An emperor and a  Duce. Encounters on the #viafrancigena 

Last night I stayed in Sutri which I suspect is the last decent town before I hit Rome.

It’s fanous for a number of reasons ..not least the amphitheatre carved out  of solid volcanic  rock which  academics  – in their own inimitable way – think is definitely Etruscan.  Or Roman.
But it’s the encounter with two formidable characters from history I’ll always remember. 

The emperor Charlemagne whom  I encountered on the  Camino de Santiago passed through here and was rather taken with the local Sutri beans which cured his wind.  I have to say it rather did the opposite for me.

But sitting in a cafe at the evening’s end I had a more sinister encounter.

My waiter , who had the appearance of an ugly front row hooker who used to play for England,  had an unusual tattoo on his forearm.  looking more closely I noticed with some alarm it was a very detailed representation of Mussolini.

“WTF!” ! I exclaimed to a fellow pilgrim who spoke Italian.

She had a quick conversation with the waiter and explained all was OK

“OK?.How the hell is that OK?”

Was it some kind of ironic gesture accompanied by a  subtle anti fascist message ?

“no…his grandfather admired Mussolini and told him that he did some good things in Italy ” 

Not a view which I suspect would be echoed in what was Abysinnia or by those Italians who shot him and strung him upside down  from the roof of a petrol station. 

My grandad had certain right wing views but I never had the urge to have the masthead of the Daily Express carved into my arm.

And as a New Zealand pilgrim here said ..

“if he respected  his grandad so much why didn’t he have HIS face tattooed on his arm ?”

Which I think is a sensible point. 


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