 departure, a useful dry run.

Hotel, shower, change, dinner — though surprisingly I didn't really want it — at the Quattrocento, a pizzeria just outside the Porta S. Martino — back to the Corradino for a yogurt ai frutti di bosco and a couple of prosecco's to the health of Maurizio and Carla; paid my hotel bill, slept.

Later Notes:

a Should you be stranded in Treia and need a cab, he can be reached at 340.338.3978.

b In the diary I record a (legal) way of getting into the church should one not find the people with the key. To prevent theft or damage to the frescoes, I haven't put the information online: e‑mail me for it — but only of course if you have a good reason to need this information and can prove to me who you are.

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