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Sunday 30 July 2000

Yesterday was a local day; in the morning I caught up on letters (Debi, James), and in the afternoon I went to Gualdo — far too late, really, considering it's the neighboring town and my first visit, and how quickly I went thru Gualdo two years ago.

According to the Comune's bulletin board near the gate, the bus for Gualdo leaves the bend in the road at 1327. Well that came and went, and no bus, making the third time a scheduled bus has failed to be there at all: twice on this trip and once with James in Bevagna. (If it didn't happen before, i.e., 1994 etc., it's because I didn't take buses at all, except my midnite sostituivo from Terni on skating days.) By now, I don't trust them, of course (and then a week or so when I was last in Terni, I bought RT tickets to Stroncone and then was told it might be better if I didn't use them, since there was going to be a few hours of strike, and I might be stranded in Stroncone. There are worse things, but still I didn't go, and still have the tickets.)

Anyway, I walked to the station and hopped on the first train — I didn't want to waste the whole day — and rather illogically (furious with the bus system) I said to myself the hell with Gualdo, why don't I go to Spello, take myself out to the Pinturicchio, see a few people, and stay overnight at the S. Jacopo?

Well (as it turns out that would not have been a good plan at all) as the train slowed down to its first stop, I realized that hey of course it was Gualdo, so in fact what had I lost? At 1425 I was still there over half an hour before the opening of the museum my first objective. So of course I got offº and walked to the Rocca Flea, in which the museum. I'd called beforehand to ask about photos (no) so I wasn't carrying my tripod: quiet maybe 2 km, foot fine, a bit of rise only at the end.

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The Rocca Flea. It may be small, but that's pronounced Fléa to rhyme with 'player'.

The museum itself mostly paintings, of which mostly only the top floor — nicely air-conditioned, worth the ticket on a hot day — really good: Matteo da Gualdo,​a but also one very old Umbrian panel in five scenes, a life of Christ with marked Byzantine influence. The museum is very difficult to navigate; full of arrows all right, but despite all appearances, no clear route thru it (it's very difficult to do in these old castles) and I very nearly missed the Matteo's and the top floor, bumbling on it by accident because any door that doesn't say "no entry" I go look. . . A two-room antiquarium (3 Roman inscriptions, one of which of interest) where the most interesting thing is in fact one of the frescoes: a representation of the Trinity as a three-headed human. Not in the least attractive — the three near-identical crowned heads lined up on the top of an extra-wide upper body like apothecaries' jars on a shelf — but certainly very odd.​b

From the Rocca, which is on its own separate hill (not a very big hill, but then it's not a very big Rocca), I walked to the main part of town, the piazza where the churches are, expecting to see something this year: in '98 one church was in scaffolding, and the Duomo was closed because it was mid-afternoon. This was a disappointment: the church under scaffolding doesn't seem to have progressed one iota, and the Duomo was closed altogether, surrounded by a heavy wooden fence.

At that point I walked back to the station to catch the first train back; meaning that for once I was home in time to cook myself a little dinner and have the appetite to eat it: antipasto of prosciutto, tomato with olive oil, pecorino di Norcia; noodles (olive oil, parmesan, the usual); ricotta with Alchermes; and opened the bottle of Akronte (a rosso delle Marche, good). I pulled the kitchen table across the front doors open wide, but this wasn't really much more outdoors than where it was, plus was rather odd —

Just after dinner a phone call from a guy I met on a train, named Greg Gude, who speaks Italian at about my level and is in Perugia for a month to take an intensive course in Italian (33 hours a week: a lot!!) who wanted me to have lunch with him and his Ternana friend Maria Rita; I've been in an odd mood recently and said why not — also behind that there is a bit of afraid of the feet and for days I've stayed away from even the slightest hike — and fixed Spello as a good place to have lunch.

So today I went to Spello after all; they were in fact coming from an agriturismo in Spoleto, so I boarded their train, and five minutes later we got off.

Spello hasn't changed much; the train station is still partly inagibile, or at least the waiting room (which is where the damage was) is still locked; a few buildings under scaffolding; the Cappella Tega now locked and unvisitable, and even the Spellani can't do anything about it: the Soprintendenza in Perugia has got its claws on it. Understandable mind you, it was awfully vulnerable especially at night — but there is really zero reason at all to have it locked during the day, and the space becomes immediately unreadable and of no apparent interest viewed from the outside thru the (very dirty) glass archway: a pity.

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A tiny patch of the Cappella Tega: St. James.

Pit stop at Pro Spello, where I was recognised, and even taken into the far back room where the Roman aqueduct can be seen under the floor; about to snap a photo but the young woman said I'd better not let you, since I don't know if I can, I'll find out and let you know when we reopen (but at 3:30 finally I didn't go back). I understand there is a huge demand for photos of ruined bits of Roman stone under the glass floor of a conference room filled with metal chairs, and that it's important to prevent the consequent loss of thousands of dollars' revenue — balderdash.

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Vault of the Cappella Tega: St. John sharpening his quill pen. Guess where he got it from!

Pinturicchio closed for vacation thru the 9th of August (at the height of the season, they must be doing well), which accounts for them not answering their phone: after a quickish version of my "standard tour" we were going to eat at the Cacciatore — but just before that, we bumped into Maria-Paola in the street; I'd of course planned a day to go say hello to everyone, but with advance notice, and not with total strangers to them in tow: still, unavoidably (and I, at least, happily of course) wound up seeing Giuliana and Orlando, and also Anna Rita who didn't realize she was online — further pitstop at their house because, despite my having given them the address of my site, they couldn't find me (they thought they'd shortcircuit it by going to the main page at Kansas) — anyway, I'll be back after the 9th and on a weekday so I can see Mario and Giuseppina as well, and spend a while properly — and we went and ate.

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E wall of the Cappella Tega: 14c Crucifixion by Nicolò l'Alunno.

A relaxed meal on the terrace at the Cacciatore, over­looking my little square valley. Still have no idea why they wanted to have lunch with me, but all very pleasant; food as usual at the Cacciatore no more than good, but good it was, even if Greg's strangozzi were, by my lights at least, not strangozzi, or at least certainly not strangozzi spellani: instead of big squarish worms of pasta, these were thin elegant ribbonlike things. As I delivered myself of this opinion (putting glasses on and peering into his plate), proprietress pops out of nowhere from behind a glass door to ask if everything is alright. . . Tartufo bianco affogato al Busci — getting decidedly hooked on this commercial combination — grappa etc. From there, at about 3:40 with my train out at 4:15, I walked Maria Rita and Greg down past the Venere and thru the Urbica, past the Orlando inscription (my Latin no better than it was, I should prolly ask the Latin list for help on this one — even if I embarrass myself! Surely not that abstruse) and we parted pals (phone numbers 'n stuff) with just enough time for me to get to the station quietly and putt-putt back home.

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Vault of the Cappella Tega, closed to the public.
If I lived in Spello, I wouldn't be happy about that.

Later Notes:

a See the Rocca Flea's photogallery.

b I've since seen three more of them in Umbria, in the church of S. Agata in Perugia (3 faces on a single head, actually), in S. Maria di Ponte near Cerreto di Spoleto, and in the Pieve di Canoscio near Città di Castello. Given the many, many churches in the region, it's still a very rare representation; the most striking, because the clearest in its present state, remains the one I saw here in Gualdo, which, unfortunately, I was not allowed to photograph.

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