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Friday 3 October 1997

Sitting in a comfortable 1st-class section, opened to 2d-class riders as usual, of the InterCity to Rome (dep. Foligno 0807, arr. Termini 0940) with James on his way to the airport and Chicago. We woke up at 6, and at 6:45 had a fifteen-minute breakfast on the terrace, then walked down to the station; not by the directest route since a balcony risks collapsing at the corner of the via Giulia on the piazza S. Lorenzo: by the via dell' Arco di Augusto then down the v. del Torre di Belvedere to the other neighboring arch — and James (and I) much more relaxed, since last night I finally got Bill on the phone (claiming he couldn't reach my cellphone, he was getting messages it was disconnected) and our pets are apparently all OK — Pliny "had a ball" during his visit to Bill's sister's or Mom's house. . . .

Anyhow, continuing my attempt to catch up — when James is around, we tend to talk of course, and we do visit lots more things, reducing the time I have to write this —

When I started Wednesday's entry, we were sitting in Spello train station (or more accurately, outside it, since the ceiling of the waiting room had collapsed in the earthquake and has of course been condemned since: the worst damage in Spello that I know of, in fact). We were heading to Narni, which we eventually got to: trains have definitely deteriorated since 1994, and Wednesday was no exception, with late trains and missing changes.

After a short stretch of the usual scalo and train station surroundings, we were at the Roman bridge. James, looking at the Roman masonry thru which the railroad runs, thinks the train passage arch is modern and that it was just a piece of Roman pier: I'll have to look at my pictures. And pictures I certainly took, including one of what I hope is a not too heavily redone piece of roadbed on the main arch: we clambered up to upper Narni via the winding short route, 15% slopes and small cars in both directions as opposed to 3 km and trucks; but half-way up we went sideways on the shoulderless highway next to the precipice for a hundred yards or so — James didn't like it — and he liked it even less when I climbed over the collision rail onto a little grass plot leading onto the arch to take my pictures. . . .

Narni town is disappointing. It feels poor, and in fact we started by having the only bad meal of James's stay, and of mine so far, at the Ristorante Grifo.

(Continuing, now in the expected blue funk after leaving James at that awful airport — dirty, threatening by its very security-consciousness, ugly — and cooling my heels forty minutes for the train, then the half-hour ride which I occupied by playing tour guide to the usual rapt audience — the mouse in St. Peter's tomb being the item that appealed to everyone — I'm basically drafting a website — then milling around Termini and all its multiply unpleasant associations, undecided as to whether I'd take the first train back to Spello, or visit the city without my camera, or go after all to Marino and skate; finally opting for the last and walking almost to the Fori Imperiali looking for a pleasant outdoors meal: hopefully having found it at the "La Porta del Colosseo" in the v. del Cardello twenty yards E of the via Cavour).

The Grifo in Narni was not good. We had an awful red carafe wine, flavorless and fizzy, although the color was Ciliegiololike. In fact, the tipoff we were going to have a bad meal was that when I asked — in Narni, after all — for a Ciliegiolo, I couldn't get one. The various things on the menu I wanted were also unavailable: since they were all birds, I finally told the waiter that I of course understood, they'd all flown away. . . I did, however, forbear in this winged array of impossibilities, to ask, shades of Victor Hugo was it? for griffin only to hear they'd run out. . . After all, according to Voltaire at least, it wouldn't have been kosher.

So a weak to bad meal: an antipasto out of packages and cans — the artichokes were particularly foul, tasting neither of artichoke nor of any recognizable oil despite swimming in it, and with a metallic flavor matched by a mildewy sort of color and so on thru the meal, served at a glacial pace — tho' there were only two other tables eating — by an eager-to‑please, pleasant waiter. No coffee grappa or dessert, 63 ML, and we ran.

[image ALT: A clean but arid-looking fortress on top of a hill]

Trudged, actually, up — almost — to the closed Rocca and back down — a beauti­ful restful place — then dessert (three babalike pastries and a double glass of rather concentrated tropical fruit juice for me, and a cappuccino for James) on the sloping piazza alongside the Duomo.

Then we wandered down to the station with brief pit stops at the churches, all clustered at the W end of town — the particularly nice old Romanesque S. Maria in Pénsole [also: Impensole] — and a courtyard where the municipality has collected three or four dozen lapidary fragments, at least half of them Roman inscriptions. A peculiar tomb made of blocks of stone cut like a bridge or a wall, yet containing a hollow with its skull and what looked like a lance point: the modern inscription dated Year 8 a fascibus receptis, which was interesting in itself, said it was found "ad flumen" and no more. Then after I'd deciphered most of the inscriptions yet photographed few else I'd've had to actually copy them down, a man popped out of nowhere & handed James a detailed brochure:​a keyed photographs, transliterations, and vague paraphrases rather than translations — but at that point, I took quite a few more pix: James though seemed to be enjoying himself; it was certainly cool and peaceful.

The reverse walk back down, just barely missing a train home, so we sat at a bar across from the station, had a beer each, and left about half an hour later, arriving in Spello at the usual 10 P.M., and no dinner: to bed.

Yesterday, after weaving back and forth on it for several days and even in the morning at breakfast, we finally went to Gubbio —

Later Note:

a Lions Club Narni (Distretto 108/L): Guida alla Lettura delle Epigrafi e dei Reperti Archeologici siti sulla Facciata e nell' Atrio del Palazzo Comunale (1997, Narni).

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