Sunday, September 7, 2008


10.2 miles in 1:17:43 (7:39 per mile)

I've lived in Rome a little more than a year yet I had not yet seen Villa Ada, on the northern end of the city. I set out along the river to Piazza del Popolo, then to Villa Borghese and north into illa Ada. So this is where are the runners are! Nice park with lots of people. Took a short cut down Via Veneto on the way back.

I spent the day in Assisi yesterday. It's not too far, just about 2.5 hours by train, so I repeatedly put off the journey. After all, I could easily get there any time. But the ghosts of San Francesco and Giotto summoned me to the Basilica and the surrounding hills.

The weather is pretty hot again, which is a bit of a disappointment, but there was a nice breeze from the mountains, so there was some respite from the sun. I lost my cell phone on the train, and this signaled an opportunity to once again leave aside the complicating forces of daily life. I wonder if San Francesco had something to do with it.

The enormity of the Basilica, and more specifically Giotto's frescoes of the life of St. Francesco, overwhelmed me. His sense of design, the cognition in his decisions and his cleverness in establishing relationships among parts of an image are revealed in details. In The Renunciation of Worldly Goods, Giotto establishes a dynamic constellation of hands to call out the narrative essence of conflict in the story: St. Francesco, having shed his clothes in a vow of poverty, gestures to the heavens in explanation; a bishop holds secure what remains of Francesco's clothing; the hand of God mystically beckons Francesco from within a cloud; his father's angry hand is restrained by another; and a witness on the left directs us toward the central action once again. What a master of narrative he was.

I visited the Basilica twice yesterday and spent a couple of hours in between walking the trails toward the Carceri, which I never reached. The climb was quite challenging, as I scrambled over the pink and gray stones on a very steep mountain trail. I got a late start and the temperature was probably close to 90ยบ so after an hour I stopped to rest, dedicated some thoughts to my mother, and tried to conjure up an image of St. Francesco, emerging from the cool shade of the woods and offering me a drink of water.

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