The acacia has beautiful and highly perfumed flowers.  Rubber Slippers in Italy makes fritelle with them and we have a good friend in Lombardia (Lombardy) who produces the most delicate organic acacia honey.

I also saw this intriguing recipe for Liquore di Robinia in the Italian magazine: Fuori Casa (March 2006 # 7)

  • 200 g acacia flowers
  • 500 g granulated sugar
  • 1 litre pure alcohol
  • 2 tbsp acacia honey
  • 1 litre water

Clean the flowers with a dry cloth, or soft brush.  Put alternate layers of the flowers and sugar in a large glass bowl.  Cover and leave to infuse for 48 hours.  Then add the alcohol and honey.  Leave the infusion until you can see that the sugar has totally dissolved.  (Approximately one month.)  Add the water and stir gently.  Strain the liquid well and bottle.

Despite their beauty, their perfume, the fritters, the honey and the liqueur, the acacia flowers pose a problem for us as we can’t open the swimming pool for guests until the flowers have dropped.  This is because they sink straight to the bottom and turn into some strange gluey, porridge which clogs the filters.

In order not to disappoint, we tell people who are interested in visiting Casalba that we can’t open the pool until the acacia flowers have dropped.  Luckily, this confetti effect usually happens towards the end of May, which is just about the right time for most guests who wish to take a dip.

Alternatively, I suppose we could just make gallons of liqueur and tons of fritelle.

We were asked whether we have air conditioning at Casalba.

Well, no we don’t.  Here are the reasons why…

Casalba is an old “casa colonica”, or farmhouse.  It was built about three hundred years ago and has very thick stone walls which do a great job of keeping out the heat of the summer sun.

Both guest apartments face north-west and so are out of the direct rays of the midday sun.

They are also on the ground floor and, therefore, protected from the heat coming through the roof which can bake all day long during the fairly reliably sunny days we enjoy during the summer months.

The floors are paved throughout in cool terracotta tiles and the windows are fitted with screens so that guests can sleep with the windows open at night.

So, as you can see, we don’t really need it.  I can’t say that it is freezing cold inside, but there is a distinct and refreshing change between the inside and outside temperatures.

Those same thick walls keep us warm in the winter.

They knew how to build houses back then!

Living Tapestry

When we went to the Feast of San Vittore back in May with our guests from Arizona, we  learnt that they were taking a break after running a photography course in our neighbouring region of Tuscany.

Joel Wolfson is a professional landscape photographer who runs photographic workshops with his wife Barbara.  Barb is the “resident naturalist” for the workshops.  She also writes The Photographer’s Wife.

Joel and Barbara’s workshops were recently highlighted in Italian Living.

All of the photographs on this post were taken in Le Marche by Joel and illustrate what D. was talking about when she mentioned the living tapestry of the landscape in this region.

“Would you mind if we renewed our wedding vows in the garden at Casalba?”

Would we mind?   Mind…?

We’d be honoured!

Rings were made from olive branches.  The music stand was turned into a lectern.  The hammocks were removed from under the acacias.  The sun was shining (after a distant rumble of thunder failed to materialise into anything sinister) and it was a happy day.

A very happy day.


High, high up in the Monte San Vicino Nature Reserve…

… is the tiny hamlet of Elcito.

Elcito consists of a handful of houses, the ruins of a once important castle

and a church.

At approximately 824 metres above sea level, Elcito affords some stunning views and welcome breezes on hot summer days.  We visited it with my friend D. and her niece.

The following words are by D. who is now back in New York:

It was a dreary winter day in New York City and I got lost in the photo of Italian vineyards, the rows of grapevines on rolling hills reaching out into the distance.  Something about the dusty brown and green colors, the hills folding into each other like waves in the sea, the bright Italian sunshine illuminating the endless landscape sucked me into the vista and made me want to go there, even though I hate to fly.

And then there was my beloved friend who I had not seen in over twenty years, who had moved to those hills, made a life with her husband, and created the blog I was looking at.  I had to see her again along with that vista.

My niece kindly agreed to accompany me and I bought the plane tickets for June. Suddenly, all the photos from the blog came alive in three dimensions and the landscape surrounded us like a living tapestry or Technicolor movie. Even my niece commented that it was so beautiful it seemed surreal.

We drank wine from the vineyards I had seen on the blog, and limoncello made from the lemons on the balcony. We ate arugula fresh from the garden, dressed in olive oil made with olives from the surrounding trees. We saw passion fruit on the vines outside our door and a fig tree in the yard.

And just when I thought that I had seen all that there was to see that was beautiful and special, we drove to Elcito, an almost completely deserted village carved out of stone. We saw the cluster of granite gray buildings resting like a crown on the head of the mountain as we made our way up the twisting road ascending out of the patchwork fields below into the wild green above.

Urbino is a hilltop city in the north of Le Marche.

It is an absolute Renaissance jewel and the birthplace of Raphael (Raffaello), one of the most important artists of this period.

As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Urbino is worth a visit purely for its beauty, but our main reason this time was to see an important exhibition of Raphael’s early works.

We went with my New Yorker friend D. and her niece.

The exhibition was held in the Ducal Palace of Federico da Montefeltro who, more often than not, is portrayed in profile.  This is probably due to his very distinctive nose.  His most famous portrait is this one by Piero della Francesca.

It was a privilege to see these masterpieces first hand, particularly in the setting that Raphael knew so well.

We also visited his house.

It is a town house with an inner courtyard and well.  Simply finished and perfectly detailed.  Everything in a pure style without any fancy flourishes.

It’s the sort of place I’m sure the Pre-Raphaelite William Morris would have approved of even though he differed from Raffaello’s school of art.

“Raffaello e Urbino” closes on 12th July 2009, but you can visit the Duke’s Palace which houses the National Gallery of Le Marche at any time, together with Raphael’s house.

More information on the sites of Urbino are given here.

Since I wrote this post, D. brought my attention to this article in the New York Times

After the assassination of Julius Caesar (you know, “Et tu Brutus?” and all that)  the Emperor Augustus introduced the idea of personal body guards: the Praetorian Guard.  Saint Victor was said to be a member of this guard.  Ironically, these were the very chaps who later assassinated Caligula.

Long and slightly dodgy story cut very short: San Vittore was imprisoned for being a Christian and was beatified after refusing to denounce his faith under torture.  (The image on the left is from Wikipedia.)

San Vittore is the Patron Saint of our village.  His Saint Day is May 8th and we celebrate by getting together for a meal on the nearest weekend.


This was the menu:

  • Spaghetti All’Amatriciana
  • Formaggio
  • Salame
  • Lonza
  • Fava Fresca
  • Porchetta
  • Caffe’ e Limoncello
  • Red & White Wine

We went along with some friends and a lovely couple of guests from Arizona.

It was a simple village meal, but the food was excellent.

I forgot to take my camera, but here is B. tucking in to the doggy bag I wasn’t too ashamed to ask for.  (Can’t stand wasting food.)