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Saturday 22 July 2000

Montecchio, little brown metal table in the shade outdoors on the sort of terrace along the side of my hotel, the Perla, after 20 km and a slow visit of the town; feet hurt.

Well yesterday afternoon Lara and I did talk Internet; I hope they don't just dive in before I get back to Chicago —

And I left the hotel a bit after 4:30, and Attigliano center at 5. Having demolished their neglected castello, they now have nothing at all, except for a good modern church (click-click). The road up to Lugnano, despite the difference in elevation, didn't seem particularly steep, and doing it late in the day helped: not as hot, some shade.

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Attigliano: the church.

The shift into the valley dominated by Lugnano is very sudden, at about 4.2 km from the town: suddenly too, sheep, and even one lone goat running around a house, bleating.

The hotel in Lugnano (Albergo della Rocca) best described as dismal, with a splendid panoramic view. The entrance door to the hotel is unmarked, and looks like the side entrance to a not-very-prosperous house; immediately inside, a dark staircase that after a landing and a turn opens into a large depressing room like the main public room of a poor nursing home, with (yesterday evening anyway, but I bet they're still there now) about 8 large blue plastic bags full of stuff right as you come in.

My room, however, was fine; the bathroom one of the more curious ones of this trip, but I coaxed myself a gentle hot shower out of it: and promptly went out with camera and tripod; within ninety seconds I was lost. Lugnano is hardly very big, but one wrong turn and the streets become centrifugal: no matter what I did I'd find myself going downhill and palpably away from the center of the town. Feeling rather stupid I finally had to ask one of the rare people up and around; and sure enough, I was stupid: I'd managed to circumnavigate the piazza almost 360°.

Church closed (it was 8:15); nearby, the Pro Loco, which appeared to be open, but was not: bad timing on my part, they were redoing their office, a room the size of a bedroom, and there were workers tearing up the floor and installing electricity etc. A sort of jam yesterday and jam tomorrow situation; spoke with the man in charge, possibly the director of the Pro Loco, inquiring about books or pamphlets (at the Pro Loco but of course not in this mess), website (they considered the Sorens' site on their excavations, now vanished like so much of the Web, to be the site of Lugnano), the Antiquarium (in the Municipio, but only open for a very few hours on festivi and prefestivi). In theory this latter should have included today, something after ten A.M.; but once things go down that road, I keep on finding in fact that they're not open then, either: you need to call someone who might have the key, etc. — and in fact some mention of this kind of thing — and today was a 20‑km day with three comuni to visit, so I forwent the Antiquarium.

There are three restaurants in town, two of them signposted and prolly in agreeable settings, and the other my hotel; despite my promising not to attribute anything to the Pro Loco, I just got an enumeration: quite properly and inevitably, I guess —

Went back to the hotel and had a slow meal, my fault not theirs; after lunch at Rosanna's, I just wasn't hungry: had a primo and a contorno: wound up having cirioli again, tomato with a dash of red pepper; some boiled chicory; melon for dessert. My feet very painful, quite unexpectedly. Wanted a limoncello, instead had to settle for a vino liquoroso from Sicily; Zebibbi, excellent flavor but surely not the 16° the bottle said: my guess was about 9.

When I said so (no fuss, just tourism fodder, and in fact something light was just perfect) this met with sudden approval from behind me, a man about my age eating by himself in a dark corner, the only other person in the hotel restaurant except at the very end a couple showed up; he was a construction worker who roams the country, I got the impression he was a crane operator though he never said — for a few weeks at one place, a few at another, and the firm paying common housing and restaurant meals. He had one thing on his mind: his daughter whom he hadn't seen in five months would be on a 36‑hour leave today, and they'd spend a day together at home in Latina. His daughter is a lieutenant ("2 stars") in the Air Force at Aviano (Pordenone province) and makes 1,250,000 lire a month; but will complete her master's in a few months, with an automatic promotion to captain and 5 million lire. He's very proud of her: she's a pilot and has parachutist training, at 23. I'd be proud of her too.

And on this human note dissipating the curious gloom of the hotel, I went to bed and must have fallen asleep in five minutes.

This morning I woke up with the wide-open windows and sun, despite facing west, at 7 A.M. Last night I was asked when I wanted breakfast, and in turn asked what was reasonable; 8:30 — so I slipped into camera and tripod mode, and in fact found S. Maria Assunta open at 7:30; took the photos I'd felt I needed the tripod for (while still feeling very insecure in the use of it, and still not having found any way of locking everything in place), and so doing got a good feel for the church — although no text to lean on; still, the basic elements I've all seen in one place or other, so I don't think I missed anything. A beauti­ful building, although not one that appeals to the emotions: cerebral elegance is what she's all about (Catherine Deneuve rather than Sofia Loren). The crypt was closed, as it had been during my noontime visit the day before.

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The pulpit of S. Maria Assunta in Lugnano: a fine example of 12c Cosmatesque.

Breakfast copious and plenty of caffé latte, too; I left Lugnano at 9:10.

Today's road was almost all flat, girdling the ridge east of the Tiber, often with an extensive if fairly dull view to my left: the Lago di Alviano and behind it a very long almost ruler-straight ridge maybe thirty kilometers of it; although at the S end of it, a large hump of mountain, possibly the Soracte, in more or less the right place for it??

The only hill was down to Alviano 1.8 km off the main road, then back up, but not at all as bad as it looked. Alviano itself, bé, nothing much to it: the Castello, in which the Municipio is ensconced. A plaque on the square in front of the castle, Piazza Bartolomeo d'Alviano, claims it as the place where St. Francis quieted the birds, not exactly preaching to them, so maybe this is a different story. . . .

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The Rocca of Alviano.

At the comune, they had one copy of a book on Alviano, but it's out of print and they're reprinting it (jam when, you say?) — Luciano Canonici: Alviano / Una rocca — una famiglia — un popolo (Edizioni Porziuncola). The uniformed man at his desk, one of two men at work in the offices of the comune, spent a few minutes rifling thru it, then allowed me to do the same; curiously and unsatisfyingly, neither one of us were able to find anything really specific about the castello. My main query was what the heck is that large, apparently Renaissance, version of the Bocca della Verità in one of the outer walls? I took a photo, of course. In flipping thru this book, my eye happened to catch (p26) an incidental mention of Giove, as recorded in a document of 8 Aug 1191: referred to as "Juvo" and "Jugo" — and that puts the seal, as far as I'm concerned, on something I've been suspecting all along: while all the guidebooks parrot the line that the name of the town is indeed derived from Jovis, and the temple of Jupiter has not been found — this is sheer folk etymology; and so apparently it is: the tell-tale <G> = <V> suggests medieval under Germanic influence, and my guess now is that it's Jugum in its topographical sense, as in the De Ave Phoenice etc.; and even, if necessary, the other half of the yoke will be Penna? Anyway, the lame nonsense of gee the Temple of Jove has left no remains is accounted for: there was no Temple of Jove.

I asked the man at the comune if Alviano had a website: yes, but the specialist who deals with it won't be in for 10 days (FWIW, Sig. Pera at 0744‑904425 which is the comune's number mind you). This despite a huge placard covering maybe a quarter of one side of the castello, "progetto telematico" — "Unione Europea" — 915 million lire — There is clearly some kind of vested interest in Italy in making the Net a privileged mystery; I've been very, very disappointed by and large, such sites as Franco's being shining exceptions.

Up out of Alviano, quickly to Guardea: my caccia ai comuni will have yielded me 8 places of rather slender interest. . . For once, the DeAgostini guide's photo is 100% on target: I took almost the same one myself. There was once a restaurant, but it closed. It was one P.M. when I got to Guardea, so of course everything was closed: church, and under the orange arcade, the Municipio, the Pro Loco, and the Gruppo Archeologico Guardeese (that second "e" is right); but in fact, none of them looked like they'd been open, or would open this afternoon, nor could I find any schedules. Particularly disappointing for the GAG (via Vittorio Emanuele, 126 — 05025 Guardea (TR) — tel.: (0744) 903746, no indication of any Net presence).​a I sat at the caffé next door and ate four largish slices of pizza, with two cans of ice tea, then a small icecream; at 3 I left.

Tried to call James, got him for a few seconds and was disconnected; he called me, same result; finally he left a message, everything OK. Still I was near the top of a hill, and am starting to feel my fonino is useless: it put me in a bad mood for a bit.

And with that, off to Montecchio. More panorama on my left; the road via Tenáglie, which I'd intended to take anyway, much touted to me for the views, but in fact the views were every bit as good almost all day. Póggio Nuovo a bit after Guardea is a street of modern houses under the castello some distance above it; Tenáglie is money: people who can afford large houses hanging on to the side of the hill at the apex of the panoramas (so that in fact, for someone on the road, the views are less good here, often blocked by the houses). Carnano and Pranzuto are small places: not far away from the road, around the latter, on the east, a little valley opens up, and in it a medieval tower with a pair of blind ogival arches on each of the two sides I could see: rather curious, I just might go look tomorrow morning.

Montecchio a somewhat shapeless clump of old; with my hotel on the road in, about 100 meters before the social if not geographical center of town, the Piazza Garibaldi.

Hotel Perla started out badly in my book: I was told I had no reservation, there was a William Schakser — was I with SNP? — did I have a double room? Gosh, go see if you can find your father, I don't want to do anything wrong — Palavers, me insisting I'd reserved (and thinking what the hell the point was in reserving and spelling my name several times — I remember the call — Tee Acca A Ipsilon E Erre, no that's Tee Acca . . .); anyway no harm done, I was dubiously found a room — withal, small hotel by no means full up. . . .

After all this, my room quite nice, if tiny: two monastic cots in an inside room with a window onto the concreted back yard of the family living quarters I think — thoughtful of them, expressly "very quiet": as any room fronting on the street fronts on the highway into town with the occasional motorcycle. Large separate bath, shared in a sort of suite with another room — that's how I know the hotel's not full: that other room isn't taken — and a nice warm shower once I figured out the system. No soap, but the things I can fit in that camera bag!

Feeling much better, to the point of nearly falling asleep; did the town then, very slowly: couple of gates; church open but completely worked over if rather spare and pleasant; a very nice and pretty large knot of medieval streets, many of the houses with the characteristic staircases like at Viterbo (and here I've forgotten the name of these things). Maybe too many houses for sale, but still, lots of old ladies sitting in shaded clumps monitoring the American tourist as they chat: what Spello would be like without the major monuments, pleasant but low-key.

It must be 8:30 now; I've moved a couple tables down to one that's set for dinner, and have ordered pappardelle al cinghiale and agnello allo scottadito, fagioli; a bottle of Cardeto red (IGT Umbria), it's OK. Something behind me smells wonder­ful, but the owner couldn't disentangle any particular recommendation from it for me. . . .

Feet beginning to feel better now; sitting quietly, it's finally only my feet, and to a very minor extent my hamstrings that aren't working right: in fact, I don't feel in the least tired, nor do I have any kind of muscle pain; my calves, knees, etc. feel as fresh as when I woke up. So — doctorwards it is, when I get back to Chicago: I'm not dealing with intrinsic aging here, rather something, prolly from skating, that I did to the bones of my heels, and that should be easy to fix, he sez.

There: dinner's done, and was good. Fed some of my pappardelle to a little grey-and‑white cat: half playing with string, half chowing down on meat, loud purring; but he preferred the lamb, I'll have to charge the hotel 500L, although the owner's wife says my kitten (click-click) not theirs, but prowling their female. . . All the cats in Montecchio are grey-and‑white. The owner's wife and I talked death and taxes, literally; she has an eye condition partly caused by iatrogenic yuk, in the US she'd be covered by malpractice and a jury of her peers (they laser-burned the wrong part of her eye) but here she's s.o.l. — afraid of death, but I told her we all know with six or seven years advance what will kill us, by and large: is this the country of St. Francis, or what? What to fear? Sister Death; I'm a better Umbrian than she, maybe. . . (I told her I expect to die of a stroke; this didn't seem to cheer her up at all, she fairly ran away.) Anyhow, we — spurious cat and I — had a good meal, although at each dish I found myself wondering what Rosanna would have made of it. . . .

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Photographer's Rule No. 1: Establish rapport with your subject!

Later Notes:

b Years later, some indirect net presence on two different sites, with further program and contact information; and a few years after that, both sites disappeared, eventually to be replaced by a much briefer summary page at Turismo Guardea. I kept the original, more detailed info, however, so contact me if you need to.

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Page updated: 17 Feb 22