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Friday 10 October 1997

(Continuing: Friday 3)

That meal took up exactly the time I needed; a slow walk back to Termini and three minutes to spare: this time the 4:10 to Velletri did its job depositing me at the rink on time; a technically indifferent skate — I need to get my edges and crossovers back — but no worse than the previous one. I did several waltz jumps, the largest of which was 4 blade lengths, and none was really acceptable; and didn't dare the half lutz or the salchow, in part because I no longer have a real body memory of the entries. Spins marginally better, and timid attempts at my formerly better spirals (including a timid, timid version of a layover back spiral: it would be safer on that one to be less timid, actually) and at a back spin out of a lunge; edge rolls F and B well on their way back; and mohawks and inside 3's en manège, the latter for the first time since January.

About the train back no comment other than the now usual lateness; to bed after a plate of strongozzi. The blue funk finally was not as bad as 1994.

While we were in Rome or on our way, a very unexpected further large tremor​a back here; people had been getting over their fears, and that undid everything.

Also, a practical note: Mr. Know-It‑All here really should stop sometimes and not know quite so much: at the newspaper stand in Fiumicino train station, you can buy rail schedules for all of Italy — I did — several different publishers, one of which divides the country into North and South and in each one gives you a coupon to get the other for free. The schedules are accurate and include the private railways as well,​b and have already in this week since been extremely useful, allowing me to plan tight changes without running in stations to look at tabelloni etc. (A tour firm also hands out free maps of Rome that are unusually good and give all kinds of train information as well.)

Saturday 4 and Sunday 5 were essentially my blue funk but well disguised, and to some extent usefully, as planning. Working at 60% capacity, up on the terrace (head and books and table in the shade of the parasol, the rest of me getting a tan), I managed to sort out the main goals of my dwindling time here; which will increasingly center on doing chunks of the Flaminia, with a few days out for the remaining larger towns of Umbria unvisited, also a few for Rome-Ostia-and-skating.

On Sunday in the late afternoon I found a somewhat disoriented man in his fifties (Peter turns out to be 70 this month and is in terrific shape for his age) in front of InUrbe wondering what to do; quite understandably: Walter is still in Rome, it was Sunday, going on another semi-deserted post-quake evening, and no key to his apartment nor apparent way of getting one. So of course I rescued him, found Mrs. Suocera (Giuliana — I finally found out her name), translated, etc. This involved walking Peter down to where he'd parked the car just east of the Consolare, where his wife June had been waiting for nearly 2h, and guiding them the back way up, carrying bags, etc. At one point, when Mrs. Giuliana, just finishing a batch of tozzetti (roll coming out of the oven) had said she'd be 5 minutes, I took Peter up to the terrace and drank him some Rosso di Spello — a remarkably clear day with sharp details visible of the Abbazia di Sassovivo behind Foligno — June still waiting in car; but finally 5 became 10 then 15 and we went to retrieve her. Anyway while we were up on the terrace,​c a medium quake (Richter 4.1 centered like almost all the others in Colfiorito) —

Also, once they got settled into their apartment, a particularly modern one with an excellent bathroom and a good kitchen area, windows pleasantly opening on to Mrs. Giuliana's garden, I walked them around a bit of Spello: the Belvedere, then down to the Consolare, past the Orlando inscription and the Urbica to S. Claudio and slowly up the hill — and that was the end of the weekend.

(Immediately after writing this — there's the disadvantage of not keeping a diary day to day: in fact it was Saturday 4 in the late afternoon that I met Peter and June; and Sunday 5 at 10:30 A.M. by prearrangement that we walked Spello, returning at a bit past one. I'd planned a hike for Sunday, so I "lost a day" — but not really, as will become apparent below, if I ever catch up!!)

Monday 6th, I got up earlyish and left town at 9:15, stopping at Collepino only to have an orange soda and buy a bottle of water — the woman at the bar, that I'd already talked to the previous time, reported that in Friday's quake they lost a shelf-ful of liquor, the bottles having come crashing down: she apparently had enough faith in lessening aftershocks, though, to continue storing bottles in the same place, a thin wooden shelf around the bar at about 7 feet off the floor.

On to S. Giovanni, the narrow paved road winding somewhat upwards with plunging views to my right: the weather, as since my arrival now 6 weeks ago, sunny and pleasant (only that one day of rain when James came in). S. Giovanni itself is nothing much: a little knot of houses, some of which seem to be abandoned already: certainly a church has been kaput for at least 30 years if not a hundred. Two stone houses marked "Eremo della Pace" and "Eremo della Resurrezione" but not really hermitages: I was later told that there were some vaguely commercial seasonal lodgings at S. Giovanni; surely they. The town deserted except for one house: a woman doing chores, an older man and a son in his late twenties doing things with tractors (I have my ignorance to blame as usual!)

About a quarter of the village had been shaken down in these quakes: the worst damage I'd seen yet, with piles of rocks in the streets, and electric wires brought down by other rocks still entwined in them. The main church, a recent building, still standing with its campanile apparently undamaged if cordoned off. While I was photographing it, a voice from behind, "Hello, Bill", turned out to be an Australian couple met by happenstance in the street Saturday when I met Peter: Michael and Victoria doing the area very lowkey in a little dark green car, off to see a 19c mill between S. Giovanni and Valtopina.

Well I followed them down the same road, got to the bottom of the valley where the mill surely was, but never saw it. Never mind, the scenery was very beauti­ful, oaks at S. Giovanni giving way to fastigiate poplars in the valley, and interesting formations of erosion-rounded upended green schists — really quite nice.

The walk from there to Valtopina was in cool shade and un-Umbrian because of all the poplars: it might have been France. At the hamlet of Marco Frate, a large building partly abandoned, has a good fresco of Christ over a little window — 17c or 18c but vigorous and attractive: a bit of a mystery though since there is no sign of the building ever having been a church.

[image ALT: A small brick arch, seen from immediately under it. On the vault, a decaying fresco of a medallion with the bust of a bearded man in his forties, the medallion flanked by depiction of varied naturalistic foliage. It is a ruined fresco of Christ on the façade of a small building in Marco Frate, near Valtopina, Umbria (central Italy).]

Valtopina: nothing much, although very pleasant. It's a largish village of mostly modern houses, with a basically modern church — façade and belfry both damaged in the quakes — on the former main road ("Flaminia") from Foligno to Nocera; now that the new superhighway bypasses it, on ten‑meter-high concrete stilts all the way up the valley, it will probably fade back into obscurity.

Now up to Valtopina — where I got some cookies, a pear, and a chocolate bar that was way too sweet — I couldn't have planned a better walk had it been planning: cool in the middle of the day, the stiff climbing all done in the first two hours, virtually no traffic. After Valtopina things were less pleasant because I was on major roads, and at one point for about a kilometer, actually on the autostrada, into which the statale just merged: luckily, pedestrian traffic wasn't forbidden; I don't know what I would have done otherwise.

About 4 km before Pontecentesimo a passing car — Italians — asked the way to Capodacqua; with my map I was able to give it to them.

A coupla kilometers later, and all along I'd been scrutinising the road I was walking on and the railroad bed and any small streams below for Roman vestiges since after all I knew the Flaminia came thru here, I spotted something old-looking about 1 km away across the river: some masonry not too far from a medieval church. Out came the binoculars, and to my partial regret I felt I'd in fact spotted a wall of opus incertum: regret because I wasn't sure, and checking would mean going back a mile on the other bank; if I was wrong, it'd be two miles in very nasty roads (railroad triage, superhighways, etc.). Still, logic prevailed: if I was out looking for Roman stuff, then when I'd probably found it, it made no sense to ignore it.

So at Pontecentesimo off I went in the direction of the mildly medieval church of Pieve Fanonica (a name suggesting "fanum" to me, who knows what the truth is) — and what I'd seen, neatly spread out by the road, cleaned and labelled, was indeed Roman: a thirty-yard stretch of the Flaminia over a culvert. Very interestingly, the Augustean culvert and road substructure was so good that, although I'd seen it thru binoculars even, I'd dismissed it as some modern thing — and all I'd actually seen, the only part that had registered as Roman, was the late antique repairs at one end!

Well, that was very nice — I'm still patting myself on the back for recognising Roman opus incertum without warning (not in any of my guides, not even the TCI Umbria) from half a mile away or more — even if I'd added 2 km and an hour to my route as I edged toward sunset.

More walking, more busy road; then the long straight street of S. Giovanni Profiamma just behind the highway. Sounds dismal, especially in the suburbs of Foligno, but it's not a bad sort of place at all.

[image ALT: The façade of a small 2‑story Romanesque stone church, with a single arched door taking up about a third of the width; above it a ten‑petalled rose window. The photo was taken at night and part of the space in front of the church is roped off by construction tape. It is the church of S. Giovanni Profiamma, near Foligno, Umbria (central Italy).]

And then the church. I've been pretty lucky on this trip: lots of things've been open. San Giovanni could easily be missed, hidden behind its plane trees tucked away behind a road, with no signposting: but once you find it, it's beauti­ful. Plus, the door was open. It was being repaired from the earthquake: so the first thing I do is take a general picture in case I get thrown out.

That brought a worker running, since the flash had alarmed him; but once he knew it was a tourist, he went back to work. So did I; the main item is a very old Romanesque ciborium (9c): I navigated it clockwise snapping flash pictures and sidestepping chunks of plaster that'd fallen from the arms of the raised transept (the church is on roughly the same plan as S. Hilaire de Poitiers, with a whole raised altar area and steps down into the nave) and being careful not to get in the way of the work — travelling electric cords, tape measures etc. The whole nave was a mass of work tools. Notwithstanding, one of the workers took me into the cryptlike undercrossing but apologised for the lights being knocked out: my eyes got used to the dark and of course I have a couple of flash pictures of it too.

On my way out, coinciding with the work ending and the church closing, a pleasant-looking fellow with a name tag, wearing blue overalls, turned out to be Don Gigi, as he introduced himself, the parish priest. He'd in fact seen me on the roads several times: he's also the parroco of Pieve Fanonica, which although I was only 200 yards from it, I hadn't gone to look at, because the Protezione Civile and other people were emptying it of its contents: missals, furniture and so on; the top of the steeple was wrecked, and apparently it'd been declared inagibile — not the time for stray tourists with archeological pretensions to come wandering in.

But Fr. Bonollo [. . .] is an Internet buff and was hoping to put S. Giovanni on the Web, and suggested I might drop a word myself; I told him I had every plan on having a S.G. page linked to my Flaminia and Roman Umbria sites. We exchanged addresses alphabetical and numerical, electronic and postal and telephonic; and — after having told me to take a picture of the vacant lot next to the church and label it

[image ALT: a close‑up of a small patch of weedy field]

"major archaeological site"

since the Soprintendenza came, dug it up, and reburied it — rushed off to get his modem fixed: the quake had bent a connection or something and it had gone kaput; leaving me to finish photographing the outside of the church (including what I believe to be a Roman altar or statue base embedded in the water faucet setup a few feet from the door).

From there a dismal walk to Foligno train station to buy my second and last monthly pass to Marino: which'd been one of the reasons for doing that particular walk, in fact. Then the wait in the station, and I eventually got home, and took myself out to dinner: I wanted to go out to the Pinturicchio but it was closed again, so I tried the Bastiglia, which was OK if nothing special; towards the end of the meal I wound up chatting with a young American couple from Milwaukee spending a coupla days in Spello: we sort of closed the place at about 11, them pumping me for tourist info, and me quite happy as usual to play tour guide. . . To bed.

Tuesday 7 (I'm getting there!) was a simple day. I needed to get to Todi to turn in 31 rolls of film and see about some dirt on my lens (which turned out to be on the inside of the viewing mirror, thus immaterial thank goodness) that I just couldn't get rid of: Peter and June had wanted to go there too, so they drove me and I navigated and played tour guide some more. We went via Bastardo then a detour to Massa Martana; but Massa is not the little town I knew from 1994: the earthquake of May 12th this year turned within the walls into a depressing maze of massive timber struts and supports and scaffolding; on the other hand, maybe that protected Massa against the current earthquakes, although in fact south central Umbria seems to be quite unaffected by these. Anyway, I took advantage of the stop to copy the Hadrian inscription in the gate (he repaired a road, probably the Flaminia in his 8th year of tribunician power: wild raving guess, as I sit here on a bench on Platform 2 of Terni train station without any reference works — would that be Aug. 125–Aug. 126 A.D.?)​d but the little tombstone above it was only partially readable: a wooden shim up against half of it to protect it from a metal support. . . .

We'd also stopped at the Convento della Pace: the beauti­ful octagonal tempio all scaffolded up; but at least the little frescoes are OK; and ten steps inside the neighboring cemetery —

[image ALT: A watercolor of two medieval palazzi in sunlight with sharp shadows. It is a scene on the main square of Todi, Umbria (central Italy).]

In Todi, June and Peter sketched the piazza — they sketch lots of things — don't like arches, have problems with trees — of course even the simplest sketch, to me, is much like walking on water — while I got the best photographs I could of the Consolazione, as planned: website fodder.

Lunch at the Jacopone since it was Tuesday the Umbria's closing day: good as usual; I provided the Brunello — but I've drunk better —

A little walk thru the Duomo then around the apse: I also encouraged another stray American couple to go look at it — I don't know what it is with people, but they don't go look at the backs of churches, often as with the Duomo of Todi the best part.

[image ALT: The round apse of a large stone church, with six evenly spaced narrow arched windows, separated by thin pilasters each one made up of two columns, with capitals, one on top of the other. The upper capitals are linked by decorative blind arcading. It is a view of the apse of the cathedral of Todi, Umbria (central Italy).]
If you know me, you know I'm fond of blind arcading.

Another little walk thru S. Fortunato then the Rocca including my sleeping lion, then back down to the Consolazione parking lot: the way up had been by the road to the Oberdan Gardens, the way down by the scenic and vehiclefree route.

From Todi back to Spello — my way. I navigated them to Duesanti and its striking views of Todi, stopping us so Peter (who always does all the driving) could see them too; and a second stop in Petroro, one of my favorite towns.

A nice day and to bed relatively early: a couple yogurts and a bit of TV to check on the earthquake situation; there'd been a rather sharp one in the morning — from the feel of it, a notch more Richter than the 0233 quake of the 26th of September: maybe 5.2?​e Anyway, nothing bad — people panicking, and all the reported injuries due to that.

Wednesday the 8th was a delight­ful hike sandwiched between two mad rushes. It started out innocently enough: I was going to take the 1002 to Foligno etc. to Terni, then walk to Stroncone and back, and hop the train home; and in fact that's sort of what I did, but at times it didn't look like I'd manage it.

I was all set to leave the house quietly at 0930 & walk down the hill to catch my train — when the doorbell rings, and Ida (Mrs. Ida Buono), Giuliana's friend in charge of InUrbe while Giuliana is in Rome (she's due back today) comes brandishing an order from the Mayor for June and Peter to leave their apartment, since the wall of the rocca might come crashing down on them. It fell to me — linguistically, as it were (Peter has some Italian but June none) — to explain and help move them to one of the little apartments below the v. Giulia; within the half-hour: Ida herself had to get out, being on the ground floor of the same house.

So we looked at 3 apartments (as it turns out, it's the 4th one, which I still haven't seen, that's on the Web)º and settled them in by 1014 — my train gone; so they drove me to Foligno train station: train due to leave at 1041, we were there at 1040; but it was 20 minutes late anyway. Lots of rush.

Later Notes:

a At 10:55 A.M., Mercalli VII, according to a record of the Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica, once found online. There were once many useful pages on the Colfiorito earthquake, but with the continuing shrinkage of the Web, all the best have permanently disappeared.

b Not all of them, since I know of at least one that is not listed there: the Viterbo local line from Rome with stops at various places along the ancient Via Flaminia, which leaves from a small station just outside the Porta Flaminia at the Piazza del Popolo.

c At 5:07 P.M. The details of this aftershock were on the Web as late as 2006, but with the continued shrinkage of the Web have disappeared.

d No. Trajan did die in August 117, accounting for my mindless 8 + 117 = 125; but of course that should have been 8 + (117 - 1); and after the first year, Hadrian's tribunician office started on the customary December 10th, so that the inscription at Massa Martana is dated to Dec. 10, 123 to Dec. 9, 124.

e At 7:09 A.M., according to a record of the Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica, once found online.

The most useful page on the Colfiorito earthquake still online as of writing (Jul 23), though not as complete as the one on which the information in my original note was found, is Sequenza sismica di Colfiorito.

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