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Wednesday 15 October 1997

In bed, a few minutes before seven in the morning, in Walter & Maria-Paola's large rented house somewhere in the Alban Hills near Marino, waiting for the family to get up and start rattling around before I do and wake them all up. (Continuing my endless! catching up:)

Sunday the 12th was a planned local hike: follow the Flaminia to Bevagna, do the circuit of the walls to resolve the "brick walls of Mevania" problem;​a then get back: with my distaste for returning via the same route, and already having walked via Cannara, that means "via" Monte­falco and back to Foligno. And in fact, that's pretty much what I did, stepping out of the house at 6:45 and walking to the Madonna della Fiamenga before the cars were out: to the confines of Foligno I was passed by 2 cars and crossed by 2; in Foligno (and of course by then it was approaching eight) by 9 and crossed by 5. So that part was peaceful.

A bit less so the long straight Flaminia to Bevagna, but not unpleasant really, plus I had two breaks, a short one in Fiamenga/*Flaminica/ and a longer one in Búdino. Fiamenga was just a matter of doing the antica rather than the modern swerve that bypasses it, and keeping my eyes peeled. (The two tall Roman tomb wall cores about 300 m apart along the road before Fiamenga preserve a bit of structure, but that's about it.)

Fiamenga is one long street about 300 m long; pleasant little church, not very old, at the E end:​b then almost right next to it, a piece of Roman building next to the gas meter outside a garden; I spent my minute or two getting my shot of it, and an old gentleman, rather distinguished-looking, who'd been sitting on a bench in the garden, came out and points out that the parroco's garden across from the church — that I'd walked by without looking (bashfulness more than made up for in Budino!) has several similar blocks; and that he himself has what may be a sarcophagus in his farm, a bit further on — yes, I'm welcome to photograph it, just let the help know he said so; several people have approached him to buy it, he's always said no — so I go photographing my way thru Fiamenga — not much of a place, but pleasant & unspoiled despite the traffic whizzing along one side (which now that I stop to remember, I didn't even notice from the main street, no particular noise even) including the possible sarcophagus or fountain: a bit short for the former, and a hole in the side under a little rosette decoration, but nice marble and my guess is why not a sarcophagus?

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Fiamenga: probable Roman sarcophagus.

Búdino was Booby doing his I'm‑so‑close-I‑might-as‑well-yellow‑in-this-place-on‑the‑map-too thing, and being rewarded for it. In fact, it's about a kilometer off the Flaminia plus I'd have to retrace my steps; and in the flat plain of Cannara, i.e., a bit dull.

Well, 250 m in, a perfectly innocent-looking old farmhouse on one side — had two walls built of Roman material on the other; terrible state of abandon and apparently being used a little bit as a staging area for construction materials for a bran-new modern house being built right next; but a plaque recording a Flaminia-related restoration under Pius VI, a probable plain sarcophagus in front, once in use as a trough of course, now a quarter-full of trash. (Lots of pictures inside and out.)

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Budino: ex-church of S. Angelo del Rosario, built mostly of Roman stone: now a farm building, undergoing its second restoration in recent times.

Búdino itself has a few stones here and there, mostly in private gardens. It was the day of a little scheduled fiesta, but the church was inagibile and some people were living in blue civil defense tents behind it: still, the town (rather sizable, much bigger than Fiamenga and from what the map had led me to believe) is OK and people with guitars were wandering around and there was a general air of preparations. I did a very careful tour of Búdino (something I imagine no tourist has done in 50 years, possibly never) then turned around and walked back to the Flaminia.

(Where I've already forgotten to mention, at Fiamenga, the second church, older, at the W end of the town: a nice simple building, a few Roman blocks, an attached garden; but on the unenclosed side, graffiti — now really, why?)

Unevent­ful continuation to Bevagna, with a pit stop at the crossing of the Topino; fifty yards before the river the modern road bends south: in the line of the old road, in the water, a few slight substructures (age?) of a previous bridge. A second walk around and in the Imbersato, still no trace of a stone, but it certainly is exactly the right size and shape for an amphitheatre, plus close to the road.

My 55‑minute circuit of the walls of Bevagna from 11:55 to 12:50 seemed clear: not only no brick other than thin layers here and there, or post-medieval repairs or additions, but the walls as we now have them are almost all medieval, and the undoubted Roman bit, already seen with James, is stone. Inquiries and bit of casual searching produce no second set of walls. If there are Roman brick walls here, they're hiding. A roll and a half of pictures to look at back in Chicago, though.

In Bevagna, on impulse, I had lunch in a restaurant, something I almost never do on a long day walk; but the impulse was a good one.

First of all, the Orto degli Angeli serves good food. I had a schiacciata di patate (a rosemary-herbed potato blintz), strappatelle al rancetto (rough-cut pasta with tomato sauce and ground-up meat: it could have been veal, beef or dog but was pig cheek), and — excellent — pollastro infinocchiato: chicken cooked in a sauce of the green parts of roadside fennel, cinnamon, and thickened to almost gruel with ground almonds — a medieval recipe they'd gone and resurrected, tasting rather Moroccan. The owner, Francesco Mongalli, was telling me about having decided to open the restaurant something less than a year ago. He's an architect or something like that by profession, but this seemed like a good new venture for him; and he showed me thru the building, which in fact includes the inside of the temple and a piece of the R theatre — several columns of the former in the back diningroom, more pictures etc. Anyhow I had two desserts: a couple of bright pink roundels of something w crème pâtissière and chocolate (sounds horrible, but quite good), and a slice of pie, even better. Wine, a whole bottle of Adanti's Sagrantino "di Monte­falco" (in fact of Bevagna, which is why I ordered it); a grappa from the north; coffee.

And then, at about 4 P.M., hit the road again. It's very rare I have a big lunch on a walk, since it eats up so much time; and indeed the last six or so kilometers in the dark: but before that, the road to Monte­falco is wonder­ful!! and the skies were perfect (but I'd run out of film) and the weather too: in the sixties with fairly strong wind, chasing the cumulus across a Constable sky and providing rather sharper light than usual — before Monte­falco, gentle Umbrian farmscapes mostly to my right; after Montepennino (I didn't in fact go to Monte­falco, just turned back toward Foligno when I met the road), vast plunging views of the plain from Assisi to Spoleto: from this road, Foligno actually looks good, because it has a backdrop; still relying on Trevi and other little places up in the hills to give it some shape, though. Anyway, an exhilarating walk (the bottle of wine may have produced 10% of the endorphins, but in fact all I was conscious of — concerned, belatedly, for my road judgment and safety, I was monitoring — was a slight fuzz; it's just a particularly beauti­ful road).

The tail end of it, in gathering dark in the suburbs of Foligno, then actual night starting at Corvía and ultimately (mapless fool) I got lost in the maze; asking directions, I was hitchhiked instead by a coupla gay guys for about 2 km to the Madonna della Fiamenga (it was simpler for them to take me than to explain the way!), and from there the 4 km to Spello, then up the hill, with no incident.

Later Notes:

a Pliny the Elder, writing in the 1c A.D., speaks of Mevania as having brick walls. I understand that traces of brick walls have indeed been found, dating to the 4c B.C.; but by Pliny's time the walls were of stone. This apparent error has long puzzled me: here Pliny is not dealing with mythical animals in faraway Scythia, but with a town he had almost certainly visited. My walk of the walls recorded here was supposed to help me solve the problem. It didn't.

b Curiously, my diary entry doesn't go on to mention the older church, at the W end of Fiamenga. I visited it a year later, including the interior.

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