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Friday 17 October

This diary is a major scheduling problem: I don't manage enough time for it. . . . Anyway, I'm at the Zurlo's rented villa in Marino, scribbling furiously.

Monday the 13th I went to Fano, as part of my via Flaminia excursions. In general, a disappointment, despite some interesting things: the account should be short, at least.

The train trip, to Falconara on the Ancona line, then along the Adriatic to Fano, was pleasant; it took me to my piece of road at Pieve Fanonica — the church seemed in worse shape than a few days before, poor people — then into unknown country. I saw very little of Nocera but the little towns before it were in bad shape too: cement and stucco construction, yet others fine —

The Marche, inland, look pretty much like the E parts of Umbria; what I think of as the typical Umbrian landscape is in fact mostly that W of the Valle Umbra and N of Terni. A very quick change at Falconara and I fell in conversation with a woman from Colmar — I'm pleased to have had the presence of mind to ask her for the recipe for geschwelti mit kas (wash, don't skin potatoes; steam them 'til done; skin them at the table; serve with Munster and Bibala Kas (a sort of cottage cheese) and chives).

The Adriatic was grey and looked like the Atlantic at Daytona Beach; the coast gets bad press for endless resorts, but I rather liked it: simple beaches with bathing huts and the occasional restaurant; pine trees, etc.

Fano train station gives onto the Sangallo bastion, a 10‑meter-tall angle of the pale brick fortifications, with a huge marble papal coat-of‑arms as a clear reminder of who was boss . . .

Fano is two towns: the old fortified city, much of it seems to have been razed several times and is now modern (post-Renaissance) — flat, grid streets said to be from the Roman plan; a few older churches (at least one, S. Marco Evangelista, with Roman remains), and some large pleasant squares with flat painted stucco façades.

But — and I walked round it twice and crisscrossed it on most of the major streets as well — it's a bit dull, and the youth — judging from how they treat each other and the amount of graffiti on the walls — seem hostile; some racial problems (I noticed quite a few more North Africans than elsewhere in Italy, maybe the critical threshold has been reached?), etc.

[image ALT: A bas-relief of a 3‑storey Roman gate. It is a 16th‑century representation the city gate of Fano known as the Arch of Augustus, before it was partially destroyed by Pope Pius II.]
	On my way in, by happenstance, I wound up traversing the town and following the ring road to the Pta. Maggiore and behind it the Arch of Augustus: of particular interest a 15c bas-relief, on a church next to it, of what it looked like (one more storey and a Constantinian inscription) before Pius II attacked Fano in 1463. Then I walked down the via dell' Arco di Augusto thru the town again, stopping at a baker's for lunch: a cheese muffin, a salty roll with walnuts and cheese (local specialty, excellent), a piece of apple pie, a pint of milk; which I ate in the street, finishing as I exited the fortifications on the seaward side. Walked to the stone beach — nice; there is a sand beach that I did not see.

Back into town and around pretty much every which way, concluding with a complete walk along what's left of the Augustan walls: lots of opus vittatum in pretty good shape, not so dissimilar — a wall is a wall, after all — from the Rocca Malatestiana immediately following it. By now I was a bit bored with the place, and found the train station (attractive belfry of disused convent — even an old local man sitting in front of it couldn't tell me what its name was) and my train out at 160something; on time.

Twenty-minute change in Falconara: I got out to see what I might in the immediate area downtown; pleasant but nothing. Went into a bookstore to buy a guide to the Marche; seeing none, I asked whether they had one, and was told yes without so much as a wave of the hand by the slovenly young woman photocopying some longish document without a feeder poor thing; carefully searched the store, concluded it was not true, left. Train, dark, some rain; Foligno, quick change, no rain, home, dinner at the Pinturicchio, bed.

[image ALT: The roofless ruin of a small Romanesque church, overgrown with ivy in an arid plowed field, with a few olive trees in the foreground. It is the church of the Santissima Trinità just below the walls of Spello, Umbria (central Italy).]

The ruined Romanesque church of the SS. Trinità on the E edge of Spello.

Tuesday 14, the schedule was for me to take an early afternoon to Rome, thence to Marino, with Giuliana; another quick day to report. I did laundry, packed bags, took trousers and shirts down to the drycleaner at the Sidis — via the church of SS. Trinità which I photographed from various brambly and steep vantage points, then around it full circle, then inside: a chain and padlock, but in fact loosely attached and meant to be openable while looking locked, I think. What's left of the church — walls, cul-de‑four apse, little windows — is in good shape, actually.

From the supermarket back home via the Palazzo Comunale, where I finally photographed and transcribed most of the Roman inscriptions; but I should have done it earlier: half of one hall was blocked off with the usual red-and‑white striped tape, and I didn't get all of them, plus a few I could photograph with the telephoto but not read on the spot.

Driven down to the station by one of Giuliana's nephews; train ride without interest by now, so Giuliana and I chatted — she told me family stories — while her husband Orlando sat quietly, for a while reading a Corriere dell' Umbria I'd bought.

Late in Rome of course, and a fairly hectic chase — a minute to spare, then the train left 3 or 4 minutes late — to Binario 24 way down the length of the station. No sooner left than I got a call from Maria-Paola: a few minutes ago, another largish quake in Umbria (as with the more recent ones, epicenter in Sellano rather than Colfiorito) — and the top part of the tower of the Palazzo Comunale of Foligno, already all twisted and broken, came crashing down in front of the helpless Vigili del Fuoco, and the mayor who burst into tears. Noone hurt and serious damage limited to Sellano,​a but everyone on edge again; I feel guilty — idiotically — for being in Rome; although in fact there was some damage in Rome, and a church was closed when fissures opened up.

This anomalous earthquake is lasting forever and the epicenter moves around (yesterday, 2 strongish tremors, reëpicentered on Colfiorito; farmers are reporting that the earth feels hot to the touch, that water levels despite the dry weather are rising in wells; and in at least one place, the top of one mountain has subsided by seven meters: also, a village that could only see the top of another village's belfry now sees the whole town from the same place. There is some talk about there being a volcano under the area; I wouldn't be surprised: the swamp at Colfiorito has always looked anomalous to me — and then there are those rather striking large funnel-shaped holes on Mt. Subasio. Obviously I hope Assisi, Spello and Foligno stay safe.

Later Note:

a Here's a typical example of what happened to a large villa there with a heavy concrete roof.

[image ALT: missingALT]

For some more encouraging photos (of the reconstruction),
see my intro page for Sellano and the further link there.

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Page updated: 7 Dec 20