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Wednesday 9 August

I've fallen a bit behind: last night I was inexplicably very sleepy and went to bed, lights off, at a few minutes past seven, and slept nearly twelve hours.

From Pontericcioli to Cantiano is not very far and there isn't much to tell: a quiet cool winding road, more or less the Flaminia, and I got to Cantiano, finding my hotel​a on the other side, on the road to Cagli by a few hundred meters. My usual routine — drop off knapsack, shower, change — and back out to do the churches.

Yeef; the perils of writing my diary even a day late: what happened to lunch? An unprepossessing hole in the wall in P'riccioli town, along the road: the food turned out to be quite good (tagliatelle ai funghi, capocollo alla braccia, glass of wine) if heavy on the black pepper — lucky me, I like the stuff — but the proprietor/waiter, a young man of maybe 28, was the extraordinary item of note: a spitting image of Gregory Peck; very disconcerting, I kept on expecting Audreyº Hepburn or someone to pop out of the kitchen; anyway, a very handsome man — who turned out to be Igor's brother from the Tenetra (in turn, that makes him Ivan: he was a bit surprised that this total stranger should know him by name).

Anyway, Cantiano very very low-key; I walked the churches and pretty much the whole town, a nice, pleasantly medieval place, finishing with a side-hill that turned out to have yet another church on the top (sort of), S. Ubaldo: steep street marked with the stations of the Cross, the first that I can remember seeing in an actual town street anywhere.

On the way down, three old ladies on a bench over­looking the Collegiata — a beauti­ful view — and a small mostly white cat, who wouldn't come anywhere near me; but I sat on the pavement and chatted with them, the eldest just short of 80: she spoke French and German and during the war they wanted to make an interpreter of her ("They sent me to Milan") but finally she chose not to, and says her life could have been different: she seemed perfectly contented staying in Cantiano and obviously made the right choice; or rather, from her personality, she'd have been contented had she done the other — must be nice —

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Cantiano: the Collegiata, as seen from the hill of S. Ubaldo.

A second meal, dinner at 8:20 at the Tenetra; not as good as my lunch there with Andrea, but good. Passatelli (much like Spoletine strangozzi, except with egg) ai gamberi: well. . . passatelli al finocchio really, with 5 gamberi waiting patiently nearby. Maialino al finocchio (more fennel, but how did I know when ordering?), a glass of rosso di Montalcino; a piece of Mom's crostata for dessert, a grappa; walked thru most of Cantiano in three minutes to my hotel — big, active passeggiata — and to bed. Cantiano really very pleasant.

Yesterday, breakfast at the hotel, where I think I was the only guest (it opened in May and still feels quite new); copious breakfast, good shower (although no shower curtain nor soapdish in a hotel built just last year), and off at around 9:30, after having used the phone directory in my room to reserve in Cagli, at Furlo 3 km after Acqualagna, and in Fossombrone.

Between Cantiano and Cagli, two pitstops, both interesting: the Roman bridge at Pontedazzo, and the church of S. Geronzio on the outskirts of Cagli.

The bridge is an attractive solid thing; a bit of the top is collapsing: a 19c or 20c rail. Beneath it, the Roman part is doing just fine, if at one point shored up with a bit of modern concrete.

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The Roman bridge of the Via Flaminia at Pontedazzo.​b

A hundred meters away, I stopped at the Birra alº Pozzo, a little private camping area that serves basic sammiches and drinks. I had a Gatorade and a piadina, but mostly the story I was looking for: Andrea'd told me the well was drilled for oil; someone else since told me no it was water. In fact, both were right, with Andrea, typically, being more right: the well was drilled in 1955‑56 in the hopes of finding oil, but at 2493 m they stopped, finding water at 33 atmospheres. This water is unusable, since tapping it would have unpredictable effects; so the useless wellhead just sits there, and when the property was bought by the present owner's family (all this info from the owner) they used the drip pool to keep their beer cold. They don't do this any more, but the name remains: Birra al Pozzo.

The same man told me of a chunk of Roman wall and where to find it; and, with some uncertainty, I did, maybe a hundred meters after the "snak bar"º with a yellow sign and a gravel parking lot full of trucks: the old road (thruout the stretch from Cantiano to Cagli, the old road and the new coil around each other, with the road signs pushing you towards the new one, but I ignored all of 'em) widens out slightly, with a tiny metal staircase on the shoulder, and bingo! right under the road there is this longish stretch of Roman substructure — so that the old road you walk on is in fact more or less the Roman road at that point. The gorges of the Burano being what they are, it stays that way thru Cagli, or at least thru the church of S. Geronzio a km S of Cagli where they widen out.

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On the Via Flaminia: the church of S. Geronzio di Cagli

S. Geronzio: I actually asked the neighboring restaurant if they had the key; they did: tall handsome woman accompanied me and opened up. I started combing slowly thru the church (not much, actually) and she went back to the restaurant and told me to leave the key in the open door, that it wouldn't do any harm to air out the church every once in a while.

St. Gerontius seems to have been an old man, a bishop, who was mugged on the Flaminia and killed on this spot; a modern inscription over the door, following tradition, says the church marks the spot: in effect a martyrium, although I always wonder how much it qualifies as a martyrdom if you're slaughtered by some common thug like in the streets of Chicago — Anyway he is iconographically associated with a goose; this goose pops up all over Cagli (the local summer festa is the Palio dell' Oca, for example, although this may not be directly related) but noone yet has been able to tell me exactly why the goose with Gerontius: they talk of the goose warning him (alla Campidoglio, said one young man at the Pro Loco — which I now inevitably think of as the Pro L'Oca) but Gerontius chose not to run.

So I wound up having lunch at the restaurant next to S. Geronzio: tagliatelle al ragú (OK), spiedini (good), Mom's walnut cake (very good); a glass of drinkable red; some excellent grappa, made by Dad: the handsome young woman is their daughter, of course. For all this, they wanted to charge me only 20 ML, but I left 10 ML extra, and as a result had a limoncello with Dad, a young-looking man of 66 who sings tenor and will be travelling to England later this month to sing there with his choir: around Shrewsbury somewhere if I understood correctly; they came to sing here last year.

The last kilometer, and my hotel by around 4:30; didn't do too much visiting, just roamed about a bit; saw the Torrione (where, for once, the long tunnel going to another distant building actually exists, and will be opened within a few months: I saw the beginning of it, and felt the nearly cold air from it that more or less air-conditions the Torrione); sat in the piazza and had iced tea, an ice cream, and watched the preparations for last night's medieval get-up, to be at 9: but by then, as noted, I was sound asleep.

6:30 P.M., Furlo, at a bar right on the highway, sitting outdoors; sounds dreadful, but a car passes about once a minute, if that.

This morning — the Albergo La Pineta not very good, bathroom smelled rather strongly of mildew (although not as bad as that awful hotel in Avallon a few years ago) and the maids had dived into my room by 10 when I had neither surrendered my key nor packed — I did my Cagli walk: the churches and the Museum. The latter very disappointing, maybe one small room of stuff, although it was widely scattered in three large rooms, which it shared with a temporary exhibition of paintings, some of which not bad actually: but the Roman stuff consisted of a few amphora dottles, a piece of brick pavement about a foot square, a piece of aqueduct, and a glassed-in box containing some fragments of bronze and a small and fragmentary funerary inscription. The churches of some interest — S. Francesco closed for restauro — and being Booby, I liked best the vividly painted blue and gold S. Bartolomeo with its statues of 10 apostles (Thaddeus and Simon Jude getting short shrift, small paintings) and middling paintings of Bartholomew and in particular his grisly martyrdom, represented with realism in some ways, in others not: I hope my photos turn out.

Checked out of la Pineta (oh, and odd name too: it is indeed under a whole pack of trees on an overhanging hill, but not one pine among them, at least visible from my room) and sat at the adjacent pastry shop writing diary and having an ersatz lunch: 6 pastries, average to very good, and two good cappuccini, for 9600₤, which is very cheap.

At 12:10 I left, sort of: that is, I walked out of town over the bridge to Pergola then a right turn and down to the river, where I saw the sad ruins of the Roman bridge della Taverna. It washed away in a flood in 1976, and already only the sixty-year‑olds know where it is. Now it had withstood two millennia of nature, yet a flood washed it away? In fact it was restored around the middle of the 20c — and I connect the two; I wouldn't be surprised if it was a flawed restoration that weakened it, just as the Basilica at Assisi was done in by the 1950s concrete beam (beams?).

Back into town and out again on the Acqualagna side. I'd forgotten about the Ponte Mallio altogether, but it reminded me: it's right at the exit. Well, this one I think I was wrong: locally it's called sometimes the Etruscan bridge, and of course it's not Etruscan, but I'd just thought it was the usual hype and it was Roman, no more; now that I've seen it, I feel pretty comfortable calling it pre-Roman: the stones are gigantic, and in spots are assembled like the polygonal walls of Amelia — which is made even more evident by some clearly classical-period Roman repairs.

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Cagli: the Ponte Mallio (or Ponte Manlio), from the modern highway bridge next to it.

Tore myself away from the Ponte Mallio, Acqualagnawards, and within 100 m the strap of my little Forza Azzurra knapsack broke: I was reduced to carrying it like an awkward package for 10 km until I could buy another knapsack in Acqualagna. St. Gerontius, however, must have been looking after me: in the thinning remains of Cagli, in another 100 m no more, what do I see but a sports store. It's 1:20 P.M. Are they open? Yes! Basili Sport — bicycles mostly, terrific array of stuff — normally closes at 1:15. . . Walter Basili​c was chatting with friend Roberto, sold me a solid purple knapsack — roomy, comfortable, even if now I advertise for "Portugal" complete with flag — then proceeded to give me all kinds of pointers to more Roman Flaminia: I thanked them (and St. Gerontius, who knows? It really was a most extraordinary piece of good fortune) and this time left, really, at 1:30.

The old road keeps on twining around and under the highway; I stuck to the old, somewhat curvier but also shadier and traffic-free. The Roman Flaminia by and large seems to have followed yet a third, roughly median path. Thru Smirra — a pump with cold water — then the turnoff for Pigno, and then according to Roberto (who lives in a nearby place named Acquaviva if I got it right, and farms and finds stuff in his fields all the time) a few hundred meters and on the right a Roman arch; and indeed, although not visible from the old road: without his tip, I'da missed it altogether. Visible on the other hand from the highway across from km 239 exactly; thru some vineyards and fields, click-click, happy Booby, and from there back to my road and eventually, with no further much of anything, to Acqualagna.

The little town is not really of tourist "interest" but that's not fair, it's very pleasant, although much smaller than I thought it would be; lots of young people, too, which after so many places in Umbria with no young people at all, is nice. A quick tour of the town, and hit the road again for the last 3 or 4 km: prolly 3 rather than 4.

More winding in and out under the highway, then an "area archeologica" sign after about 2 kms, which I wasn't expecting: a Roman "viadotto", actually a piece of elevated road with two drainage adits managed under it; this in turn right next to a picnic area surrounding the austere abbey of S. Vincenzo "ad Petram Pertusam" (note the use of "ad" for something 3½ km away, for that's how far the Roman road tunnel is from the abbey). Noted with amusement that you can't picnic there — with your own picnic, but it's OK if you buy their stuff.

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The Via Flaminia about 100 m S of the abbey of S. Vincenzo al Furlo.

Anyway, with that, about a km more, and just as I was starting to wonder if I might not have overshot my hotel somehow, there it was.

(This is a good spot to close for now: it's three minutes to eight fonino time, and I'm going to eat —)

Later Notes:

a The Antica Flaminia.

b For four additional photographs of different aspects of this bridge, see my footnote to Thomas Hodgkin's Italy and Her Invaders, V.260 f.

c Walter Basili turns out to be the world-class cyclist, four times Italian track champion; which I learned only six years later when I was tinkering with this webpage. See this interesting page on him, part of an excellent site on Cagli.

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Page updated: 7 Dec 20