Escape from Italy

Escape from Italy

2014

10th August, Sunday

Fiddlers Cross [a short film, co-scripted] won first prize for Best Screenplay in Rhode Island. My mother and I had boarded a train to Pisa in Santa Maria Novella in Florence when D. rang briefly with the news. I’d just been giving out about a young f*cker in shades and a baseball cap who had taken up three seats with three cases (“Uomo gentile! Tre valigie sui tre posti!”). His two buddies removed theirs but we got seated behind him upon a cooling suggestion from at least three Italian women sitting nearby.

Later I enjoyed seeing him bang his head off the overhead rack, blinded by his cap and shades. I don’t think he was even Italian, just some twat from Portugal or Brazil. My head and torso were melting after the hot Florentine afternoon; like an anthill it was, apart from the relaxing couple of Bacardi & Cokes (a fiver each) at an Irish pub called The Fiddler’s Elbow on Piazza Santa Maria Novella.

I wasn’t the only person showing some exasperation in Florence today. A tall American father was pulling his little son along past the Duomo and the kid was singing or chanting something – something very repetitive, I guess – and the American dad looked down and said, “For Christ’s sake, will you knock it off!”

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The hotel here in Pisa is more like a hostel and we had to cross the river to find a place to eat; somewhere that looked better than it tasted, at least where my plate was concerned. I was just demoralised, having to walk that far and for some sh*t (prawns) too but what was I thinking? My mother was a bit happier with her (tough) steak choice (with homemade… crisps!), after I’d wondered would she ever find something on the menu. We’re tired of Italy now and this time Pisa looks or feels more like C.W.’s verdict (“a dump”). She even slipped off a step near the hotel on the way back but thanks be to Jesus neither she nor her camera broke anything. Even if I sleep a few hours, this last leg always seemed like it would be a chore.

11th August, Monday

Up very early to get out of the kip of a ho(s)tel, we were still stuck with a plane an hour late, so again we were spared the Ryanair on-time fanfare on landing in Cork, where the pilot must have fancied he was doing it on an aircraft carrier.

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Orvieto, August 2014

Orvieto, August 2014

2014

6th August, Wednesday

We had to wait two hours for a train in Siena but getting to Orvieto took a little less than that. Up we went on the funicular to this table-top town in Umbria and I took the luggage as we marched up Via Cavour in the heat. The Valentino is a nice hotel. We got air-conditioned rooms with a view, though not over the edge.

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In Italy you could spend your life with a crick in your neck, looking up at church ceilings and other lofty positions. In the Duomo my mother spotted The Preaching of the Anti-Christ (“I thought it was Our Lord at first”) before I came across it in the Rough Guide, which has a lot more numbers in the key than in the actual diagram (I filled some in). In the background the original men in black seem to be rampaging around the temple.

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After that I brought her down to the vertiginous wall near San Giovenale but went back there on my own later to make a video that captured the drop. On one of the narrow, stony, shady lanes a guy passed whistling Baker Street very melodically. His day was done.

Perugia & Assisi, August 2014

Perugia & Assisi, August 2014

2014

7th August, Thursday

Round Lake Trasimene, we got to Perugia by three. Johnny in Knoxville. The lift is needed to get up to reception (third floor off a narrow, sloping, side street). After another shower I slept for an hour and then we went out to eat and walk about a bit. The old city is high up, as we realised from various angles.

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We had a good meal with a bottle of Grechetto at Merlin’s on Via Fani beside the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria, where we were the first to sit down, and then we sat on the crowded warm steps of the Duomo.

8th August, Friday

Assisi: it was hot on that holy hill (I didn’t try to take Rocca Maggiore) and we had a long wait for our lunch in La Lanterna, where there was too much breezy air-conditioning for my mother.

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I’d sleep now only for the nearby angle grinder. Maybe the f*cker has stopped. Yes, he can. Roberto the Builder.

It was probably for the worst this evening that my mother thought she had locked herself into her bathroom while I was getting her a spare shower cap from mine (and there delayed a little to figure out where we might go later). She just didn’t put enough effort into turning the door knob and instead resorted to banging on the door “with a can” for a while. She said ten minutes but it was probably two or three. Today she wandered off inside the St. Francis Basilica too. St. Clare’s was quieter.

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Anyway, we’re not going anywhere tomorrow and tonight we found a decent restaurant called Da Peppone on the far side of the Duomo. Spaghetti carbonara (& more Grechetto) did me fine and a pork chop (& chips) was something she would eat off the menu but I couldn’t really relax, looking at her and wondering was she half-dead or what. She came back to life after we sat on some steps on Corso Vannucci (she had an ice cream cone) and we got talking to a French couple from Lyon, with two young daughters. She told me to offer to take a picture of all four. Madame, si vous voulez, je peux prendre la photo.  A pigeon went on to shit on the bare shoulder of one of the girls. The father and I later exchanged email addresses and by the time we separated it was almost ten and I had to rush back to get our keys before they closed the door and made it un po’ awkward to get in. It took a few minutes to find my mother again outside but when I got her upstairs she was only bothered by not being able to get another bottle of water at reception. But I knew she had enough.

9th August, Saturday

Rest day. Instead of grinding, Roberto is banging today, towards 5 pm. By noon or so we had Perugia done. An open window on the weird Via Ritorta revealed a woman calling a guy a “fascista” but, if ever a street gave a feeling of being down a well, that was it. Later I had to go back and video it. At the other end, I caught some of a guy playing the Godfather theme on a concertina.

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A note on the blonde at reception today (whom I’d already briefly seen at our first breakfast, in a black dress, smiling when I passed her the milk for some other guests): she’s someone to put most in the ha’penny place but also probably a demon if crossed. I don’t think she liked me when I accidentally pulled my mother’s finger when reaching for the other key, earlier, to hand it in with mine. Anyway, who cares, she’s a receptionist with Italian pop buzzing on the radio somewhere behind the counter. My mother is relieved at not having to go anywhere today. “A whirlwind out of this world” was a description I saw in a text to M., sent yesterday.
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At half seven, I discovered my mother had been at her room door so much (a faulty knob) that the (elder, peroxide, I think) blonde rang from reception to see was she all right. At the desk I explained to the babe that it wasn’t my fault as I’d told her to text if there was any problem. After the evening meal we were sitting on the warm cathedral steps again. From Giardini Carducci, Assisi looks closer in the dark than it did in the light, looking east.
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