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Saturday 1 July 2000

0850 just past, on a Bonelli bus leaving for San Marino right this minute rounding the Arco di Augusto; not the same company, I don't think, as last time, and certainly not the same bus: this time a spacious double-decker. Same kind of problems, tho': ticket supposedly bought on board (I asked yesterday) but in fact from a roving ununiformed person sort of blending into the waiting customers; this one an evil-minded shrewish creature picking a fight with some poor woman —

Unlike the train, the bus was too jiggly to write on; sitting at the bus park in San Marino, 11:25, twenty minutes before the next bus back.

Last night my walk took me to the square with the statue of Paul V; as almost always, apparently, a rummage sale occupying most of it: clothes, table linens, second-hand books, African crafts, geodes etc. I actually bought a little rose des sables to remind me of my mother, to replace the one we had on a coffee table for years: don't know what happened to it, but it wasn't among the household effects when my mother died — come to think of it, last few times I was in Florida I didn't see it either — Anyway, 10 ML.

Wandered over to the Lurido to check it was open — yes, looking pretty empty: of course, it was 7 P.M. almost on the dot. Back to the hotel to drop off camera bag; on the way, saw what I thought would be really good pastries: remembering that in '97 the Lurido's desserts were kinda woof, I got three pastries to have in my room after dinner: they turned out to be rather average (2 of 'em) and near inedible, a chocolate rum ball thing that should have been very good — hard to spoil, but they did: curious chemical taste, peculiar texture not pleasant either; I ate most of these this morning as breakfast before leaving the hotel.

Anyway, back to the Lurido at 8:10 — and was promptly and decisively told by the manager (possibly the owner), large man with a black beard — no way, not tonite — Well I was crestfallen, of course: I'd kinda been waiting for that for meal for 2 years. . . Said so — also that because of the style of the place, it had looked to me like they wouldn't even accept reservations — The manager (named Franco, told me absolutely make sure and call ahead next time) found me a table that I'd have to vacate at 9:30 sharp for people who'd reserved it then: delighted. I thanked him and told the waiter to cram me as full of fish as possible in 75 minutes. . . .

So I raced thru my fishes, the rather large plate of things with complicated shells, incl. crabs body the size of my thumbnail, but also some shellfree thing, cut in long square-sectioned strips, no idea what it was (some kind of octopus?) but very good; then on its own little plate, the warm langoustine with sweet peppers; the plate of mussels; the plate of easy shells, cockles maybe, in some very strong prolly Tuscan olive oil; the snails in spicy sauce, which slowed down the race quite a bit — toothpix — but not to be passed up; a plate of tortellini with salmon, excellent; a plate of spaghetti with a light tomato sauce and some more of what I'm calling cockles. I passed on the risotto and the grilled fish, it was getting close on 9:30, plus despite everything — I'd quite purposely not had lunch and only a small breakfast — hey even I get full. (Then at 9:28 I was told gee you can stay as long as you want, we've added tables outdoors for the 9:30 people: I stayed 'til exactly midnight, and had their tris of desserts, three panne cotte this time a coffee one with crunch to it, one in a hot fudge sauce, and the best had a butterscotch sauce. Limoncello and grappa on the table, I tasted the latter, had 2 small glasses of the other. Long conversation with a young couple from Sassuolo (Modena), involved in the tile industry there, one of many industries: the town is one I'd never heard of yet has 600,000 people; it's the industry that does it, or so my young couple kindly said: at any rate it's not a historical or art town.

When they left, like reasonable people, I just shifted gears to the couple on the other side of me, vacationing in Rimini for a few days from Bologna where they're starting to find they're working too much: they looked the right age for it, too.

Anyhow another wonder­ful meal at what I think of as the Temple of Fish, the best restaurant I know of anywhere for the stuff — bottle of decent white, anonymous in its green glass and no label — 50ML and with the dollar around 2050 too.

Bed last night, ten pages of mystery story, and kerzonk slept til about six, then seven. Shower — room very muggy, as all closed spaces right now (except, by good fortune, my own house in Fossato) — those pastries, checked out, rolled my empty suitcase to the station, caught the first bus to S. Marino.

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That very characteristic hill is all of San Marino: the foreground is already in Italy.

In S. Marino I kept things simple, still feeling curiously fragile, so walked into one of the better film stores I remembered from last time, and bargained the price down slightly more — this time they took credit card although the discount would have been better had I paid cash — but wound up with 170 rolls of 100 ASA Gold × 36 for ₤1.110.000, roughly 7% off the labeled price of 7ML per roll. That in turn is cheaper than the last time, because the young woman advised, as several others have, unanimously, 100 ASA rather than 200 even, for summer: and indeed I myself remember commenting a few pages back how bright the light is, and I'd been wondering about washed-out pix. Less good for interiors, but I hope that by not printing the photos, then scanning from negatives back home, I'll be eliminating two sources of loss.​a

Wandered around S. Marino rolling my suitcase behind me, here and there taking a picture: it was a perfect day for weather, about 73 or 74F, blue skies, real nice. Still once I had my film, there was nothing much to do except come back home, which I did, via Pesaro.

(It's now 10 P.M., I'm home in Fossato, have eaten a sort of little celebration dinner: strangozzi with truffles, green beans and garlic, started the Trevi olive oil; a small glass of Monte­falco shared with Mario — his sister and her husband and their daughter(s?) are in town — sat out on the stoup with em a bit; but now I'm just going to go to sleep: the trip back will have to wait 'til tomorrow.)

Later Note:

a All of this taken together was at the time a very valuable tip for anyone planning on taking more than about fifty rolls of film in a swath of northern and central Italy extending roughly from Venice to Florence to Rome: go to San Marino first. [A few years later, as digital photography has become the norm and film is on its very rapid path to obsolescence, this note is merely a historical curiosity.]

The San Marino excursion is cheap, especially if done by train, and its taxfree prices are 20% lower than the average prices in Italy: off the inflated prices of Rome and other high-tourist areas, 30%. By adding a bit of bargaining, you can save more: and I'm not the best guy in the world at haggling.

The negative scanner, or a slide scanner, saves you the cost of prints; and the quality is indeed better. In my diary here I was wondering, but when I came back home I had an immediate wonder­ful surprise:

A 1998 photograph of the Palazzo del Governo, San Marino

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P scanned from print

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N scanned from negative

Things to notice:

  1. The print doesn't cover the entire area of the photo as I saw it thru my viewfinder: even the best commercial developer will crop a lot off. For some photos it can make a big difference.

  2. I made the same recommended semi-automatic post-scan color adjustments, but P is just not right; N matches what I remember, including the pollution haze in the sky towards the horizon, left of the statue, which is lost in the print.

  3. P fails to render detail as well: look at the crenellations, the side of the Palazzo, the details of people's clothing, etc.

  4. At the same time, P is grainier: look at the pavement of the piazza. Sometimes this gives the impression of greater detail, but it's spurious, in fact.

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