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Monday 17 July 2000

Slept 'til past 9 this morning — I've been sleeping way too much here —

Anyway to resume yesterday and get past the block of unpleasantness: I had plenty of time to write yesterday but just didn't want to.

Passignano right away reminded me a cheap version of Bandol: the sea, sort of, for people who don't have too much money; and the town doing its best to separate them from it (lots of miscellaneous national flags in evidence, etc.). This wasn't helped any by falling right in on a sort of rummage sale in the main square. One stand had old post-cards ranging from 1880 to 1890 judging from the postmarks: I looked thru the Umbria stack and found three items out of copyright and of interest: the Porta Orvietana of Todi, the Torre Comunale of Amelia, and a depiction of the Ceri of Gubbio. Prominently displayed next to these cards, a sign 1000L (which I thought was cheap); the real price in minute pencil marks on each card: 35ML apiece; outrageous by Paris Quai de Montebelloº standards, and they're not really cheap there, either. When I gave the man my cards, saying "Tre", he immediately started writing: bald assumption I didn't speak Italian, which I never like. (Of course I didn't buy the cards; for good measure, told him they were 'way over-priced.)

Lots of pizza-by‑the‑slice joints, few restaurants: three in fact along the shore. Since it was lunchtime and it would have been nifty to have some fish in view of the lake, I asked at one, where a table was free outside (another table outside occupied): they told me, no, that was not available, but maybe next doors under the same management. (No tables at all outside.) Well, that was two; the third smelled of often-reused fishy oil. A few more hundred meters, the industrial port, with a very large glass-and‑concrete pizza joint in a parking lot; I headed back to the (very small) older section of the town.

There, off a back square — another large snack-bar — I found a charming restaurant, Trattoria Il Pescatore, with about 6 tables under a densely woven trellis of greenery. Some tables occupied, some not: one tiny table, seating two at most, right by the door; after standing a bit maybe to be seated, finally asked if it was OK to sit down: was told very curtly that I'd have to eat something. . . Despite this unpromising start, I sat down; a waitress flew out of the inside room of the restaurant to tell me that it was getting very dark and was going to rain,​a and I couldn't sit there; I said oh I didn't think a few drops, she said, no go indoors, if it rains we'll strip the tables, we really can't serve you here (again, so dense the trellis that you basically couldn't see the sky; and the table immediately flush adjacent with the door); and she left.

Well I take people literally; I packed up my stuff & left. Just as I was leaving, same waitress with tablecloth but obviously in a real huff; I told her I understood (all too well: one person at a table isn't two, even if I was, as often, quite prepared to eat for two) and left, bristling.​1

I'd thought to take the boat and take a peek at the Isola Maggiore (9ML round-trip) which is where the TCI puts almost all the interesting stuff in the comune; but now of course that was quite out of the question, my nerves being completely churned up: all I wanted to do was go away.

Still, it's silly to be somewhere and not look around, so I poked around the upper town, the older part. It is very small indeed — maybe 4 blocks — and such monuments as there are seem to date from the 17c: two ruined churches, closed (one with an amusing rural interpretation of the volutes of the Gesù); no plaques or indeed any indication that they were still in use, certainly in one case the reverse. I asked a passerby the name of the second church, but he couldn't tell me: he was Algerian or Moroccan.

There is the wrecked hulk of the castle, but small and pretty much unreadable; no information, plaques, etc. Enough of this: I left. (I spent no money in Passignano despite good intentions! but found a 200₤ coin, so actually came out a dime ahead for the aggravation.)

The road to Magione — cloud cover 30% decreasing to almost none, and getting quite hot — is two heavy-traffic highways coiling their way east around each other: the A1 superhighway and the Statale, just about as many cars.

First stop, the Romanesque church of S. Donato; open, as it turned out, for its festa: caught it between Part 1 and Part 2 of the festa (an evening procession in a few hours), with people moving flowers from the side altar to the main altar. The interior nothing, other than the folk festival aspect; the exterior nothing terribly much more: very primitive, stone and brick, amalgamated with a farm house. Across from it twenty feet away, a little chapel, not much bigger than an outhouse, not in use but the bent cross at the top gave it away, and sure enough inside — peek thru keyhole — the débris of an altar. Some women sitting on a nearby ledge told me that some years ago — the impression was, in the time of her grandmother — they'd collected a batch of bones from up there — waving her arm at the adjacent olive grove — and put them here.

More dull hot road, to a second church, also about 400 m off-road; this the church of S. Vito: a main building, small, modern façade but the apse is still old; and a free-standing belfry about six feet west of it: a hollow, multi‑story arched structure given out as Byzantine in some guidebooks; and it may well be, since on the inside it ends in a tiny dome that reminded me of Genga, which is clearly Byzantine-influenced. Still, hard to say how old any of the present structure is, since made of small stone blocks with decorative accents of brick, any and all of which must surely have been repaired and replaced over the years. Handsome, though.

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San Vito di Passignano: modern church, free-standing medieval belfry.

More dull hot road, though with nice views SE towards Torricella (modern, down on the flat by the shore) and Monte del Lago, picturesque and older-looking. At what the milestones said was 0.8 km from Magione — absolutely no sign of the place — but obviously at the pass thru the hills to it, a bar on a small road. I sat down and had a liter and a half of fizzy water, and two fruit juices. The owner, born in 1934, near on to celebrating 50 years running the bar, which he opened January 1, 1951 (at sixteen?); very proud of his town — hidden off-road up the little road in front of his bar, although I'd seen it from a mile away sort of — so I went and looked (staircases a more direct route, from behind the bar).

He was quite right: Montecológnola is an attractive little place, with a good chunk of its walls and towers, including a double gate — the second at an angle to the first — a much weathered 15c tombstone in the main street, a large church with a 20c façade but apparently housing medieval frescoes — a baptism in progress and me with a train in Magione, so I didn't see them; little streets of well-built stone houses, and the whole place feeling very livable. Back at the bar I thanked the owner for alerting me to the town, I would have been very sad to miss it; he beamed (and said I should go see Zocco, too).

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Montecolognola: the street up from the main gate.

Quite true, though: Montecolognola was the highlight of this walk. Magione, starting yes about 800 m away, but with the center more like 1½ km away, is rather large and essentially modern, although quite pleasant and lively (and this was Sunday). An unvisitable tower called Lombard but in fact late medieval, atop the town, which spreads down the hill past the equally unvisitable castle still now belonging to the Order of Malta: guidebooks unanimous that it is not open except by special permission, but a local resident (knowledgeable about her town) said "Ci sono degli orari" — although at the gate, three large metal plaques with coats of arms but not a trace of any visiting schedules.

Very attractive brick church of S. Giovanni Battista (the one which the TCI says has 20c frescoes of the Futurist school); Mass going on, so didn't go in, but the same resident described the frescoes to me, as aerial views (of what? I stupidly failed to ask).

Train station curiously hard to find, and quite unsignposted, at the foot of a long rather steep incline; the area around the tracks quite unkempt. Sat, train, Foligno, opted for the EuroStar (10100₤ supplement) to get me home 45 minutes earlier. Arrived at 2055,º and my walk up the putative Flaminia; a couple of groups of middle-aged Fossatane arm in arm out for their evening walk, chatted with them at the Belvedere by the gate, then home, hot shower, my Bel Paese-and‑ham success of the other day, bed.

Note in the Diary:

1 Me: shorts, long-sleeved shirt, camera bag, shaven; not my fault, whatever it was.

Note for the Web (2004): Now that this diary entry is online, I've received an abusive anonymous e‑mail about my account of the restaurant. It hardly makes things better.

More generally, my suspicion that "one person isn't two" was the problem has been confirmed to me by others. Seasoned Italy travelers do report that the single traveler not infrequently meets with this kind of treatment in restaurants; if like me you have a hearty appetite, you can usually obviate any unpleasantness by announcing as you come in that you're as hungry as two people. (Readers of this diary will see that borne out fairly often, as my scales also testify, alas.)

Despite over 15 months spent as a tourist in Italy over a period of ten years, however, this has only happened to me one other time so far; that occasion too made it into my diary. Single-Diner Syndrome is more likely to happen to you if you are a woman, by the way.

Later Note:

a Just how dark and going to rain it was, can be seen in the photographs I took five minutes before and — on this page — half an hour later.

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