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Wednesday 2 September 1998

Train pulling out of Spello Romewards, should be 0524h.

I did go to Urvinum Hortense (also, Urbinum Hortense) yesterday. Not much to see although a nice walk, about 31 km.

I left at very close to 11 sharp, and it didn't start out too good: I couldn't find the road to Cannara, and wound up instead going along the interstate to an underpass then along the highway some more, on the W side of it, for quite a stretch thru much of the industrial zone of Capitan Loreto (frazione di Spello) until I lost patience and, not being sure of there ever being a road, took a little crossroad thru a piece of industrial park and wound up at the edge of a field. From there luckily I could see a road in about the right place: when I got to it, it was indeed a road to Cannara.

In Cannara, asking a couple of people about the zona archeologica near Collemancio, I got some I-dunno's, so walked up to the 1st-floor offices of the comune and got some good instructions: get to the Bevagna-Perugia road, zag over 50 m towards Perugia, and across from the two pines, head up the hills for 7 km. I was expecting about 4 from my map, but 7 it was. Hot ones, too; and I'd already drunk my Gatorade and had forgotten to replenish in Cannara — was happy to find, a bit past half the way up the hills, the Agriturismo il Cicaleto, on a sort of half-spur with a good view across the valley over Assisi and Spello, a largish swimming pool, and most importantly, a tap near the pool. Drink, wrists, head, much better.

The total climb up to Collemancio is about 300 meters, like from Spello to Collepino except over two kilometers more road to do it in. Towards the beginning especially, views from Monte­falco to the Perugia side of Bastia, not counting distant mountains. It's surprising how little you have to climb to get that type of view.

Anyway, to Collemancio without anything of note. Landscape attractive but, for Umbria, no stars: lots of youngish olive plantations in regular rows on very orange soil; in fact much of the day's walk was a contrast of orange and green.

I'd been in doubt about finding Urvinum, with only vague reports or directions to go by, about it being to the right of the paese, but never any distances or clear landmarks. I needn't have worried, Urvinum sits on its little hill all of 200 m east of the town, and is clearly marked.

[image ALT: A small elegant arched Renaissance doorway and balustrade inside a much larger Gothic arch. It is part of a building in Collemancio, Umbria (central Italy).]

The door of the Palazzetto del Podestà of Collemancio, still the town's community center: the 13c building has been curiously adjusted to the elegant tastes of the Renaissance.

I first went into Collemancio. Not very much to it, with basically one street: the little piazza has a belfried building which must be the church although no sign of it and closed; across from it, a low building with a curious Renaissance door in a medieval arch and now glassed in: leading to a meeting-room space, and indeed a note on the door said that tomorrow evening (today, Sept. 2) the archeologist in charge would give a talk on the season's dig, and residents were invited to attend, signed the Mayor.

I hadn't expected an active dig, but the last 800 m up the hill I'd been accosted by a moped who assumed I was "with the others" and said that they'd just arrived and were cleaning up the site (Prof. Maurizio Matteini of the University of Perugia who had a little red car).

And indeed he did; with three other cars parked at the beginning of the flat at the top of the rise just E of town, that was it. About eight young people with rakes doing things to a barbed‑wire-enclosed field. This field about 20 yards from the cars; between them and it a narrow ancient paved street with a small blocky area (large stone walls all wrapped in straw matting and heavy-duty plastic) to the S, and an even smaller building to the N, apsed with a raised portion and another square room, raised yet more, off to one side: the N building much more readable since unwrapped. A few stones lined up along a gravel walk to the S of all that; on inspection, the gravel overlay more plastic sheeting; I poked thru a square foot of which, to find indurated earth.

[image ALT: missingALT]

Urvinum Hortense:

the ancient street between a possible temple (left) and a possible basilica (right)

Being unimaginative, I'll do the archeological obvious and call it a temple (the Christo installation), a basilica (the apsed building) and a length of city walls? (sharpish slope-off within a few feet, not much room for a building). The enclosure of dry sand-colored grass with the students wandering about in it, call it the forum: it's nice and flat. U.H. (I have no idea how they have a name for this place, but it's on maps and things) over­looks almost everything in sight, making it a plausible stronghold or possibly temple area.

Anyway, I left. Should've mentioned in its proper place a little church now at a crossroads about 100 m before you come to Collemancio: bolted but not locked, I walked in. Pretty much ruined inside; a main altar (the apse is W) records a 1609 restoration.

Collemancio itself has an old gate and a strong squat tower. Peeling coat of arms over the outer face of the gate — gules an I think griffon argent — and over the inner, a niche with an ugly fresco of some sainted or blessed priests in 16c‑17c Franciscan garb one of them holding a monstrance —

[image ALT: A painting of a brown-robed saint about to write something with a quill at the dictation of a small pigeon. It is a depiction of a Franciscan saint in the church of S. Francesco in Cannara, Umbria (central Italy).]
In the church
of S. Francesco of Cannara:
not St. Francis, but a follower.
And so back down to Cannara via the same route. My legs holding up nicely, although calling attention to themselves, mostly the right hip; right calf a bit tight, but never any cramp; and in fact only at the very beginning did I really wonder if I'd have a problem. Slight squeezing and callusing of toes; I was feeling blisters, but none. Invece, a big mistake to wear these (very convenient) nylon sweatpants without underwear: sweat, serious chafing — my shower back at the apartment was not at all as pleasant as it could have been; quite painful in spots — and that would come and go during my walk. (I'm much better now — and wearing shorts; the idea behind the sweatpants was to have an emergency rain cover and no‑tourists-here-in‑shorts trou that rolls up in no space at all in my camera bag.)

Cannara the second time thru was Booby's watering trough: I found the bar and had most of a liter and a half of cold bottled water, plus three little drinks, also bottled, that taste like some kind of tropical fruit juice, but quite incredibly turns out to be a mix of orange juice, lemon and carrot juice! Couldn't taste carrot one bit; the (pure) carrot juice I sometimes have after my workouts back in Chicago doesn't taste like that at all. Anyway, tons of vitamins; brand name Pago, I think — I vaguely remember having had some in Narni last year? Very good, whatever it is.

The owner of the bar — me being Booby and yammering away about Umbria and storia romana — told me an almost textbook folk-etymology, showing the great antiquity of the little town of Limigiano (frazione di Bevagna, very compact cluster with belfry, visible on the left as you walk up to Collemancio, about a quarter of the way up): a Roman queen coming from Urvinum Hortense was taken ill en route, stopped and drank some water, and "Lì mi sanò" → Limigiano. He swore it was true: it was in a book. . . .​a

And so mid lengthening shadows — bright pink nose in mirror of bar at Cannara — back to Spello, and the last trudge up the hill not quite limping but quite slowly.

Shower, TV news, farfalle with olive oil and garlic, fruit, yogurt; slept quickly once I finally turned off the light at just past midnight.

Later Note:

a The "Roman queen" is an impossibility of course, or at least since the reign of Tarquin the Proud in the early 5c B.C.; the only King of Rome since then, Napoleon's son the Duke of Reichstadt, never married.

But speaking of books, a curious possible confirmation of something underlying this tale is the equally vague mention, in a book, of a Roman princess traveling in the area of Assisi for her health in 1765, although the context seems to be religious rather than medicinal: Tobias Smollett, Travels through France and Italy, Letter XXXIV.

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