La Sentina: between wetland and the sea

When we travel Le Marche we tend to alternate destinations defined by their art and history aspects with others that are all nature and wildlife. Maybe because our main activity, historical research, has been so intense lately and we sprint the last six months mainly in the archives, we have decided to go after the new year’s eve celebrations to take a breath of fresh air at La Sentina natural reserve (info) in San Benedetto del Tronto. It’s a quick drive from Ancona on the A14 motorway and the location, it’s just five minutes from the junction.
The place it’s incredibly beautiful even in this season, especially if you get a really sunny day like we did, gives you a sense of being outside of the world. Just take a look at the pictures.
Back soon with a more familiar post on one of the many beautiful towns of our beautiful region.

L&D

A perfect place: Caprareccia

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First of all, let me tell you that we are sorry for the very very long absence. Sometimes life throws in some difficult moments and we had to deal with it. Now we’re back.

To start again I wish to tell you about a place that is not a “place” as such…

Let me explain. We discovered this place two years ago when we went to visit the Eremo dell’Acquarella. It is an extraordinary church close to Cerreto d’Esi that is very important because in 1529 was the venue of the first general assembly of the Cappucini friars an important offshoot of the Franciscan Order (info here ). The place is an incredibile example of an eremitic curch and in addition to the curch you can find a tower that dominates the valley below. It was spring and the colours of the landscape together with a fantastic range of butterflies flying around made the place magic.

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We had quite  a lot of time before getting back to Ancona, so we started to drive up the road, that is apparently unnamed, and after a fifteen minutes drive we arrived to the place where the road ends and turn into a “white” road. The place was breathtakingly beautiful. The mix of the Monte San Vicino moutain, the woods, the smell of flowers and the light was fantastic and within ten minutes we had the chance to see a kestrel performing a moment of hanging flight. Above all the sense of peace was absolute even enanched by the wind blowing.

From that day we have been there many many times in every seasons, even if in the heart of winter the snow is not cleared from the last three miles of the road and the place is reachable only by ski, and we have found every time new sceneries, new paths and new discoveries. A very good idea is to start from the Caprareccia and walk on top of all the the peaks around it (mounts Cipollara, Maltempo and all the smaller ones around).

The best thing is to give you a small gallery of images

Just go there. It’s worthy. It’s not a “place” where something happens if not the wonder of our mountains.

Finally two maps to get there

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Rocca Varano

There are places that have something really special about them, and this is definitely one. Rocca Varano is an ancient  tower and fortress that can be reached with a 12 Kms trip from Camerino, going East on the SP 132. It is clear from the road that it is a spectacular piece of ancient military architecture.

Rocca Varano

Rocca Varano

It was built by the Varano family, that was the dominant one in Camerino for centuries as you can see at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Da_Varano, in the XII century and modified many times. When you arrive at the site there is a tiny village of few houses. Here we met a lovely lady that own part of it and gave us the tour of her own property…rare in these days!!!

Rocca Varano

Rocca Varano

From here there is a five minutes walk up the hill that reveals a wonderful landscape, fully Le Marche!

Rocca Varano

Rocca Varano

As soon as you get to the fortress you find a very kind man who guide you in the visit. This person is extremely keen on the place and a super expert of the history of Camerino and the Varano family. You can ask him questions on other monuments and cultural attractions in the territory and be sure he will have all the right answers.

Rocca Varano

Rocca Varano

Rocca Varano

Rocca Varano

After such a wonderful visit we were hungry and so we picked one of the many country restaurants of the area. This one is called Pappafò. The name sounds funny, it is a dish that they used to prepare here in the old days, but the place is really nice. Good mix of rustic and refined. Not to be missed. (info at: http://www.pappafo.com/)

L&D

 

 

 

Candles in Candelara

After a busy period we are again around Le Marche. This time we went to Candelara. This is a little village approximately ten kilometers from Pesaro that has become famous for the production of candles (hence the name of the village) and for the event they stage three times per year between the end of November and the middle of December called “Candele a Candelara”.

Candelara

Candelara

The event consists of a Xmas market with lots of stands selling candles and wax products, food and Xmas stuff all around the village creating a wonderful festive atmosphere.

Candelara Christmas market

Candelara Christmas market

Candelara Christmas market

Candelara Christmas market

There are a lot of candles around the streets and even people going around the village to make it brighter…also a “snow street” with fake snow going and lots, really lots, of “Presepi” (if you wish to know what this is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nativity_scene)

Candelara Christmas market

Candelara Christmas market

Candelara Christmas market

Candelara Christmas market

But the main attraction is the “darkness moment”. Basically twice a day (at 5.30 pm and 6.30 pm) all lights of any sort are turned off and the entire village is plunged into the  dark with only the candles lighting up the streets.

Candelara Candles

Candelara Candles

Even better the bell tower of the main church starts to glow in the dark and soon it looks like is catching fire. In the same time many balloons with coloured lights inserted fly up in the sky giving a wonderful impression a stars moving quickly into the space. Really fantastic.

Candelara Candles

Candelara Candles

Candelara Candles

Candelara Candles

Overall really really wonderful and entertaining. Just be aware that the event has become hugely popular even far away from the region and therefore it is very crowded for a small village!

Anyway we’ll be back next year:

Candelara Candles

Candelara Candles

L&D

Offida

This time we go south from Ancona to reach Offida, a town close to Ascoli Piceno that we haven’t seen yet and always attracted us. We decided to take to road on the coast (SS16) that is slower but gives you an idea of the many towns on this “Riviera”. After Grottamare we take the Strada Provinciale 92 and in twenty minutes we arrive in Offida. The town is really beautiful from the very first sight, typical atmosphere of the hills of Le Marche.

Offida

Offida

The town’s name has an uncertain origin but an ancient legend connects it to the greek word “ophis”, meaning snake and lots of places in the town are dedicated to this, even the local Theatre is called the Golden Snake.

After a short walk we get to the main square tha has a remarkable Palazzo Coumunale from the XIV century with a beautiful loggetta. The atmosphere in this Autumn day is relaxed and inspiring.

Palazzo Counale Offida

Palazzo Counale Offida

After a walk around, being lunchtime, we take back the car and in 10 minutes we are in a place called Brogo Miriam, just four Kms east from Offida, to try La Botte, a local restaurant highly recommended. The place is really rustic and has some rooms as well. A nice and efficient lady serving at the tables with only locals eating around. Food is very good and a particular mention should be given to the roasted  pork with apples. The “zuppa inglese” we have as dessert  (if you wish to know more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zuppa_Inglese) is ok but the addition of Nutella spoils it a bit. Anyway overall really good!

La Botte

La Botte

Now we are ready to explore the rest of town! We head directly to see what is for us the major attraction: the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Rocca. This is a gothic church built around 1330 on a high raising rock just outside the town. The church has two parts: lower and upper. The impression arriving is really powerful, as the view appears suddenly from the narrow streets of town.

Santa Maria della Rocca

Santa Maria della Rocca

Santa Maria della Rocca

Santa Maria della Rocca

Things get even more fascinating as soon as you walk into the church (2 € per person and mind the steep steps). Suddenly we are in front of a series of frescos of great beauty: They are attributed mainly to a painter known as Maestro di Offida, that had the peculiar signature of putting a little bird in the hands of Jesus in each composition. The works are of unparalleled beauty and must be seen “live” as a photo cannot reproduce them if not on a really minimal scale.

Santa Maria della Rocca

Santa Maria della Rocca

Santa Maria della Rocca

Santa Maria della Rocca

Santa Maria della Rocca

Santa Maria della Rocca

The upper church has less to show, but still a lot, especially in the Transetto with more frescos.

Santa Maria della Rocca

Santa Maria della Rocca

Santa Maria della Rocca

Santa Maria della Rocca

Really an inspiring and beautiful site!

We head back into town, that is also famous  for the creation of laces on a special instrument called Tombolo…

Laces in Offida

Laces in Offida

But unfortunately we need to head back, with a firm intention to come back to have a look at the Theatre (locally they call it La Bomboniera) an a lot more….

Offida

Offida

Until next time…

 

L&D

Another hike: Monte Igno

Trying to keep up with the good work of the summer we decided to go to Piani di Montelago and try to go on top of the Monte Igno. So here we go down from Ancona on our favourite “Route 76” going out to reach Matelica and Camerino. From there it’s only another 20 Kms to reach Sefro, a very nice village, and get to the Piani di Montelago.

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Sefro

They are a wonderful plateau at approximately 900 meters that sere originally covered by a lake but in 1458 Giulio Cesare Varano (a lot more on these guys in the future) decided to reclaim it for agriculture and drained the lake. The result is spectacular, also because nowadays the area get fille d by water in the winter to reform a lake, but especially in the summer when the entire plateau becomes full of life, plants and animals.

Piani di Montelago

Piani di Montelago

When we arrive there, before going up, the idea is to get some food and we make the right choice going to the Ristoro Montelago that is a wonderful little house in the middle of the plateau that offers the possibility of light refreshments but also more serious dinners. http://www.ristoromontelago.it/

Ristoro Montelago

Ristoro Montelago

We opted for the lighter option and had some crescia with ham and salami. Excellent! From here we drive for three minutes to get to the Fonte Cerasa where the path to get to the Monte Igno starts. It’s a bit deceiving because there is another fount before getting to right one but we get there eventually. The path start slowly to ascend and we meet quite a lot of the cows of the Marchigiana breed that are typical of our region.

Monte Igno

Monte Igno

The progress becomes quickly a lot more demanding, also because the weather made a few stretches a very muddy and we run the risk of losing our shoes…The reward is fantastic: the view is breathtaking and the mixture of silence and colours of the woods is unique.

Monte Igno

Monte Igno

Finally we get to the bottom of the last ascent, after the usual confusion created by the guides that often tell you to go in one direction whilst the real turn must be done in the other…never mind we get there anyway.

Monte Igno

Monte Igno

The final bit is challenging for us but with the comfort of the cows that seem to be so relaxed we get to the top. The wind here it’s pretty serious but the view is stunning. The valley of the Chienti river is at our feet.

Monte Igno

Monte Igno

Monte Igno

Monte Igno

For the way back we follow the guide again, and so we end up on the side of the mountain with no path whatsoever…a bit too steep but fun…

Monte Igno

Monte Igno

At th end we are delighted of the hike and, as a result, the cows of Monte Igno got on The Guardian…look here: https://witness.theguardian.com/assignment/543ed23fe4b0cd82a095f830/1244436

Map of the path:

Path to Monte Igno

Path to Monte Igno

L&D

 

The corn maze

Just for fun! This is something that has no links with culture or real exploration of our great region. But it is real fun. A company that is a spinoff of the Ancona University and specialized in gardrning and landscaping creates every year a big maze designed trough a vast corn field. The effect is really amazing as everybody gets lost in the alleyes and bends and even with the map of the maze it is very engaging and fun the attempt t o try to find your way out. All infos are at :http://www.hort.it/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=48:labirinto-nel-mais&catid=8&Itemid=143&lang=it

Corn Maze

Corn Maze

Corn Maze

Corn Maze

Corn Maze

Corn Maze

A wonderful journey in Urbania

When we were planning to go north of Ancona we had so much to choose from that we were wondering where to go first.
The idea of getting to Urbania (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urbania) got the upper hand because of the joint effect of this place being the “town of la Befana” (the Italian version of a benevolent witch that brings gifts on January 6th http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Befana) and in the same time housing the so-called “Chiesa dei Morti” with a relevant collection of mummies. Yes mummies…
When we got there I must say we found a real hidden jewel: the castle is one of the best architectural structures we have ever seen and the art collections in it are breathtaking.

Urbania

Urbania

On the way there we arrived fist in Peglio. This is a little village very close to   has been suggested to us by friends and it was worthy the stop to look at the view. Fantastic and moving and I hope our photos can give an idea of the pure beauty it.

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Peglio

Then to Urbania. The Chiesa dei Morti si closed, surprise surprise, so we go to eat. We chose the Locanda Valpietro(http://valpietro.altervista.org/). Extremely nice food, with a fantastic antipasto mix of 10 dishes. Well done.
Finally the guided tour of the mummies is available. We will not be posting pictures of this but the story is very interesting but not for the faint hearted. The exhibition is meant as a remainder of the inevitable destiny of all humans and each single of them has its own story that the guide explains in detail. Very interesting and unusual.
From the Chiesa de Morti we go for the brief walk to the Palazzo Ducale, passing by the Tower in the square that really has a wonderful ancient atmosphere.

Urbania

Urbania

The Palazzo  Ducale is a fantastic example of a castle and noble court mixed together. It also hosts various art collections and when we visited (July 2014) also a brilliant exhibition of various art works around the Bramante experience.There is also the original of an “aquaforte” representing the triumph of Charles V in Bologna that by itself it’s worth the visit. The view as well is stunning and the general feeling is one of history living again.
A real gem!

Palazzo Ducale Urbania

Palazzo Ducale Urbania

L&D

Street Food Le Marche style

The originality and value of Le Marche region is in the fantastic mix of nature, culture and food that blend together in a unique result. This can be seen and experienced easily at the street food festival that was held in Ancona on November 15th and 16th.

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Plenty of products

 

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The Accademy!

There is little of the usual street food here, instead the excellence of the local products has been adapted to a street level with new receipes and a great variety of products. From wine to honey, from the legendary Stocafisso all’Anconetana (there is even an Academy for that http://www.accademiadellostoccafisso.com/) to the crescia di polenta ( a special type of “Piadina”) everything looked really really authentic and cool at the same time.

We did enjoy!!! Soon there will be more of this and we can’t wait!

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Crescia di polenta

 

L&D

Mombaroccio and a surprise village

Heading north from Ancona, and always avoiding the motorway, we decided to follow to coast to Fano. We know super well the area, once again soon another post about it, and therefore up to the town of Fano we were on familiar grounds. Once we got to the Strada provinciale Monbaroccese it was all new and soon we were again in the wonder of the Marche hills.

Marche hills

Marche hills

We have found some signposts heading towards the “Castel of Bargni” and because it was nowhere to be found om guides we decided to reach it. Once there we were delighted to see a real “borgo” or village in the middle of the hills. The sense of peace is underlined by the silence and the gorgeous scenery. It also hosts two incredible villas and a Hotel spread all over the village. A true hidden jewel. More info at: http://borghidellemarche.it/borghi.php?id=FM_BG167. The hotel is here: http://www.casa-oliva.net/ We did not have the time to visit but will be back soon.

Bargni

Bargni

Bargni

Bargni

From theer we got to Mombaroccio. It’s a wonderful little village typical of Le Marche and while it takes little to view it has a lot to offer, particularly the Museo d’Arte Sacra (Sacred Art Meum). Ther eis also a few miles from the village, and well signposted, a Sanctuary of Beato Sante: it was founded in 1223 by Franciscan friars and hosted the holy man Sante. All info on Mobaroccio here: http://www.mombaroccio.eu/images/MombaroccioMusei_brochure_.pdf

Mombaroccio

Mombaroccio

Mombaroccio

Mombaroccio

Santuario Beato Sante

Santuario Beato Sante

Finally we had some suggestions to go and eat at the Trattoria Mondrigo for a rustic high quality lunch. They were right. Really excellent food and very nice people. A special mention to the mixed grill and fillet with the homemade piadina to go with it! Fantastic end of a day trip. info: http://www.mondrigo.it/

Trattoria Mondrigo

Trattoria Mondrigo

L&D