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Friday 7 May 2004

I dunno what it is, but I've developed an aversion to writing my diary. I had all day today to do it, to catch up on the week, but it's 11:50 P.M. and I'm just now starting on it —

Tuesday 4th was easy: they predicted, and in fact we had, lots and lots of rain; plus a train strike. So no train to somewhere indoors, and no walk locally outdoors: I spent the day house-cleaning (I actually did some sweeping!), shopping, arranged to have my shirt cleaned and ironed for Wednesday afternoon, and arranged for an electrician to come Wednesday morning and fix the switch in the stairs with the sparks that scared me.

Tuesday evening just past 8 a call from Franco, had I seen the newspapers? No, or at least not the right ones: he'd sent out a press release about me being made an honorary member of the ProTrevi, and three of them bit. Incuriosito, vanity tickled, and at the same time displeased (a strange mix of feelings, it's quite amazing how we can feel very different things simultaneously), I went out to try and find the papers: of course at 8 P.M. everything closes, but the Caffé Centrale had the Umbria section of la Nazione, which as it turned out was the worst and most fulsome: photo of me pirated from my site, calling me professor, and declaring that I was "conosciutissimo in Umbria" which is quite absurd; I asked the bartendress if she'd ever heard of me. . . .

Within ten minutes Karen called, had I — yes Karen I have — none of my hundreds of thousands of Umbrian fans called —

Wednesday 5: light rain; Franco here at 4, since I was going to be in Trevi I might as well ask if we could see S. Maria in Pietrarossa; we did, the man with the key was home — and knew all kinds of things, in part from experts who'd come in. Franco of course knew stuff and pointed out some interesting things. The church itself is chock-a‑block full of stuff, not only frescoes, and would merit about 2 hours' visit to see it quietly and in an organized way. I think we were there about 45 minutes.

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Among maybe a hundred frescoes, this detail of a Madonna and Child. On the top line of the scroll, A B C D: Baby Jesus is learning to read. On the bottom line, Pater noster: the conceit is fun, but the theology is safe only if the baby wrote that line himself.

And from there up to the Museo S. Francesco to see the inscription. "The" because they're tearing up the pavement in the church, and on Friday (April 30) a worker found a stone, and brought it to the attention of Carlo, the young man who runs the museum most of the time: he saw CN· . . . . MEDICVS·CHIRVRGVS and said that's Roman, which it certainly is. He in turn called Franco, who took a photo for the newspapers (who couldn't care less) then scanned it and put it online on the Pro Trevi site the very same evening. We looked at it; a well-carved probably mid‑4c inscription, spidery lettering and influenced by cursive, characteristic E's, etc.: with what appear to be 2 (or 3) unusual points, but in the nominative although it appears to be a tombstone; an unusual cognomen (VESENTRO) and the guy was a medicus and chirurgus yet seems to have died at age XXI: the number is quite clear, although the V(ixit) is off in the margin and I'm wondering whether added later, but think not —

From there to the Pro Loco — milling — then to the Sala del Consiglio, where they actually had gathered about 25 people for this session, called for the sole purpose of making me socio onorario. They'd rousted Avv. Brizi from his dinner, and Dr. Andreani the President of the Pro Loco and Franco made speeches, and I was sat in the middle of the dais and made what seemed to be an adequate little speech of my own, completely off the cuff (and nothing at all like what I thought I was going to say), then Assessore Brizi presented me with a scroll with seals and ribbons, we shook hands, and during much of this Paolo, Franco's son, took pictures. I can't say I enjoyed it too much, but the honor itself is a great kindness and may be useful all around; and although, as I told President Andreani at dinner afterwards, I may yet advise Americans to base themselves in Bevagna (especially older people, for whom flat is welcome), I've always encouraged people to visit Trevi and especially to eat there, not just whiz on by on their way from Assisi to Spoleto.

Dinner at the restaurant half of a sort of partner­ship (the actual agriturismo is run by others and doesn't do food, but they form a compound) about a mile out of town. I can't come up, to my discredit, writing only 48 hours later, with the exact name of either one; but we ate well, a B+: some very good, and interesting, antipasti (A), among which good norcineria with an excellent sort of focaccia and of course Trevi olive oil, and a millefoglia pastry filled with a spinach-type mixture (dinner so social that I'm afraid I didn't concentrate as I should on the food, whence the vague descriptions!); a smidgen of potato gnocchi, stuffed with something green, in rosso (B); filetto tartufato (B+ to A-); individual chocolate soufflés on a sauce said to be mint: the soufflés were a solid A, the sauce was a crème anglaise equally good but I couldn't taste any mint at all — Wine: rosso di Monte­falco, Antonelli.

During dinner Paolo laid out a scheme he came up with to benefit Trevi and maybe make me some money, where I'd use the portal I've created to funnel people to Trevi hotels and agriturismi at a slight discount yet with a small cut for me as well: an idea both kind and useful, with the usual types of obstacles to be overcome; it might work.

At around 10:30 we broke up — rain, umbrellas, cars — and Franco drove me back to Umbertide although I'd twice suggested I could stay overnight in Trevi after all, but he reminded me he's a late-night guy and doesn't usually hit the sack 'til one or worse —

Yesterday Thursday, the weather was supposed to be rain on and off, but I got it into my head to go to Montecastrilli, one of about 5 comuni I've technically been to but really don't know much: train to Acquasparta, where I arrived exactly on time at 1143, and the idea was to walk from there to Casteltodino then Montecastrilli (thus repairing that very rushed walk at the end of a long day 10 years ago), and from there to the station of Montecastrilli; it would be about 16 km and would give me three or four hours to revisit Acquasparta and Montecastrilli.

[image ALT: A two‑story building with a pediment, with a small flower market in progress in front of it. It is the church of the SS. Crocifisso, in Acquasparta, Umbria (central Italy).]

Acquasparta, just outside the gate: the church of the SS. Crocifisso.

Well the first part was easy: this time I've finally done a relatively thorough visit of Acquasparta, and have an idea of 5 of its churches — in the order in which I found them, S. Crocifisso (in front of which a flower market in progress), the (open) parish church of S. Cecilia, S. Francesco under restoration but I bet that's the one I would most have liked to see open, S. Sacramento (sort of open, now the quarters of the ANCI, a Catholic fraternal insurance organization if I understood right: three people inside, at a desk doing things), and S. Giuseppe.

That took an hour and a half, and drizzle was setting on and I was getting increasingly undecided whether I'd go to Montecastrilli or not (the Cesi 'flu, finally, has put the fear of God in me); stopped at the bar del Piazza, in front of the Palazzo Cesi, a huge hulk of a place, one side with a plaque identifying it as a tourism organization — padlocked, trash, construction débris, I don't think it's been open for years — but the bartendress said it belonged to the University of Perugia, and that you know elections are upon you when you start hearing promises to make it a library, a culture center etc. — and after the elections, peep.

Two tonic waters (to prevent cramps, call it the fear of God of Pistrino), a sammich (nearly inedible but seemed safe: a disgusting meat and scamorza thing in a cellophane bag, fabricated by an outfit called something very much like Botox; Bo-something): quite nasty, at any rate. A pastry to get the taste of off meat out of my mouth.

Down to the station, from where a slightly shorter road supposedly to Casteltodino, but also to see what other possibilities there were: in view of the rain, I thought of an alternate day, go to Massa Stazione and see if I could get into S. Faustino this time, then home from Massa Stazione.

Well, yes, with train in about 45 minutes; but no tickets at station, instead 4 rivenditorie. It was about 1:45, and of course things are closed, but I set off to find these places where I could get tickets. Tabaccaio 1: closed. Tabaccaio 2: closed. Edicola: closed. Didn't look for Tabaccaio 3: went back to the Bar della Piazza and asked what they thought I should do. They agreed, I'd be socked for a fine even though the fault was theirs (as I was at Fratta a month ago), and this just makes me roil in my socks. The bartendress suggested I walk, one client suggested I stand around and flag down a passing car, another that I wait 'til the tabaccai were open and take a later train.

What wound up happening: they flagged down a passing pedestrian, apparently known for riding around (and indeed, he told me he does a lot of that, just drive around, he enjoys it), and he'd take me to S. Faustino, even. Well — OK, thank y'all, and off I went.

Vittoriano Morelli, about my age, started to tell me about having seen someone, in a car of the comune's, carting off a piece of Roman sculpture and somehow he realized — correctly as it turns out — that it was stolen, and he might even have seen the thief and the theft so to speak; he called the Soprintendenza, they couldn't have cared less; he called the carabinieri, and they did pay attention and took down all the details, and in fact there were things from the area that were subsequently recovered by the police a while later at Rivo di Garda (the Swiss connection, as usual), and he likes to think the information he provided helped catch what they did catch — although not "his" item: which he had copied by a sculptor from memory, and has in his front garden. By this time we'd reached S. Faustino but having told me all this (and I was interested) he decided — to drive me back to Acquasparta to his house where I could see this copy. . . . Then a second drive to S. Faustino, where he left me, for which I was grateful, saving me unpleasantnesses with FCU personnel and useless time walking a road I already knew.

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Vittoriano Morelli's replica of a stolen Roman frieze.
The blue pen is exactly 14 cm long.

S. Faustino this time I saw the inside; the old lady who lives next to the church, even, after consulting with her husband, reversed herself: it was OK to photograph. And after all that — I include the time ten years ago — the interior is a bit disappointing, although they found very ancient tombs, which they say are of S. Faustino et al., right next to the altar.

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The abbey church of S. Faustino.

The larger blocks of stone (as in the side of the porch) are remains of some Roman monument.

Stepped out: rain, pretty strong. Thought I'd wait, but showed no sign of stopping and after all I had a train at Massa Stazione and had to get there. Walked — about 1.5 km — and got there soaked, at least the lower half of me; top dry as a bone, fortunately. A caffé right next to the station: had a couple of cappuccinos and a grappa and talked with several of the men there, especially one who is a stonemason and familiar with S. Faustino. Train at 1704 — still raining — raining in PSG, more or less dry in Umbertide. Home, dinner mostly of cheese, bed.

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