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Sunday 10 September 2000

(On the 0611 to Rome, still catching up: back to Sovana,º Thursday 7th.)

About half my tomb clamberings in Sovana I was by myself; the more famous places, there were people: with me delivering mini-lectures of my own (much like that other guy's, of course. . .) to whatever hapless couple or family was trapped on the same path with me — One couple, Alessandro and Arianna from Verona, almost as thorough as me: I crossed or overtook 'em at least four times —

All this under clouds but never rain; the only rain I saw all day was literally three drops when I stepped out the door of the hotel in the morning, which I took for a bad omen but by the time I'd started down the steps to the Borgo fifty feet away the weather had changed its mind. On the other hand I only had clear blue (i.e., photogenic) skies as I left Sovana after 6 P.M. on my way back, with one stop remaining — precisely the one tomb where the lighting didn't matter because it was the Tomba dei Colombai: the best example of columbarium visitable in the area, and which I was determined to see even if I had to pay for it in rush and fatigue; which I did: after seeing it (worth it), I was on the road at km 8.9 from Sorano at 6:54, and the hotel desk closed at about 8:30. I made it, arriving at the very technical end of twilight; it was a good time not to have any cramp or heel problems, and I didn't. At one point I even made time to flirt with a flock of sheep — they started it —

[image ALT: missingALT]

Sovana: the Tomba dei Colombai

I paid my bill and had the forethought to borrow an alarm clock from the desk; I thought I'd go eat, and even dressed for it, but changed my mind and went to bed. Problem getting to sleep, because this high up, if any room on the floor has a window open, all the doors on the hall rattle: and no sooner'd I got back to my room, a big storm drenched the town, wind, lightning —

Friday was pretty simple; I let myself out of the hotel and met my 0630 bus (false start, tho', since I actually climbed on an earlier bus of another company and nearly wound up in Viterbo), which dropped me off at S. Lorenzo at around 7:10; where I was told I had a 15‑minute change for a bus of another line that would take me to Castelgiorgio.

[image ALT: A stone monument about 2 meters high bearing a stylized propeller and two names. It is a monument to two fallen aviators near Castelgiorgio, Umbria (central Italy).]
Near Castelgiorgio:
a monument to two pilots
who crashed in this field in 1939.

Well, that SIRA bus did show up and does go to Castelgiorgio, but the driver told me no he couldn't take me there. When is there a bus that can? Who knows (and like I care, you fool). Well, yet another line, the ATC Terni, stops, but at 0900, and who knows whether it would take me; S. Lorenzo being really quite Nuovo and thus nothing much to see (I peeked in the church on the piazza, surprisingly open), I walked the easy 7.5 km to Castelgiorgio, which, as I thought I knew from my guides (but then there are always surprises) was of no particular interest, although I did look inside the church — and even took several photos, related to other things elsewhere — and inquired about the American-style football federation at the bar where I had two good slices of pizza and a couple of cappuccini; but it departed Castelgiorgio about ten years ago, for parts unknown. Also inquired about sights to see, and the nearest thing I was told was Torrealfina, several km off my road to my left, although big handsome castle very prominent.

So, down the main street of Castelgiorgio, very reminiscent of your typical town in the American Midwest (maybe I had football lodged in my head), and off to Castelviscardo, about 6 km away, although local opinions vary tremendously ("4 km", "5 km", "3 to 4 km") and all wrong. Flat windy country, more reminder of the Midwest: all the way to Castelviscardo, I actually wore my sweater; beauti­ful blue skies but brisk: that storm ushered in autumn (and in Fossato, temperatures around 60F and lots of wind: the Rossi's now keep their windows closed).

[image ALT: A two-story partly hidden under a pine tree. It is the church of Castelviscardo, Umbria (central Italy).]

The church of S. Antonio di Padova.

Castelviscardo is larger than Castelgiorgio and quite different, being older in appearance, and having an elegant complex of buildings at one end of its equally rectilinear main drag. I walked around the gardens of the photogenic castle, a bit unsure it was public property, but the gates were open and restoration of some of the castle is being paid for by the government. The church — on the façade, a truly breathtaking bit of self-puffery: a long inscription nominally recording the restoration of the church in the 16th or 17th century, but in fact almost completely given over to the enumeration of the cardinals and famous people the restorer was related to.

Palazzo Comunale and Monumento ai Caduti with a market going on, or rather, packing up — it was about 11:30 — but what I wanted was a place to sit, eat, take a leak, catch up on my diary, etc. The one restaurant in town, La Pergoletta, looked very pleasant (true to its name, tables under pergolas outdoors) but unfortunately was closed for a week's holiday. I sat finally in the back room of a bar (not much smoke, lucked out) and ate 4 soggy small pastries and had some iced tea, read the papers, and wrote an overdue letter to James. Exactly on time, at 1450, the bus across the street back to Orvieto, the same driver as on the way in; train to Orte, 20 minutes late; train to Fossato, also 20 minutes late. Home, oof.

Yesterday Saturday 9th is easy to write up; I thought to go to Rome but just wouldn't get in gear, so did laundry and housecleaning and a very small grocery shop instead, and made myself a sort of risotto. Then I thought I'd take the 6:30 P.M. bus to Pietralunga and walk to Montone and Umbertide (returning tomorrow), but it was quite impossible to determine whether that bus runs on Saturdays; the nail in the coffin was that I only have information about 1 hotel in Pietralunga (a 3‑star, I bet there are rooms etc. but that I dunno about), and when I called two they were full up. Depressed, I unpacked; and wound up having a very pleasant evening with the Rossi's: a simple dinner of antipasti; I brought the dessert wine, a bottle given me by Mrs. Guerrieri to celebrate with: I'd had nothing to celebrate yet, so this was the time — I celebrated the Rossi's, who've been terrific neighbors. Mrs Rossi was looking particularly good, and I may have a very good photo of her now.

[image ALT: Maria Assunta Rossi at 87.]

To bed and actually read a bit of a mystery story, instead of collapsing — a 2‑hour nap after lunch had something to do with it.

Today (I'm now writing on the 1912 to Fossato) was more unpredictability. I decided to do another piece of Rome — the churches between the Pantheon and the Via Giulia, the Altemps at lunch when everything is closed, and the Ara Pacis in the afternoon to see if I can get some better pictures this time.

Well, I saw almost all the churches I wanted to, to the extent possible (Rome on Sunday mornings is rather empty, plus many churches are open for Mass that are closed during the week, and with luck you can visit between two Masses etc.); not my fault that the results were meager, many of these churches being rather sterile examples of various post-Renaissance styles, and some of course I landed there during Mass so no dice: more photos of tops of churches I fear, although here and there a little surprise, the best of which was, not the church, but the piazza, of S. Salvatore in Lauro.

[image ALT: missingALT]

The piazza, however, is near impossible to catch in a photo. Here's the dome of the church, instead.

This was in fact towards what turned out to be the end of my studies for the day; I got about halfway down the via Giulia, which I'd never actually walked, and was thinking gosh what a dead and unpleasant street it was, a long straightedge into the midday sun, without any nooks or curves to create shade, and thus not a street with any shops or life at all: noone walks on it willingly, and Vitruvius would never have made this monstrous mistake — when [. . .]

So at ten minutes to six I was standing in front of the Chiesa Nuova on my way to Termini; I started zagging my way there, but was held up by three young Israeli girls who were trying to get to a kosher restaurant on the v. del Portico d'Ottavia but couldn't get thru, since some of the streets behind the Theatre of Marcellus are now blocked off because of excavations. Then even more shyly the one that spoke English asked me if I'd mind escorting them; they were maybe 16 to 19 at most, slight-framed, and afraid, and the neighborhood doesn't inspire confidence, or at least not to them. Well I got them there, but then had to run and eventually catch a cab to make it to my train on time. It's just as well because [. . .]

But I'm on the train — absolutely jam-packed, apparently with a whole regiment of soldiers on leave, prolly going to Foligno, and very noisy. I found one seat empty; I'm sitting in it. There are people on all the strapontins and standing in the aisles. Despite the no-smoking car, some are smoking. We've been at a halt now for maybe ten minutes in Baiano, waiting for a Eurostar as often. My hip hurts, the train is going to be late in Fossato, I'm tired and sad: not a good trip tonite.

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