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Monday 19 October

Falling farther 'n farther behind — an artefact of James being here so that otherwise empty time we wind up talking rather than me writing my diary — but doggedly determined to catch up . . .

The bus trip to Pitigliano, a mere 30 or 40 km away, was two buses and over two hours as we wound around all over the map; the first bus being more roundabout, via Monterubiaglio, Castelviscardo and Viceno to San Lorenzo Nuovo in Lazio just across the border: nice countryside, very red soil in spots, empty bus pretty much. San Lorenzo itself (20 minutes) is a nice place with a very attractive traffic circle with a car every 5 minutes, but large trees, the eponymous church and the comune building, flags, hedges, plantings, good stone benches: at the top of a hill whence down a long ways to the Lago di Bolsena; vast open view onto which, the islands visible from just beyond the bus stop: thought of Amalasuntha poor thing — the second bus trip was a bit less circuitous, winding around more out of just following the road than dropping schoolkids off in remote towns: landscape was mostly vineyards.

Pitigliano a striking site; as the road wound up, hairpin bends hugging the hill, I believe I saw, over a tufa-cut cave on the road, a painted Hebrew inscription, 19c; but not sure.

The actual piazza where the bus arrives is dumpy — a long space edged with rather decrepit buildings, a gas pump, a bar, an alimentari, and one side the 20‑foot-tall supporting wall for the modern section of town, connected to the main section (which is still for now the centro storico) by an unattractive footbridge arch; but just off the piazza, the hotel, unprepossessing exterior but fine on the inside. There are 2 other hotels but somewhat out of town.

Showers — tiny modern room with tinier bathroom but a splendid view and lots of hot water — parked the suitcases, retrieved our passports (young woman at the desk loath to part with them, wanted to return them to us in the morning altho' all she had to do was fill in 4 lines of a form; but I insisted) and hit the streets.

Pitigliano is a long crest with three parallel streets and a lot of tiny connecting lanes, often named after some kind of social relation­ship: Vicolo della Concordia, dell' Assedio, della Rivincita etc. Looks in part like WWII commemoration.

Two 16c churches, S. Maria and the Duomo (of SS. Pietro e Paolo, or alternately S. Gregorio, the Pope, Hildebrand, from Pitigliano); synagogue, closed for a Jewish holiday — by agreement with the Rabbi of Leghorn — almost no Jewish community left, certainly not a minyan — maybe Rosh Hashanah; the streets are medieval maybe, very dark and somewhat sinister-looking certainly: not particularly nice, actually, since too much of the stone is stuccoed over; but the general effect is pleasant, if on its way to total touristification within six or seven years. Visitors seemed overwhelmingly German, although James says there were a fair number of Italians in groups of 8 or 10.

By the time we'd walked the town over, seeing about 70% of the centro storico — 's not that big — it was night and pretty cold, and I'd got this idea in my bonnet to eat at what appeared to be a dismal hole in the wall at the far end of town — the Capisotto, the oldest area, the tip of the spur — near the Porta di Sovana. Back to the hotel, waited a bit for a decent dinner hour, then back and did in fact eat there, at the Chiave del Paradiso.

Inside which not dismal at all, although small yet somehow not cozy either; we were served by one of the three co-owners, a young woman with a very attractive personality: Roman, she came to Pitigliano 9 years ago and the restaurant's been open for 8. Good meal: I had pici — short noodles — in a tomato sauce with lots of cooked garlic (James had tagliatelle ai funghi porcini, they'd gone and dug up mushrooms that day) then a smallish stew of cinghiale (James had young mutton, good). We had a bottle of white Pitigliano and tasted a bit of 2 others (Ildebrando which James preferred and Duropersico which I). I was still hungry and had a sort of grilled cheese thing. . . Grappa and hotel.

Friday 14th we walked the vie cave around Pitigliano; although these things — whatever they are — are fascinating and often beauti­ful, there's not terribly much in a diaristic way thank goodness one can say about 'em: rather more the subject of what had better be some very carefully, densely, soberly written webpages if I don't want to have innocent blood on my head of every New Age webwitch, druid or Templar fiend. . . . (The main book locally available on the vie cave — which I'd prefer to call by the more neutral "tagliate" 'cept everyone calls 'em vie cave — is rather "fantasioso" as one of the guides at the Castello Orsini said, and claims these are roads for Etruscan sacrificial processions). My best shot at them for now is that they're quarries, not roads at all. At any rate, there's no map of them available, but walking out of town in any direction will bump you into one, and most have little brown signs and also wooden arrows, with periodic trail marks in red, white, blue in various combinations.

The first one we found was the Poggio Cane just down from the Porta di Sovana: one of the shorter ones, geminate sort of, tufa-hollowed tombs and things like tombs, of every period, almost all filled with garbage (which is not usually the case for the others). Old man in one of those mini-flatbeds driving around the better paths in the area feeding cats, including some that wanted the food but were terrified to pass us.

The Frantenuti rather impressive; I forded a stream, worrying about falling in with my camera; then from the other side found the real way across by footbridge, came back and got James — his shoes have started to crack across the top and so far he's refused to buy shoes here. . . The Frantenuti leads up to the Madonna delle Grazie (of no interest other than a splendid view of Pitigliano) via a country road on a flat high plain; and back down to the river via the via cava della Madonna delle Grazie, which is much snakier than most — no way these are roads.

Back up to town via the main road (Pitigliano is so steep I wouldn't have wanted to try anything else even I'd seen something), on which the so‑called paleochristian tempietto was marked by a wooden arrow, so we went: about 50 yards walking just below the road, and a rather odd place, undoubtedly very old and yes most likely of the period it's locally ascribed to (4c AD) but I doubt very much that a purported graffito (now mostly effaced) giving a date of "113" in Arabic numerals can be converted to "397 AD" in any way, especially in the face of the non-use of Arabic numerals until the ninth century as even the wacky book admits; if 113 there was, I would convert to 1146 AD — At any rate, the tiny cavelike building well worth a stop.

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The Tempietto. For 9 other photos and some discussion, see the more formal page on it.

Lunch at the Taverna del Grillo at 2 P.M., the place was packed but emptied out; when we in turn left at 3 though we were closing it, of course. Ravioli with a ricotta and nettles filling (ricotta e ortica), quite good; buglione di agnello a simple stew of late lamb to early mutton. James had tagliatelle alla boscaiola and a veal cutlet al vino bianco; the house red was drinkable, and under a tree would've been pretty good.

Fortified with lunch and a further set of instructions for the largest and said to be the most interesting tagliata, the via cava S. Giuseppe (turn left by the bridge over the Lente like the Frantenuti, except after it), off we went again; finding it with no problem. It is indeed the longest one, or at least that we walked — and by the end of our stay we'd walked all the ones said to be important — and although in spots just a connecting path in the grass, sections of it had steps and multiple channels (apparently for water or, if I'm guessing right, possibly even for oil) both down the center and along the sides; and sometimes very high "walls" — as elsewhere, the sun usually not reaching the floor even at noon; damp and rocks bright green with moss: occasionally looking so much like a rock garden (ferns of several species) that James was wondering, and why not, if they might not have occasionally been originally, or more likely used later as, rock gardens? At the top of the hill onto which the S. Giuseppe debouches, the last 50 m it splits into two branches: one "classic" with channel and steps, loosely wooden-gated (field with sheep), and the other really quite strange — a fountain, now of course since it looks like the 17c adapted with a basin to wash clothes etc., but most of it coeval with the rest (whatever period that is). A dog who'd followed, or often more accurately preceded, us all the way from downtown Pitigliano, wouldn't per James drink out of the fountain altho' whining with thirst and a few minutes later did drink out of one of the steps on the way back down —

And from the Lente back up into town by failing light, serendipitously via the Tombolina, very close to the Poggio Cane and almost parallel — not much like the big ones, mostly a small overgrown weedpath along a couple dozen late or late-adapted caves full of débris or actually gated and locked. Porta di Sovana, hotel, and eventually dinner, sort of dismal, thruout until we left at 9:55 the only customers at the Ristorante La Porta, specialty fish so we ate fish: the owner with a miserable cold, sniffling; moules marinière, spigola al rosmarino (loup de mer) except not al rosmarino because the owner — who commutes daily from Orbetello whence presumably the seafood — got it in his head we might not like it; pretty good, except in fact I was curious as to what it would have been with that rosemary, my French blood expecting fennel of course. Anyway, James a grappa Aglianico OK, I a mandarinetto quite good.


Thursday 15 our wrap-up day for Pitigliano: the hotel's copious breakfast (12ML per person, but quite worth it), checked out, bags etc. and walked the last major tagliata, the attractive via cava del Gradone — despite the steps (not big, thus not -oni) I suspect the original name might've been Gardone like so many small Mediterranean rivers — clearly alternating left-right foot-size square steps; we had trouble finding it, bumbling on the S. Lorenzo first before the Melete river: the Gradone is immediately after the river, also on the left, the center of the 3 meeting paths and not immediately.

Back into town by before 10, with bus at 1:30, so went to the synagogue — attractive large room in an early‑19c style, workmen doing things — but despite turning every which way around it and I think finding the main entrance even, we couldn't get into the Jewish cemetery: sadly, that's not unreasonable of them. We peered at the inside of the Duomo (the only really interesting feature of which seems to be in fact that it might extend via an archway over the street behind it, Wednesday evening we heard singing from the arch); and concluded out visit of Pitigliano by traipsing thru the Etruscan museum — 4000₤, three rooms of pottery and bits of fibulae, not quite worth the admission price — and the Palazzo Orsini (Pitigliano an Orsini town, bears everywhere, and the chubby-bottomed wistful lion in the piazza is described in one of the guidebooks as a lion-headed bear, but no bear ever had a lion's tail, either, nor lion's paws, so what's left of the bear?). Anyway, the Palazzo Orsini, now and possibly for many centuries the bishop's residence, full of various objects, a few of which interesting, the most interesting to me just at the wrong distance to see — too far to read with my glasses on, too close without: scraps of 10c‑11c pre-Guidonian musical notation.

Finally out at 1:30, bevy of large buses going various directions, all in a clump after 1; small crowd of mostly young triaging itself out, and we on ours — after being warned off a first bus to Grosseto by a local woman (it does indeed go to G. but roundaboutwise via among other places Sovana): eventless trip into Grosseto towards the end merging with my car ride with Stefano of 2 years ago, around which area the bored driver started the radio, still Radio Subasio even out here, not overly obnoxious mix of bad American commerce-noise and more attractive but hardly any stars Italian pop music; unfortunately with lots of static, unlike my other bus trips —

Grosseto not too much of a wait, part of it consumed in complex ticketing situation: James's was easy, but mine not since I already had half the trip and (on that half) most but not all of the Eurostar supplement. I wound up with 5 tickets to do Grosseto to Spello. The ride itself, well, flat: Civitavecchia ugly and industrial; then our usual train from Termini home.

Friday, not having skated for a week, I took the 0524 to Rome; James woke up vaguely but didn't feel up to coming along (and it's just as well, he suddenly developed a bad cold, still with him now, and stayed in bed much of the day).

[image ALT: A stone monument about 1 meter high, depicting a young boy in a toga. It is a modern copy of the tomb of Quintus Sulpicius Maximus, an ancient Roman 11‑year‑old child prodigy; it is in Rome.]

For more detailed pictures,
see Platner's article.

On arriving in Rome, I did a small piece of the Aurelian Walls, from the via Montebello to the via Po where the French cannonball is, first outside then inside: at the via Campania I was repaid for this duplication by a little group of epitaphs one of which in Greek; at the breach at the via Lucania, the tomb of the child prodigy poet Q. Sulpicius Maximus — the portrait stele with its crowded lines of Greek verse almost certainly a modern copy, but if not it's in terrific condition.º The most interesting item on this stretch of wall is the now unique hanging latrine —

[. . .]

Slow meander down to the Banca d'Italia office at 158 Largo Magnanapoli, this time finding it open; gaining brief access at last to the carefully preserved Servian archway — "gate" seems too much, and Quercioli seems in doubt as well — the back of which, I was told, houses an electrical cabinet. On a nearby wall, a few dozen lapidary débris neatly mounted; elsewhere onto the courtyard there seems to be a bit more wall but I was steered away from it.

From the heffalump in front of S. M. sopra Minerva I wound up at a large marble foot (measuring 7¼ lengths of my little bookº), sandaled, at the corner of the via di S. Stefano del Cacco and the consequently named via del Pié di Marmo.

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Couldn't resist eating at the almost adjacent Ristorante al "Piedone": an OK meal at a reasonable price for Rome. Tagliatelle "rosso e nero" (hot pepper — for once really nice and hot — olives and raw tomatoes), ossobuco ai funghi (just champignons), melanzane the herbing of which included celery leaves; a DOC but not really very good: possibly not the fault of the DOC (Castelli Romani) but of the vintner, Gotto d'Oro the label but in the tiniest print "Coöp founded in 1945" — appropriately, Marino. Label: ". . . è ottenuto dalle uve: Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Cesanese, Merlot ed altre varietà autorizzate . . ." of which the only thing I recognised was the Sangiovese.

The others in the 6‑table space (attractive, another room behind, via a hall): a Danish couple in their fifties who smoked a lot, including during their meal — the woman would occasionally puff a large toke of smoke into her salad, never seen anything like it and wonder how anyone could do that. . . . A tall Italian man, bearded, glasses, newspaper, habitué della casa, full bottle of wine by himself at a large table by the door. An Italian foursome, on ne peut plus typique, knew their food. An American foursome — one very well-informed man, 60 or so, distinguished-looking; they said a silent grace — I can't remember seeing this anywhere in Europe — laypeople, the lead couple of whom were on their second yearly 5‑month tour of duty with Iowa State University, in the process of setting up an extension in Rome. Later, towards the end of my meal, an expatriate American art expert or consultant by himself at the table next to mine. The Danish couple's Danish-language guidebook recommended the restaurant, that for mange år had been a family enterprise etc.

From there more wandering around the theater of Marcellus; one of my Net correspondents wanting a view of which from the Tiber, I went riverwards but essentially there is none — intervening buildings — his other requests so far having been equally fruitless I can't help wondering whether my leg was being pulled??

The Pons Fabricius being repaired — scaffolding — and the Isola Tiberina seems to have had its banks recently reconcreted. Did see — sort of — the Porticus Octaviae:º a precarious wreck, supported on excavations and barricaded by fences.

Temple of Portunus looking close to pristine; interesting church across from it, obviously once another temple since on each side several columns now engaged in medieval walls: both closed. Quick look at the attractive arcus quadrifrons - Arco di Giano; S. Giorgio in Velabro behind it, S. Maria in Cosmedin across the piazza, Temple of Vesta completely enshrouded in ponteggio (all of which I last saw in 1967) — and I suddenly realised it was past 3:30, me with my 4:06 skatewards. Taxi, station, changed 100 Swiss francs (from my lessons with Margaret — sort of the end of an era, I guess) and ran to my train.

New monthly pass at the rink, and another good by recent standards skate in the technical mode: for some reason I wanted to do back edges; and my back outsides — the ones I always had trouble with with Les, who would have been proud of these, though; very much to my surprise. Some excellent spins — 8 revolutions within a dinner plate on one — but inconsistent. My blades are starting to lose their edges, but sharpening them is like in the States, I'd hardly give 'em to the rink: one of the elder coaches can explain the details but was terrifically busy so we'll talk next time. Anyhow, back via the succession of trains with the wasted hour in Orte and up the hill to find James asleep of course at 2345.

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Page updated: 23 Feb 22