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Saturday 2 September 2000

Gosh what a good day this has been, even if my feet hurt far too much for a mere (est.) 14 km.

My long-planned Valnerina hike, pushed around over the calendar back and forth, with this accidental Saturday departure, could not have been better planned, even calculated — today, at least.

The 10:13 train after a thorough house-clean, a thorough shave, shopping (butter, milk, fruit juice for when I get back), and to Terni perfectly on time; having first checked with Mr. Cervelli that he'd be open, so brought him 54 rolls of film; paid for them and the 29 he's already developed, but without taking the latter of course, I'll pick them up next time. Five fresh felt pens across the street. Found my crème de marrons supplier with no difficulty, got 2 jars of it — the excuse was a nice one: it's energy food, of course — and then thought I'd pop in on the Bartoli's: he'd called me to thank me for the chockies for his folks, and told me he'd moved to the first house right next to the Duomo in Terni; on the third house tried, I found them, and they were home. (I'd had lunch at, of all things, a McDonald's first so I wouldn't be begging for food — it was 12:30 — the fries were excellent although greyish in color; the McBacon burger was very average: I'll have to have one back in the States to see whether it's McD. or European beef or what.)

So over a glass of fizzy water I spent some time catching upº with the Bartoli's: Alessandra looked particularly good; they've both changed jobs altogether, neither one in anything archaeological although they're still quite interested in antiquities; and in fact [. . .]

A bit of chatter about website, Umbria, etc. and I left; I was glad to see them and they seemed pleased to see me. Pitstop for a bottle of water and I hit the road.

A dull road, of course, as expected, out of Terni; but at least I didn't get lost. And then. . . something Alessandro had said had lodged in my mind, "Gee, you ought to be able to see the Cascata delle Marmore, they let the water run on Saturday afternoons on more or less your schedule." Well, incredibly, in all my planning this Valnerina hike — although I can read a map and realized full well I'd be passing very close to the falls — I'd never thought to include them in the hike, reserving them for some hypothetical day: I wanted to see them with the water off but also with the water on, and getting there is all a problem, and the schedules switch around, and in this quagmire the post‑'94 Bill just ran and ran and frankly I didn't think I'd see the falls although with the Triponzo inscription and the pavement at Rignano Flaminio they were one of my three prime goals.

Well, Bill saw his falls, in the most perfect way imaginable, by the sheerest accident; by the greatest good fortune, my subconscious working overtime. The moment of truth was at the fork for Papigno — an attractive medieval cluster on a hill; a road sign on the ascending road read "Belvedere superiore" and on the descending via Papigno, "Belvedere inferiore", with my map indicating that I'd have to back up and do the same road back to the fork if I went up. I went up anyway.

I arrived at Marmore — a Guardea-like place although along one street — not knowing how far it would be (turned out maybe 3.5 km extra, but at one point looked like it would be 8 km extra or so); then they channel you thru a couple of campgrounds and a gauntlet of tourist shops: much more direct routes exist, but they're forbidden; then there's a ticket table at the top of a path in the woods: it really doesn't look promising. I paid, and within 150 m if that,

I was standing with a small group of people along a curved path, a sort of balcony over the falls, leading to a little postern built by one of the Piuses for the express purpose (plaque) of letting me see the falls safely and well. It was 3:40 P.M.; a few thin trickles of water were following grooved channels over the edge: a perfectly beauti­ful sight. Another much smaller fall to the right just dropped its water with much less fuss. Every few minutes, a power­ful siren would go off: they're apparently meant to warn of water surges.

Hearing some mumblings, I asked: and the full water would be let thru at 4. I stayed, of course. It did come thru, and looks very different indeed: a power­ful natural-looking waterfall. I'd seen both "on" and "off", and, barring accidents between here and my developers, have a full set of photos. (That sounds very websitish, almost crass: in fact, the falls are in some mysterious way a moving sight. I called James briefly to share it with him to the extent possible.)

[image ALT: A waterfall about 30 meters high. It is the Cascata delle Marmore, near Terni, Umbria (central Italy).]
[image ALT: A waterfall about 30 meters high. It is the Cascata delle Marmore, near Terni, Umbria (central Italy).]
Cascata delle Marmore: an artificial waterfall built by the Romans in the 3c B.C.

Off (except for a bit of overflow)


Further good fortune attended me. There is a path down from the Upper Belvedere to the Lower Belvedere; it bypasses Papigno, but that's a small price to pay. It was cool, attractive, and interesting: about midway, Mussolini improved the complex by piercing an adit to a point right next to the falls; the current name is the Galleria e Balcone degli Amorosi. It is very very cool — I was barechested, it was much like being on an icerink — and at the end, it is very wet, with spray from the falls, which are within easy jumping distance. (I got water inside the same part of my camera that happened before at the Capitoline Museums a few years ago; except now I know the solution, and wouldn't you know it my good fortune today extended to my having a hair-dryer in my hotel room.)​a

Down to the lower Belvedere, of interest if lesser: 5ML very well spent, and I did the falls in the proper direction, too. I left cooled, refreshed, happy, and on the right road.

From there to my hotel (Hotel Rossi, loc. Isola, about 1 km S of Arrone capoluogo) it was a straight shot along a road with not too much traffic, although at one curve I had three motorcyclists barrel me almost down: the second lost his own balance as well, but thank God nothing happened to him; followed immediately by a car riding partly on the shoulder; I was on the left of course and jumped 4 times in 30 seconds, somewhat shaken but safe.

My feet hurt; this bothers me, since, even counting the walk to the train station in Fossato, I've only done 16, maybe 17 km. On the other hand, no severe heel pain, no nerve twinges, and no cramps: at worst, tightness in the right calf.

Hotel, 5:55 P.M.; shower — sat on the floor of it and let hot water just pour onto me for a while; then, on the between-the‑lines advice of the (lively, intelligent, pleasant) receptionist or much more prolly owner of the hotel, off at 6:40 to Casteldilago, which I can see thru my window.

[image ALT: A town of maybe 400 people, buildings and houses mostly three or four stories, draped over the top of a small hill, against a backdrop of two successively taller ridges entirely forested with pine trees. It is a view of Casteldilago, Umbria (central Italy).]

Casteldilago from the NW as I approached it along the road.

Casteldilago has no extraordinary monument (although I found three churches: S. Nicola towards the bottom, S. Valentino at the top, and another later church in the middle and a bit obscured: all attractive) but is a lovely little town. Perched on its hill of course, this being Umbria; to the north, Arrone and Montefranco in the reddening light of sunset; to the south, visible mostly from the parvis of S. Valentino (bits of high-medieval and possibly one Roman stone), a valley that I frankly wouldn't have paid any attention to, but for a woman who has a house there: she said the flat valley used to be in fact a lake, that was dried up the minute the falls were created; and she speaks of rings for mooring boats in the rocks just below Casteldilago on the N side of that valley. All of this needs to be checked of course — she seemed to be talking Middle Ages and the falls had been there for 1800 years — but it's all plausible and I took photos: I told her I ought to hug her.

Casteldilago characterised by two further features: one, the cooking smells were unusually good; not every Umbrian town smells terrific at dinnertime. The other: the Pro Loco has commissioned a number of very attractive modern fountains; rather than plain water pumps, the town has sculpture, and it's good. (There's also a Sagra, thru 10 Sept., of Frog; but although I haven't had frog in several years, I stayed with dinner at the hotel, which too smelled good this evening.)

And indeed, after my late afternoon 2‑km walk to and around C'dilago — am I being cynical in thinking that it was improved by my leaving a few things for next time, which may or not ever come? — I've just had a rather good dinner here: gamberi in salsa verde; tagliatelle al guanciale with rugola and formaggio di Castelmagno (somewhere in the Piemonte; excellent); faraona alla leccarda (would have been better plain); a frittata al tartufo; 2 desserts: panna cotta al gianduia with fudge, excellent, and my frequent tartufo bianco affogato al Bosci; an armagnac with my coffee. Wine, I splurged: Amarone, Speri 1995; I prefer Masi but this too is very good, and the remaining half bottle will be for tomorrow evening.

And now to bed — tomorrow is 27 km, and up to over 800 m altitude; I'm a bit nervous about it.

[image ALT: A town of maybe 600 people, buildings and houses mostly three or four stories, draped over the top of a small hill; to the right the upwards slope of a much larger hill or mountain. It is a view of Montefranco, Umbria (central Italy).]

Though a remote telephoto and thus not giving a correct impression of the valley, this shot I took of Montefranco perched above it while I went on my little evening walk on the 2d, is too beauti­ful to pass up. I did not visit Montefranco until the 4th.

Later Note:

a it only occurred to me many months after I got back, but in 11 months' worth of stays in Italy, it was the only time my hotel room had ever had a hair-dryer.

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