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Sunday 25 October

Thursday 22d, scarcely anything to write about: James still under the weather, and I too wound up taking a longish nap in the afternoon, about 3 hours — an hour longer than James. We did go to the Pinturicchio where both of us pounced on Mirko suggesting one way he could improve business would be to put zabaglione on the menu: at which he made a grimace, it really is like putting brownies on the menu, a piece of very casual home cooking that every little girl knows how to do (much like mousse au chocolat in France), and he even said he's recently been to some restaurant where he saw zabaglione on the menu and — grimace again — had found it at the time rather strange and not up to snuff. Still, general agreement it's good stuff, easy to make, and Italian: and I can just see the BonAppétit letters-to‑the‑editor type, some nice blue-haired lady who'd been to Lake Como, and overlooking the lake under a wisteria pergola with her husband had had this wonder­ful frothy rich sauce whipped up personally by the chef and served with pears and pettyfores. . . Unfair, but still, it's a good idea; Mirko dubious.

Friday 23d was our Carsulae day; the weather was beauti­ful and I thought James would like it a lot — people do, and it's certainly quiet, peaceful, carfree — but it's really very hard to see whether he did.

We started by trains to Foligno then Terni then a bus to Sangémini: my first time there, really, since my rushed transit of it last year, in about ten minutes, hardly counts. A nice town; even if none of the several churches there is topnotch, each is interesting, and San Giovanni with the curiously altered formerly octagonal now irregularly hexagonal plan has a great deal of character, to say nothing of a beauti­ful façade and its inscriptions, one of the 2 medieval ones being quite peculiar.

Thruout town, piano music coming from the churches; the Concorso Nazionale Pianistico, Premio "Mascia Manin" pits a few dozen young pianists against their instruments in front of bespectacled juries sitting at little white-draped tables, looking a bit mean but not anywhere mean enough to be skating judges — In S. Francesco, early morning still, it was cold, and the pianist, Francesco Giorgetti, Categoria 'MM', was rubbing his hands and blowing on them miserably between pieces; the mother of the next contestant — Lucrezia Proietti — worried to me about that. . . .

[image ALT: A rather primitive painted representation of the Crucifixion, the dead Christ painted with some realism, with a halo and a peaceful expression. It is a fresco in the church of S. Maria de Incertis in Sangemini, Umbria (central Italy).]
A second church, whose most suitable name is S. Maria de Incertis — every guidebook and street giving it differently (S. M. in Cicerchiis and Madonna di S. Carlo are two other names) — we went into three times. Three was the charm: the first time (we were walking N from the Porta Romana) a contestant practicing some late‑19c stuff at a little upright right in front of the ciborium and frescoes I wanted to photograph; the second (S, back towards the Romana in an effort to find S. Niccolò) a young man was having an awful time with what may have been Saint-Saens Carnaval des animaux, which finally vanquished him, he was furious; the third (N again, on our way out of town after having done a full 360° around S. Niccolò without every being able to get in: they do warn you it's private property, before going on to tease you with its peaceful Cistercian interior — I'm sure it is, if no one can find the entrance) I got my pix: frescoes not very good, but in spots curious.

The walk up and down and up the main drag of Sangémini hardly wasted, though: general agreement that it's the via Flaminia, and here and there chunks of Roman stone. About 400 m outside the Romana, on our way in on the bus, we'd seen a little mound of opus caementicium, said to be a tomb core —

Anyhow, out at around one, after a pit stop at the same alimentari as last year, where the young woman — who did look vaguely familiar to me — said she remembered me; we bought among other lunch items, provided she would uncork it (yes), a bottle of local white irresistibly labelled Carsulae: 4500 lire and it wasn't at all bad, perfect for swilling out of white plastic cups on a little wall just N and in the shade of S. Damiano once we finally got there. ("Finally" since we were gulled by one of those yellow signs into doing about 3 km of car route from the Fonti rather than 600 m of footpath that I did in the opposite direction last year: I could see it wasn't right, and I knew exactly what direction we should've gone, but as usual, just didn't have the spine to follow my gut especially with James in tow — just in case my gut were having an off day, of course!)

Carsulae​a after our long sit — bread, facefruit, some mediocre chocolate cream wafers James swore were good (we fed quite a few to a large pink-nosed dog that appeared out of nowhere and followed us all day)​b — me itching to go get my missing pix of the tomb area at the other end o' town and the petering out of the Flaminia — we finally did wander up the road thru the temple area to the Porta S. Damiano and even a bit beyond down the gravel path to the road (that I must have been walking in 1994 from Portaria to Cesi, so that I was at most 100 m from some rather big and definitely beauti­ful Roman monuments that day).

Back up, squinted at the pink pavement of the forum, clambered up the modern concrete steps of the geminate temple, waved our arms inconclusively and jabbered at the W side of the forum, unaided by any of the 4 guides we were carrying (James playing beast of burden, having unwisely brought his backpack; me doing slow-motion juggling acts with camera, lens caps, glasses, books, logbook, pen) since the area remains unexcavated to this day; then off to the amphitheater-theater area, where our attention got drawn to three tunnels into the amphitheater area from the S: one surely for water, two for people of which the W one now blocked is being used to store three large stelae with inscriptions — the only inscriptions visible at Carsulae, and not very: facing in towards the blocking wall, next to impossible to read and certainly to photograph (about a foot's recul at most) altho' of course we tried — add a large flashlight to the juggling act.

And out, James remaining, much to my surprise, unimpressed apparently by Carsulae; very curious — this isn't the amphitheatre of Spello, after all: still, he was in the tail end of the sniffles and for all I knew he didn't feel too good.

The two train possibilities to Terni were Cesi at just past 6 P.M., and Sangemini or Cesi at 7 P.M. past: we gambled on Cesi, after all from the main road I know the way; so I wound up repeating my walk of 4 years ago, 'cept no bar and not in the dark: but I still haven't seen Cesi.​c

Train at the right time, which 6 km later put us in Terni, where we discovered we had nearly 2 hours to wait: we went and sat at a bar just off the Piazza Tacito: James had a caffé macchiato and a Viparo, a ghastly succession; I had a sambuca. We were tired for some reason — yet we'd done no more'n 11 km walking at the outside?

Anyway, home and I made a dinner of leftover: every fruit, veggie and opened wine that might spoil if left until Monday evening thru our planned stay in Amelia.

Later Notes:

a On the roundabout way to the ruins of Carsulae, I finally saw my first Chianine; it was a major event for me, and I wonder why I didn't mention it in my diary that day.

For the un-Chianina‑savvy: Chianina is the modern name of a breed of white cattle in central Italy reputed to be the same as that for which the area was famous in Antiquity; pure white cows were required for certain Roman temple sacrifices. I had been sort of chasing them for some while:

• Oct 97: side-tracked by a ghost Chianina, I almost lose an amphitheatre;

• Sep 98: I eat one (a Chianina, that is, not an amphitheatre) but feel a bit guilty at not having been introduced to it first, so to speak.

Anyway, round a bend in the road, what do I spy but a herd of white cows with the characteristic strong shoulders of draft oxen. For some reason, James was unkeen on wandering thru some farmer's property inhabited by a large herd of cows, and a few bulls as well, so stayed put. I took my camera and went hunting. Here is one of the best pictures:

[image ALT: A photograph of a large white cow. It is a fine specimen of the Italian breed called Chianina.]

A Chianina near Sangemini.

For more technical information and a full set of pictures, see the Chianina Breeding Standards page of ANABIC, the Italian Beef Cattle Breeders Association.

b Don't do this, folks! Chocolate is held by many people to be poisonous to dogs. I'm not sure it's true, and don't want to step into a controversy here, but after having had a Dog of my own who didn't get any from me, I wouldn't have fed any to my friend here, either; even if the amount of actual chocolate in one of these wafers isn't much.

c I'd already done this non-visit of Cesi twice in 1994; after another near miss in 2000, I finally got there on my fourth pass, in 2004 — then was too sick to record it properly at the time in my diary. I did use that visit though to provide a few photoillustrated pages on the town in my Gazetteer of Umbria.

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