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Sunday 13 August 2000

Sitting in my fig-tree office, now a quarter to two: its leaves have started to fall, so it's a bit less shady, but there's an occasional breeze. Today I've been doing laundry, writing letters, planning the remainder of my stay, and otherwise catching up. So, back to Thursday evening:

The Ristorantino S. Lucia in Fossombrone was one of the high points of this trip; not so much for the actual quality of the meal (I give it an A- to A) but for the excitement and, as I told the owners, the privilege, of watching the beginnings of something that I think will be phenomenal 15 years from now if they continue like this, which they show every sign of doing. Gabriele (the cook) and Lorenzo (the dining room) own the place, which just opened 5 months ago; that in itself was surprising: halfway thru the meal, in view of some of the slight unevennesses, I was thinking they'd been open for only a year and a half or so — so even the little start-up kinks are very minor.

I had:

Booby had a good meal; so much so that although I have no really specific other reason to go back to Fossombrone, I'm considering some excuse to do it anyway: there are always things yet to see; for example, just off my road apparently (I saw the sign, but there are hardly any distances marked, so I played safe and didn't go) the abbey of Pelingo,º Romanesque with possibly some Roman remains — Anyway, the Ristorantino S. Lucia (3, via Roman and I have the phone near somewhere) closes on Tuesdays, and has a webpage at http://www.ristorantinosantalucia.monrif.net (with e‑mail @: ristorantinosantalucia@hotmail.com).​a

After that blow-out (96ML but Lorenzo doesn't seem to have charged me for one of the desserts, nor for any alcohol other than the wine), Booby navigated Fossombrone in the dark a bit roundaboutwise but eventually fell on my quarters, and to sleep at about 1130 P.M.

Friday is a very quick day to tell: I left hotel and Fossombrone early (Thursday it proved quite impossible to find out when or where the buses left for Fano: there is a bar that has the information, but it was closed for holidays, etc. so that it proved much, much simpler, and even slightly more productive to just walk it — after all I'm walking the Flaminia) and walked to Fano: a long dull warm-to‑hot road, although generally downwards sloping, and for about 10 km up to Rosciano, where the road takes its last hill down and turns hot, trafficky and definitely unpleasant, breezes from the Adriatic.

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Some remains of Forum Sempronii, the Roman predecessor of Fossombrone — looking NE.

The ruins of Forum Sempronii — a bath complex, they tell us — with immediately after a piece of Flaminia, basolato and all but off-limits, are scant; even scanter the remains at Tavernelle, although the town itself still has some character. By Calcinelli, the next town just 2‑3 km away, although it's rather large, all character gone, and the remaining places — Lucrezia, Pontemurello (or some such thing), Carrara and Cuccurano, then Rosciano — all really non-places.​b Calcinelli is supposed to have an area archeologica, but noone at the bar I stopped at for water and two tiny sammiches knew about any, and there were no signs; ditto for Rosciano.

A 3 km stretch of razor-straight heavy traffic into Fano: the Flaminia, like wow; passersby tending to speak German; hot, noisy, buses, motorcycles, you name it. Fano — feet hurting slightly — felt cool and shady after this, and redeeming itself a bit from my previous pass thru the town, though the graffiti still there, and a large billboard on my Flaminia, for some sex-shop in town, possibly the one from the last time. Train quickly out, the usual wasteful hour at Falconara Marittima, and back home before sunset, to find a letter from James and one from Debi with — package — some gel inserts for my shoes; they do make the shoes feel better — remains to be seen whether this is the solution: and at any rate, for the moment, my feet feel pretty good.

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Fano is nowhere as bad as I often seem to feel when I'm there. This is the Piazza XX Settembre.

Yesterday Saturday, in order not to waste the day, I told myself I'd go to Calvi if I could, and took the train to Terni, taking with me some film to be developed. Well, Calvi was not possible (Saturday schedule: I could get there but not come back) so I used my two tickets for Stroncone from the other day: 1215 bus, was there before one.

Stroncone still as attractive as ever — and cool even in sweltering August heat, with its narrow streets providing plenty of shade, and even drafts of cool air out of nowhere — but just try finding a place to eat. Taverna della Mola closed for holidays thru the 11th: it was the 12th but they were still closed. Taverna di Porta Nuova opens only for dinner, as does the two-table outlet of the hotel; finally I had three slices of pizza, lots and lots of stuff to drink, and an ice-cream, at the Pizzeria del Belvedere, outdoors, at a little plastic table. The Belvedere was news to me, outside the centro storico so I hadn't seen it last time; quite a view it is, too, and nicely planted with flowers and benched: about 160° view including all of Terni, and Cesi behind it, and if you look carefully, San Gemini too, though not Narni.

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Part of the Belvedere of Stroncone (Terni province, Umbria).

In fact I spent most of my time in Stroncone sitting at the Belvedere: a very hot day, and nothing at all open. Inquiring at a bar about the bus schedule back to Terni, I saw a bus pull in, and just hopped on: it was 4 P.M. By about 4:30 I was back at the train station in Terni, having narrowly missed a train home; but at 5:12, with an InterCity supplemento of 5700L there was another, and my walk up the hill, and I was home: dinner of one tomato with tube-mayonnaise doctored with Trevi olive oil and garlic, some bits of artichoke; the tail end of my ricotta with Alchermes, 2 glasses of wine, and to bed, slept.

This morning I was up at 0750 which seems to be becoming my usual time in Fossato; a quick look at Sunday rail schedules and I decided to go to Tolentino (train at 1551) and to use the day before that to do laundry, write a letter to James, my diary, and plan the rest of my stay.

Which I did, ending at about ten to three when Paolo called me for dessert & wine at their house to help celebrate his Mom's 87th birthday. I went and sang her Happy B'day (in English), kissed her on both cheeks, and ate a slice or two of b'day cake with a finger of a red fizzy wine identified to me as some kind of Verdicchio dei Colli di Jesi, although you could have fooled me. Paolo drove me to the station, and here I am in Tolentino, just finishing a large meal at the Pizzeria S. Nicola: a C+ to B-, but lots of food: crostini, a huge plate of gnocchi with asparagus and guanciale in tomato sauce, a good plate of rather good steak with rocket and balsamic vinegar, some of those things ascolana (no olives: artichokes and some kind of unidentifiable cheese that actually tasted like sugar had been added), some cheese (taleggio, but they'd taken the crust off; and pecorino di fossa, so salty I had to leave most of it), and finally a panna cotta. The local red, a half carafe actually from the area around Tolentino, a bit fizzy but good color and not bad.

This after about four hours wandering Tolentino; by my lights, not as nice as what I saw from the train of S. Severino Marche (not one, but two Romanesque churches near the railroad not far after the town) — but the place grows on you, it's kinda sweet. Much vaunted Basilica of S. Nicola is a big white elephant — purple inside — although not bad, but still not what it's cracked up to be:​c the TCI says Tolentino has the largest number of monuments of any town in the Marche, but I find this hard to believe; still, a pleasant town — as soon's I get the bill I'm going to go sit in the main piazza and have a limoncello or something. (The hotel and restaurant situation not so good, though; despite a thorough circumnavigation — twice — I failed so much as to see a restaurant, though caffés abound; and arriving under briefly rainy skies, I found only two hotels: next to each other and both unappealing; I'm staying at the Milano, had to take a double room and within two minutes heard them turn down a request, since I'd taken the last room: it smells strongly of a mint disinfectant, and is expensive at 100 ML. Restaurants, I finally asked a cop: she knew of two, despite the size of the town: must be 20,000 people here.)

Amusing incident while I was walking the walls: a little boy having observed me photographing a tower then writing it up in my photo log, asked me what I was doing; when I told him, he asked me if I'd take his photo — brother or friend pops up at this — and (the only time I've acceded to this kind of request, not infrequent for some reason on this trip) I think I have a very, very good photo of two little boys, posing for the photographer yet at the same time completely un-selfconscious.

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Actually, sister and brother, I think.

Later Notes:

a The website was never actually online, that I know; and in 2004, I went back eagerly to Fossombrone, just for the lunch — and found the restaurant had vanished altogether.

b Not really, of course! Lucrezia in particular, with 4700 inhabitants, is a sizable town; for a bit of history and context, see my page on one of her wayside shrines.

c Oh yes it is, too. See next entry.

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