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Thursday 22 June 2000

The curious unreality of travel. We arrived early, quite early even, at about 0738h; thru good planning and knowing the terrain from all my previous trips, by 0812 I was on the train to Fara Sabina: not quite the luck to get an Orte train (the next one would have been at 1057), but almost as good: comfortable air-conditioned ride to Tiburtina 0853, change here 0919 via Orte to Foligno; again no unusual luck to have a straight Ancona train to Fossato, but I arrive at Foligno at 1058 and have the choice of a Eurostar (supplemento) leaving at 1129 and getting to Fossato at 1159; or a bus leaving at 1237 and getting to F. at 1339, which will prolly be better — costing less, and not inconveniencing the Guerrieri for lunch.

Anyway, I just walked off the plane, thru the green customs gate, down and up to the station, bought my tickets, a set of train schedules (N and S), a phone card, and bingo: total 34 minutes at the airport, and now standing on Platform 12 at Tiburtina, writing on the wide ledge of the staircase up, train in a very few minutes. Slightly hot — suit, jacket; sweater now around waist — a bit gummy from the trip but not really bad; it must be an ideal 72° and clear blue skies.

The trip over was efficient. I ate — a mediocre meal (chicken, wilted salad, chemicalized pasty muffinlike thing for dessert) — slept 'til 6:30, had breakfast — a pasty but not overtly chemical at least blueberry muffin, a yogurt, orange juice, sockwater coffee all'Americana — and got off. Seat neighbor said he was [. . .]'s son; and indeed his last name was [. . .], they paged him (as "[. . .]" of course). Curious sort of go-getter, drank a lot thru the flight; said his girl friend was [. . .]'s daughter; lives in St. Louis: lots of odd people floating about.

France completely clouded over; our flight path took us in a shallow arc from the coast just north of Nantes down over Bourges and St. Etienne roughly; cleared up just after the Alps: I saw Lake Garda, Genoa, the mountains in parallel folds just before Genoa very attractive; then we flew offshore, over Elba, approaching land and the prominent Lago di Bolsena and its islands (thought inevitably of poor Amalasuntha), looked for S. Lorenzo Nuovo but couldn't see it: on the other hand I'm almost certain I saw the butte of Orvieto behind Bolsena. Oh, saw Talamone and the very recognizable Punta Ala of blessed memory. Of the giant bee cell at Portus zilch. Smooth landing.

Stewardess, maybe my age, suffering from sinus; I never got a scarf, sucked on a coupla Chloraseptic and put a wet handkerchief over my nose and mouth and think I'm fine —

Well by now I'm in Umbria; right this minute the train is standing in Narni Scalo. From just before Orte to about 30 seconds before the Roman bridge, I was already playing tour guide to two young Americans on a day trip from Rome to Assisi: steered 'em to the Porziuncola since they're doing a religious+tourism Jubilee thing and of course they'll be right there at the train station; wanted to steer 'em to dinner at Il Pinturicchio (their idea: to have dinner at "6:30" before taking the last available train to Rome which is no later than 2031h — bad schedule, really), but it can't be done. Anyhow, they'll love Assisi and you can't do everything.

One memorable remark from the young woman, a sheer accident since they don't know the area of course: they had a scrap of paper with their summary schedules; at one end R, at the other Assisi, and in between of course Foligno — 'cept she hadn't got the name really down and was just referring to it as "the F place"! I found that hilarious, and told her why; also that it would certainly wind up online in this diary. . . .

And I do feel extraordinarily better, just looking at the landscape; James will have been right as I suspected. I just hope I have one real window in my house in Fossato —

In the passes from Terni into the Spoletino with all the pines; flowering broom along the trax, smells wonder­ful: with each mile I feel better and more energetic.​a The spring here seems to have had its fair quota of rain, not like one year when I came in and everything was parched: of course that was in late August.

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A stand of flowering broom on the hill behind my new home in Fossato a few days later.

Just went thru Baiano; noticed an interesting bell-tower I'd never seen before — A lot of umber soil though, I guess it's all year round. Neat rectangular bales of greyish-green hay dotting many of the fields.

My tourist friends are spending two weeks in Italy; halfway thru they've been to Milan, Venice, Florence, Siena, back to Florence, and are now staying in Rome. The trip of a lifetime, but that's just overload — Didn't say so, of course —

Fossato, in my little house, 5, via Rocca; sprawled out on the larger of the two beds: not really any good place to write.

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My bedroom in Fossato. The view is westwards in the general direction of Gubbio.

The house itself is pretty good — I've got pasta on the boil so I'm not going to write it all up right now — the chief flaws being no hot water in the kitchen, and possibly the beds not comfortable. The latter would be really serious; right now, I could fall asleep easily and don't want to give in to the temptation, so I won't know til tomorrow morning.

The bathroom curious but quite adequate; the layout a bit depressing, but quite enough light, certainly upstairs: and I do have my window, a very nice view over the top of S. Sebastiano on the right, and up to a little medieval tower on the left. In between, i.e., straight ahead, a sort of amorphous patch, because hemmed in by tile-roofed houses in town on either side, of the valley and hills W of here. Fa­cing W, the house is hit straight on by the afternoon sun; opening the shutters would make it broil, quickly.

Now after lunch, not much in any mood for writing, and don't want to fall asleep, so will go for a walk now.

Speaking of broiling, quickly (he writes in bed at 6:15 or so; fruitless search for my little red alarm clock which I thought I packed): at 4:30 I went for that walk, down to the stazione and back to case out the way since it's the road I need to know best and soonest.

Got lost, of course: went to look at S. Benedetto (didn't dare go in, since in shorts — I really need to clear this up) then followed what looked like a logical road down; it wasn't. It took me to Colle, then I decided I'd strike out for the station — overshot it, road barred by a rockslide, etc. Never got to the station, if 400 m away; coming back uphill I lucked out: 2 km of very hot sun but a straight shot. Shower, water, fruit juice, now a glasslet of Orvieto Amabile 3900₤ the bottle, boy am I sleepy.

Later Note:

a An Internet correspondent, unaware of this bit in my diary, wrote me a few months later:

I'll never forget a train trip from Rome to Perugia in 1983 when I remember my whole spirit rising within as I proceeded deeper and deeper into Umbria. Once you've made a connection with the place God it gets under your skin don't it?

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