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Friday 23 June 2000

[image ALT: A small house with a ground floor and a floor above it, on a walk with a brick parapet and some geraniums. It is the house I lived in for 3 months in the summer of 2000, in Fossato di Vico, Umbria (central Italy).]
Ca' Nicoletta, Fossato di Vico:
my rental home for 3 months.

Just barely: around 0130h, woke up. The Amabile has left a slight headache: I really am getting less and less tolerant of alcohol, when one small glass of wine starts doing that to me — anyway, I'm awake, after 6 to 7 hours of sleep, and not too much earlier than my normal range around 3 to 5 A.M. The bed is still doubtful: I hope I don't start having back trouble.

It is, as I expected, very quiet here. Unlike at Spello I'm not on a street, and Fossato is much smaller. Right now I can hear the sound of what may be one car receding down the Flaminia in the valley below about 1½ km away birdwise; the pulsating sound of my own refrigerator downstairs; and the occasional bark of a dog somewhere.

Arrival here was not quite what I expected; for one thing, calling from Foligno station, I got Mrs. Guerrieri who said come on up by the first train, no disturbance at all: so I took the Eurostar and arrived at 11:59, where Mr. and Mrs. Guerrieri were waiting for me. They immediately took me to the grocery store near the station, explaining that it's Thursday afternoon and the grocery store in the paese would be closed. So I started my stay by doing food shopping: coffee, sugar, milk, fruit juice, fette biscottate, jam, butter, pasta, parmesan, fresh strawberries, that bottle of Orvieto: ₤49800.

Then up to the paese and the house; surprised I suppose I wasn't — I'd been telling James I'd be right next to the house I'd first seen Mrs. G. in here two years ago and thus a view over S. Sebastiano — but in fact I wasn't all that sure of it, so it was nice that that was more or less true: "more or less" because between the Guerrieri and me there's one house, a man named Paolo, retired stationmaster at Fossato, who sings tenor in the choir here; but the view was right, as noted.

[image ALT: missingALT]
Part of my view: the medieval Torre Comunale of Fossato di Vico.
For the rest of my view, pretty much, see Sept. 23, 1998.

Ground floor and a floor above it: you walk into the kitchen — glad to see I'm not the only person in the world to have an extra nonfunctioning stove in the house (except here it's a wood stove that could in fact be used, all hooked up to a flue etc., the old lady who used to live here used to boil water for doing dishes, apparently). Stove, range, gas bottle — need to ask what to do when I need to change it, it's a big one — sink, lots of dishes; table and chairs seat four tight; yellow plastic tablecloth already removed in favor of cloth now. A side room with a couch and the Guerrieri brought a TV so I can get news and weather predictions for my walking: not a very appealing room, don't imagine I'll spend much time in it. Off of that, via steps and a low door — ouch — a good bathroom with a washing machine. The water heater may be left on, but is small and heats up in half an hour, so best not: enough for a bath. My first bath though after my walk yesterday afternoon, cold: cool, actually; and if the summer's a hot one, I bet I'll take quite a few baths like it without lighting the heater.

Upstairs, two bedrooms: one has a single, the other a double bed. Took the larger because the mattress seems better. White-painted plastered stone walls about 2 feet thick, wooden-beamed ceilings also painted white. Rather good furniture, reading lamps, etc. Floor upstairs is terrazzo, downstairs is old local tile.

In genteel haggling over price — we finally came up with ₤1.5 million a month — I got use of a little garden plot and a table and chair there, big fig tree and shade, looks good for breakfast and maybe even dinner occasionally: we were there around two and quite hot, the garden was shady and pretty cool.

The upshot is I'm prolly going to be very lonely here unless I make some friends — already on my way back from my walk I started in on one of the dogs, who decided I was alright, and his owner and one of her neighbors just around the bend — Fossato is small and this time James isn't coming to visit —

So much (I hope) for not sleeping well. Back to sleep, rather suddenly, at about 0245, I woke up with the raw miscellaneous clangor of the bells of S. Sebastiano — there's a system to it, surely, except I haven't figured it out yet — at 7 if I was told correctly, then right back to sleep 'til the next unsorted bunch of whackings, at 7:45. Got up, looked at the clock in the kitchen, concluded it was slow, but then a more regular peal at kitchen-clock 8:00 so I guess it's fine. Mrs. Guerrieri said the bells run hourly from 7 to 7; I that I was mattiniero so that was fine. The hourly peal during the day is ten whacks on each of four bells, successively: and no number; so that you know an hour has gone by, but not which.

Anyway, here I am sitting on the white vinyl bench outside my front door, camera bag, ready to go see the carabinieri so they know I'm here. The Guerrieri said we'd go 'round 8:30‑9; I guessed right in not alarming myself unduly over the time, but not quite right enough: I was ready at 0840 and surely the nine o'clock bells will bang out at me in a minute or two.

In the shade on my bench here, it's nicely cool, maybe 65°

and the bells did ring in about 2 minutes, but the folks beat them by half a minute, and me in mid-sentence.

So off we went to register me with the carabinieri; turns out it wasn't them, but back at the comune, so before coming back up we stopped at the bank, in Osteria del Gatto, where they were immediately able to cash my cheque, and I was able to use my own bank card to get cash: maximum 500ML. We also stopped at a place that supposedly replaces the gas bottle (la bombola): quite closed although nearly ten A.M., which puzzled the Guerrieri as well; but I have the number to call when it runs out. Then on to the station, which no longer sells truffles: the local merchant who bottled them has gone out of business; I wasn't too surprised, they did undercut the market. Long pitstop at the post office, right across from the only alimentari in town, whose owner was in fact in line with us. Bumped into Luigi Galassi in the street, who took me into his house to give me a (beauti­fully done) map of the area with a good text on the local Flaminia. He withal was awful about Americans, I got this earful of how stupid and rude we were, with a few signal exceptions: he said even the Nazis were better; at least all this in front of the Guerrieri. In his house we talked Flaminia a bit, he cautioning me against Radke, saying that Sigismondi (who was after all a local) had added many valuable corrective notes to him. The work is near impossible to find, but he thinks Don Angelo Menichelli (sp.?) the parroco of Nocera, to whom I should recommend myself from him, might be able to help me find a copy.

Up to the comune, where I duly registered; a pleasant official in a blue uniform, about my age — I did the ingente sito sull' Umbria e le antichità romane number on him, he made me write down the URL etc.

Finally, long chat in my house, in the front room, the kitchen, with Mrs. G., about various things — housekeeping, our personal lives, her brother Lillo, etc. We also talked about rentals to American vacationers, etc.: this house may be a bit primitive for some (and unacceptable until there is hot water in the kitchen, the only thing she absolutely needs to do for sure, although better mattresses maybe also: still, the water is not a major installation expense), but she's thinking of renting out No. 9 which is larger, fully equipped, and has two bedrooms con letto matrimoniale, thus prolly near ideal as is —

[image ALT: A metal coffee-pot on a range: the top part is pretty much a mirror image of the bottom part, upside-down. It is a napoletana, or old-fashioned Italian coffepot.]

napoletana: you boil the water like this, then you turn it upside-down and let it drip thru the coffee (notice the horizontal band in the upper container).

She also showed me how to use the napoletana coffeepot (this morning I took a wild guess after looking at it as my mother would say comme une poule qui a vu un couteau — I nearly had it, but for one detail which had me drinking grit towards the bottom of my cup); nice to be drinking good Italian caffé again — gotta remember to sound the 2d "F", I'm not en France ici. . .!

Also, an iron (mit extension cord, table cover, instructions), which came up in connection with me being delighted, pleased as punch, to be here for the post-terremoto reopening of S. Sebastiano this very Sunday with the eleven o'clock Mass; but it turned out that my Brooksies didn't need an iron after all, having rested comfortably in the closet here since the plane. Still, I have an iron. I don't need a tie for Sunday.

I promised I'd stick around thru Sunday — the Guerrieri leave Saturday or Sunday depending on whether they decide to attend the reopening, otherwise they'll be for a month at the beach at Porto Recanati — and it looks like early next week Paolo (met his brother Mario, my neighbors with their 86‑year‑old mother apparently fit as a fiddle) might help me see about a fonino in Gualdo; so for now I'll just hang around and get acclimatized, do a bit of local walking: Sigillo this afternoon looks tempting. And I thought to check right away with Prof. Galassi, only two, not three, Roman bridges within the comune, the third is in fact the one just after Sigillo: so the work of correcting Website has started. Anyway, all this being written at 2:30 past, after a quick lunch, ditto of last night, pasta, half glass of Orvieto, coffee — no grit this time, and took a picture of the Napoletana at work. . . and strawberries. Prolly leave at 3 or even later; it's lovely here, and in the shade, but the climb back up home is in full sun until sunset and 8:30, plus it's still a climb, as well: yesterday was brutal, not for the legs, but for the heat. Still, need to lose weight. James would be proud of me, I carry, and wear, my sunglasses, which he was saying I should, that experts are now saying will save your eyes, etc. Only problem with them is they are pink, and tint the landscape further Umbrian tile-pink: in theory that's fine, not unattractive or distracting or anything, but will fix inaccurate color memories in my mind.

Two stray items while I think of them: one, a large field of young sunflowers although in full bloom yesterday, just north of Trevi on the Monte­falco side of the trax; two, just a few days ago, as they were building a highway interchange near Nocera, they found a "very well preserved" (Galassi) Roman "posta", presumably a statio or mansio. They halted work and are planning to reroute the highway, and some talk of valorizzazione; Lord knows Nocera needs it.

OK, time to brush teeth, close up the house and hie myself to Sigillo: for walking purposes, today looks better than yesterday, fair breeze to wind. Fossato often very windy — which I could see well before I was told: many of the tile roofs weighted down with many stones. That's a nice plus in my book, I like wind.

[image ALT: missingALT]
The only picture I have of a roof in Fossato — this one somewhere below my window —
shows no stones, of course.

About 7:30, back from my walk, nice if brief and coolish bath (by choice, only turned on the heater maybe fifteen minutes, enough); the house is cool. Did in fact go to Sigillo: never a waste tho' I might have been there before, and sure enough this time I explored Purello a bit.

[image ALT: missingALT]

Purello, as it appears in a detail of the naïve painting of the Madonna mentioned below.

Nothing much there except the church of S. Apollinare, about half a dozen kids playing hide-and‑go‑seek right in front of it under the watchful eye of the parroco, half sitting on a bench relaxing, half supervising two very young surveyors and a not much older architect: inaugurating a 20‑bed hospice right next to the church, they seem to have been donated either another adjacent building or the funds to work on it, but they're already going to expand it. I asked if they were terremotati in 97, dinna look like it much, but that's because I don't know how to look: the parroco pointed out to me where the façade detached from the foundations, by about an inch or more. Still, the church is open. Seems like an early 20c building to me, some very nice modern stone-work on the N side, otherwise nondescript inside and out. Inside, two cleaning ladies (or volunteers doing cleaning, more like it) and one woman adjusting things, seemed far more at ease speaking French of all things, she asked me "Vous parlez français?" so why not — a few hundred meters further north I saw a car with what appeared to be consular license plates and an F tag — she told me the fête patronale was the 23d of July, and the Madonna della Ghea, Aug 5th. What I really wanted to know was why S. Apollinarius, a very old saint after all? What is his connection with Purello? This information I got from the priest and is interesting: bishop of Ravenna, he travelled very frequently down the Flaminia to and from Rome, and there are 3 churches of S. Apollinare along the road, the second at Villa Scirca, the third a bit farther up (I didn't press the parroco, I'm sure I'll find out): so it's a sort of living memory of the Flaminia in unexpected guise.

I took a pic of a nice (recent) statue of the good bishop, and asked if it was OK to take a picture of a modern painting of the Madonna over Purello, good in a naïve way: was told yes [. . .]

Hot but not like yesterday; water pump at Purello extremely welcome. Sigillo nothing much, sat briefly, turned around, came back, with big nice cloud cover over the lowering sun very welcome too: the minute the sun wasn't beating down on me, it was perfect weather. Anyhow, getting my Umbria legs again: the climb up to the paese here is not much worse than at Spello, 'cept no street scenery to take your mind off it; but nowhere near as bad as the climb up to Todi.

The sole alimentari stays open to about 7:30, I got supplies; not at all as good as Mario and Giuseppina's in Spello, but they do have all the basics, including various sausages and ham, the fruit yogurts I live off when in Umbria, and fruit juices, etc. The only thing I don't have now — I also got fresh tomatoes — is olive oil, and garlic. The garlic's useless without the oil, and the oil I'll get in Trevi, prolly on Mon. or Tues.

It's now cooled down outside, the sun about 1½ degrees above the roof of S. Sebastiano, so I'm now on my bench outdoors with my feet up on a kitchen chair; in p.j.'s and my kimono but decent if eccentric — what the hell, foreigners are all a little odd. Anyway I'm very comfortable, and there's not a mouse — and the instant I wrote that, in the middle of the word "mouse" the crashing bells of the church (it seems to be 8 P.M.): 3, 4, 5 and then just to infuriate Pythagoras, 1 by itself. I'm going to have to learn about bell codes, everywhere the same mystery.

The most constant loud noise: bird cheepings, seem to come from the walnut tree by the tower (the tree belongs to the comune). Above them occasionally, motorcycle or moped vroom-buzz on a road somewhere. The Rossi's television next doors, quiet murmur (and inside I don't hear it); wind rustling thru the seven trees: the walnut the tallest, then something I don't recognize but the kind of tree my grandfather liked to paint, then a young maple not much more than a sapling, a fruit tree of some kind, and a group of three plums right in front of the house and below it in the orto that doesn't belong to Mrs. Guerrieri. Tabby cat at the foot of the tower, watching me.

At least three clearly recognizable birds even to this civilian: pigeons cooing, cheepers cheeping (prolly at least 2 species if I knew how to listen), and an occasional loud cackle off-Rocca left. Plenty of light still, sun now just below the roofline of the church, sky quite blue, puffs of cirrostratus overhead, the western horizon in front of me cloudier: actually better light now than most of the day for taking pix — much too bright and washed out; took picture just now to remember the moment by — and will prolly sit a bit then turn in, I'm sure I'll sleep well again. Only 12 km but not used to walking yet, plus this is high summer, I don't think I'll be attacking Monte Cucco for a few days yet.

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