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Saturday 5 September 1998

Noon, sitting in front of Spello train stop — nice overcast cool breezy day — waiting for the 12:06 which should take me to Tuoro, a rather sudden decision this morning. Backtracking:

The rest of the afternoon Thursday, reading, grocery shopping, doing laundry; when around 7 Giuliana finds me to tell me I'm being expected to participate in the Roman hoopla that very evening: no, I should eat first. So I did and at about 8:45 I went to the piazzetta (Giuliana's house, basically; anyhow, the p.zza delle Foglie) to find a large contingent of rather impressive Roman soldiers, spears, crested helmets etc.; and equally large but less visible group of pretty young women in pastel tunics with gold accents; some small children similarly decked out, 'cept with little laurel wreaths; a few old men — one of them particularly distinguished-looking in his purple and white robes; a ten- or eleven-year‑old boy, on the chubby side, being called Cassius for the evening and appointed standard-bearer; and to my by and large not liking so much, I discover I'm to be "Julius Caesar";​a off with my shirt (that part was OK, it was a warm and humid evening) and on with two layers of wool draperies: a tunic and a stole with a fold over the left shoulder; now of course I know why Roman men wore the toga with that arm-cramping left fold: they were all hiding cameras . . .

A montage of scenes from a festival with people in Roman dress. The festival is Pro Hispellum, in Spello, Umbria (central Italy).

Finally, after an inordinate amount of milling, as in fact I'd been fully expecting, we process out of there and down a pretty much deserted via Giulia, preceded by two trumpeters to raise the dead. Giuliana wanted to put Cesare first, but I kiboshed that awful idea, insisting with all the authority of LacusCurtius haha! that the standard and the senators should come first, then Cesare. In fact I haven't the faintest idea of Roman proto­col, except of course there should have been lictors with fasces, but realizing that this is quite impossible (altho' after the whole foofaraw was over, I tested this out on Giuliana just to see her reaction. . . a scandalised look and at the same time very solidly practical).

[image ALT: A young woman wearing a gown in the style of classical Antiquity, holding a shield in one hand, a lance in the other. She is a participant in a Roman costume procession in Spello, Umbria (central Italy).]

Anna Rita holds a shield for one busy soldier and a lance for a second.

Anyway, down to S. Andrea, where in the space behind the Pro Spello the Mezzota people had set up tables for 200, flamepots on top of the Roman walls, fake columns and 3 large reproductions of Roman statues, a fountain made of plastic sheeting and bales of hay, and some animal roasting which I stayed as far away from as I could: I was sweltering. Five minutes of milling, but not enough time to eat or more importantly drink, then we reformed — Cassius had to be found, he did the first 100 m of march with the standard, chomping on a large sammich — and trooped down to the Consolare where there was a large crowd, then back up, and finally to the p.zza Gramsci although only about a quarter of us if that. . . Giuliana thought the whole thing a "casino", and I admit I couldn't help thinking of Lucia's halbardiers, but it — whatever it was — wasn't that bad, being mildly amusing and an occasion to get the community together. "Panem et circenses" was only started 3 years ago after all, by Mezzota on its own; and only this year did Pusterula join: all in all, not bad at all, and the costumes were even rather good.

While bedizened as Caesar I wound up chatting with the Mayor for a few seconds, who didn't realize I had an important website on his city and asked me to drop by the Comune and leave him the info (which I did this morning). Anyway, Caesar was very glad to get out of his woollen get-up, which was in fact nearly actually wringable-wet with sweat. The soldiers apparently fared no better, that leather doesn't breathe and they too were sweating pretty bad.

Yesterday Friday was essentially yet another day of rest, and of "stuff". [. . .]

Anyway, at around 1 I started to move out of the Ca' Spadolino into Perla, one of the smallest apartments on the other side of the via Giulia; not really very troublesome — after all, I have only the contents of two suitcases and a refrigerator — but very depressing to lose my terrace and my street view and all that space, even if I do gain a very nice bathroom. I was depressed enough to take myself out to the Pinturicchio, which was a good idea.

No antipasti, but the classic meal for the Pinturicchio: the gnocchi ai 4 formaggi, the agnello "alla moda di Spello" (this time I actually asked, since no Spellano ever makes this or talks about it; and indeed I'd guessed right, merely monikered that way to get people hooked, and it does in fact keep getting better and better), a couple of desserts, a bottle of Monte­falco Adanti — the correct thing to drink should have been the Rosso Adanti — a little glass of prime uve; another excellent meal.

Towards the end of the meal, met my table neighbors, probably in their early sixties, Patty (sp?) the food expert and Allen (sp?) the Italian wine expert, who certainly do seem to know their stuff: we spent several minutes being jealous of each other, they of me for my long stays here, I of them for their frequent ones: 3 times a year, a coupla weeks each time. They're moving into Monterione, for a week I think.

As I left the restaurant, Mirco introduced me to a pal of his, an artist named Vito that he'd apparently mentioned me to some while ago already; Vito and his ex-wife Gianna and her daughter Sara were part of a group of a dozen or so just winding down a weeklong theater seminar — we sat outdoors at the gelateria in front of S. Lorenzo; I had an amaro, most of the others had vaguely bluish margaritas, although the tall and very quiet man to my left named Leonardo had a menthe-and‑water which I don't think I'd ever actually seen anyone order or drink. At midnight I went to bed & straight to sleep, although I still have a bit of sore throat [. . .]

Later Note:

a When I tried to back out, it was carefully explained to me that it would be really nice if I accepted, since it solved Giuliana's problem of who, among the local men, should be Caesar: I would arouse no jealousies. . . .

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