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Archive for the ‘Days Out’ Category

Elcito

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.

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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

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Guests

 

We were sent the most beautiful brochure from a lovely Finnish couple who stayed with us last year. 

I was totally bowled over.  Not just for the thought, but also because it was so very professional and full of  stunning photographs.  

I asked if I could put some of the photos here. 

So pleased they agreed.

Here is “my” bottle green Ape again:

If you look closely, you’ll see A. in the sunflower field: 

I think P.’s photos are excellent.  He took them all on various “days out” and made this book as a memory of the holiday he and A. had here.   What a great idea!

I’d like to share this photo of P.’s with Joe from Italyville who asked for pictures which “scream Italy”.  This one certainly fits the bill.  Non è vero?

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A friend and I went for a walk in the woods surrounding Cingoli on what was the most beautiful early autumn Sunday morning.  

The walk alone on such a beautiful day was a treat, but our two guides were experts in fungi and botany and they taught us a lot about hedgerow goodies.

I’ve always been interested in foraging and have two (now rather tatty) books on the subject: Hedgerow Cookery, by Rosamond Richardson and Food for Free, by Richard Mabey.  Neither stand up to what we now expect from a cookery book, but they are very informative, nonetheless.

 

Actually, we learnt more about the fungi you couldn’t eat, rather than those you could, but that’s a very good lesson, in any case.  ALWAYSlearn these before you are confident to eat any that you find.

Some mushrooms are edible only at certain points in their development: usually when young.  This is true of the Common Puffball (Lycoperdon Perlatum).  Cut this open with a knife and, if the the flesh is white, you can eat it.  Do not eat it if the flesh is either yellow or black.

Our guide held this example in his hand.  Unfortunately, it was already too yellow for consumption.

PLEASE NOTE:  Puffballs are easily identifiable, but could be confused with Amanita (the classic red fungi with white spots) which start life looking very similar to the common puffball.  The Canadian Forest Service  has more information.

After the walk, we went along to the town centre where there was an exhibition of both edible and toxic fungi.  There were also lots of stalls selling cheese, salami, truffles of all qualities and mushrooms of all types.  I could have bought something from every single stall, but limited myself to a large chunk of Pecorino di Fossa and some Porcini.

 

 

This was such hard work that we had to have a prosecco

served with little cheese breads fatto in casa.

 

Notes:

  • Distance from Casalba: 10 minutes. 
  • Cost: completely free for the guided walk and for the entrance to the exhibition.

Further Reading:

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About half an hour away from where I’m sitting right now is the Holy House of the Virgin Mary where the  Annunciation took place.

Mary’s earthly home consisted of a grotto cut into rock onto which a three-sided stone house was built.  The grotto remains in Nazareth over which the Basilica of the Annunciation was built, but the stone part was moved to Loreto, Le Marche.

It was first moved during the Crusades to a place in (what is now) Croatia.  Then to Recanati, Le Marche.  Finally, on 10th December 1294, it was moved to Loreto by angels.

 

What…?  You don’t believe in angels! 

Here are a few facts:

 

  • Between 1962 and 1965 archaeological excavations revealed that materials used in the Holy House date with those of the Nazareth Grotto. 

 

  • Graffiti written on some of the stones are believed to be Jewish-Christian in origin. 

 

  • Five crosses have been found in the stones said to belong to either Crusaders, or to an order of knights who defended holy places and relics during the middle ages. 

 

 

  • Ostriches aren’t native to these parts, but the remains of an ostrich egg  have also been found in the stones. 

 

  • The structure of the house does not follow Marchigiani building practices.

 

  • The stones are cut in the same way as they were throughout Galilee during the time of Jesus.

 

  • Lastly, there is a document dated September 1294 stating that the Holy House was moved to Loreto by ship and the name on the document was a noble from the ‘Angeli’ family.

So, either way you look at this, it seems that the stones of the Holy House were brought here by angels, because Angeli’ means angels in English.  I still like to think they were the winged ones who leave a white feather when they visit you.

Further reading:

http://www.sacredsites.com/europe/italy/loreto.html

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13454b.htm

http://campus.udayton.edu/mary//questions/yq/yq135.html

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We went to the Adriatic coast with Aunt Alba and Dan’s cousins, but not to sit on the beach…We hired two boats from the port of Numana and off we went. 

Out through the marina…

  

 and onto the open sea.

 

 

 We saw some spectacular views of the Conero Riviera:

The photo below is of the Two Sisters beach (Le Due Sorelle) named after the two huge rocks which rise out of the sea and which are said to resemble two nuns praying.  Not from this angle:

Maybe from this one?

 

I’d looked into boat trips from Numana and Sirolo before and found Traghettatori del Conero who run excursions to Le Due Sorelle for just 20 euros. 

However, we were a party of 8 and this soon adds up (even with discounts for little ones).   We paid only 70 euros per boat for the whole afternoon.  (The boats are large enough to hold 6 people, but new leglislation states that no more than 4 can go aboard no matter what size or age.  Yes, Health & Safety regulations are catching on here too.)

 

There were two very slight disappointments:

  • The first was that our boat didn’t go as fast as Dan’s cousin’s.  That peeved our ‘captain’, but I was quite happy.  It went fast enough, thank-you-very-much-indeed.

Being overtaken by Dan’s cousin:

 

  • The second was that I had understood that you could take the boat to the little coves which are unreachable by car and difficult to reach on foot.  And so you can, but the ‘captain’ has to turn off the engine 100 metres from the shore, row the boat to the beach, allow the ‘passengers’ to disembark and then row the boat back out and stay with it.  Well that’s not much fun for the captain.   Particulary one who is already peeved.

So, we all stayed on board and bobbed about on the sea for the afternoon.  It was great fun.

Being overtaken again:

We hired the boats from: Societa’ Cooperativa Numanese who are based in the Port of Numana.  Tel: 071 9930847

The afternoon times are from 14.30-18.30, but you can also book a morning trip (08.30-13.00 for 80 euros), or a whole day (08.30-18.30 for 125 euros). 

I would advise you book well in advance during high season.  There was nothing available for a week when we enquired.

The price includes car parking, but not fuel.  We paid 13 euros on top.  Speedy cousin paid a bit more!

Distance from Casalba: Approx. 40 kms.

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When the temperature starts to rise, a visit to the spectacular caves at Frasassi is a refreshing and beautiful alternative to crowded beaches; the temperature is a constant 14 degrees C. of cool bliss.

They are an amazing natural wonder which were only discovered in 1975.  (I find that particularly striking because we were still learning about our own planet when we’d already sent men to the moon.)

It’s not that these are some small insignificant caves.  Not a bit of it.  They stretch over 30km and the cathedral of Milan can fit comfortably into the largest chamber.

The entrance price is rather high: 15 euros for adults!  In their defense, all visits are guided and the tours last over an hour.  They also give reductions for pensioners, students and children.  (Free entry for peeps under 6.)

If you can make it, take a cardigan and wear some comfy shoes.  If you can’t, you could take this ‘virtual tour’.

 

The surrounding cliffs indicate that something geologically unusual is going on:

 

This is even reflected in the local houses.

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