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Saturday 1 November

Speaking of skating, I'm starting this entry at a few minutes before the 8 P.M. train back from S. M. delle Mole to Rome then ultimately Spello, after my last skate of this trip —

Anyhow, Wednesday evening was the usual trains home and to bed rather tired, but at least the day didn't feel wasted.

Certainly can't say the same about Thursday the day before yesterday. The idea was Rome without skatebag, and take the Viterbo line to Rignano;​a but it never happened. I decided to take the 0857 to Foligno, change there to the 0941 to Rome etc. Beastly brutal weather like most of this week, constant 30‑40 mph winds, temperatures in the forties, often raining: anyway I got to the station in good time — and at 0935 the train had still not come; one other prospective passenger with me in the same fix, who'd been there much earlier than me — so it really wasn't me — but she was in her fifties and lived in Foligno, so was stuck. I was not — by then, my connection was likely kaput and thus Rignano; so I said the hell with it — actually what I said, to her and the Perugia passengers at large, was "Basta! Torno a casa" — and did. I suppose it was just as well, Rignano in the rain didn't really grab me, and in fact I must've been really tired since I took a three-hour nap in the afternoon.

So the day was wasted, although I prepared my packing, drew down the larder with a coupla homemade meals, and organised my photographs checking those already developed, in preparation for my visit to Messrs. Ursini on Friday: and in fact, about 2 or 3 pictures had, quite understandably out of over 1000, got omitted. Plus in Spello I've really been a very busy man, with very few free days: always on the go, doing and seeing things. Yes, I still sound guilty, but it really is OK! In future trips I think I'll actually program some blank days, lest I become exactly like those exhausted tourists I'm always feeling superior to, who "do" Paris London Rome Venice Vienna Munich and Amsterdam in three weeks: in my case, only the mileage scale is changed. . . .

Anyway, 'nuff about Thursday.

Yesterday Friday October 31st was complicated, expensive and peculiar, but not unsatisfactory, mostly in its human aspects oddly.

I did get up at 4, and train at 0525, meeting Pierluigi Fuso — I haven't mentioned him yet, in my typically cold unpeople-oriented way, but I'll clear this up a few paragraphs down — and arranging to take him up on his very kind offer to drive me to that blasted culvert at Pieve Fanonica in the evening; unevent­ful ride to Terni, relatively quick change to the FCU to Todi and arrived at 7:20-ish at Ponte Rio.

Now the buses up to Todi are peculiarly scheduled only to drop people off, but not to pick us up, at the station: Monday for example I just walked into town, the 3 km route by the back door — the awful hill to the Porta Perugina: which in fact was not bad at all; possibly in some ways I'm in better shape than I was in 1994?

Anyway, I was expecting to walk it again, but a bus showed up and I hopped on: it was the school pickup bus, and it gave me a full tour of Pian di Porto and Ponte Rio (which I'd never actually seen that much of) as it filled up with schoolkids. Then it came back to the train station. . . actually waited for a train arrival, and finally proceeded up the hill into town. By that time I was standing, having given my seat to an old lady — schoolkids won't, which I find shocking (also incomprehensible in this family-oriented country, since old ladies are probably someone's nonna) — so I rode up in a jam-packed bus full of jammering kids, knapsacks covering every inch of floor space, and me trying to remember to take my own bag when we all got off —

From the Piazza Jacopone directly of course the 80 m to the Ursini shop; Mr. Ursini senior with my 46 rolls of pix, and I in turn gave him 5 rolls taken since Monday; then — the roll in my camera being at 32 and some pix of the Consolazione having been among those inexplicably wiped out, I went down to the Consolazione and retook the six thru the end of the roll, and added it to the pile.

[image ALT: A square building, about twice as tall as its side, with a central dome occupying almost the entire square; beneath the dome, a nearly cubical space with four semicircular domed apses, only two of which can be seen, of course. We see it from above, at an angle of about 15 degrees, the lower part somewhat obscured by pine trees; behind it a wide landscape of mostly plowed fields, with a low transverse mostly forested ridge in the midground, and the fields behind it gradually rising to distant mountains. It is the church of S. Maria della Consolazione, in Todi (Umbria).]

Todi: the Tempio di S. Maria della Consolazione, maybe designed by Bramante.

From there to a most peculiar store right across from the Fonte Cesia (the actual fountain, not the hotel), to buy a suitcase, Mr. Ursini junior having assured me that the quality there was excellent, and they carried suitcases, thus obviating any need to go to Perugia. Well there was a grand total of one suitcase of the right size in hard-side: the floor model, which I took: ₤180,000 and the old man insisted on explaining me the combination lock, the little alphabet gummies, etc. . . . Anyway I have a suitcase.

Then I sat at the Caffé del Duomo as noted in my Friday entry and had two cappuccini and two slices of tart, and wrote and wrote; when I got fed up, I visited the archaeological museum, finally open after 21 years hiatus. It's nicely set up but overstaffed: four young women? all sitting at the front desk — for six large rooms but all camera-monitored: and yesterday I was the only visitor. I was a pest — but an inscription had been very sloppily transcribed (a whole line skipped, other mistakes) — but at the same time unusually flaky, diffuse & absent-minded even for me: in fact I'd had two small fits yesterday morning already and here I thought those seemed over and done with — so I was, in the background, in fact quite upset all day (in minestra mode, basically).

By about noon-thirty I wuz back at the photo shop, all my pix ready, they tossed in a pair of eyeglasses as a lagniappe — my Spello pair lost an arm within 48h of purchase and had gotten more and more bent, to the point of irritation — the 52 rolls came to ₤1,050,000: I hope this orgy of photography is useful. Gabriele Ursini on his way to Perugia by car offered to drop me off at the train station at Ponte S. Giovanni: en route I regaled him with a brief history, much flattened, of my minestra; still feeling very low.

I didn't have long to wait for my train to Spello, and was back at the apartment around 3: having mostly wheeled, sometimes carried, my suitcase with its partial load of photographs, quite heavy already — shudder to think how much it's going to weigh full, and hope no problems in lugging it around or in checking it in.

As I walked in, I noticed that Monterione, the apartment rental office across the street, was open; I'd been playing tag with Elisabetta (Mancini) about viewing an apartment for summarising on my Spello website, so this seemed the time to do that, and I did. Nice apartment (I only saw one, their flagship so to speak) but pricey: much the same cost as a hotel room for a week, except of course you save on cooking, you have a private garden with a nice view, and it's a duplex rather than a room in a box: up to 6 people — which really cuts the price if you're happening to be travelling à six.

Elisabetta is moving towards a website; as grand expert in such matters, I gave her lots of advice: she in fact asked lots of questions, I answered. We parted around 4 to our respective schedules, but not before she very kindly combined a dinner invitation for the evening with an offer to pick me up in front of S. Giovanni Profiamma sometime after 7:15, which I jumped at: otherwise I was planning on walking back the approx. 6 km in the dark, with the usual uncertainties about navigating the suburbs of Foligno — meaning a very unpleasant time indeed: eliminated.

Now to Pierluigi and his family. He and I met waiting for the 0525 on the day I went to Rimini; and after that, every 0525 train I took we chatted thru to Terni, where he does something 3 km away from the station, getting there by bike apparently parked nearby; what, exactly, I didn't ask, but he does it 5 times a week: in fact, he's a sculptor — wood — and lots of his stuff is pretty good; his carvings of trees being wonder­ful: they'd do honor to most Romanesque capitals. Anyhow, after all this matutine talk, he invited me to dinner, and Sunday evening there I was in his house (or at least portions of it: altho' it's undamaged, the neighbors' is not, and walls risk toppling onto his, so he's partly inagibile) having a simple meal but a good one: crostini, meat, vegetables, and Mrs. Fuso, a likeable and energetic blonde with a frank manner, had gone out and bought a special cream cake, I suspect mostly because of me, although Sara, their elder twin, loves desserts (Elisa does not; and Booby, as usual, liked everything, contributing a bottle of Sagrantino but I think he drinks only very little and she not at all —).

So at 4 my respective schedule was to contact Pierluigi, due home around 4:15 if the trains ran well, and off to Pieve Fanonica. Well, they didn't — I kept trying every few minutes as the sky got darker and darker, both with approaching sunset and worsening clouds — the day had been rather sunny and nice in Todi, but it was now completely overcast — he got back at about 5, and we zipped over to my piece of Flaminia to get there essentially in the dark: it was quite night ten minutes later when we left; ten minutes that I occupied darting about snapping pictures without being able to see nor focus: I knew where things were, but it's really going to be interesting to see what I got. Anyway, I tried.

From there to S. Giovanni; the church was open, so the simplest thing to do was go sit and wait for mass. There were about ten people; the actual church had finally been declared inagibile, so mass was in a plain whitewashed annex — a single fragment of old Romanesque sculpture — a head of Christ — attached to the wall over the altar (a small red-painted wooden table with scuffed-up turned legs). Neither collection nor sermon: would have been curious to see what Fr. Luigi might preach like — it turns out that it was a commemorative mass on the 1st anniversary of Giovanna Caraboni in Emiliani: had I known I would probably have waited outside. . . . As it turns out, there were all these people, friends and family, and one tall stranger in a black overcoat with a little grey bag: I inadvertently cut an odd figure.

The first church service I can remember attending since the problem. I felt both horrible and upset.

Anyway, I took all my pictures over again: not the same ones, quite: this time the crypt was lit — the electricity to it was cut off the first time — so here in fact was sort of the reverse of the Roman culvert: where before I'd taken pictures in the dark, now I was taking them in the light.

After a few minutes' chat with Father Gigi, who couldn't access my site ("Not Found") — always some mystery — stood outside in the dark for maybe 20 minutes, watching the really surprising activity in the little parking lot in front of this basically rural church at night: cars stopping, letting off passengers; people making phone calls at the little booth; people coming in their cars from opposite directions to meet & chat a bit, often just staying at the wheel — etc. I fit right in, except that I was the sole pedestrian.

And sure enough — I always start to doubt, the little boy in the gut wondering whether he's been abandoned — Elisabetta and her husband Angelo (also a sculptor, but big modern things) and their two children Eleonora and Edoardo, came and picked me up; the latter fairly raucous until ten minutes after their dinner, when they fell soundly asleep in a big in front of the TV. Elisabetta made pizze — Angelo's dough — Pleasant low-key evening, good meal too and the most wonder­ful friendly cuddly Labrador bitch; and Angelo drove me back to Spello — they live on the road to Collepino — and I had a bouquet of bright orange gerbera and stuff for him to bring back to his wife. And with that — and slight residual fumes from a "grappa medicinale" of theirs, zubrówkalike in color, but tasting like slivovitz with some very odd herbs added — to bed. (The bouquet, and the similar one for Mrs. Fuso dropped off when I hopped in her husband's car at 5, from the florist on the Piazza della Repubblica who it turns out owns and runs the Terrazza apartments — this at 4-ish, brochure, talk about Internet because I asked if they had a website: but although aware of it, only the most confused ideas; apparently things like agencies are making a fortune putting in essence "business-card ads" on regional pages, counting on general ignorance to get the business.)

Later Note:

a The otherwise average little town of Rignano Flaminio at the northern edge of the province of Rome was an important sight for me, since it is the only place along the Via Flaminia that I know of where you can see several hundred meters of the actual road surface of the great Roman road. I didn't see it in the waning days of this trip in 1997, nor in 1998 either: finally managing it only in September of 2000 (see diary entry, photo).

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Page updated: 23 Feb 22