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Fri. 16 September

Woken up as per schedule and agreement by call from James 10 P.M. Thursday his time 5 A.M. here; he wanted to talk a lot, in part about Bozo's invasion of Haiti, in part about the happenings on the block — apparently war has been declared, dozens of black people in cars have descended on the street and are actually blocking traffic in front of the apartments where the problem is, also our letter, signed by a high percentage of block residents, has gone out to the alderman (James signed my name to it and his).

He asked me what I did with myself here: and that is the nub of it all until I get some translation work, i.e., until I find a modem connection. For now, the answer is simple, I'm still setting up. Ah, and when I'm set up. . . .!

Speaking of which, yesterday's laundry is well on its way to dry, hanging on a folding contraption of gold-colored presumably nonrusting wires I found folded up next to the washing machine; I'm still getting used to the modus vivendi here: plugging in the bathroom hot water heater when the temperature gets low, turning off the bottled gas under the stove by night — Preparing to make my first coffee Italian style and have breakfast; I weighed 81½ kg last night, 81 now, so in fact the excess at O'Hare and the meals, unchecked, in Italy, have not removed me from my downward course, the target being 77 by the time I leave Todi and this scale in the apartment.

I slept well — bed quite comfortable — in my own pajamas, the shirt marked in case there was any doubt by Boo, kindly: a friendly smell of home lightly about me . . .

Midmorning; just got back from another little walk down the Corso Cavour and v. S. Maria in Camuccia and back up by a different route in the same general area, getting my bearings on my new neighborhood, also continuing to tank up on groceries, spent just over $40 and now have fruit, lettuce, green beans, cheeses, more pasta, garlic, basil, salt, pepper, vinegar, deodorant, shampoo, hair gel — down to 50 ML Italian cash, which'll have to last 'til Monday morning since the banks are all on strike today; still uncertain about getting cash from VISA even on Monday, and may have to rely on the French francs I'm carrying fortunately several hundred dollars worth: feels just like living in Strasbourg and being 20 years old again.

Monday now beginning to look like another day in Rome, getting my papers notarized at the U.S. Embassy, sending them to Merrill Lynch by DHL, etc —

I tried skipping rope this morning, felt very klutzy and only 3 — am sure it's all wrong — makes noise I think on the floor below and I need to check with them as to a suitable hour and place if any —

Weather perfect, around 68° and mostly sunny, will probably go for a longer walk sometime today, bearing in mind I have another lunch at the Umbriaº to finish my bottle of wine!

06059 Todi (PG)
tel. 894.2390
v. S. Bonaventura, 13

Speaking of which, 13:30 and back at the Umbria, by almost identical weather, this time obviously with this notebook, and wearing my cow sweatshirt; caught a look at myself in the glass door of a church, after a nice shower and change into these clothes, and I look pretty good, relaxed —

Went for a small introductory walk after being told at the Azienda that there were no small-scale maps for pedestrians of the area to be found in Todi, probably in Rome. I also got what I hope will be a satisfactory schedule for getting to Rome in time for the 5:00‑6:30 session; it involves leaving here at 12:24, ARR Terni 1:10, DEP Terni 1:17, ARR Rome 2:30 and presumably I can get to Marino in time somewhere soon after that.

Anyway, I've now been to Pontecuti. Dribbling down the hillside above its beauti­ful 6‑arched bridge, it looked, when James and I went thru it on the bus last year, much more interesting and beauti­ful than it really is, but it's a pleasant place. I didn't really mean to walk there before lunch, since I thought it would be a 10‑km round trip (it wasn't),​1 but I wandered down a street, found myself at a gate (for now I still don't have the city geography down, which gate, which street, I may mark later in the margin as I get oriented),​2 and there was a sign for Pontecuti so off I went.

The weather was close to perfect walking weather: nice breeze, not completely sunny, 70 to 75°; took off my shirt at the city limits of Todi, need to start working on the Italian tan, hope I'll still have it when I get back [. . .] glorious countryside — and spotting various plants along the way: chicory, various members of the bindweed family including a very pretty pink one; various types of hawkweedlike things incl. a pale yellow one, larger and quite beauti­ful; malva; pennyroyal; linaria; a number of small-flowered plants of the snapdragon family I think. Trees I know less well, but I believe bamboo; also a small-leaved oak, some kind of ash?, wild fig trees (I ate a nice ripe fig on the way out of the city); olive trees in cultivation; vineyards here and there —

At Pontecuti, I found a sort of path, quite steep, down to the Tiber, a fast-moving olive-green affair although judging from the size of the arches on the bridge currently the low season: I put my hand in it and drank a bit — characteristic flavor, not manmade — then walked up and around Pontecuti looking for a little street into the center. There was none, instead the road I was on petered out into narrow gravel, then I chose to go up and off onto a stone-reinforced path up a hill; was greatly rewarded by a little pink cyclamen in the middle of the path, then a stand of say ten; then looking around, off the path, gradually saw hundreds of cyclamens, lovely sight: the first time I've ever seen cyclamens in the wild, utterly charming — also ferns and mosses.

[image ALT: A clump of about fifty two-story stone houses at the foot of a small hill, on the ridge-line of which a row of cypresses. It is the village of Pontecuti, Umbria (central Italy).]
Looking E towards Pontecuti from the W bank of the Tiber.
A bit of the reconstructed 17c bridge can be seen on the left. Todi is behind the hill.

Back towards Pontecuti, older man pottered up behind me on a mobilette, asked me if I was the guy reading the water meters, I half-understood and hesitantly said no, figuring it out after he left. . . Into an alimentazione, wanted a grapefruit juice then a small fizzy water, settled for a can of lemon tea with sugar 1000₤ — the lady told me that the center of Pontecuti was up the stairs (sounds like Todi!); it was. Really nothing much, but nice and very livable. A beauti­ful pot of verbena in front of a house — a 2‑room elementary school whose pupils I distracted by walking by — A little modern church, tolled the Angelus just as I approached it; irresistibly I went in — door wide open — brief prayer, also in thanks for this day — small church, darkish yellow walls, modern wood stations, devoid of any interest —

[image ALT: A large domed church. It is the church of S. Maria della Consolazione in Todi, Umbria (central Italy).]

Todi: S. Maria della Consolazione

Returned via same road (had toyed with the idea of a loop but my Umbria map, provided free by the Azienda, not detailed enough and didn't want to miss lunch), a bit warmer, but not too; a bit of a sweat — noticed on getting back home that my newly-bought deodorant, incongruously called Malizia?, doesn't work — at the entrance to Todi forked right rather than left from where I'd come, since I could see la Consolazione — large cracks and consolidation going on; buses of high school kids apparently going home for lunch — if so, lunch must last a long time — Very steep reëntry to Todi, found a little path at 55° slope, barely paved with stone to make steps, put me right on the P.zza Jacopone across from the apartment — Shower, shampoo, change — feel wonder­ful. Oh and I bought stationery today, also a ½-price book on trees and shrubs, 10 ML, in a tent in the parking lot near la Consolazione where there is a book fair thru Sunday —

Have by now finished my lunch at the Umbria, another good meal: antipasti umbri (4 kinds of sausage, an olive spread & a liver-pâté crostino each), spaghetti agliº "strioli" (some kind of herb slightly bitter, adjoined to hot pepper, quite good), tripe Parmigiana of no great interest and too salty, boiled chicory, good; torta della nonna (or pinolata), a custard pie with pinenuts, good; caffé; grappa Lungarotti, pleasant but no stars — still, a very nice meal, with the remainder of my bottle of Polidori from yesterday; only slightly spoiled by the abrupt behavior/bad manners of a couple pair of my countrymen, the worse of which was unfortunately at the table next to mine whose conversation I tried generally without success to block out —

Darn these people, the waiter came by and poured out another glasslet of grappa; where's my walk for this afternoon? Restaurant almost empty by now, and now struggling amiably to finish 2d grappa [. . .]

Got my little walk for the afternoon, something like 7 km in the absence of maps: to Ponte Rio train station and back, a loop out the Porta Perugina like this morning but back via the Porta Romana; less botanical, but what views! rather full frontal than sidewise this time, esp. going out — although the last km in, magnificent view of Todi. The shorter way is definitely out the Perugina. The walk took 90 minutes, my guess is the walk to/from the station via the Perugina is about 40 minutes. New plant not noted in the morning, my old friend Saponaria officinalis. From my "Alberi e Arbusti" I also identify Prunus spinosa —

At the door to my apartment, I found a small bag of figs — I called, it indeed was Mrs. Galletti whom I thanked, also for the coffee and sugar and courtesy of the way she left me the apartment. Good figs, too, both green and purple, from her country house she was just at —

Weather delightfully cool, totally overcast. Took off my sweatshirt despite coolth to see if I could extract a touch more tan; I'll probably buy a pair or two of shorts for walking, and my bedroom window, unoverlooked, is in full afternoon exposure, meaning I can get a total tan indoors —

[. . .]

Notes in the Diary:

1 probably 8 —

P. Perugina
v. S. Prassede

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