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Monday 24 July 2000

Train Romewards, approaching Foligno, a bit before 11. Well yesterday afternoon turned out to be an unexpected disaster; leaving the restaurant I felt fine and the weather had cooled down, clouding over, even literally four drops — I thought it might rain — but the last odd drop on me in fact before I left the city limits of Baschi.

Yet by the time I'd reached Baschi Stazione, something like 2 km away, my feet started acting up: the heels, the same damn thing, and despite trying, I couldn't help compensating, whence pains up the lower tendons of the calves. The last 5 km of the road — withal, a dull and often dangerous road, narrow and heavyish traffic including tour buses, and high retaining walls for about two miles of curves​a — were sheer pointless agony; by the time I got to the station of Orvieto Scalo (completely encased in scaffolding) I was very close to tears from the pain, so much so that finally getting to the station produced nothing but the numbness of here I am.

Train ride from Orvieto 1827 to Orte 1902: in thirty-five minutes, my entire walk of four days. . . From the train, I could see every comune of the walk except Lugnano, and recognise quite a few other places as well; although Montecchio just for a coupla seconds.

Eurostar 1920 to get home as early as possible; in a sort of daze. A family from Fano, whose car had broken down, cleared up for me the mystery of the basilica of Vitruvius: despite the signs here and there in town, nothing remains above ground, certainly; and even below ground, really only hypotheses, the commonest being some under­ground passages said to exist under and around one of the minor churches. I in turn reciprocated in this hatchet job, telling them that Vitruvius was no great architect, just the only one who left us something written; after this, nothing much left of Vitruvius and Basilica. . . .

Realizing I couldn't walk the hill from Fossato station, I called Mr. Taxi; got him, by good luck: he met me and I got home, yammering about foot (gotta stop this!) — but it's disturbing. The rest of me, from just above the lower tendons of the cows on up, felt great: I could have walked another 20 km and wasn't in the least tired — nor of course should I have been. But the damn feet may sabotage Flaminia still to come; I may have to limit myself to a maximum of 30 km in two days — two 20 km days in a row may just be too much this year. But serious effect is a mental one: all my life I've identified with my legs and feet → so now what?

Massaged them with a paste of red pepper and olive oil, then a small hot bath; felt somewhat better. Dinner: half the jar of crème de marrons, two glasses of gros rouge, a half tumbler of Víparo. Started reading Virginia Woolf's Notte e Giorno; slept.

This morning, breakfast, housecleaning, nice shave with very hot water, oshibori'd the face; my feet feel much better, although not quite completely normal: I walked down to the station without any difficulty. I'm going to Rome, to see what I dunno yet, but something not requiring walking or a tripod. Across from me two Japanese women, maybe in their forties, big suitcases, who got on in Foligno: thus almost certainly coming from Assisi or Florence or both; I got them to look up out of their guidebooks a minute, up at Trevi: animated interest, they appeared glad to have seen it.

5:25 P.M., Rome, Piazza della Rotonda of course: crowds, horses, accordeonists, pigeons, waiters, sellers of trinkets, and me having dessert. I could have six like last time but this morning the tape measure said 90 cm, so only two; a torta alla mimosa and the dubious tiramisú: sadly, the former has gone downhill — but it's a good chance to sit down.

Feet doing relatively OK; what I wound up doing was meandering down to the area around the Trevi Fountain — along the via Nazionale, S. Paul within the Walls, S. Vitale, SS. Vincenzo e Anastasio, S. Maria in Trivio, S. Maria in Via, and S. Silvestro in Capite, where I spent something like an hour and a half doing inscriptions: including one of a man whose wife had died after 4 years 8 months 23 days and 8 hours of a happy marriage, poor guy. Speaking of which, an English group all dressed up for an afternoon wedding; I never actually got inside the church: by the time I was thru with the courtyard, the wedding had just started —

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Amidst hundreds of Roman inscriptions, pictures before the ceremony.

So now, deglutition and imprudent coffee behind me, I'll pack up and slow to the station, with my train at 7:12 just over an hour from now.

Later Note:

a I didn't mention it in the diary, but on one particularly vicious curve, shoulderless and against a retaining wall much taller than I am, I came within about 3 inches — take that literally, this isn't written for effect — of a motorcycle doing its 60 km/h or so. This is a very dangerous road, and I strongly urge anyone reading this to avoid it, especially if you are on foot or on two wheels.

In May 2011, just such a wall — to be sure, in a high-pressure bicycle race, but then with expert riders and no oncoming traffic nor any interference from another cyclist — caused the horrible death of Belgian cyclist Wouter Weylandt. I urge the Italian highway authorities to remove as many of these dangerous walls as possible, or to reroute roads as needed.

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