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Monday 21 August 2000

So Saturday morning I did a fairly careful visit of Citerna, an attractive town that is essentially maligned by the brief and almost clinical descriptions in the various guides. Two interesting and attractive churches in town, that I saw, and the SS. Crocefisso a short ways out of town, that I did not: even that, the calves were not up to. Additionally the town itself, essentially a single street surrounded by medieval walls on raised foundations because the ground drops off on both sides, is very pleasant, with lots of shade and pine trees, and very clean, two public gardens, etc.

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A terracotta Madonna in the church of S. Michele of Citerna.
(School or workshop of Luca della Robbia, maybe by the master himself)

A cab to either S. Giustino or Città di Castello to catch the train was quoted to me over the phone at 55ML; the young woman at the desk, Adriana, offered to drive me to either provided I covered the gas, which I more than did at 20 ML leaving us both happy: she had to be on duty again in a short while and this was, I think, her lunch break — more than kind; effusive Booby.

Unevent­ful series of trains back to Fossato, except that the changes were quite fast: Angelo's daughter drove me home.

This left me with a bit of an unhappy situation: I'd said I'd be in Costacciaro after 5 (also in Fossato at 9 for the play) but couldn't see myself gallivanting all over in the shape I was in; yet stupidly didn't have Mr. Lupini's phone number. Unhappy and depressed, I kinda spaced out — dinner: tomatoes with Savora, a glass of Orvieto, on top of all the fruit juice of the again — but at 9 was duly sitting in front of S. Sebastiano for the play.

The play — a slight comedy about a man and wife whose near-divorce is solved at the end by their adopting a little girl — was in dialect; I had no problem following the general andamento of it and even some of the lines (taking for granted sometimes some words of dialect because of French or Spanish or because I would have "made them up" myself from Latin following sound change rules the way I do when I run out of real Italian), but had to listen very intently to do this (unlike the other play which was in fairly standard Italian), and there were a lot of small children running around and being children, and I just couldn't hear as acutely as you need to with a foreign language. As a result, mildly pleasant only (still depressed about my legs); Mario was as credible as the others. I asked him later whether this is just a start for him or will he let it drop: he hasn't made up his mind yet.

My Valnerina walk was to have started yesterday; but I gave myself the day off to rest, drink, get my potassium back to good levels, etc. At Citerna the pharmacist gave me an ointment of something called ketoprophene, 2.5% topical gel for joint and muscle pain for sports; I was dubious but it seems to have worked fairly well — I'm still using it — but it doesn't solve the actual cramps, and they won't give me quinine, so I'll be reduced to doing tonic water, nasty stuff: my breakfast at Citerna: banana yogurts and 3 small bottles of tonic water — felt eccentric.

So yesterday was a day down the tubes; I watched a (1950s?) movie called "Tuppe, Tuppe, Marescià" about a spineless carabiniere who gets his girl anyway — an implausible story with no indication, among other things, of why the girl wanted him — but which presented a view of life in an Italian village. I did laundry. I made myself lunch: strongozzi and tartufi estivi macinati. I did some pre-packing, sorting most of that paper and books into piles I don't need to consult here any more at all, possibles, and certains (including all the maps); at least in that respect, the day wasn't a total waste, since it'll save me time on the 20th and reduce the panic involved in Suitcase.

Finally, after a 2‑hour nap, I set myself a test: when it got cooler, at 7 or so, I'd walk down to the Madonna della Ghea, which I still haven't seen; if the walk there and back went fine, I'd leave today for the Valnerina; else I'd do a plan B.

So at 7:15 — broiling hot day, not a trace of a cloud — I headed down to the Ghea; but before I even got to S. Sebastiano I came across a young man, maybe 26, wandering around looking a bit lost but at the same time interested, much like I prolly look half the time myself, recognize the look: he turned out to be one of the people accompanying a group of some 30 young people, five of whom appeared in a coupla minutes, all girls these: Belgian, Romanian, Italian, and two Russian.​a I did my usual vintage Booby: Umbria, info and where to get it and who to talk to in Fossato (Davidde took notes), a bit of Venevitinov again now that he's been dusted off, the works [. . .]

With that, the sun now a bit low and me wondering if there'd be enough light to photograph by when I got to the Madonna della Ghea, I accompanied them down to the Quadrifoglio, a "centro turistico" where they were staying and would be eating at 8, then off I went to the Ghea; but by the time I was down on the Flaminia, I found that I was limping and in pain. I turned around and walked back up, test concluded: no way I could have walked 15 to 20 km today.​b

Of course I didn't feel so hot, and thought, when I got to Fossato Borgo at the Quadrifoglio, that I could fix this by attaching myself to this group of young people for dinner: it was 8:11 and they'd just have started. In I went; there was a reception desk, I thought I'd better ask; woman on the phone — I went to the "restaurant", more a communal dining-room — nobody there to check with, so back to the receptionist. Still talking on the phone, personal gossip; I planted myself quietly in front of her and waited; after 2½ minutes by the clock behind her, I left, making a note not to go to the Quadrifoglio nor recommend it to anyone for any reason at all. . . .

[image ALT: A telephoto shot of a small forest fire on a hill in Umbria (central Italy), August 2000.]
Up home, thinking to prepare myself a bit of dinner; but as I got to v. Rocca, my neighbor three doors up, the man who's been fixing his house, told me there was a forest fire on the hills leading up to Monte Cucco. There was, about 45 minutes of arc worth, pretty much circular: I hollered up to Carla and the family, at dinner or more likely just thru; everyone out in the back street to kibitz helplessly. The flames spread, but not that much, because there was almost no wind and what wind there was was up the ridge rather than down it or worse across it. Fire trucks from Gubbio and Fabriano showed up, and maybe they did something: very hard to tell, because there are no roads near the burnt area, and no helicopters, so what could they have done?

As far as I could tell, the fire just burned itself out: Maria Assunta said that there were sharp drop-offs in the area so the fire was unlikely to spread, and she was right; at a certain point I said the fire would be out in a half-hour or so, and although noone believed this, it's what happened; we broke up to our respective houses pondering on the evils of arson, since the fire was obviously set — not only that but Fossato'd seen much the same area burn two or three times recently. I had a leftover piece of dry sausage and some milk, and went to bed pondering the evils of calves that don't work, creeping old age, etc.

This morning, determined to recover the day of course, I did a bit of grocery shopping and got myself to the 1013 train with not too much limping: I'd decided to go to Calvi dell' Umbria, and bought a RT ticket to Terni, but wasn't at all certain that that's what I was really going to do — the Calvi bus left at 1240, and if I'd seen a train to Rieti or L'Aquila that left earlier, I might have taken it. But I didn't and I got RT bus tickets to Calvi.

Calvi is not a pretty town (other than the view onto it) but it's fairly interesting. The approach is spectacular: vast views S and W into the Lazio, ranges upon ranges of hills, plus in the background that tall odd-shaped hump you can see from Penna.

[image ALT: A Roman funerary altar in use as a water fountain, in Calvi dell' Umbria (central Italy).]
The town, well I got there in broiling heat a bit past one: the first thing was park one of my bags at the caffé, and guzzle down some liquids and an ice cream; then I headed off to try to find the Roman sarcophagus mentioned in the DeAgostini.º I did the entire via Roma, on a slargo of which the sarcophagus supposedly: this was over steps down to the road — zilch (but the calf was OK, pretty much). Back up, no problem at all. Wandered around and finally, mostly because I stopped to flirt with a white scotty who decided he'd rather bark at me, furiously; bumbled onto the funerary altar: it's in use as a water fountain, and the inscription was pasted over with children's decals. Pictures, then "restored" it a bit with a toothbrush and some water, then another picture — the stone is also deteriorating at the top; it's not going to last another 100 years at this rate.

The dog's mom's husband showed up and told me where to look for the sarcophagus; I'd blanked it out because I don't like intruding on people's privacy, and it's in a rather non-public-looking place.

Back up to my caffe, 4 small bottles of tonic water for the quinine and some banana ice cream for the potassium; and by that time — it was about 4 — things were starting to open, so I went and found a group of men sitting in front of the closed Pro Loco, and asked if they knew who had the keys to the Presepe; I'd lucked out: one of them did (as well as to pretty much every other building in town) a tall man in a faded blue plaid shirt who looked anything but Italian, and rather like a lifelong inhabitant of Maine or Vermont. He took me to the Presepe, which is a marvel: glad I saw it, click-click-click.

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A small part — if the most important, of course — of the 16c Presepe (Crèche) of Calvi.

Back at the Pro Loco — opened up for me, since I hoped I could buy a booklet on the Presepe; yes and no: not the one on Calvi's, but one on those thruout Umbria, including Calvi. They may have a slight webpage, but don't understand any of it: the computer guy does, but he has nothing to do with Calvi. . . I got some doubtful URL's —

A quick visit of the Romanesque church, S. Maria Assunta — rebuilt inside, 16c — and a very quick peek into S. Brigitta (very puzzling this: both TCI and DeAgostini call it S. Paolo) but it was Rosary time, so I just stood in the door and got an impression of pleasantly-colored 18c frescoes.

At that point, that was all of Calvi I could see given my leg and my time constraints (bus at 1825); I went and parked myself near the bus turnaround; the gathering spot for about a dozen teenagers, an Italian version of the Fonz's diner; watched one couple take a coupla stabs at some very moderately success­ful kissing with breaks for the boy to futz with his scooter —

Bus came, took me to Narni's main square where about 5 minutes later I changed to another bus for Terni train station: lots of buses and people milling about. Terni, walked to the P.za Tacito, got some cash, back to the station, train, and here I am, approaching Gualdo in the dark with behind me several rows of seats away a group of scout-uniformed Papa-Boys as the press has been calling them, still all hopped up from the Giubileo.

Forgot to mention that on my outward pass thru Terni this morning, I went to the UPIM with my roll of French francs (ten 10F coins) to see what I could buy, since they said I could do it. It turned out to be quite easy; I found a pair of reading glasses at 29200₤, and paid 100FF and 2200₤ for them. This was a wonder­ful mix of good planning on my part (I thought to bring all these French coins I had, figuring this'd be my last chance to spend them) and good luck in finding some practical and public-service-minded outfit, in this case UPIM, that would allow me to spend them.

Later Notes:

a Part of an ecological awareness program sponsored by the Centro Regionale per l'Informazione, la Documentazione e l'Educazione Ambientale (CRIDEA).

b I finally saw the church in April 2004.

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