Posts Tagged ‘Casalba’

“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.


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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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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.)

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 We finally picked our olives.

 I love this job.

It’s very therapeutic.

 Not something you can rush.

 Now they are ready to take to the press: frantoio

We should have enough to make about 30 litres of extra virgin olive oil.  That’s 1st cold press extra, extra virgin!


These are destined to be conserved: 

More on both processes to follow soon…

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Our quince came into full bloom in mid April.  Beautiful large white blossoms with a generous flush of pink.  It’s a lovely tree.  Even its name sounds quaint, old fashioned and rather magical and mystical.

You can do a number of things with the fruit (except eat them raw, of course), but I have always been intrigued by Quince Cheese.  I’d tried making this before using the oven method, but it didn’t work out too well.  I searched the net and found Easy Quince Cheese by The Cottage Smallholder.  This is the site which introduced me to blogs; I’ve loved it ever since.

Quince Cheese:

  1. Wash and quarter the fruit.
  2. Remove the pips and cut into small chunks. 
  3. Place in saucepan with enough water to cover and simmer until soft.
  4. Strain overnight through a jelly bag.
  5. Press the pulp through a sieve.
  6. Measure the pulp and put it into a large heavy bottomed pan.
  7. Add an equal volume of granulated sugar.
  8. Add the juice and zest of 1 lemon.
  9. Simmer gently, stirring regularly until it becomes stiff in consistency.
  10. Either put it into sterilised jars, small ramekins, or set it in moulds. 

You can make “cheese” with all sorts of fruit. 

HomeMadeS gives recipes for both Apple Cheese and Plum Cheese.


I just learnt that the Americans call fruit cheese “butter”. 

Well, it makes just as much sense as calling it cheese!  




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