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Friday 30 June 2000

7:05 A.M., just woke up a few minutes ago: last night I flopped into bed exhausted, and slept almost exactly 12 hours. Certainly getting my sleep here.

Yesterday morning mind you I got up on my own at a normal hour — 0445 — and was out the door at 6:50 (some of the two loads of wash I wound up doing was dry, some not: mostly my thick socks still very damp) and thought I'd take a bus to Gubbio; at 7:00 one comes here to Fossato Alto. Well I waited at what seemed the logical place — in front of the gate in the turnaround — only to see a blue APM bus speed down the road below the wall towards the Borgo: the place to wait is at the curve in the road from the stazione.

The simple thing to do at that point was to walk, so I did. A pretty good day for it, average temperature for the season; since I was walking north I never had the sun in my eyes — off I went.

Stayed as far away from Corraduccio as I could once I saw the sign, road essentially flat, easy walking: mostly sunflowers and wheat at mid-harvest. The best part of the walk was at Branca where you meet the road to Perugia, still a two-laner. Not very hungry at breakfast, by 8:30 or so when I got to Branca I was, and by good fortune, an open sort-of‑snack-shop, not really a restaurant, but a place where you can get a porchetta sammich and a drink, which I did: porchetta very good if a bit salty but then the salt is useful on a walk. Liter-and‑a‑half bottle of plain water, carried away with me.

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Early morning: the SS219 highway bridge at Branca, looking N
— about 100 m from my snack shop.

On the other side of the attractive modern road bridge, on a 10 m-high mound, unnamed old church, almost certainly medieval:​a click-click, sit a second under the pines; and surprisingly a phone call, turned to be from Mrs Guerrieri confirming the message I'd left giving her my number.

After Branca (a kilometer-long strip of houses all fairly new), Torre Calzolari more of the same except longer: no Torre in sight except after a mile, on the right, a little parallel side-road, which turned out a disappointment, if pleasant; a hotel (4‑star, labelling itself Palazzo) Torre dei Calzolari — on a road sign I also saw T. dei Calzolai — in the form of a late 19c-early 20c folly of a medieval castle, but really from scratch, not a stone or brick of it was old; set in a rather tight little garden, pines. Said it had a pool (didn't see it); restaurant, menu looked real, no weird pseudo-nouvelle cuisine; no views, but must be restful in its big trees.

After this the road getting progressively duller, mostly because I followed the Statale, which bypasses Padule on the right — Franco says they make good wine at P., most exceptionally for the area, where there are few vineyards and where he says wines are negligible. There is an older road, now a side road, to Gubbio thru Padule and other small towns, for which I saw occasional signs, but you never know if you might not dead-end and have to come back. Anyway, I don't think I missed much, since I could see the long rather crowded strip of Padule's modern houses from the equally long but arid stretches of highway; and the highway had its plants (chicory, dock, hawkweed, my deep blue friend, the low bright yellow buttons some kind of Compositae, teazel occasionally starting to bloom, mullein, scabious once as tall as I) and a hand-length lizard that sat still for me to photograph: I left him still sitting.

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Last bit of road seemed endless, near noon as it was, and my right foot is still hurting now months and months, mostly the heel: I wonder if it wasn't some skating that did it, anyway it now seems permanent, and particularly bad the first minute I get up in the morning. I frankly thought I could walk it off; now it looks like I'll have to go see a doctor when I get back, although what can they do? Anyhow, typical Booby solution, walk on it a few hundred miles first. . . .

Finally got to a caffé in a working-class dormitory neighborhood of Gubbio: pistachio-and‑lemon icecream cone, Gatorade. TV running, about ten teenagers, boys with girls on their laps, etc. like an Italian version of the Fonz and his crowd. Sat there for a while, long enough to partly hear (TV competing with chatter) about "Molotov cocktails" at S. Ambrogio in Milan — newspapers bought later, no damage done — one of these endless political-social protests where Europeans haul off at their heritage standing innocently by: some latent rage against the weight of the past, because really what does S. Ambrogio have to do with prison overcrowding, other than being a major source of income thus indirectly providing funds, from non-Italians, to help allay just this kind of ills if they do their budgeting well?

Off to centro storico; knowing full well that if I slipped left I'd eventually fall into the big bus piazza behind S. Francesco: and not wanting to do it. As a result, I fell on a pharmacy — 73ML of vitamins, zinc, aspirin, potassium; hedged recommendation for lunch — pharmacists conferring, I need to make sure they don't take me for my shirt and pants, to watch for price creep — at the Taverna del Lupo.

Finally did land on the piazza dei pullman, but because a deeply shaded wide-sidewalked boulevard was so attractive at this juncture; went to the info office just up the street, got bus schedules, but they're only partial: which of the listed buses to Fossato for example take you to F. alto? Dunno, call APM —

There is an Ufficio di Turismo or APT, but in an out‑of-the‑way place (shades of Amelia) and closed for 3½ h in the middle of the day. Three middle-aged American women, with guidebooks so already having done their homework mind you, came in expecting to be able to get a Gubbio view of what they should see, just brushed aside, courteously, with the APT info; Booby stepped into the breach, giving them a 1‑2‑3 on the city once I'd found out what their interests were and how long they were in town for — also a mini-lecture on the Byzantine corridor: not perfect but better than nothing. They were staying in Perugia, then in a coupla days would be going to stay briefly in Sinalunga — a curious choice but then maybe not, what do I know about Tuscany — before heading up to Florence.

Well from there, what with broiling sun and hobbling a bit, the Lupo nearby. (Oops, backing up a bit: between my Gatorade and the pharmacy, bumbled onto the church of S. Maria della Vittoria from the rear — as often, better than from the front — small Romanesque church, must have been way out in the fields in St. Francis's time, and even now is semi-fields, surrounded by bits of single-family houses and small apartment house developments: the Benedictine foundation, already a few centuries old in Francis's time, opened themselves up to his group, and it was here, it is said, that Francis cut the deal with the Wolf. The street I was on when I fell on the church, which I'd never heard of, is called via Frate Lupo; a good modern monument to Frank and Wolfie about 50 m in front of the church. Click-click; church closed.)

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Gubbio: the apse of the chapel of S. Maria della Vittoria.

The Taverna del Lupo, well. . . I ate a pretty good meal, with here and there something very good, and no I wasn't gouged and am not sure what could have given rise to the idea — menu is priced, and the only substitution (I wanted a rosso di Monte­falco Adanti, but they were out) a Sagrantino was suggested but I nixed it 40% on price but 60% on too heavy for the hot day and all that walking, wound up being a Colli del Trasimeno at slightly less than the Adanti would have been.

Yet on balance — well that was the problem: balance. They haven't found their balance yet, and don't seem to be looking. Uncertain atmosphere — "Taverna" yet an all-male staff of maître-d' and waiters in black tie; locale, if you look closely, is not far removed from a clean railway station waiting room, yet with little lamps at each table (and a spotless bathroom with ultramodern plumbing and oshibori-quality paper towels: I flirted with filching a couple); food, ditto: labelled prominently on the outside "specialità eugubine" but nothing terribly Gubbio, a rather bland if careful menu of central Italian cooking — meats mostly grilled — and, what I ate at least, relatively international although quite good. Bits of nouvelle cuisine — but not daring to go whole hog, just enough to disrupt any feeling of Umbria. Finally, regret­fully since there is some real effort, I have to say I preferred both my lunch with Paolo at the Barba and my lunch with Franco at the Maggiolini.

I had:

So by 3:30 I was out and back on the street, after a brief chat with maître‑d', tall handsome man in his early thirties, very prominent wedding ring, which I found amusing! but understandable. He'd done a stint of three years art history, a native of Gubbio and proud of it, keen on reinforcing in my mind the image of Gubbio as the lead city in medieval Umbria, the last to bow to the church — and indeed the better and more prominent monuments in town are secular, by and large. (Another mildly amusing item: end of meal, me sitting looking absent-minded, watching one of two young trainees, black tie, reset tables; maître-d' comes up to him, can you lend me your tire-bouchon? What? Again — finally "cavatappi", ah! la luce si scese. . . Quite a few French words pop up in the trade, at unexpected places, this to me one of them whassamatter with just plain corkscrew? Ah, mais la mode. . . .)​b

On the advice then of the I‑place, to coin a phrase, I called APM which runs the buses to Fossato and Gualdo; glad I did: not the last at 1855 but only the next-to‑last at 1705 goes to Fossato Alto — really not in the mood for any more walking — thus abbreviating my visit of Gubbio, to the Duomo, closed when I was here last with James. There is now an elevator, which is nice. Duomo open: cool, wide Gothic arches, very shallow side chapels, specializing in corpses under glass — various bishops of Gubbio, 12c‑13c; also a Roman sarcophagus, strigil type, "found in 1777": didn't look quite right to me, could it be a good 18c forgery?? Prolly not, but photos first, argue later.

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Gubbio cathedral: the body of S. Giovanni da Lodi, † 1105

Back down to Bus Plaza, ticket, also three mystery novels for evenings here when I'm antiquity'd out — Interestingly, not one of the mysteries for sale at the kiosque were written by Italian authors. All Anglo-Americans, translated.

Bus on time, unevent­ful, slow walk up and to bed: I read about 5 pages, and pow! out like the light I didn't need to turn on.

This morning — I've just spent 2½ h writing! — noticed a message on the fonino. James in an unhappy panic, calling at 3 this morning Fossato time — Shadow started spraying and got "some of my photos", and what should he do? Hoping I'd call soon; well by the time I got the message it was past midnite in Chicago — I'll call in a few hours now. Unhappy and hoping for the least bad. I thought most of my photos were safe. Damn cat, this one has been hell since I rescued him, terrorizing Snuggles nor the friendliest with me, now this.

Program for the day: see the mayor as requested; call James; prolly go to Rimini.

About 2:25 P.M., first two parts of the program done, and sitting at Fossato station preparing for the other.

Wound up an unexpectedly long time in the mayor's office, with Mrs. (Anna) Burzacca my vice-mayor who is, ex officio I think, the assessore alla cultura. I needed first off to make sure I wasn't misrepresenting myself, even inadvertently, i.e., no I'm in no way official with anyone including the U. of K. hosting my site; after that was out of the way, I explained what Tentacle-Baby was about, especially the Umbria component; and that of course as an innamorato dell' Umbria I was keen on doing the best possible job of representing the region. We talked websites (theirs and others); theirs for now lies fallow on a compact disc somewhere; I learned among other things that there are more hotel rooms in Fossato than in Gualdo: can't say I was that surprised, Gualdo is primarily a local industrial center, finally. We talked ecotourism a bit — by European standards Fossato is remote and wild, by American standards it's rural but a short drive from all kinds of splendid stuff — and wind and mountain-bikes: this latter the Mayor was very surprised to hear me say that many people in my country consider anti-ecological; the idea hasn't surfaced here yet, I guess, but I'm sure it will.​c

In sum nothing earth-shattering, but a good general conversation, more printed info for me, some ideas.

Out at 1 P.M.; two minutes later, on the phone with James, the best reception near the house being from the rail over the road behind it; six A.M. in Chicago, but he was already awake, with Boo on his lap: and situation better than it could have been. Demon pissed in the suitcase containing my 98 photos, which are in much stronger wrappers I think; still, James didn't dare open anything, for fear that he'd make it all worse. Verdict won't be in for several days. Will try to put it all out of my mind — what can I do? — but (this was an incident I was always afraid of, and have tried to watch against for years) that settles it: I'll have to find some kind of properly archivial solution to the photos; also, to scan them all immediately upon returning from these trips — in essence back them up.

Rimini, earlier'n I had any right to expect. Took the 1429 to Ancona, 1550 arrival at Falconara, and would have waited 45mn and arrove here just past 6. Instead, a Rimini (and Bologna) train that normally would already have left, was running late: I had just the time to change platforms, and hop on it.

Rimini is changing. They're installing a pedestrian zone from the Malatesta to the Piazza 3 Martiri — and maybe elsewhere, I haven't scouted around, just checked in — with new pavement, nice lights, etc. They've removed the wires that ruined every frontal shot of the Tempio — but just right now, the façade is all blocked off with orange plastic and construction work, although I think I saw a sign for a side entrance at least. So the restoration of the inside in 1997 or 98 whenever I last saw it has now moved to the outside: I hope that means that the inside is done and the marble dust is gone!

I have with me my roll-on, not that there's anything in it, but because tomorrow there ought to be; rolled it down the hill to the station in Fossato, rolled it from the station here to the Giulio Cesare: boy am I dull! I found a hotel once, that's where I go 'til I die. The rooms still have all the charm of a dying goat — beigish patched wallpaper, 1950's sea-green carpets and bedspread, the most functional of furniture . . . but also excellent plumbing and wonder­ful spotless sheets and towels, right downtown for a decent price: why change. Charlie, the spaniel, has aged a bit, and is middle-aged now like me, but a handsome spirited dog (comparison at this point definitely in favor of dog: I look meaner and meaner and noone would describe me as spirited who knew me. . .)

So the by now traditional Rimini evening: I check in, they take my passport for a while, feeling naked without which I take a shower from the grime of travel, then go for a walk, and eventually to eat at Il Lurido, which as opposed to last time I hope is open again.

Note in the Diary:

1 forgot to mention price: 90ML, not out of line —

Later Notes:

a The church of the Madonna del Granello.

b Notice they're the flagship of a chain (9 hotels and restaurants in Gubbio, 2 in Assisi, 4 in Fabriano, and one in "USA" — a Celestino's Restaurant in Dupont, PA). Website: Mencarelli Group.

c Mountain bikes churn up the soil and anything else they happen upon. Here, for example, is the disaster they have wreaked on a medieval (or maybe Roman) road about 30 km from Fossato.

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