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Wednesday 29 October 1997

Train just out of Terni Romewards: the most garrulous old man just got on and sat down next to me — train is full, trying desperately not to get sucked in, but failing: discussion (monologue) on Latin, the rôle of it in modern education, etc.

Thank goodness he was just doing a quick hop to Orte — anyway, now quite a bagful of diary to catch up on: a combination of mild depression lurking under the approach of departure home again, and a flurry of places to go on tight or unpleasant schedules, finally very cold windy bad weather — all of it contributing to not keeping (or wanting to keep) my diary —

Saturday 25th I caught up on Spello and on my laundry (a perpetual battle, mostly because I've been having to do it at 4 A.M. and hang it up to dry on the terrace hoping it wouldn't rain before I got back late in the evening). In fact, the first of four relatively unsuccess­ful days —

Not completely, mind you. Saturday I walked down to the amphitheatre, walked around to the back, found a spot without too thick nor thorny a thicket, and with a convenient tree for support in vaulting the little green metal fence — and pop! I was in; for what it was worth. In fact, a coupla things I think (that I couldn't see from the Belvedere): one, that the west side of the amphitheatre may be in part carved out of a slight natural rise in the terrain; wouldn't have been enough for the upper story, but there seems to have been no real W gate to correspond across the minor axis with a definite E gate. The other, a solid travertine base, with nice moldings, must have run around the field: several meters of it still in place. A couple of cores left standing — that, I could see from above or outside — but also one small stretch of gallery. Still, nothing extraordinary: deuced why TCI Umbria gives it a star.

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[image ALT: missingALT.] San Claudio is now well on its way to being completely scaffolded up; since it needed a fix anyway, that's good. Took some closeups of the masonry of both the amphitheatre (there is some left) and S. Claudio: this is definitely not the same stuff and I don't believe — other than in the loosest manner of speaking — that one was built of the stones of the other. I've since read that S. Claudio sits on the site of a temple to Saturn — don't know the source of this affirmation — and if so, maybe that's where the stones are from. On the other hand — maybe I'll figure out how to get a close look at the walls of Spello — the masonry of S. Claudio looks, au pif, like that of the Torri di Properzio; then after all, cut stone looks like cut stone. . . .

I also stopped at the Villa Fidelia, having heard that they found — this year — the base of the Temple of Venus there. It was five minutes to midday closing, so I went back around 4. You pay money mostly to see a well-displayed but indifferent art collection: a lot of derivative altho' not bad 20c art, and some nice old furniture and rugs, and on the 3d floor a couple of very nice Sicilian acquasantiere and a few good late medieval thru 17c paintings. So I breezed thru that in an obscene five minutes, literally, shocking the young man and young woman doing the tickets; but then went poking around in the gardens for half an hour, finding some dubious stuff under four glass panes sticking out of the basement of an adjacent convent: didn't look like it'd been found this very year, rather five or ten years ago, but didn't think of that until later.

And that was pretty much it for Saturday.

Sunday was basically a disaster, at best a mostly wasted day. Last time I was in Bevagna and ate at the Orto degli Angeli, the owner showed me a book on (mostly Roman) Bevagna, in the Electa series of detailed catalogues etc. — and, since I'd not seen it elsewhere and all he had was his own copy, he offered to get me another; and at least three times to bring it to me in Spello: we were playing phone tag, him catching me on the fonino for example in Narni Scalo. But no of course I refused and had told him I'd drop by at the restaurant (now off-season open for lunch only weekends) on Sunday; so then of course, despite having finally seen the book for sale the day before at Villa Fidelia of all places, I was stuck. So the genesis of Sunday's expedition right off was bad.

Well, I combined a relatively pleasant itin for a walk to Bevagna then back to Spello via Budino & the flats bypassing Foligno: I would go to Trevi and see Parrano, S. M. in Valle and Matigge then cut across to Bevagna via Casevecchie. So off to Trevi by the early morning train, plenty of time to do a mere 16 km, without any serious stops either, and get to L'Orto by say 1:30 for lunch.

And it was another nice day: a little cool but sunny and definitely shirt-off after an hour; and I started off by getting lost, relying on what has been a bad combination thruout: the DeAgostini map of Umbria — which is very casual about the relative placement of minor roads, train stations, etc. often showing distances of a km or more when 200 m or vice-versa: more of a schematic, really, than a map — and the basically unsignposted roads. This first getting lost wasn't so bad, I got to S. Maria in Valle, just via Collecchio rather than Parrano: pleasant countryside, olive trees growing in fields of fist-sized white rocks. And down to Matigge with a surprise: on my right a sweet little Romanesque church (S. Donato) with Roman stones, nicely sited.

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After that, an increasingly unpleasant walk. Matigge is already a suburb of Foligno, plus very soon I was walking on the big highway; the tower, large tho' it is, is of no particular interest — and the road to the left to Casevecchie never materialized: it was probably one of the many private-looking entrance roads to shopping centers, warehouses, factories, exiting on the other side and going on — but I never found it, nor could I get a clear view of Casevecchie nor of the countryside to strike across on a general sense of direction. So I wound up, furious, at Sant' Eraclio, knowing the road was behind me and that I was now with each step describing a deeper and deeper arc around the chord to Bevagna.

Finally I did strike off to my left, in the blind, but too late: I wound up blocked by the airport of Foligno — an old man in his garden actually got on his bike and accompanied me half a kilometer to steer me thru an unpromising labyrinth of paths, onto the proper road — and going north yet, to Sterpeteº against my will. From there, increasingly rushed and quite angry at Foligno and bad maps and unmarked roads and myself for the whole folly, I at least had the sense to steer by intuition and repeated stops to ask people: to Borroni (where the ugly church had an unexpected — and walled shut — little Romanesque door) and Corvia, then at least in a straight line and away from traffic: actually getting off the little road — I'd had it with traffic — and over the grass dike onto the path right along the Topino; then, at the turn, across the fields of Cantagalli and into Bevagna at about 3:30, fully expecting L'Orto degli Angeli to be closed, which would have made the entire day a waste (other than for S. Donato and the pleasant 5‑6 km around it).

Well, fortunately there was a private party — a family celebrating the confirmation of a 13‑year‑old boy — and I actually sat down and had a simple meal of what was quickly available; no wine, because I had something like 9‑10 km to walk back to Spello; then the owner, leaving for Rome in a few minutes by car anyway, offered to detour to Spello and drop me off: I accepted, since my knees were killing me, and had a grappa with my coffee.

Maybe it's old age starting to catch up with me — I guess it's about time — or possibly it's the skating, but I apparently cannot walk my usual distances: getting pains, often bad pain — otherwise it would not be worth mentioning — in knees or hips or of course calves; on Sunday I'd thought to walk from Todi to Spello via Bevagna (something like 44 km if via Frontignano, S. Terenziano, Gualdo) but refused to get up at the 4 A.M. alarm thus missing the important train connection that would have got me to Todi for the 7:30-ish start required: it's just as well I did, since apparently I'd have been in agony by the time I got to Bevagna (pointless saying I couldn't have made it: I would have been forced to). I don't know how to react to this, since after all walking, even mild hills, is not stressful and although with age my speed should decrease — it hasn't yet — the actual ability to walk 30 miles should remain. I'm unlikely to experiment in Chicago — nasty walking — so I'll have to wait for my next trip to Europe to see: but I'm very disturbed by this right now (plus even last year, there were days when I was walking more than 20 miles, and I was feeling nothing other than a bit of tightness in the cows, and that was with several hours of skating thrown in).​a

Anyway, I was kindly driven back to Spello — with my book — to find that my knee pain had quite disappeared and the little hill to the Pusterula was no problem; maybe I need to build in major breaks from now on? To bed.

Later Note:

a For my own sake, I'm very glad to report that this was apparently just a fluke; and as for this particular route, I eventually did walk it (in the other direction); see diary, Sept. 30, 1998.

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