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Friday 21 July 2000

Last bit of yesterday, obviously, written this morning — woke up at 7. The day is going to be hot; I don't want to leave here til mid-afternoon to avoid as much of the sun as I can, although the percorso is only 10 km. Considering getting to Bomarzo across the border somehow to see the curious park, but will not walk it, since that would make 23 km for the day, and some of it inevitably in the heat. (Now we'll see what I actually do — up to my room now after a very small breakfast, to pack up.)

Something before 1 P.M.; well I went to Bomarzo, although over my objections and felt embarrassed about it for a good while. What happened was after breakfast I asked about buses, taxi, etc. to Bomarzo (which the hotel family actually suggested as an excursion to me last night); and the simplest thing for them to do was (and before I knew it it was done) to ask Alfredo, that's Rosanna's husband, to drive me there —

I really didn't want to do this, on several grounds: the first being of course that I would never have dreamt of asking and I certainly hope I'm not seen even as having hinted it — I assumed there'd be a taxi service — but also, I feared (as happened) that altho' they said oh we'll just drop you off and you can walk back, no sooner had we arrived in the parking lot of the Parco dei Mostri than Alfredo said gosh no, I'll wait for you here — this despite a taxi in the parking lot in fact and me starting to scurry over to him and start palavering. Anyway, basta — still feel uncomfortable about it all — but Alfredo took a fair amount of pleasure finally I think in telling me about local Etruscan tombs, loose finds in fields behind Bomarzo etc. —

Bomarzo park, just outside and 60 or 70 m below the town, is every bit as curious and beauti­ful as I'd expected. Mind you, private property, it is rather heavily exploited by its owners: 15,000₤ for the entrance ticket, and you immediately run a gauntlet of souvenir sales, plus a restaurant on the grounds nice and prominent as well. It's a sort of tiny Disneyland, where you're channeled around between wooden fences and railings — strict instructions not to jump 'em, not to do all kinds of things that hadn't occurred to me (although no veto to do several things I did think of); also, not to take "commercial photos". Not quite sure what the line is, but I took 2 rolls of film in the half hour I was there, acutely conscious of my host sitting in the parking lot: so they'll all be public domain.

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Very peculiar stuff, gigantic and intentionally rough and malformed sculptured rocks, beauti­fully sited; a beauti­ful example of folly, 16th to 18th-century (I can't remember and don't have a guide to the Lazio with me: and it doesn't matter in the least), with recognizable Greco-Roman roots — Cerberus, river gods, Hercules and Cacus; but also a huge heffalump that you meet, in the current channeling, tail-on; bears, dragons, giant gargoyles (you can walk into one, it's much like an Etruscan tomb inside), and the whole thing much more Chinese-looking than Roman or even Italian. At any rate, I'm very glad I saw it, and very glad it's been saved from what a few years ago looked like abandon or destruction. Alfredo feels it's highway robbery, or to be precise, extortion: I'd have to see the books, how much the maintenance costs for example; very well maintained — Still I have the feeling he's right.

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And from Bomarzo, with intermittent squintings at a nearby cliff riddled with Etruscan tombs (like near Pitigliano), before I knew it I'd been hijacked as it were to Lugnano: in a car it's so close! but I'm dreading the rather steep walk up in this heat today — pushing it back as far as I can to try to insure cooler temperatures and longer shadows. But tonight at 7 or so, the façade of the church will prolly be in the shade: at noon today, because of Alfredo's thoughtfulness, I had the perfect lighting for the façade. A very beauti­ful church, although I was surprised that it stands at one end of a cramped piazza: somehow I'd got the idea that there was some room around it, but there isn't. Two rolls of film — Alfredo waiting in his car, in the shade at least, in the piazza; some of the inside I will need the tripod, and I'll be there again in a few hours — but I've learned to take the pictures whenever possible: later, I may get better ones, or on the other hand none at all, or worse ones.

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Lugnano: the church of S. Maria Assunta.

Back to "da Rosanna", and after a while reading the newspaper, chatting with the family's grandmother — whose exactly I dunno, but part of the hotel family — and cleaning lenses and stuff: lunch!​a

This time, no half measures (I was still hungry last nite): two primi, one secondo, contorno; and now a break while the family eats, but I'm sure I'll have a little dessert. . . .

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Primo primo: cirioli al pesto, Mrs. Rosanna having spent some years in Liguria; quite wonder­ful, although not as sharp as the Genoese pesto: I was explained (as I'd pretty much guessed) that the basil's not the same, sure 'nuff here what you find is the larger-leaved. Secondo primo: bietole alla parmigiana, one of the rare times "alla parmigiana" has made any sense to me. Secondo (I suppose that should be "terzo"): lamb with beans, again excellent, if slightly salty; Mrs. Battistelli would make an extremely good living in New York City. Roast tomatoes, very good again. Quarter-liter carafe of local red, fine. And now I'll sit for a while before walking up the hill; we'll prolly talk Internet: they're thinking of setting up a small site, and people are talking $900 at them, speak of extortion — maybe I can do something to help.

Later Note:

a Rosanna's cooking: in over 10 years and hundreds of meals in Umbria, still among the best anywhere; read more about it in the previous entry.

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