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Wednesday 16 August 2000

(The 10:13 to Foligno, then to Spello for a coupla days) So I changed plans and woke up thinking I'd walk to San Severino instead, since from the train on the way to Tolentino, S. Severino Marche looked much more like my kind of place.

Well by the time I got out of the Basilica of Tolentino, that too was out of the question: it was past noon, and I was suddenly carrying a heavy knapsack chock-full of books. Still, the pitstop looked tempting: I did it the lazy way, by train (10 km only, but without lugging the knapsack; even if half the two hours gained was eaten up by the wait for train). Lunch at the bar next to the station: a tramezzino and my usual fluids.

San Severino Marche hot: of course, at one-something in the afternoon on a sunny day in August. First surprise, a large elliptical piazza with fountains and arcades: deadly in the sun, but it must be very nice eight months of the year, also in the evenings.

Posters scattered about town announced an exhibit on "La viabilità romana" in the Potenza and Esino valleys, at the Antico Episcopio: not one of the inhabitants I quizzed in the streets (gosh, tourists must be a real pain!) knew where this might be — an obvious case of someone in a Soprintendenza printing up stuff with the official name of something rather than the real name that local people use. Two people guessed it might be a palazzo back towards the end of the piazza I'd first come in by; since that would be on my back out, I saved time for it for last and plowed on up some streets: arid late-medieval to 18c stone buildings all, nothing particularly of note.

[image ALT: An archway into a small courtyard, with a stone tower in the background. It is an entrance to the church of S. Lorenzo in Doliolo in S. Severino in the Marche (central Italy).]
The courtyard and belfry of
S. Lorenzo in Doliolo.
At one point an open door into what appeared to be private property, a small plaque stating it was the local branch of a tourism school; quite closed otherwise, for lunch of course, but a courtyard looked green and cool, so I went in; in a corner, an inconspicuous door — half hidden behind a tree, one of these large Giubileo banners: I'd hit on the side door of the Abbey of S. Lorenzo in Doliolo.

The church was (a) one of those raised-presbytery Lombard things; (b) deserted but wide open; (c) COOL: even, compared to the sun outdoors, when I first came in, nearly cold — very, very welcome indeed. This wonder­ful combination — it's full of stuff, including some very unusual frescoes — made for a slow, comfortable, interesting visit: and I hope my photos turn out; I'm not sure whether the later frescoes (16c?) were intended to be monochrome (yellowish-beige, green) or whether, as I suspect, they are just underpainting: also some very old high-mediaeval frescoes in which the last traces I think I could see of Roman portraiture. All in all, a beauti­ful peaceful place, dark and cool, exactly what I needed.

[image ALT: An area of what appears to be a plaster wall, painted with a field of schematic stars, in the center of which a circular medallion delimited by four concentric borders in contrasting colors, in which is depicted a young, tonsured, beardless man, head-and‑shoulders, wearing a chasuble, his hands awkwardly cradling a book that he seems to be about to open. He has a halo; the image is that of a saint on the frescoed vault of the crypt of S. Lorenzo in Doliolo in San Severino Marche, Italy.]
Medallion from the frescoed vault of the crypt of S. Lorenzo in Doliolo.
Probably St. Lawrence.

A bit more wandering outward — no desire to walk to the upper town although it looked interesting (Romanesque tower; a tower of rocca sotto la solita impalcatura) — and I went back to what I thought would be my exhibit; it wasn't. In fact, the exhibit was in the upper town, at that Romanesque tower: a policeman in a roving squad car set me straight; when I inquired about a cab — most unsure what I'd do, since my train out was at 1757 and by now it was just past four — he interpreted this as, well he called the cab: so my decision was taken for me, and for 10ML I found myself standing in front of the old bishopric and its cloister and the mostra.

This latter was disappointing, or at least disappointingly titled; it wasn't really about the Roman roads in the area, which seems to have been an afterthought, an attempt to give it a theme? Anyway, one large room — photography unfortunately not permitted — of mostly funerary inscriptions, some statuary, from the route of the so‑called Flaminia Prolaquense: Pioraco, Matelica, S. Severino; maps — utterly inadequate, with place names removed! — more decorative than what I was hoping for, i.e., a discussion, with stuff à l'appui, of the actual viabilità: a not unreasonable hope, considering the title of the exhibit. (Another flaw, affecting me less, but for many, a serious flaw: without buying the catalog — 50ML — not a single transcription, translation, commentary of any of them: 1 or 2 of 'em called for commentary, I think.) One large room — certainly not worth the 25ML it cost me (cab plus 5ML entrance). On the other hand the young people running the counter — two young women who I believe were attached to the comune, and a very pleasant young man who is just starting his career in Beni Culturali out of Macerata — were lively, pleasant, very patient: my young man (I didn't push too hard) opened up the upper floor of the cloister for me: interesting capitals, a better view of the complex; and wanted to give me outright the catalog because I'd run out of cash — this I couldn't accept [. . .]

[image ALT: Seen thru a stone archway that frames the right side of the photo, a small outdoors area shaded by half a dozen close-packed deciduous trees about 8 meters tall, from behind which rises a square tower, two sides of it seen, with a pair of lancet windows on each side. It is a view of the cloister of the Duomo Vecchio of San Severino Marche, in Italy.]

The cloister of the Duomo Vecchio (the former cathedral) of San Severino Marche, on top of the hill over­looking the town.

I hope to get back to S. Severino (I saw at least 2 interesting Romanesque churches whiz by in the area right next to the railroad trax), prolly as part of a walk from Nocera thru Pioraco —

Eventless return to Fossato: dinner was a tomato with Savora, 2 glasses of Orvieto, and a banana; read a bit and slept, alarm set for 3:20.

Yesterday started out simple, and ended "volto umano della Flaminia". I woke up at 0320, washed dishes — people are going to be traipsing thru the house to look at it because Mrs G. is renting it from May to October to a local woman who recently lost her husband — did a general cleanup, showered, and ate a solid meal: a pound of seafood (frozen, thawed it and added olive oil and garlic), a few biscottes with Gorgonzola, caffé latte — a strange breakfast but high in protein — and left at 0531, the full moon eventually setting over Branca roughly; reaching the beginning of the road up to Cucco at Sigillo at 0648, and the first sunlight hitting me at 0717: the road up was cool, not very shaded, already — I left half an hour later than I'd hoped — and a bit on the dull side; I got to the Rifugio at 0910 and was pleasantly surprised to find not only water there, but in fact a fully equipped bar, so with fruit juice, mineral water, fizzy stuff, and bathrooms: amusingly in all the booze, the bathroom had paper signs asking us to be sparing with the water. To the decollo a few hundred meters away, seven cars: four Italian, three German: it turned out that it was a bad day for flying, with winds out of the North and too strong.

This on the other hand suited me fine, and I headed off across the decollo pasture, hoping to boldly reach the summit of Monte Cucco where no cow had gone before; the initial pasture, nearly impossible to find a square foot where a cow had not gone —

Well golly there was a roadlike track round the east of the mountain, that was said to lead to the cave; it looked good, so I followed it: that turned out to be a mistake, which I suspected almost immediately, when I saw to my left a couple of others climbing the grassy crest. Well, the road to the E (#2) quickly becomes a narrow gravel path, levels off, and after a pleasant and welcome shaded wood (the whole summit, if there's a tree, it's a beech), gets narrower yet, with 70° drops to your right and steeper and steeper rises to your left while not rising much, appearing to go around the summit rather than point towards it. Eventually I caught up with a couple in their fifties who were clambering up hands and knees: I didn't like this much — I tried about 10 m of that — and finally my decision was made for me by four mountain goats; three grazing peacefully on a 60° slope, and the fourth, a large male standing guard smack on the path about 30 feet away and staring at me.

Well with eighteen inches of path, a slow and dangerous climb to my left, and a sharp precipitous drop to my right maybe 100 m or more, I did the logical thing: I snapped what ought to be a good telephoto of Mr. Goat, then turned around and left, much like the cats when Dinner is loose in the breakfast room, Geesh I didn't really want to go there anyway. . . .

[image ALT: A mountain goat barring my path up the Monte Cucco, a peak in the Umbrian Appennines (Italy).]

So back it was almost to the deltaplane takeoff area, and this time up along a smooth path to a large iron cross, and from there across meadows to the summit: this way, it's a reasonable easy walk for the out-of‑shape; and in fact, the few people I crossed were almost all in their middle years; something like 15 people must have got to the top of M. Cucco the same day I did: it's no big deal, especially if you drive up to the decollo area then just walk the remaining maybe mile.

And when I got to the summit — very difficult to determine the exact place of it because the summit is a sharp ridge (on one side) maybe 150 feet long — my already very limited hopes were dashed: I was definitely not standing where no cow had ever been. . . .

[image ALT: The summit of Monte Cucco, a peak in the Umbrian Appennines (Italy).]

Note also the small red-painted stones: several marked paths converge here.

Withal, the view from Cucco is not as good, though equally extensive, as that from Subasio — I took the obligatory photos and walked back down, feeling somewhat rushed because — with amusing timing — Andrea Gambucci had called me on my cellphone when I was still 20 meters before the summit, to tell me he was at the decollo, and he'd wait for me and take me to his campgrounds near Costacciaro. He'd planned to have me over for lunch and had called me on Monday, and I'd told him I'd be on top of M. Cucco at lunch time. . . .

So, I switched gears for the second half of the day, which became exceptionally social — for me, anyway; but this trip for some reason seems to be becoming very social —

Not much to record, though: at the Rio Verde, a very welcome shower, a very brief but nice dip in the pool — bathing cap required,​a but Francesca and Andrea lent me one — a simple lunch with a rather good red wine that I had very very little of, still in my climbing Monte Cucco mode and my body didn't want any; then Andrea wandered me over to a group of campers, about 5 couples plus kids, where we sat around a table for hours celebrating the name day of a young woman (thus named of course Maria Assunta) — cake, grappa etc.

Andrea, always on the move, had a program for me, to take me to see Peppino, who'd finally come back to Costacciaro — my group of campers invited me back to have dinner with them under the same trees, I said gladly yes, and Andrea and I dashed into Costacciaro, to the main bar (about 35 men playing cards in the street in front of it) where we briefly interrupted Mr. Lupini's card game — me feeling mortified of course, and one of the other three men at his table looking daggers at me. . . I'm to go back and chat Flaminia (or Temple of Jove Appennine: Andrea says that now two people know where it is, Ruggiero and also Euro Puletti, a young palaeographer who lives in a house on the Flaminia right behind the famous curve of the Mille Miglia, and that they were both keeping their cards close to their vest pending suitable publication — I'm not so terribly sure I think there was anything of any real importance connected with this Jupiter Appennine) with him after 5 on Saturday: considering that in the evening I'll be in Fossato booing Mario off the stage — he's bravely decided to play some rôle in a comic skit in piazza — it's going to be more socializing.

Back to the campeggio, and Andrea soon took off for Florence where he needs to be at work; as the sun set there I was back at the same table [. . .] Anyway I was not hungry at all, and had come back since it was certainly better than sitting by myself in the house — the day's business after all was done as soon as I was standing on the top of M. Cucco — but thought to contribute a couple of fairly good bottles of wine which I was able to buy from the campground. Salad, a bit of sausage, lots of conversation, slices of watermelon: driven by Claudio — Assunta's husband — to my door and to bed by 10:15 a very few minutes later; a long day. My feet almost perfect: a great relief.

Later Note:

a A tip for Americans especially: in Italy, swimming pools require bathing caps for both women and men. Usually, there is none to be borrowed or rented, so it's useful to pack one in your luggage.

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