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Tuesday 1 August 2000

Rome train, last bit of it somewhere in the tunnels before Settebagni; I spent all the rest of the trip wrestling with how to schedule all the things I want to see: rests between hikes, making sure these have good train connections at the end, figuring out which day to start my second train pass, putting the hotter walks towards the end of my stay in the hopes that mid-September will be cooler, and in general trying to cram as much stuff as possible into my 51 remaining days. Schedule by no means solved yet, and things will surely happen to scramble it again; for example, just a few minutes ago I got a call from the Municipal Police of Fossato — for a few seconds I was very afraid something awful had happened — who wanted to tell me they now have the key for me to the Piaggiola (I bumped into Mrs Burzacca as I was leaving Gualdo the other day and brought it up again); I'd better do that tomorrow then rather than the 14th, which was the next weekday I'd planned to be home: I rescheduled two hikes because of that one phone call.

Yesterday in Terni was nearly an hour at the photo shop. They opened 20 minutes late, then I was checking things, then there were problems with his credit card machine; and of course I let a few people pass quickly in front of me in all this. The first 31 rolls of film were almost totally success­ful (I was worried about the tripod photos); the subject matter is something else: this trip, with its sometimes recondite little patches of obscurer Umbria, hasn't been characterised by great monuments so far, and a very high percentage of monuments have been closed so far, much worse than usual. The intelligent visitors, like a cab driver in Rome told me last time, are waiting for Giubileo to blow over; as indeed I was, until James persuaded me otherwise.

[image ALT: A stone carving, about the size of a basketball, projecting from a neat squared stone masonry wall of contrasting stone. The carving, damaged, is of a lion's head, with a spreading mane and his mouth open. It is a detail of the church of S. Alò in Terni, Umbria (central Italy).]

Lion corbel — a former gargoyle? — in a wall of S. Alò; 11c or earlier.

Speaking of which, the only really useful thing of the day (that and a strainer and 4 cordial glasses at the air-conditioned UPIM): I finally found Sant' Alò, quite by accident, and I don't know if I could find it again; dunno why I get lost so bad in Terni every time — this time in fact I couldn't for the life o' me find my crème de marrons shop, and did without. Anyway, S. Alò quite locked closed even at 5 P.M.; a number of chunks of Lombard stone, nice apse [. . .]

Anyway, back home, some fruit juice, to bed.

Right now I'm sitting at a green-and‑yellow plastic table in front of a bar in Rome. I've asked for a large birra gassosa, which they said would be a small beer plus a can of Sprite, and a sammich that the waiter (one of two) had his finger on: this was 30 feet away and so far seven minutes by the clock. In three minutes I'll get up and walk away.

I've spent the afternoon (it's now 6:06 P.M.) in the Vatican Museums:​a cab from Termini, otherwise I'd never get there, 15ML. The Belvedere-Octagonal Court-Pigna area, about four rolls of film; the rules on flash are bewildering — if there is a fresco in sight (according to some) or if it's within the field of your lens (according to others), no flash; one room (one of the two pendant Animal Rooms, God what hideous taste the Romans had, the other closed) had no frescoes but a sign said you couldn't flash ("because the statues are fragile": as admittedly some were, although I can't imagine an extra photon or two will cause them to crumble into dust); and the Belvedere torso, one guard said yes, the other no. . . . Still I'm grateful that I could take any pictures at all.

[image ALT: A long horizontal slab of carved stone, representing sea waves; on which rides a sculpture of what appears to be a sea serpent hugging or maybe devouring a dolphin, in a contrasting striated and somewhat translucent stone. It is a piece of late Roman statuary in the Vatican Museums.]
An example of Roman taste: sea serpent chowing down on a dolphin.
Notice the gigantic head of a camel in the background, staring out at you cameliously.

Later Note:

a For my next visit, see August 26.

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