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.