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Wednesday 1 October 1997

(Sitting in Spello station out on the platform, a train approach bell clanging dementedly eight feet from my left ear — This goes on for several minutes, ceasing only about a minute before the train pulls in — Another lovely day, if a touch less blue than yesterday — nice warm shower scrunched up in the tub, after a pleasant breakfast on the terrace — lots of smoke from burning brush, some right next to the city walls — and a pleasant walk down the usual way: for the first time, much evidence of safety checks, including the Comune on a cherry picker looking at our own roof just as we walked out; people in bright orange worksuits although one troupe of about ten young men in equally lurid lemon yellow —)

Anyway, in Bevagna — to resume — we concluded our visit of the town, after having found and seen the nice marine mosaic open despite earthquakes and being indoors, by an absurd walk to the amphitheatre.

[image ALT: A nondescript patch of vegetation with a fair number of trees. It is supposed to be the site of the scant remains of the amphitheater of Mevania, the ancient Roman town now called Bevagna, in Umbria (central Italy).]

The amphitheatre of Bevagna.

Not the theatre, part of which we were able to see with a medieval mill in it and someone's laundry hanging across part of the entrance: even if the theatre is in a street actually named dell' Anfiteatro, and therefore even the Bevanati, asked about the amphitheatre, send you downtown. Armed however with the explicit Italian text of the TCI Umbria, after running a little gauntlet of several younger people telling us to go back into town, we found an old woman; and she knew, of course: sending us back behind the church of the Madonna della Rosa in a paraphrase of the TCI except that there's certainly no stradetta. Much joking & laughing about "il buco nel bosco" with me cheerfully explaining that we're Americans, after all, for which such behavior is of course normal. . . . Anyway, there was a large ovoid hole in the ground completely invaded by forest in an otherwise barren plowed field. I took a few pictures of this dismal and uninstructive scene, and James gamely followed down into the central hollow; a guide had said there were slight remains of walls: we saw absolutely zilch. We did see broken pottery in the fields, and a very square tesseralike piece of pink limestone: like Lucia we can now display a little dish of dubious terra sigillata on our piano if we had a piano.

From there back into town along the west walls, me looking for any part of them that could be both Roman and brick. In fact all I could see anywhere, tho' we only saw, nor carefully at that, maybe 60% of the extant walls, was stone and exceedingly little of it was Roman as far as I could tell: still, I'll almost certainly go back and walk the walls carefully.

So, to our gelateria, where the waitress for some reason took a shine to me and told me about and showed me various vaulted parts of the building with an account of how she underneath one vault with other people during the big tremor had seen the walls open and close with a sort of wavy motion. At 7:28 we left, walking to the piazza behind the church of S. Silvestro and the Teatro Torti where the bus stop is, getting there thirty seconds after S. Michele rang the half.

And waited and waited; and at 8:07 P.M., having enquired of various passersby both before and after the scheduled bus stop at 7:45, and having got increasingly nervous, finally were persuaded by several people that we'd missed the bus: infuriating when some of them told me I should have been there at 7:45. . . .

Still not daring to leave the piazza should the bus arrive late after all, I accosted a couple more passersby (the terror of Bevagna by now), possibly mother and daughter, who decided to go get the Polizia Municipale; who a few minutes later — an officer named Guido — arrived, told us to hop in, and drove us to Spello, where as a consequence we arrove earlier than we would have — me being effusive and telling tedious stories all the way in loud atrocious Italian oscillating between the vaguely erudite and archaeological to the anecdotal about Chicago and the earthquake — I of course had called the bus company on the 'fonino and spoken with a bus driver of another route (the 2005 from Foligno to Terni) who said a bus had left Foligno for Bevagna at the appropriate time; and when our poliziotto in machina arrived, was in the process of tracking down a Foligno cab company: plan B being to walk the 11 km.

Anyway we got home exhausted and not so hungry; James had something, and I looked at him; and we went to bed.

Yesterday we went to Arezzo, as noted: nothing notable on the train route to nor indeed back, other than Magione looked really dull and Cortona despite its known interest not much better —

Arezzo was pleasant once we got a meal in us: after 15 years living together it's really hard to say who exactly was getting short-tempered from lunchlessness but we applied the due corrective in a trattoria in the Piazza Grande — big awkwardly sloping quadrilateral with two curious churches on one side (the apse of S. Maria della Pieve, good; the considerably less good, and I thought 19c but actually Renaissance, façade of the Palazzo della Fraternità dei Laici.)

Anyway we sat under the Vasari arches — big deal — and were prey to the attentions of an exceedingly surly Chinese waiter: we ordered the quickest things to prepare, both for us and for him. James, after our shared (good) antipasto misto, had a lasagna verde; I wound up with an unordered (tho' palavered and declined) rebollita: basically a sort of garbure — OK​a — then caffé and I had an OK-to‑good tiramisú, more cake and less glop than the usual.

Thus fortified, we abandoned our bad temper à deux and wandered around looking at churches and came home after a beer in a traffic circle 3 blox from the station. A report inaccurate and unfair, since on arrival in fact, two hours before lunch, we went straight for once to the Museum at the amphitheatre, and did a careful slow visit of the very well laid out rooms, even if the better items were away somewhere, whether in restauro or on loan: with one signal exception, an extraordinarily good gold glass medallion of the early 3c; gold and silver too, in itself unusual, on an almost transparent vivid blue background, a very fine portrait of a middle-aged man worked in great detail — a masterpiece. Withal, lots of bucchero, some Villanovan, Etruscan-Corinthian and of course Arezzo ware; a room of sigillata and more interestingly with molds, both of bowls and flat industrial multiple templates for appliquéd ornaments. Also a collection of maybe 25 potters' stamps. Photography quite permitted, but thru glass or flashing against who knows what I'll get.º Lots of small votive or ornamental or cult bronzes, and even the museum can't really say: less seems to be known than probably could be.

Anyway, Arezzo is pleasant and urban: the Corso Italia at 2 P.M. starts to be shaded but with everyone at lunch is a dry hot stretch of upwardness; when we walked back around 6:30 it was a pleasant lively place for the passeggiata.

Where we spent the most time, about an hour, was the Duomo, where Gregory Xº was modestly buried in an attractive tomb in a chapel along the S side of the nave, but to facilitate his cult (he is a Blessed) he was moved into a glass monstrosity in the N aisle apsidalº chapel in the early 19c;

[image ALT: A glass casket, with what appears to be a heavy gilt lid, on a marble altar with a lace altarcloth. The casket encloses the body of a man in it; his head rests on a cushion and bears the tiara of a pope. It is the tomb of Pope Gregory X in the cathedral of Arezzo, Tuscany (central Italy).]

Glass casket of Pope Gregory X (1210‑1276), a native of Arezzo.

and the most interesting thing in the church is the Sacellum of S. Juvenal, walled up in the ninth and rediscovered in the seventeenth century: a very odd space, with an arcosoliumlike chapel where at most eight can stand fairly packed, and behind it and down a few steps, an even smaller space with a curious sandstone sarcophagus (TCI says no earlier than the 8c) the cover of which is raised up off the coffin section and open, by about two feet: no inscription on the titulus or whatever the central plaque is called.

Also of interest, under a fresco of S. Giovenale, in a glass case, a wooden pole and a little lance tip: when they translated his relics, the pole was one of the supports they used — you're invited to kiss it in a curious Latin inscription on the wooden frame around it. . . .

And that was Arezzo.

Later Note:

a This was my first rebollita in Arezzo, and that particular one was just OK. For a better one at a better restaurant, see Apr. 13, 2004.

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