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Saturday 22 October

Boy I bet I'm going to sleep well tonight: I finally did exactly what I said to myself I was going to do, walking from Todi to Acquasparta via Avigliano Umbro and Montecastrilli. Left calf mild cramp, it'll probably be worse in the middle of the night actually, as happens. [. . .]

Anyway, now to the day's walk. Left the apartment at 9:40 after a fairly large breakfast of spaghetti with Italian harissa, tea, a pear, an apple, 2 yogurt. Intend to eat more apples: it may be imagination but the bags under my eyes are going fast and that seems to be accelerated when I rub them with cut slices of apple — the depths of goofiness I can fall to!

Down to the Consolazione with the intent of finding and following the straight road to Ponte Naia; but got irrevocably lost real fast there on Todi's hill! and wound around fields by little paths contourwise rather than making a straight descent. I was mad — inauspicious start.

After that everything went pretty much to plan, got up to Vasciano (the road slices between V. Nuovo and V. Vecchio neither of much interest despite the tower in the latter) without any problems; weather, of course, now that I had a shirt and my cow sweatshirt, quite warm, a good 4° warmer than optimum; I walked shirtless all the way to Montecastrilli, putting things on basically at sundown.

At Vasciano I bought a 400 g bag of cookies and what I thought was fizzy water with the added fillip that it was bottled in Vasciano and I'd just passed some kind of little bottling works: turned out it was limonade, but not overly cloying, and probably better on this long walk than water would have been; as usual, the good Lord watched out for me. Also an apple, or 'facefruit' as I mentally think of 'em.

Montenero has a huge block of machicolated castle beauti­fully photographed in "Todi e Dintorni", and a small street around behind it; 2 very friendly dogs, one of them very small and chihuahualike, the other a small medium-longhaired setter-type mongrel: she followed me for miles — preceded me, actually. These were the only 2 unchained dogs in Montenero and they apparently love to tease all the chained dogs by getting into their gardens just out of reach and barking at them; my little wolf (an old man in Pesciano later called her a "lupo") even jumped up to snap at a tethered horse — I tried to catch some of this on film, an old shrew from a large house across the road shouted all kinds of things at me as I did so —

 . . . .

[image ALT: missingALT. It is Pesciano, in Umbria (central Italy).]

A persimmon tree and a patch of garden
against an old south-facing wall in Pesciano.

Dog in tow, off to Pesciano; now almost none of what's in "Todi e Dintorni", did I see — one thing is not there (the Chapel of St. Anne is a roofless and mostly wall-less ruin with no Roman altar, an old man at Pesciano I quizzed about it showed it to me and told me that years ago when he was young an old man who had no home used to sleep on the altar in the abandoned chapel — a kinder use than its original one as apparently a sacrificial slab, redemption at the end finally came to it — but he didn't rightly know what had happened to it), and most of the rest, not in Pesciano proper, I didn't go look for since like a typical car-type tourist I had a schedule and my book was none too clear about the exact location of the Roman bridge or the church of S. Giovanni in Scopellis — but Pesciano was very nice anyway. Some of the best views of the day, north mostly onto Todi; a nice little village of old stone; my old gentleman and his wife whose persimmon tree against an old wall should make a good picture; another old couple living in the best house in town, a medieval tower jutting out over a quarter of Umbria including Todi very clearly visible in the distance; and their cat afraid to come out and claim her territory because of 'my' dog; and at the foot of the hill, a tiny chapel with a glass front door — courteous — and a glorious medieval fresco of a female saint or Madonna with one of those classic unearthly faces of the Umbrian school — well worth the 3‑km detour.

[image ALT: missingALT.] [image ALT: missingALT.] [image ALT: missingALT.] [image ALT: missingALT.] Sismano was a surprise. "Todi e Dintorni" said there was a castle,​a vaguely, but sniffs and says it's 16th century (it's no longer in the province of Perugia, and the book gets sketchy and unfair!) — the castle is very large, very impressive, beauti­fully kept up (lived in by one family with money); and the adjacent church — tympanum is dated 1643 — is lovely in an austere, proportionate sort of way; the inhabitants of the single street vie with each other in flowering their front steps — geraniums, roses, succulents; a pleasant gate to the village, a second one to the castle-and‑church section within the village; and outside, just across from the village, a charming white-stuccoed chapel with a fountain overgrown with moss in front of it, and a vestige of early sculpture still visible, carefully left unstuccoed —

The short walk to Dunarobba — I forgot to mention that my dog, before Sismano, ran off and charged 2 tethered sheep, who broke their tethers and ran: I didn't see the rest; but she must have cornered them, because 30 seconds later she was flying like the wind back to Montenero and that's the last I ever saw of her (she is apparently an abandoned animal, according to my old man in Pesciano who knows her) — the walk to Dunarobba, though in itself dull and through dull country — a rather barren winding hillcrest — produced the most striking views of the day: from the cemetery (the fork to Avigliano) one can see Todi by now very far off, with both Pesciano and Sismano in the foreground looking very medieval; in spots, nearly 360° of view, and today was a very clear, mistless and pollution-free day.

[image ALT: The intersection of two arched streetways in Dunarobba, Umbria (central Italy).]

Arching over the streets makes a town cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter; and maximizes the living space within the walls.

Dunarobba is tiny and doesn't look like anything from outside; I nearly didn't do the 400 m from the fork that I'd have to do again to get back to the road to Avigliano. [image ALT: missingALT.] Inside, it's a perfect grid of 4 streets one way, 3 the other, on a strict NS/EW orientation, suggesting very strongly an origin as a Roman camp, cardo and decumanus. I came in from the W by the via dell' Arco the central street; at each crossing, in fact, there are arches, so that the effect is of one solid mass of masonry with tunnels. It reminded me oddly of the souk in Tunis — and pleasantly cool and shady —

Avigliano Umbro is big, probably 5000 people, and a disappointment. I took a slight shortcut — a strada bianca rather than the asphalt road — East to Farnetta, which is a small oblong clump of medieval stone backing onto a pine woods; a beauti­ful probably 17th century church, again in the austere mode, at the east end. Two old ladies gossiping on a bench nearby, to the left of the door in the sort of square in front of it, fascinated that I should like their church, asked me if I was a photographer.

And then with the sun definitely setting, turning the dry plowed fields to burnt gold of different shades — glorious landscape, with the Apennines in front of me, the cleft at Cesi showing even higher and I think snow-capped mountains in the distance. . . .

[image ALT: Part of the stone walls of Montecastrilli, Umbria (central Italy).]

At the top of the hill,
just outside the gate.

Montecastrilli, a clump of not very old stone houses, although walled, at the top of a very abrupt little hill, softened on the south side by a blanket of green and gold foliage — it is fall, after all — that I just couldn't capture in my viewfinder to do justice to; a large 19thcentury church (although on the way out I saw the apse, the basic church is probably medieval) with a brick belfry with a clock, but not at all ugly. By this time, cool, sun setting, and the race against the clock starting, but I dashed up the hill and took a poke around and came back down — pleasant but no stars — put on both my shirt and my cow sweatshirt

(broke at 11:10 to sleep; resumed at 7:10 on:)

Sunday 23 October [where this account resumes in midsentence]

Later Note:

a The castle has been turned into a residenza d'época, which it may still be. An outline of its history was once to be found online on the castle's own website, but the entire website has disappeared.

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Page updated: 7 Dec 20