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Wednesday 26 October

A bit before 07:00 and I'm propped up in bed with an occasional glance at the window — sky blue on top, clouds beneath — since I have to make up my mind really by about eight: the bus to Ponte Rio at 8:48 is the last to connect with a morning train to Rome; if not the 9:01 to Rome, it's the 12:24. Todi is exactly halfway between Perugia and Terni so the trains going to each are set up to cross here — possibility of going to Perugia or Spello, but not in a mood for tourisms or antiquities today.

Anyway, yesterday: up and out by 10:05 after a fairly light breakfast, and carrying two small slices of my very old almond cake — bought before James left — the leftover cookies from the other day and an apple: I wound up eating all of it towards, or outright at, the end of my walk, mostly out of principle rather than hunger; and during the whole walk I didn't have anything to drink. Temperature mild then cool.

Down and back up the road to Chioano and the turnoff to Monticello. Already by last night I just couldn't remember Monticello, all I remember is that when I was there I thought "so what", and apparently, so what indeed.

At the trough on the way, though, something interesting: a field of brown earth was fuming so much, in a straight line parallel with but not that close to a ravine, that I thought it might have been set afire as a cultivation device, so I went to the nearest patch of fume and stood in it: nothing. Apparently warm moist earth will under those circumstances give off dense white fumes.​a

[image ALT: A plowed field of brown earth with thick fumes rising from it.]

Now I suddenly remember Monticello; the 100‑lire coin I found on the strada bianca on the way up reminded me. It's a small walled place with about 8 houses, a sort of decrepit version of Sismano and no castle. A clothes vendor in a van was helping someone try on or buy a shirt. No sign of commerce. It had church bells that rang noon a minute or two after I left, joined a few seconds later by the bells of San Damiano to my left. I passed the cemetery a few minutes later; many of the niches had fresh flowers in them — represents a lot of work and care on a daily basis for a tiny community.

Rearwards views of Todi, predictable but splendid, up to the barren road along the crest between S. Terenziano and Colvalenza, my old pal as it were from the day I got lost coming back from Massa last time.

An austere Romanesque church on a windswept ridge. It is the church of Sant' Arnaldo in Ficareto (or Figareto), a frazione of the comune of Todi, Umbria, (central Italy).

The road looked very familiar, although in fact I had never been this far East on it. I went west to see the church of S. Arnaldo — nice proportions — and when I was there, well Ficareto was only one km away so I went to Ficareto; thus completing the loop since instant recognition of the turnoff to Ficareto as being the place where I met the polizia stradale and guided by them started my long winding descent back to Todi last time.

Ficareto (Figareto) is nothing at all — three houses, with two more being built, and a tiny church, not old; but the views west are incredible: I took a photomosaic panorama —

Back eastwards — an isolated house near Ficareto has a piece of probably Roman carved stone as a lintel over one window — the workers who'd been having lunch sprawled out on the grass at S. Arnaldo drove off about 200 m before I got there — another coupla hundred yards and I was winding rather steeply down to Castel Rinaldi.

Castel Rinaldi is a large inhabited block of stone masonry with machicolations and a few chickens, plus a tiny maybe 17th century chapel currently condemned but cordoned off possibly for repair: I broke the cordon and went in — large crack down from the ceiling on the right wall, 15 mm wide in spots. Withal, chapel of no interest.

Or at least that's what I saw of Castel R. while I was in it; climbing back up from the fosso on the east, I got a view of the whole town, which has an older church and a block of old houses; chose not to go back — maybe next year. On the eastern horizon, in front of the colli Martani, a modern house with a crenellated tower, had me fooled for 5 seconds: in fact, a hundred years from now when the mortar and stone — the stone is good — will have mellowed, it'll look pretty good.

Also to the east, on the flank of the hill, and finally I couldn't resist, a little piece of place identified on my map as Zampani. This turned out to be the other high point of the walk (the first being the walk to Ficareto, and noting that high points is exactly what both were): for one thing the path up was a splendid lane under early fall oaks; mosses and ferns on the sides, shaded by being lower by 3 feet than the fields on either side; and a soft cushion of leaves underfoot.

Zampani itself is not much, and what little there is has fallen into ruin,​b but it is inhabited: as I sat on a curved stone bench across from the 19th century church to eat my lunch, the inhabitant came to check me out. . . I made her work for it, getting her to show me the way, marked on my map (but I know what that can mean) to the Convento della Pace.

[image ALT: A curved stone bench. It is in the Umbrian hamlet of Zampani.]

Views terrific — beginning to feel like a broken record, but true — although Massa is growing to be a blight, confirmed by views on it from the other side later; down to La Pace, where the gate to the cloister — yellow stucco, 17th century — had a sheet of paper taped to it with "Siamo nel giardino" — reasoning appropriately, I pushed on the gate and entered: brick vaulting, four completed and apparently one never completed but underpainted only lunettes I think telling the life of St. Francis; not very good frescoes, and in medium to poor condition: still, of interest.

Down the road to Massa, air definitely cool, especially the instant the sun ducked behind clouds; of which enough in the west for me to at least think it might rain. This time I revisited Massa with film, took a closer look at the inscriptions mounted in the city gates: one of them is a tombstone ("in agro pedes. . .") and therefore clearly mounted there rather than in situ. Gate medieval probably rather than Roman, so how did the Hadrian inscription get there? Sheer antiquarian find by good fortune, or continuous tradition and if so where was it before the gate was built? Previous gate on the same site? — but then no sign of Roman stones or sculptures reused. An early medieval church? — no sign of any, itself puzzling; maybe, probably, the 19th century church just within is in fact it but just totally reworked — The mysteries of Massa — and now that I've seen places like Dunarobba and Petroro and Villa S. Faustino, Massa feels large! Still like it.

And out to Rággio, first via a small stretch of highway then back on a little road — the main street of Rággio, which is your classic single-street town; the center of Rággio marked by a corner shrine to the Virgin and round the corner just before it a coop of some twenty doomed rabbits at about eye level: they didn't stop jumping around out of fright once they saw me, except for one, didn't look sick or anything either, quietly sitting in the manger.

[image ALT: A rabbit, its ears up, looking alertly at the camera from behind the wire of a small cage and various plants and grasses.]
A Framed Raggio Rabbit. There's a movie in there somewhere.

Sun starting to get close to the horizon, my expected train from Massa Stazione at 1705 (1712 turned out to be the precise time) and I still had some way to go and along tiny paths, making for unreliable time — and indeed after Rággio I got fairly confused and finally backtracked 200 yards after much hesitation and careful reading of map, collating against minuscule rivulets and a well and a house — I chose rightly, as it turned out; noting that yes, lots of tiny springs and wells and rivulets in the area, as marked on my map as well.

Confirmed my direction at another point a few minutes later; il turista, barechested and holding a 35‑mm camera, and two old men on tractors rounded a bend and came face to face, with amusement, yes I was on the road to Montignano, turn left at the houses (my map: il Casino) then right at the oak —

Montignano, nervy about catching my train, I skirted without entering; nice tiny compact group of old houses, church beauti­fully built into medieval wall forming apse. Villa San Faustino a scant kilometer away, three young boys much and rightly amused to see turista still shirtless pop out of nowhere with concentrated expression of I‑know-exactly-where-I'm‑going-and-I'm-going-there-fast; 4:31 P.M. and my one concern being to get to the station on time; [in fact I took the wrong road out of VSF first but saw Colvalenza in the wrong direction and backtracked] no, that was in Montignano; at VSF, having been there before, I merely peered around a bend, spotted the 'new' church, and made my beeline on down; allotting sixty seconds to try to get a better picture of the fresco over the well that didn't come out when I did this with James the other day — and in to Massa Stazione at 4:54, with eighteen minutes to spare.

Back home normally and cooked beans now having soaked 36 hours, ate some, a bit of yogurt, coupla glasses of Ciliegiolo, a largish glass of grappa in bed, and lights out.

This morning, as noted, all ready for the 8:49 bus to the station, left the apartment at 8:44 or so, waited, waited, finally a bus appeared but the wrong route — in fact the linea C leaves at 842 and I've thus missed the morning train to Rome, irritated with myself for all of two minutes only — went to photo shop, noticed, how could I fail to, that they're digging up the piazza: all that beauti­ful flagstone pavement is being replaced by the corrugated stuff they've put elsewhere. Very disappointing; on the other hand the flagstone didn't date back to time immemorial but was only 20‑30 years old and has worn poorly. Still think that was part of the charm of the piazza, and the stone was much nicer than what they're repla­cing it with, the corrugated dark grey concrete rectangles.

So, back to the apartment and caught up on this diary; last night after dinner I weighed 79, right now I weigh 78; it looks like I may be seeing the last of the 80‑kg mark: as I told [. . .], I'm not dieting, I'm just moving down to my natural weight, it'll be interesting to see where it stops of its own, after all for years, until that walk across Illinois in 1982 and the winter following I weighed 135 lbs. and only then did I suddenly put on 20 pounds as I remember well. The bags under my eyes may be disappearing in part yes due to no stress but the rest possibly not due to facefruit but rather, paradoxically, due to losing weight. I would have expected the contrary and to look gaunt and more, not less, wrinkled but this so far is not happening.

Forgot to mention in this account the sudden appearance of an old U.S. Army bus sitting on someone's walled property after Rággio near the source of the Sallerone just before the problematic turn —

Rome-Tiburtina, just pulling out. I'm going back to 274 v. dei Gracchi to that astrology store, altho' quite possibly it will be closed — If so, off to the Vatican to send some postcards then get back —

Termini, aboard the skating train. I found the astrology shop closed (9‑13, 16‑20 are their hours), but got turned around on the v. Cola di Rienzo and wound up at the Tiber; I did the best thing and went to the Vatican as planned — returning by cab (in that, I was fortunate, they're not frequent) — spent 15ML — to Termini at 1556; I got on my train at 4:02. We have just now pulled out.

In Termini I actually found myself humming the "Furie! [no!]" air from Orfeo — the gall of this American tourist singing Italian opera in public in Rome. . . .

The weather, wherever I've been today, has been acceptable for walking but cool and threatening rain: the threat of rain when I'm a dozen miles from home is unpleasant, so by and large I'm glad I'm going skating — and of course I hope the weather in Todi is horrible tomorrow. . . .

Skating is a real UP! I had a wonder­ful skate today; the crossovers (back feel almost controlled; I'm doing left-foot brackets*, even if I sort of throw myself onto the left foot to do 'em, they do work; I'm getting good at those alternate crossovers Giampiero is having me do, they're sort of fun & dancelike; and I (accidentally) did a sort of waltz jump!!! Anyway, I did a three-turn in the normal course of skating round the rink, and somehow very slightly left the ground as I did it: that makes it a waltz jump, possibly.

For some reason also I felt exceptionally rhythmical on the ice today, even with the horrid music —

I also learned from a young ice dancer that the World Ice Dancing Champion­ships are in Mentana tomorrow thru Saturday; ice is not popular in Italy, so entrance is free — getting there may be a problem, I'm thinking of staying in a hotel in Rome 2 nights: apparently there is a regular COTRAL bus out there.

Giampiero today again not at the rink; I need to call him to find out if I have my lesson with him tomorrow —

I did, he has the 'flu, said he's better: I cancelled the lesson in part out of courtesy, in part to give me the option should I want to, to go to these champion­ships. At a cost of $100 a day (hotel & meals) bare minimum, and at an unknown but probably very low level of usefulness, it seems unlikely, although one night may work, combining it with the Sistine Chapel and some shopping maybe?

I'm sitting in the Perugia train: at Termini in a sottopassaggio a whole company of sailors in uniform and in formation, being given a stiff talking-to by their officers, I squeezed thru and walked on [. . .]

Later Notes:

a Vitruvius, de Architectura, VIII.1.1.

b I'm not the only one out there who likes the place. The first steps toward a restoration and revitalization project have been taken; for further details and photographs, see my page.

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Page updated: 19 Oct 23