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Tuesday 11 July 2000

Fossato station, just past the scheduled 1231 departure time of the InterCity to Spoleto: on my way to Norcia, Preci and Triponzo, everything like clockwork this morning and I just discovered that in changing shirts at the last minute I forgot to put my glasses back on, so that I'll be sort of blind for the duration.

Last night's dinner was indeed a half-cup of crème de marrons with a tablespoon of cream, and to bed. Slept well, woke up still trailing this darn cold, but every day it gets a bit better; either that or I'm getting used to her.

Never cease to be amazed what I can pack in that camera bag, small as it is: in addition to camera, telephoto, sideflash, two hoods, twelve rolls of film, filters, compressed air and lens cloth and Q-tips — a pair of heavy shorts, my TCI to Umbria (possibly now useless for its fine print), toothbrush, toothpaste, two pair of socks, a T‑shirt, sunglasses, photo log, diary, binoculars, plastic bags for rain, miscellany of small important paper, etc.!

This morning spent housecleaning and packing, had 2 biscottes with honey, marmalade at 8; at 11:30-ish, lunch: leftover rice, salad (garlic: I'm not eating enough garlic!), yogurt. Lots of tea, although not the Prince of Wales because there is no strainer onboard.

All morning, completely overcast, windy, cool. Scheduled to walk out of the house at 12:05 I watched the downpour get to Fossato at 11:40 although behind it in the SW clear skies: not relishing the poor auspices of walking down to the station in the rain; but sure enough, I stepped out into already warming sun.

Train not too late — I'm on it now, just past Ponte Parrano — particularly good light and landscape conditions: the sun yet lowering clouds now to the west, after the rain to bring out the colors — wondering whether the Norcia bus will wait for us; the reason for this particular choice of mine (4100₤ for the supplemento) was of course the corrispondenza. If not: well, another bus at 1710 (i.e., a three-hour layover in Spoleto) that'll get me to Norcia in plenty of time.

It did (I had the schedules a little mixed up). The bus route no longer runs thru Triponzo, or at least it didn't today; anyway I was here by three.

The hotel was the hotel I'd seen on my previous passes thru Norcia, as I thought it might be; I have a second-floor room because I wanted a view. Well by most tourists' standards it's not really a view, but I like it: tile roofs over the street, only slightly more distant views of the tops of S. Benedetto, the Comune, and the Teatro Comunale; mountains as a backdrop.

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View, roughly E, from my room at the Grotta Azzurra.

Went right back out to poke around a bit, and make sure I had cough drops for the concert, and a magnifying glass for emergency reading between now and the time I get back home. Found myself at a fully restored S. Benedetto, looking drastically different from my only other visit of the inside, with Peter and June in '97: beauti­fully organized, neat if a bit detached from its context; more of the Roman locales visible.

Round the bend, fell onto a seemingly temporary exhibit, but it will become a permanent museum, combining the finds at the recent salvage excavations of the Campo Boario (the space just outside the Porta Romana where Peter & June & I found a market, and where there is now a somewhat out-of‑place modern construction which at least has the merit of being low (it seems the locals don't like it much either)) — with the locale itself, a Roman space — nice arch — now under­ground: locale romano della Porta Ascolana. Most of interest to me, a few inscriptions, although nothing extraordinary: that I could see, without my blasted glasses. Photography verboten.

Long chat with the Dott.ssa at the door, playing ticket-taker, but she was the one who did the excavations. (I found out from the bookstore nearby her name is Mariangela —)

It looked like just chatter, but when I left I embarrassed myself when I realized that Booby is very good at extracting information from people this way: effusive enthusiasm, an endless Lucia-like flow of seemingly haphazard chatter mixed with funny stories, a bit of self-deprecation, scattered references to obscure places in Umbria designed to establish that I know a few things and am thus worth talking to → and I'm usually rewarded with quite a bit more information: sometimes the other person views it as a challenge, and tries to find things I don't know about — which suits me jes' fine; and of course there are plenty.

After this long chat then (Biselli, Pitigliano, ideas of things to see in the area, the Tabula Cortonensis on exhibit in Cortona of course starting Aug. 25, etc.) stepped outside the Porta Ascolana and bought 180ML of books. . . An exceptionally good selection of Umbria guidebooks there; but I also got a book on recently discovered inscriptions of Norcia (wait for the CIL and I'll be dead first). Chat there too, I was warmly recommended by the storeowner to talk to a Prof. Romano Cordella that he then went and dug up a phone number for, who he said was approachable. Well, fat chance knowing me, but good to know just the same.

Back in piazza, the gonfaloniere was doing duty by himself in front of the Comune. I asked why — dumb of me! Today is, by a very nice coincidence, the feast of S. Benedict! Which at some level I knew — still, Roman guru not in top form here. The Sicilian carabiniere then immediately added, almost by way of excuse, not the real festa, but the liturgical festa (and the gonfalon-bearer was in fact hustling himself off to S. Benedetto, the bishop preparing to say Mass); the civil festa here is March 21.

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On duty in front of the Comune: gonfalon with the coat of arms of Norcia.

So I went and sat a bit at the triangular terrace between the Corso and the v. Alfieri, belonging to the Caffé Tancredi, had a prosecco, curiously served, come qualsiasi birra, with peanuts and little cubes of what was essentially a tramezzino of the usual tuna & mayo. Ideally located to watch the passeggiata, sparse compared say to Orvieto, but no less lively, and — nice to see — involving all ages, not just the younger half of this world. For its simplicity and relative modernity, the Porta Romana's pink arch at the end of the Corso is really wonder­ful: every time I come here I fall in love with Norcia all over again.

Speaking of which, real estate prices, as far as I can tell, are lower yet than elsewhere so far in Umbria; plus Norcia has the tremendous advantage of being flat: Spello and Todi are wonder­ful but at 80 years old I bet it must be nice living somewhere flat. . . .

And now I'm winding down dinner, just thirty feet away, across the v. Alfieri but where I can still keep an eye on the Piazza and the last some of the Corso at least. Piazza — it's 8:05 — rather lively with knots of mostly young men; Corso apparently now quite dead, although behind me to my left, thus near if not on the Corso, animated chatter, maybe fifty or more people about 150 m away.

Dinner: antipastoni di norcineria (what else? and in fact some of it unusually good, the headcheese especially); a lentil soup — lentils from Castelluccio, after all — the superb risotto al tartufo (pregiato, not the scorzone, although brown rather than black, but heavenly); niente secondo (combination of two primi, watching the blasted tape measure and in fact I'm still hungry, economy, and time constraints to be on the safe side for our 9 P.M. concert); and the house dessert, a cold sort of fruit mousse — somewhere between a bavaroise and an ice cream, with fruit sauce, quite good. Finally got my bottle of rosso di Monte­falco Adanti.

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