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Sun. 16 October

On the train to Rome with James, just having left Orte [. . .]

Anyhow, to catch up:

Friday morning we got up as late as we could — James had joined me in front of Terni train station at 9:30 P.M. when my train came in, we'd eaten (James actually only had a beer) at my little trattoria in Terni and of course we did the dark bus and the Porta Romana near on midnight — but possibly not quite as late as we otherwise might, since bells rang sporadically but long and frequently thruout the morning, it being the feast of San Fortunato, Todi's patron saint. James did various housecleaning and sat around the apartment, I had a touch of cabin fever and wanted to go for a long walk but James not; and the general strike of all Italy made us sort of batten the hatches and stay put, although I must have gone out of the apartment about five times — to get money from a machine on James's card; milk, water, fruit from several grocery stores open after all, including one that had told me very clearly that they'd be closed; I mailed a postcard to Debi Joyce; I tried to find "torcolo di S. Fortunato" — no success but came back with little ouroboros-shaped cookies fried in butter but both spongy and crunchy inside, quite good —

We finally ate lunch and walked to Pontecuti with an eye to getting back by 4:30 when the Azienda had told me there might be a band playing — The walk to Pontecuti and the walk back were, well, just a walk down a hill and back up; but at Pontecuti we had what in Umbria passes for an adventure. I'd taken James to see the sights — we crossed the bridge (the Todi e Dintorni guide in fact does put it at 17th century: 1613‑1617 although bombed in the 2d World War and (totally?) rebuilt) and looked at Pontecuti from the other side; then I'd taken him to see my cyclamens, which had tripled in number and extent, quite lovely and the largest stand of them I've seen so far — on the way out of the town towards the cyclamens an old man slowly, very slowly, hammering on a chain on top of the low wall around his garden, gave us the most hostile and suspicious look — but the adventure came as we climbed up into Pontecuti itself, chatting away, a woman appeared and said in perfect English "Do you live here?" — It turns out she did, or will: about 50, she'd sold, cheap she said, a house in Santa Fe and sight unseen bought a house in Pontecuti advertised in the London Times; it had then taken her seven months to get the cash to come here to take possession of it, and was here for 2 weeks. She was carrying a rusty metal bucket that was wet but not full of water: she'd been weeding to get the property looking clean — About 50 yards up the hill, we exchanged buona sera's with a local woman dressed in black just stepped out from her house, and fell into a conversation — the local woman was eager to find out who her new English (James says American) neighbor was and whether she lived alone (she did). And then we all went our several ways.

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Pontecuti: looking E from across the Tiber.

Back up in the plaza, James had a coffee and I had a beer at the Gran Caffé Duomo. Apparently because he had a coffee, I didn't get the little nachos — Our immediate neighbors both had beer, and did; as have I by myself — wonder (if) what the reasoning is behind that? Our immediate neighbors being a couple of Americans daytripping from Perugia who reported big strike demonstrations in the street there, accompanied by orange smoke —

We then, seeing no band at 4:30, went back to my apartment and got to mid-dinner when we heard a wind band, with the sound walking about. At that point, we abandoned our tagliatelle ai tartufi (1½ truffles for two, James got extravagant in the kitchen, on the other hand, these Umbrian truffles are nowhere near as strong as French) and hit the piazza, where the band, at the foot of the Palazzo stairs in front of the vaults, was laying into a Mexican medley in which Cielito Lindo led into O Susannah! followed by the Mexican Hat Dance; after a little intermission they did more marchlike but less to us recognizable stuff. An unspirited sort of performance, about twenty-five mostly twenty-year‑olds in white jackets with the coat of arms of Todi in blue over the breast pocket. A few inaudible clarinets — a bass drummer aged about 22 who chewed gum and conversed quietly with the cymbalist and at one point skipped a couple of whops on his drum to consult his watch in a desultory sort of way — peculiarly listless — the Tuderti sort of amble off towards dinnertime no matter what anyway — so did we, and to bed after finishing our dinner.

Saturday yesterday was James's last full day in Todi, but not much point sitting around the apartment so after toying with the idea of going to Spello only to find that the next train would be the 1224 putting us in Foligno at 2:06 P.M. with a 9 km walk to Spello making the outing sort of useless in view of the richness of the little place​a — pop. 6900!! — we took the train all right, to Massa Martana train station — which is in fact about 8 km from Massa but 1 km from San Faustino — and walked first to Villa S. Faustino then back to the Stazione then to the Roman bridge at Ponte Fonnaia (Fondaia) then to Acquasparta.

Walk to Villa S. Faustino I managed to get us lost having missed the turnoff — we went thru a field or two — the town is a little medieval borgo with a small very rustic church close by but a real Romanesque church about 500 meters off which we finally found.

When we were in V.S.F., a Franciscan in the midst of a meal dashed across a street to answer a phone. On our way from there to San Faustino, we were passed by a little truck and a woman came running out of a house gibbering and making signs at it with her pursed hand all the fingers touching as they do here.

When we got to the church, the same truck and woman were there, the driver of the truck was putting roses in it from the church while the woman kept up a shrewish stream of invective. I managed to step into the church 20 seconds time enough to see a cul-de‑four apse and a bad 16th century fresco in a right chapel before the woman told me to get out, she had to return the key; James hadn't gone in for fear of interfering so missed it. The torrent of foul temper kept up for several minutes until Mr. Flowers drove off —

The church itself is a large sturdy solid stone Romanesque building incorporating several stones of Roman times, including at least one full inscription, two parts of inscriptions, and a bucranion-and‑triglyph sequence on the façade; some slightly sculptured blind arcading on the apse; a couple of columns incorporated. The base seemed to be of Roman times, of travertine, and original: it looks very much like a temple had been there and had been pulled down to make way for a Christian church erected on the same stone platform.

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Custodian's house next to the church of S. Faustino.

From there, then, back to the Stazione by a partly different route (the one we should have taken in the first place) and, thanks to my I.G.M. map, I found an interesting shrine to the Virgin restored, over a very old well, in the 1840's I think, particularly interesting in that the restorationº inscription gave a date as being in the month of Quintilis rather than July, a piece of either antiquarian or anti-Roman purism I'd never seen —

From the station via well-posted strade bianche to the "Grotte Traiane" (thus my map) or "Catacombe" (road signs) that are visitable by appointment only — we went and sat at the entrance, under nice shade — warm day, about 2°F hotter than ideal walking — for a few minutes before proceeding to the Roman bridge a few hundred meters away: extremely imposing for a totally dry gulch but apparently now even in the wet season merely a thin trickle according to "Todi e Dintorni" — beaucoup de travail pour pas grand'chose as my grandmother would have said. Still, a beauti­ful spot, wonder­ful stone masonry, nice and cool —

More about Configni:

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 p913  From there of course, small paths, a 1942 map, and apparently a rich person unilaterally shutting off a path — vietato il passaggio, proprietà privata — combined to make us wander around thru several plowed fields until we found a little road first (with some hunters on it) then a bigger one running, as roads will, along the crest of some hills then down to Configni past a rather beauti­ful old castello now an active farm: well-kept brick machicolations, stones holding the tile roof down, pigeons, hayricks —

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The main tower of the castle of Configni, near Acquasparta. Notice the small square holes, commonly added as dovecotes; also the stones on the roofs: Configni is on a windswept ridge, and they keep the tiles down.

Configni a tiny walled village, about 3 small streets of minor but some interest; one square and one smaller round medieval tower. Mass apparently not said there regularly on Sundays, since the small 20th‑century church, with a carved columned narthex, had a slip of paper posted on it giving the time of today Sunday's mass: 1030 —

[image ALT: A narrow lane between stone houses, arched over with a gate. It is a street scene in Acquasparta, Umbria (central Italy).]
Acquasparta outskirts close to Configni: uninteresting and all of the last fifteen years — we found the center of town which was more or less medieval but very tortuous. We found ourselves blocked by the town walls a few times when we tried to get out on the other side, the S.E., to the train station: I finally asked, we got hand-gesture instructions from a man in his 60's who was mute. The instructions were good and we got there in time. So did the train and we were back in Todi at the Piazza (the via Ciuffelli was completed in time for S. Fortunato and the Linea C has now returned to the P.zza Jacopone no longer stopping at the Oberdan Gardens) thinking we'd have a beer at the Caffé —

Well not quite; ¾ of the piazza had been cordoned off for an absurd and chaotic promotional game sponsored by Swissair and the Emmental Cheese Board, pitting nine Italian families in a treasure hunt and a race where they dressed up as Swissair planes, spilled water all over a pair of stewardesses, and did silly things — broken up by an interlude of 5 Swiss mimes, the Helve-Tics, that did some rather unusual — and good — mime/dance the most memorable of which involved them strapping themselves together with cloths and wrestling, and doing extraordinary things on a pair of articulated painters' stepladders — James and I did order a beer each and drank it standing up in all this — watched the dance from the steps of the Duomo. True Tuderti we drifted off at 7:20 or so along with a great exodus of others as if moved by a hidden spring. . . .

We ate at the Fonte Cesia; this time my nose and sense of taste were fine and both of us concluded that it was fast food masquerading as something else. Obnoxiously servile waiter, although the captain, a 6′1″ thin woman with glasses, was very nice, very likable probably as a human being; sad sometimes that one meets people as a function and the approach to the person herself is pretty much barred —

And so to bed (waking up the next morning today with some puffiness in the tongue due to too much salt just as when eating at Nha Trang near the house in Chicago) —

Today, departure from Todi: morning spent packing, washing dishes and cleaning the apartment for my return, and entering into Atlas the "Todi e Dintorni" book and my recent walks — Also watched with interest if also some hilarity too a movie on TV, in Georgian, based on an old Georgian legend, "The legend of Suram Fortress",º very peculiar in its heavy symbolism and beauti­ful but often static images, involving a female seer and a young man who allows himself to be concreted into the wall of a fort possibly in expiation for a sin — voice in Georgian with subtitling in Italian didn't make it any clearer, but Georgian is beauti­ful and so was the movie.

We left by the 1204 bus and the 1224 train; despite some apprehension that trains might strike today and that Terni-to‑Rome might be rough, it wasn't. We got to Rome on time, my reservation at the San Giorgio worked (290 ML is $190 and that's steep. . .) and we had checked in and were back out on the street by a bit past three.

We went to the Pincio and the Borghese Gardens via the Church of Trinità dei Monti and its view over half of Rome.

Later Note:

a Quite right. I wound up living there for a total of 6 months, with a few brief visits later, and still haven't seen quite everything: see my Spello pages.

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Page updated: 7 Dec 20