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Sunday 27 September 1998

Evening, in bed; rain.

Friday also it rained, a bit, and certainly looked like indoors weather: an easy day to write up; I went to Perugia, went straight to the Museo Archeologico which I'd never been to despite a total now of 5½ months of my life spent in Umbria, spent about 4 or 5 hours in it, and took the train back to Spello.

At the museum, nothing much to write diaries about. I'd hoped to get a copy of the book, published about two months ago, apparently by the Regione, on the Umbrian leg of the Flaminia that Prof. Galassi'd mentioned. I spoke with a young woman at the Library in the Museum building — its doors inscribed "Substine et abstine", "Labor et dolor" and other appropriately ascetic sentiments — who was very pleasant and helpful, and we're to be touching base sometime this week — she didn't have it either.

Photography is allowed in the museum, without flash. Most of what interests me — lots and lots of Etruscan sarcophagi and inscriptions — is lit by sunlight; I took so many pictures that I was nonetheless approached by a guard, but no, I'm not taking commercial pix (camera not good enough!), he fell all over himself — needlessly, since doing his job — apologising; I'm rapidly developing a rather devious persona I fear of wide-eyed innocence compounded with an occasional erudite question (alas, I have no erudite answers — still, the right questions are half, I guess) and an effusive love of Umbria floating any threatening interlocutor away on a torrent of vintage Booby — usually they yield, exhausted . . .

Anyway, some very interesting things, even including an extremely informative panel display on Roman remains still in situ in Umbria and the effects of last year's quake on them. I was very pleased to see I'd seen over half their places, quite a few of them rather obscure. I took notes on all of them, both the ones I've seen (often pretty much undocumented in any kind of book available to me) and the others: in particular, there's now an inscription I want to see at Triponzo near Cerreto di Spoleto. . . .​a

Most of the Etruscan sarcophagi, the inscriptions lined out in red; but also some of the sculpture variously painted (reds, a particularly attractive orange, and very very rarely black or blue): and I had to conclude original. Tucked away in one inner room, an old man touching up the colors of one of 'em, with a tiny little paintbrush, the funerary chest under a very bright spotlight, to Mozart's Clarinet Quintet, with a pretty girl — white smock too, an assistant — hovering in the background: nice job if you can get it. Anyway, warm, lively, beauti­ful stuff compared to the often turgid cold marmorealities of classical Roman sarcophagi —

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Two of the hundreds of Etruscan funerary urn chests in the Museo Archeologico di Perugia, each about 45 centimeters wide.

Saturday a somewhat unexpected twist to a planned day. The idea'd been to go to Nocera Umbra to do the earthquake anniversary pep rally, which I feel I had a right to since I lived the quake with this corner of Umbria; the 4 P.M. concert and the train schedule to get there kinda divebombed the rest of the day, so I did laundry and shopping and so on; and at Mario's I wound up helping an English couple (actually he's Welsh — Berwyn — and she Jo) select a bit of truffle sauce etc. and on impulse I took 'em up to my terrace and fed 'em some white wine and they were polite then gradually interested in what I'm doing here, and after all I can illustrate Roman centuriation from the terrace with a lordly wave of the hand at the Prato below. . . . They wound up taking me out to the Pinturicchio (my recommendation, of course) and in turn the wine was on me; but to do that I had to make a deal with them, would they drive me to Nocera since I'd be missing any chance of train? Which at 3:30 after I'd slowly walked us down to their car by a suitably scenic and Roman route (they were going to miss the Porta Venere without me), they did: via Collepino and Valtopina. Nice people, low-key day; they drove off back to Mercatale to their agriturismo (they leave Thursday), that's just across the border from Lisciano Niccone; and I walked up into the town of Nocera to the piazza Caprera, this time not alone: little groups of old ladies, life in the streets again.

At the piazza, the — concert is too much, call it a pep rally with vocalists — had just got underway. Damn good vocalists, too. Katia Ricciarelli was being much fussed over, but the other two singers quite quite good too (despite microphones, which, quite properly, they all had a tendency to push away from as from poisonous snakes: I think all three of them had quite enough voice to fill the piazza — a rather closed area — without mikes): Teresa di Bari (sp?), soprano with a good deal of the soubrette in her temperament but also delivered herself of an extremely good Queen of the Night aria; and Gianluca Terraviva, tenor, who'd apparently, I just learned this afternoon, just won an all-Italy tenoring contest — Neapolitan stuff seemed to be his bag. About 800 people in the piazza: 500 seats had been provided, the rest of us just stood or sat on the upsloping end of the piazza; a very relaxed atmosphere, on the surface at least — but I sensed a bit of fear still —

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And with the brindisi from Traviata, and a couple of reprises, audience clapping along, at 5:20 or so the upper town emptied out, and returned to its ghostly state — Much work ahead, since all the property owners, divided into structural blocks, have to agree on a contractor and a financing scheme for their block, and then studies and rebuilding — and they'll be at it for years, I'm afraid.

Down to the gate, bought a book on the town, a bus ticket to the station, a train ticket to Foligno, a double fruit juice; sat and read a bit, chatted with a few Nocerans; bus to station at 1910h; wait at the station half an hour — five young volunteers, earthquake reconstruction, from CARITAS — more talk — train — home.

Today I'd been invited to both lunch and dinner by Giuliana, who made batches of pagliata and tripe; the pagliata was lunch, the tripe should have been dinner, but reason, and I certainly did my part, prevailed: God didn't invent the freezer for nothing, and I'll have the tripe later this week. Zia Ida back from Rome; after lunch — and that included good pasta and very good apple torte with a touch of anis — and some particularly good vin santo, we were joined by Loredana and I guess her two sons who'd taken part (juggling act) in the Quintanella of Scafali, a sort of junior version, for kids thru about age 13, of the Quintana of Foligno: they played a videotape of some of it, looked like fun —

During lunch, it rone; then as the videotape ended, the sky cleared, sort of: and I changed into walking clothes, took my camera, and went for a walk. I'd considered walking to Assisi via Viola, but saw a possibility of catching the perfect picture of Spello (post-rain, late p. m. lighting, maybe clearing skies yet with remaining clouds, etc.) so went and staked out my places to the W of town; but after an hour of waiting for the sun, the blue, etc. — nothing quite gelled — gave up and walked back home via the back road to the Vallegloria; bumping into Walter walking Stolze, we did the last 500 m together. A bit of website (disconnects and crashes every 5 minutes on average, too irritating), no dinner; fruit juice — I'm still in the 81 to 81½ cm range, although gratifyingly Ida volunteered over lunch that I'd lost weight — et voilà.

Later Note:

a I did eventually see the famous inscription at Triponzo.

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