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Wednesday 16 September

Putt-putt out of Spello at 0731, ultimately to Narni: lots of catching up —

[image ALT: A fragment of a large stone inscription, on which can still be read a column of abbreviated placenames. It is an ancient Roman inscription in the Capitoline Museums in Rome.]
So, Saturday 12 continued: at the Museo Capitolino, even, Booby didn't resist playing guide; a French couple, mother and daughter, rather knowledgeable — took 'em among other things to a fascinating small fragment of inscription hidden in a corner, that seemed to give a regional list of market days for central Italy, or something of the kind, I admitted of c. that I don't know exactly what it was, but it's clear you could read various abbreviated place names including Amelia, Narni, Tarquinia, Bettona and Rieti.

At close on 3 I left in my usual rush to go find La Porta del Colosseo (v. Frangipani)​a and some bottarga before going skating. With some difficulty, roundaboutly needless climb and circuit of a piece of the Oppian, did; they were OK on serving me an abbreviated lunch at 3, I was OK to abbreviate it with a 4:06 train to catch twenty minutes away on foot: bottarga salad; just slices really, with rocket and tomato juxtaposed, small carafe of cheap white, quite decent, with.

[image ALT: A place setting for one at a table with a linen tablecloth, a bottle of wine, a bottle of water, a couple of glasses, a bread basket, an oil cruet, a salt shaker, and a plate and to the left of it two forks. The plate contains about a dozen flat bacon-like strips of something, and some sliced tomatoes with a bit of salad greens. It is a plate of bottarga in a restaurant in Rome.]

Bottarga is a sort of 'sausage' of dried fish eggs; very good and increasingly rare.

[. . .]

Thus to Marino and skated. Saturday is crowded; edges, waltz jumps, trying to put some strength height and distance in them. Off the ice and changed for my 7:57 train; but the Saturday 7 P.M. turno on the other hand is almost empty: ten people hugging the boards. I would have had at most 20 minutes — lasciai perdere — but maybe some other Saturday, or if, as Giuliana suggested, I wind up staying with the family again at Marino.

Anyway, decent skate by current standards, then the chain of trains; this time I was indulgent and took the supplemento all the way to Foligno, and even bought it on the train — had to, since the lines were 30+ minutes long and I only had 30 minutes. In Foligno, I called Maria-Paola, who'd suggested I should (last year's phone card was still good, with 3200L on it and a quick call to Spello is 200L); but got only the answering machine, so grabbed a cab, and home and shower and bed.

Sunday 13th was low-key: I left the apartment around 9 thinking the alimentari p.zza della Repubblica would be open, as usual on Sundays; it wasn't, I walked down to the Sidis — closed on Sunday — got an armload of newspapers, English, French, Italian, to see what people are thinking about the corruption in the White House — Finally caved in bought some supplies at "Hispellum", but Lord! they really are awfully expensive; then it turned out the much nicer specialty grocer on the W side of the piazza also opens Sunday: much cheaper, too, plus he had milk.

Anyhow back home and started cooking lunch, when Maria-Paola called up from the street to invite me to lunch at 1:15; why not? said yes and ate my first lunch at 12:15. Taglierini allo zafferano con pomodori e carciofi, coffee. An hour later, at Giuliana's for my second lunch, with the whole family: I brought a little bowl of green olives, which turned out to be a big hit with Sonora — Cappelletti al brodo (very good), some kind of meat loaf — polpettini I think — dessert gambit declined.

Walter and I got into an Internet and work mode; I wound up writing some e‑mail for him in Spanish: my first experience at Italian-to‑Spanish translation, damned how they do it, I found it confusing, kept on correcting "non" to "no", "della" to "de la", and other confusions both grammar and vocabulary. More occasion for me to regret not going to Spain: at this rate, I'll lose my Spanish to Italian soon — We also talked website (his) and the pot-aux‑roses came out, he doesn't write HTML and didn't write his own site, which explains previous reticences to deal with it; but I hope I'm convincing him to: the simple thing will be to get an account this week, download the sourcecode of his main page, rework it, and FTP it to my own site so he can look at it — Anyway, that, plus palavers about some kind of coöperation between us that might net us both some income — and finally I had to beg off at 5 P.M.

7:30, back at the Zurlo's for the arrival of Linda Baiolini and her boyfriend Gianluca much heralded, she the young woman doing a thesis — they do theses here for bachelor's degrees — on the topography of Hispellum.​b Heralded on both sides: Walter had mentioned me to them several months ago.

After the usual milling, we all went to Assisi, where we'd been assured of a table at the Fortezza. When we got there, some kind of switch and no table for half an hour. Encouraged to have a drink, we took to the streets — Assisi by night — wandering in and out of various bars and caffés, or sometimes just past them, in what I described as a sort of preprandial Stations of the Cross. . . . the 4th or possibly 5th place, we sat down and had tall glasses of an auburn-colored non-alcoholic aperitivo, quite good.

Back to the Fortezza, I had a lamb prosciutto, a curious idea — novel as well to the others, so it's not just me — in fact more like a carpaccio, and tasting more of thyme and other herbs than of any identifiable meat; then more lamb, allo spiedino, good; lemon meringue pie. Rosso di Montefalco Arnaldo Caprai — Mirko is right, the Adanti is the one to drink, but the Caprai is good — and back at 0030. The young couple from Ferrara quite nice, and suited to each other.

Monday 14th, the scheduled day of Roman investigations with Linda and Gianluca. It started out tamely enough: we walked down to the Porta Venere — they pointed out to me an inscription lurking under a staircase in the via della Torre Belvedere (I didn't remember it, but I have a vague feeling I saw it last year) — pitstop very brief at the lapidarium in the Palazzo Comunale, Linda believes an inscription there, small and funerary-looking fragment, reading in its extant entirety APOL, suggests a Temple of Apollo: I told her I didn't believe it for a minute (memories of Lucia's dig at Tilling welling up quite impossible to stop). Amphitheatre, where they'd never been: I played tour guide; Linda told me that in 1832 permission had been granted by the Comune to use material from the a‑theatre to fill in the roadbed of a road to Torre Quadrano: mystery partially cleared up —

Then the theatre of Spello; only slightly more real than the amphitheatre of Bevagna: a core of column remains. I'd seen it last year, wondering what it might be, thinking maybe a piece of aqueduct or tomb. Linda later produced photocopies of a very brief report on sampling of the area; I suppose they're right — nice plans — but the slope is maybe only 3%, hardly theatre material; of course stones and dirt flow downhill, etc. Still don't believe it: faces W into the evening sunset — not that that stopped me at Ad Mercurii, and they finally found one — but this just doesn't feel right. A house on what would be the scaena.

Vague peek at the Villa Fidelia — apparently my disbelief of "S. Fedele" springs from Taddeo Donnola's, whence the plaque with the usual "Tetrastichon" bless him; but Gentile Donnola (semi-critical edition by the Sensi brothers) calls the church "S. Fedele", not "S. Felice", mystery not solved.

[image ALT: The derelict interior of a large abandoned church, with paint and plaster peeling or gone, damaged floors and walls, and graffiti. It is the Chiesa Tonda or \'round church\' in Spello (Umbria).]

I got them into the Chiesa Tonda; nothing new for me, but new to them. From there back up to the Porta Fontevecchia: I'm beginning to get a feeling that some of the amphitheatre wound up in the property walls along the road —

I suggested lunch on my terrace. They brought sausage, apples, bread (in the form of curious jester-cap horns, two C's back to back, called "coppie") and I made some spaghetti, zucchini with garlic, coffee; provided grappa.

At about 3:30 we headed off, 'neath gathering clouds, to the day's clou, the "Ponte Parasacco", a tall bridge, with arch, supporting a bit of Roman aqueduct channel as it crosses a sharp gully. Road to Collepino, stop at a guardrail after a sign Something dell' Asino — seemed appropriate, certainly mnemonic, in view of the rest of the afternoon — and a surprising distance down, to the level of the oaks, thru several retaining walls' worth of olive trees.

Drizzle turned to full-blown rain: by the time we were thru, we were soaked. I'll take the pictures later when it's dry, but I just didn't want to risk the camera. Before the Parasacco itself, a cross-tunnel to a conduit, then 20 m in each direction — flashes in the dark, we'll see how Mr. Ursini develops those — curving out of sight along the hill contours.

The Parasacco itself, drowned in young trees, is 30 m tall. We didn't go down — slippery mud, steep slopes — but a beauti­ful arch at the bottom. Fourteenth-century, according to studies; at which I was relieved, because the masonry didn't look Roman.

Pouring rain, back home, dot's it for the day. 5 P.M., slept 'til 10 very suddenly. Woke up, read about the Shroud a couple of hours, back to sleep at 1:30 to wake per clock at 7:30. I'm sleeping a lot on this trip. Sore throat still going on.

Later Notes:

a Actually, the formal address is around the corner: Via del Buon Consiglio, 17; tel. 06/69941507. Closed Wednesdays.

b Her thesis, "La forma urbana dell' antica Spello", was published in the Città Romane volume of Città dell' Umbria, L. Quilici and S. Quilici Gigli eds., pp60 ff. (Google preview online, where I find myself thanked for wandering around with her!).

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