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Saturday 15 July 2000

Back home in bed, 8 P.M.

Yesterday morning I left Preci (230ML stay: 140 for two nights' stay; 90 for three meals: I overheard the pricing in the kitchen — "He had three meals, they were big") at 0930 — Should have mentioned that after dinner on Thursday I wound up talking with the mayor of Preci, who came in for dinner (promised him I wouldn't put this online: [. . .]) at 0930 — and the day is fairly easy to write up: essentially downhill for 15 km thru often uninhabited countryside, but much to see. Chose not to go to Saccovescio (the attractive village I could see from my hotel room); later read there is a Roman altar there, but in view of my time constraints would prolly have made the same decision. On the way to Pontechiusita, two sets of cascading rectangular concrete ponds; I took them to be sewage treatment plants, 'til set right by a sign on the second: fish farms. My trout, in sum.

Pontechiúsita is almost nothing at all: four houses and the road asphalt is darker; it's in the Marche, in Macerata province: about 2 km of that, then back in Umbria, still Preci. I'd allowed myself time to see the church of S. Lázzaro di Valloncello (also seen: Balloncello), but didn't need to: it's a decrepit hovel with only its existence to speak for it.

Triponzo, my first real goal of this trip. Before the town itself, I did about 2×1 km to see the "Balza tagliata": road cuts, thus much like the Roman one I came to see, 'cept medieval apparently. Was really very unsure of what it was I was looking at, since it didn't match the descriptions I'd had, like from the bus driver on the way in to Norcia.

With a peek at my fonino serving as watch — about all it was good for between Norcia and Triponzo, where there seems to be a very large gap in reception — I decided I had time for lunch; at a road-side restaurant (hotel too but the 1997 earthquake did in the 8 rooms, still not fixed) right in town, the Tartufaro. Ciauscolo, although of cinghiale since the pork stuff is more or less seasonal: much like any other dry sausage to this palate. A remarkably good dish of tagliatelle allo scorzone, prompting me to ask the owner, a 40‑year‑old man who ran his restaurant at mealtimes but also worked fulltime for ANAS, the national road maintenance agency (quite a go-getter in many other ways as well, I told him he was American), just how to get that flavor out of the summer truffle. His answer — running counter the cookbooks, but makes sense — mortar and pestle with a bit of oil; don't grate it, and certainly don't use a blender.​a Heat the oil separately to simmer (with the usual garlic, salt, pepper), and when the oil is ready, turn off the heat, mix with the truffles and serve on whatever.

Red wine, house-carafe, not good: close to undrinkable. Trout, this time (I had a choice here) poached. Good, even if, unwilling to dismember it with a magnifying glass, I had to ask them to bone it; but at least they left the head on.

Off again at 2:20 with my bus to meet at Cerreto Borgo at 4:35, and the inscription to see, but also to climb to Cerreto Alto. The inscription was there and readable, and didn't appear to be damaged, that I could tell; immediately after which 2.8 km of climb to Cerreto: never cease to be surprised how quickly, as you climb, you leave the old road below.

[image ALT: A small section of the vertical face of a rock, somewhat fissured; a rectangular area in it has been smoothed and a four-line inscription carved on it. It is a famous Roman inscription at Triponzo, Umbria (central Italy).]

The Roman inscription at Triponzo.

It is famous because it is carved into live rock, on the face of a cut made by Roman engineers to bring the Spoleto-Norcia road thru this narrow section of the Nera river valley.

Cerreto itself, well my visit much colored by my need to meet that bus; my restaurateur had told me it was an easy 8‑ or 10‑minute walk down by the mule track, but then I had to allow more than that for it — so I walked in one end — a surprisingly large wide piazza — and out the other, a rapidly narrowing promontory of rock with several ruined churches (thus, did not see S. Maria Delibera — I may cross Cerreto again when I do Terni and the main trunk of the Valnerina later on). The mulattiera iffy, but finally OK: I landed at the edges of Cerreto Borgo at 3:45 by the bell, and had to investigate the more or less abandoned church of S. Paterniano (a pity, it's actually not bad) and chat with some people in the street, also take a peek at a 17c church of Gesù e Maria slowly being fixed to be a museum; then to have fruit juice and an ice-cream at the bar down on the main highway. Bus on time, and a 40‑minute wait in Spoleto train station as scheduled; arrived in Fossato at 1833 on time; rain. I tried reaching the cab, no dice, so started walking up the hill, but by very good fortune — I was particularly grateful, being tired — a car of four young women, one of whom recognized me, stopped to pick me up. Home, called James, slept almost immediately, no dinner.

[image ALT: A weedy patch of tall grass with a bush about 2 meters tall and 2.5 meters wide, to the viewer's left of which is a small stone church: the door is arched round, with a timidly ogival surround. Ivy is growing on a bit of the church, there are cracks, and the tile roof needs mending. Behind the bush and to our right, a square stone tower with long arched windows at the very top of each visible side. It is the church of S. Paterniano in Cerreto Borgo, Umbria (central Italy).]

Cerreto Borgo: the church of S. Paterniano.

This morning I risked not doing anything; pushed myself out the door, though, just before noon, and walked to Colbassano, Crocicchio, S. Pellegrino and back via the Industrial Zone of Gualdo just W of Palazzo Mancinelli, then Palazzolo.

Even less to say here: the weather was near perfect, though, around 75 with light breezes and an occasional cloud to cover the sun. Colbassano, so pretty from my bedroom window, was a disappointment: it ain't much as is, but then the street is torn up for sewer work. I fed bits of my lunch sausage to three cats.

[image ALT: A 4‑story stone and brick tower. It is a 19th‑century pastiche of a medieval castle at Crocicchio, near Gualdo Tadino in Umbria (central Italy).]

The almost-medieval tower of Crocicchio.

Umberto at the alimentari before I left told me that Crocicchio was nice and had a medieval castle. Well, in order: yes, no. The castle is a late 19c folly, although a good one; but Crocicchio is pleasantly situated with very good views NE onto the entire track of the Flaminia from Fossato di Vico to Costa San Savino. Although it is in fact possible to walk from Crocicchio to S. Pellegrino, it's not easy, across fields with no clear line of sight, and I opted to retrace my steps to the Gubbio road, retrace some of that, then take the road to S. Pellegrino: thus making the walk a bit longer, but mostly exposing me a second time to the Dogs of Crocicchio. For about the full kilometer of road up to the place, every house has its dog, and every one of them is a bearded rough-haired runt about eight inches high: different subvarieties, but I bet they all share several ancestors, i.e., some dog got loose twenty years ago. I fed one of them some sausage; the others wouldn't have any.

S. Pellegrino is a long straight street at a constant slope of about 13%. There is a surprisingly active main square: I sat in it, at the bar next to the 16c church of the Madonna delle Grazie. The other church is S. Pellegrino and there actually appears to be a saint by that name, who, if I understood a cartoon history of him in the bar correctly, died in 1804. By accident, I met the parish priest, Don Luigi Moriconi, sharply dressed and on his way to a church service.

At the bar, four fruit juices (2 green apple, 2 grapefruit) and a coffee ice cream. The barman came out and showed me photos of himself in front of some Roman remains; I wasn't expecting the theatre of Sabratha, but recognized it instantly (a teenage boy and a 60‑year‑old man I'd been talking with thought this was just extraordinary; and in a way it was, since we'd all been talking Flaminia and the vague ruins of Tadinum near Rásina, then I was handed Sabratha with no commentary, it threw me for a loop for a second).

From there down to the trunk road to Gualdo, with not much in the way of choice: towards Gualdo and away from Fossato, but did find a cut thru the industrial zone and connected with the Flaminia, turning N again. Walked by Le Borre again (my first time this trip, in effect my life since Oct 98​b could be viewed as a circular dance starting and ending at Palazzolo: peculiar the ideas that come to one on the road) to observe the orientation: I'm not even completely convinced the Flaminia went thru Fossato Borgo; after all the two bridges are much lower: why would the road have risen higher to drop again afterwards?

Chatted with a group of ladies on the square of Palazzolo, where this time the church was open, in the last stages of post-earthquake repair, painting the inside; they told me the bar was closed because there was a wedding this evening: one of the regulars rather than the barkeeper, I got the impression.

Out of Palazzolo and started up the hill, the long straight stretch that you pick up when coming from the station — thus my old friend (also, per the books, the Flaminia) — when Umberto comes bopping by and I'm grateful for the lift. He parked at his store, I do a spot of shopping, and then dinner: spaghetti; sauce of clams, butter, cream, parmesan; broiled three minutes: worked very nicely. Bed. Tired.

Later Notes:

a I'm a better cook now than when I recorded this advice. He was absolutely right: a blender significantly heats what it chops, and in the case of garlic or truffles, the flavor deteriorates with heat. Use a mortar and pestle, it just takes a minute — faster than washing the blender and its blades.

b Mistake in the diary. My previous stop in Palazzolo was in November of that year: diary, November 3, 1998.

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