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Sat. 17 September

Today I went to Massa Martana — that was my whole day, pretty much, after a breakfast of biscottes with jam, caffé-latte and one egg poached in olive oil.

The scenery was splendid almost thruout, Massa itself — the old town — is a tiny place, smaller than St. Bertie's but twice the population, but charming: inside a fortress, not really a walled city, but a town built inside the outwards-flaring walls of a small fort with only one real gate (inscriptions dating back to Hadrian inset into the thickness of it as you walk thru); and a totally hideous, uninteresting parish church. The town is basically one street without about six culs-de‑sac off of it, all lovely, and spotlessly clean.

[image ALT: A dirt road in the foreground, winding a long distance into the background thru a landscape of low scrub and plowed fields. In the distance, a tall transverse crest with a city on it. It is a view of Todi, Umbria (central Italy).]

Looking behind me at Todi from about 4 km E on the road up to Chioano.

I arrived at 1 P.M. after walking thru Chioano, a tiny place on the ridge E of Todi, and Colvalenza (also: Collevalenza), where the old town is of similar layout as Massa, less obviously a fortress, and two great gothic arches outlined in brick part of the walls — but to which has been added a modern monstrosity, the Santuario dell' Amore Misericordioso, the brainchild apparently of a fat sallow nun​a who was born in 1895 and who someone is very obviously plugging for beatification: a windowless low-ceilinged cavern of a church with a monstrous 25‑story-tall belfry sort of shaped like a cross, visible from several miles away, and that I thought was an industrial facility or water tower until I was 100 m away —

At Massa, on the outskirts, I bought bread, pecorino, 2 kinds of sausage, a half-liter of milk, and two apples; which I ate, almost all of it, sitting at the bus stop in the main square outside the gate (there is a 2d square just inside the gate, with a building painted rose-red and medallion busts of Mr. and Mrs. (Anna) Garibaldi —): several cars with parents also waiting; the bus showed up, disgorged its kids, and in 90 seconds the square was empty save for me.

About 1½ km out of Massa on the road of the Monti Martani, rain — 8 km or so later, it was maybe 48° and I was sopping wet. I made it past Viepri and then turned off too soon, meaning to take the road thru Petroro and Duesanti but instead winding up on a road on top of the crest back to Colvalenza — had I followed it thru, I'd have gone several miles out of my way; so I forked off towards the distant visible Todi, dubiously, and exactly then at the right time a highway patrol car appeared to tell me how to get to Todi. It wasn't obvious; without them I would have got badly lost. The rest of the way back, almost, was dirt and gravel roads mostly thru oak forests, lovely but quite isolated; a farm with some very green crop springs to view in my mind with some very deep orange chickens free-ranging in it —

From Massa back, an exercise in endurance, first of the cold rain, then of relatively strong aches in calves and very sore feet; 30+ km (map suggests 35 km) and the last time I did that much in one day was in 1982, when I walked to Iowa, which is also, not coincidentally, the last time I walked thru countryside by myself. Anyhow, I was very glad to see Todi and climb the 600 feet up to my address and the 45 or so steps up to my apartment, and flop onto bed a few minutes then an hour in a hot tub — weighed 80½, a new low.

Then dinner: tagliatelle with olive oil and garlic and basil, salad, tozzetti con vin santo. Very tired, but not unpleasantly so.

Now, sleep.

Later Note:

a In Nov 2001 this uncharitable comment of mine — Colvalenza gives me the feeling of being manipulated, which I dislike intensely — earned me the following e‑mail, in its entirety except for signature, from the editor of a small webzine on Italy (amusingly, one of the articles for the then current month was Surviving Italy: how to avoid getting ripped off by people I've paraphrased the actual title here to make the article hard to find; my version is in fact slightly gentler than the original.) It's a classic example of projection: I'll point out a couple of clues in color, after that you're on your own.

I don't know who you are or what you are but you appear to be extremely arrogant and ignorant. How dare you dismiss anyone as a fat, sallow nun etc. And of course you, in your humility and with top architectural qualifications I am sure, can describe a building as hideous. . . etc.

I sincerely hope that people reading your articles will have the sense to judge places for themselves and not miss out on the beauti­ful display of cribs in Collevalenza, to give one example.

Well I too hope that people reading my diary (not articles: another sign that this person can't read) will have sense to judge places for themselves. In fact, I trust people a bit more than my correspondent does: you do know how to read, you do realize that a diary is a record of a necessarily imperfect person, you don't need someone to guide your tastes, and of course you have the sense and judgment not to miss out on an entire site because you read a phrase you don't like, especially when untypical of the whole!

More to the point, the relatively few uncharitable thoughts I had in my diary, I kept to myself when they were about living people, and certainly, never in my entire life — I am approaching 70 years old — have I written such a rude note to anyone, although after twenty years online I've seen some real doozers of this type.

Anyhoo, I did indeed miss out on a beauti­ful display of cribs in Colvalenza, at least if it was there in September 1994, which I doubt: usually this is a Christmas event. I saw a marvelous crib, mind you, in S. Anatolia di Narco (not recorded in my diary) and another in Calvi dell' Umbria. I very much hope to see others if I am ever so fortunate to spend Christmas in Italy.

Again more to the point, of all the lovely experiences I've had in Italy, and the ample, joyful record of them I have online, for a reader to single out this one thing bespeaks a sad and mean spirit, to say nothing of a gross inability to read.

As for Mother Speranza herself, she devoted herself to prayer in expiation of the sins committed by priests. For a much more flattering image of Madre Speranza than the dreadful photograph of her I saw on the spot in 1994, with a biographical sketch and excerpts from her writings, see the sanctuary's official website.

Oh, and from far away, at least, yes I find the church at Colvalenza and its concrete belfry a blot on the landscape: bad materials, overbearing, graceless, and unrelated to the countryside and history of Umbria (photo). To boot, as with many structures of the type, topped or decorated with metal — the showcase post office at Columbus, Indiana by Roche and Dinkeloo comes to mind — the belfry has rusted in large permanent streaks down the concrete. The interior is better, if somewhat sterile for my tastes. You and I need not be architectural experts to express an opinion about architecture: it may well be uninformed, but it is our opinion, and don't let anyone try to bully us otherwise.

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