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Saturday 12 August 2000

(Well, that didn't work: I wound up chatting with a young Norwegian couple who thought they were heading to Rome but were very flexible and unfettered; they wound up changing their plans when I told them about the 1.2 million "youth" expected in the capital 11‑20 August. . . They'll be doing Umbria instead, staying in Spoleto, prolly at the accoglienza S. Ponziano. Still, all this tourist-guidery doesn't help me keep this diary up to date. . .)

So, back to my dinner Wednesday evening at the Ristorante del Furlo. I ate well. For starters, the best bread sticks I've ever had (grissini), possibly fried in sesame oil?? Antipasto (with complimentary prosecco, 1420): a frittata alla cipolla e al guanciale 1620; primo: tagliatelle al tartufo estivo; secondo: pigeon with mashed potatoes and chard, very good but a small portion, also a technical error (actually, in an ice-skating program, it would be deducted from the artistic merit mark): in addition to a little molded sort-of‑quenelle of potatoes, a decorative sort of oreille-de‑qadi of potato, fried. Wine: Rosso Conero, Lanari 1997 (bottled at Varano AN), very good with what I had. Dessert: an excellent cantaloupe charlotte —

Conversation for quite a while with the other three tables: a couple with a house in Palermo (the man is a judge), a man in his 50s by himself who smiled a lot and said very little, and an ebullient youngish couple I'd met earlier on "the strip": he a professor of architecture in Messina, and she a rather striking raven-haired beauty, doing central Italy on a very well-equipped motorcycle, complete with a portable shower — dumb of me not to ask how it worked; they sleep in the woods, and Tuesday evening didn't sleep as well as they could have: a wolf — but a local dog apparently watched over them, too.

To bed at 11, slept like a rock: would have liked to get the weather and maybe the news, but the TV didn't work in my room; oddly, this is the only time I've ever seen a VCR in a hotel room — it flashed the (wrong) time all night — which gave the place a flavor of its own.

Anyway what started as a mild fit of pouting ended up an excellent choice, and in fact walking by the industrial-size kitchen of the Ginestra I got a whiff not of anything I'd like to eat, but of institutional cooking — they get the bulk of their business from weddings, usually from the abbey of S. Vincenzo —

Thursday morning up quickly, out, breakfast at the bar consisting of a coupla cornetti and two cappuccini: at 10:10 I was walking N out of Furlo, and pretty soon, thru the attractive and shady gorges of the Candigliano river, at the Roman tunnel. The pre-Roman tunnelet flanking it has been enclosed by an unclimbable and unbypassable fence: the Soprintendenza is afraid it'll collapse on someone, and in fact it's been pinned together since the last photo I'd seen of it; big metal bolts into the rock and a network of cables and stuff — anyway, not visitable.

The Roman tunnel is still in use, cars going thru honking for all they're worth. No big deal really, but at least now I've seen it. I was surprised though on exiting it: there is a contiguous church, the Madonna delle Grazie, the Grazie here being for making it safely thru the gorge, which I can understand. I spent maybe an hour there, but the church (where a young woman working for the comune of Fermignano listened to me chatter and supplied me with pamphlets and information), the Roman tunnel, and casing out all the methods of gaining access to the pre-Roman tunnel and photographing it as well as I could; and left at 11:50.

[image ALT: The mouth of a small road tunnel carved in the rock of a mountain. It is the famous Roman road tunnel of the Gola del Furlo (Marche, central Italy).]
This is Vespasian's tunnel, seen from the N.
The yet earlier tunnel, completely unphotographable, is offscreen left.

From Vespasian's tunnel (I think I've been calling it Domitian's for a while: I also better check my website when I get back) to Fossombrone gets progressively duller, exiting the gorges after only another coupla miles; at Calmazzo a mildly interesting "area archeologica": a family cemetery not quite forty feet on a side, with two funerary altars in place; when new, it must have been an elegant low building.

And thus to Fossombrone, which I expected to be the end of my walking — except by now I'd heard that the remains of Forum Sempronii, including a piece of Flaminia, are in fact about 2½ km E of the modern town; up in the air about what to do, but found my hotel first: the piazza del Mercato is utterly dismal, and the hotel is surely only a 1‑star, primarily a rosticceria, which is indeed what I found; but my room, in another building around the corner, was perfectly clean, even if it was a dormitory with three metal cots; the bathroom, on the corridor, had a sort-of‑shower (the shower head didn't work) but it was in a full-length bathtub with good hot water: this was a luxury I couldn't pass up, I tubbed it for near half an hour (church bells ringing the quarter reminding me to get a move-on).

Which I did, but finally Fossombrone was disappointing. It seems to have been most prosperous in the 16c‑18c, mostly the later part of that period; I haven't read very carefully, but prolly connected with the silk manufactures, which would square: anyway, lots of big brick churches, umph; although an interesting noon-marking sundial (quite impossible to photograph, although I tried) in the Duomo, and — the most beauti­ful thing in town — the exuberant white-stuccoed baroque interior of S. Filippo.

[image ALT: The main altar of a church, against walls covered with ornate stucco in the Rococo style. It is a view of the church of S. Filippo in Fossombrone (Marche, central Italy).]

Chiesa S. Filippo di Fossombrone. "Rococo" would have been more accurate than "baroque".

Still, on the whole, I walked around a lot but for some reason (which I've been unable to place) the town made me feel sad, unhappy. I went up to the museum, sequestered in a castle on a height, and saw the antiquities section (the Pinacoteca, separate, I didn't pay for); not too well set up: coins not really examinable, inscriptions not transcribed or anything — and even I need help, let alone your average tourist: inscriptions can be made interesting, after all, considering that their authors usually had something they really wanted to tell us. Photography not permitted. [. . .]

Among the dismalnesses of my little stay in Fossombrone, my search for dinner. Asked a young woman tending the exhibition of Annunciations at S. Filippo: La Grotta, a pizzeria; this was buried inside a modern building, and I started imagining one of these places with a lot of cigarette smoke and noise, that a young woman might like. A newspaper vendor: da Gigi — but closed. Walking around, a couple of barlike places, not in the mood. Finally, a woman in a photo shop: she said hey this place is really excellent; I went and squinted at it, OK why not give it a whirl — and it was.

[image ALT: A small round building, the size of a small cottage; plastered with a very slightly sloping conical tile roof and a single door surmounted by a majolica medallion. It sits in a recess of some 5‑meter-high stone masonry walls, and in front of it a little flat piazzetta features a thin stone column about 3 meters tall, topped with an iron cross. It is a view of the chapel of the Madonna del Popolo in Fossombrone in the Marche (central Italy).]

I wasn't too fair to Fossombrone. This, for example, is the Madonna del Popolo (18c).

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