le marche 2013

July 4, 2013 diario/journal, le marche

Spring12 039anot leaving on a jet planeprologue – le marche 2013

This will serve as the prologue for the journal entries of the 2013 trip to Le Marche.

It’s early June and I’m exactly two months away from leaving for Rome, but I want to tell the story of the horror that is booking through Alitalia.

Back in October, we booked three seats from Toronto to Rome to Ancona. We would be flying Alitalia all the way. But, the tickets were booked through Delta. (We were willing to drive to Toronto so that we could fly into Ancona.) We’ve been experimenting with flying into smaller cities to see if we can make the trip to Isola di Fano shorter and easier. Last year, we flew into Bologna but that became an experience we never want to repeat. Unknown to us foreigners, Bologna is the entry point for vacationers going to the Adriatic beaches. First it took us 4 hours to get through the rent-a-car line and then a trip that should have taken an hour-and-a-half took us 5 because of beach traffic between Bologna and Rimini. For this year we settled on Ancona, believing that we would not hit beach traffic.

Ticketing was a bit difficult, but the Delta agent got us seats and just asked that we check with Alitalia to confirm the seats between Rome and Ancona. By the end of November we had all our seats. (I was a bit anxious, just because it had been a lot of work to get the tickets. And in Kaua’i we agreed to touch base with Delta and make sure everything was on track for the August trip.) Last week, Rose got a phone call saying that the Rome – Ancona leg of the trip had been cancelled by Alitalia. The next couple of days were horrible. She called Delta repeatedly, but they had no access to Alitalia’s new partner for flights between Rome and Ancona. Alitalia would not help, insisting that the ticket was booked through Delta and therefore Delta was obligated to fix the problem. (I even spent a couple of hours at the Pittsburgh airport with an agent to see if she could help. Nothing!) Delta could not get seats from Alitalia, and Alitalia would not let us book on its new partner. (We had already booked a rent-a-car at the Ancona airport. We had already booked hotel rooms for the Saturday before the trip home.) Alitalia refused to help in anyway shape or form and no one at Delta knew how to get to Alitalia. Delta’s option was to refund the ticket.

After much cursing and swearing, we agreed that we would not win against Alitalia and that we had to re-group and figure out how to minimize our financial losses. Rose came up with an absolutely elegant solution. She re-booked the three seats through Delta. I’m flying from Pittsburgh to Detroit, meeting up with Rose and Derrick in Detroit and then fly on to Rome. The return is the same. So we don’t have to drive to Toronto, pay airport parking for two weeks and then drive home. In Rome we will pick up a car and drive the 3 hours to Isola di Fano.

marcia francescana

July 7, 2013 diario/journal, le marche

marcia francescana1st entry – le marche 2013

ann_2staLast summer we walked into this church in Pesaro and taped to the podium was this wonderful poster – Tu sei bellezza – announcing the pilgrimage from Loreto to Assisi. When I got home and did some research, I found that the walk is an annual event sponsored by the Frati Minori d’Italia – Franciscan Brothers of Italy. The poster is what I was amazed by – its design, its concept, its colors, its use of the Gothic Annunciation to frame the title – Tu sei bellezza – You are beauty. Every year in late July, early August the pilgrimage goes from a religious center in central Italy to Assisi. Given that the 2012 walk went from Loreto to Assisi, using Mary in the poster was correct, consistent and celebratory. The designer of the poster cropped the figure of the Virgin from the altar piece – Annunciation with St. Margaret and St. Ansanus – by the Italian Gothic artists Simone Martini and Lippo Memmi. The poster is built around the cropped image of the reluctant young woman receiving Gabriel’s announcement in her study. The altarpiece has the following words coming out of Gabriel’s mouth – Ava gratia plena Dominus tecum (Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee).

MarciaFrancescana_2013This year’s poster announces Chi Crede Cammina – Who Believes, Walks. It features two figures, a young person and a Friar with back-packs, walking on shallow water. In its Italian incarnation the title is all about alliteration. Each word begins with a hard c sound. (BTW, the titles of both the 2012 and 2013 posters use a 6 syllable phrase. Tu sei bellezza is six syllables, Chi crede cammina is six syllables.)

This post is really about the differences between our American approach to religion and the Italians’ view-point. In American, religion is about God and Jesus, superiority, it’s about pointing out others’ faults, it’s about voting against, it’s about Puritan self-righteousness, it’s about the rich being God’s favorites, it’s about suppressing women, it’s about paternalism, it’s white, it’s about social division, it’s about separation, it’s about rejection. It’s not about loving your neighbor, it’s not about taking care of the poor, it’s not about contemplation, it’s not about prayer, it’s not about self-sacrifice, it’s not about ritual, it’s not about holiness, it’s not about Mary, it’s not about Joseph, it’s not about the saints. And it’s certainly not about art. As a matter of fact art and artists are viewed as anti-religion in America.

The Frati Minori are hiring some amazing artists to create art that will publicize the annual pilgrimage. American churches use artists to blow up images of fetuses that are carried in rallies. Posters are homemade and announce doom and gloom or personal hatreds. None of the images of American Christianity are about beauty, inclusiveness, humanity, self-sacrifice, self-reflection.

alfonso iannelli

July 26, 2013 diario/journal, le marche

on a windowsill, in ferrara2nd entry – le marche 2013

DSC_6623aThis is a first – I’ve already written a prologue and two posts for the journal le marche 2013  and I haven’t even left Pittsburgh.

I was watering earlier and when I got to the Mandevillas all wrapped around the Magdalena statue, I had to get the camera. (The sculpture is Alfonso Iannelli a southern Italian immigrant who at 10 years old moved with his family from eastern Campania to the windy city. He worked with Frank Lloyd Wright creating many of the Sprite statues, but Wright never acknowledged Iannelli’s contribution.) The hair, the hair-band, the braids, the vines, the green, the cement, the discreet gesture, the turned head, the lip-stick red trumpet.

The image on the right is all about using a lens made for landscapes to shoot closeup. I discovered this in Maine. Mac and I had been out walking the shoreline in Portland and we headed up to the museum. When we got there, I realized all I had with me was the 12-24 mm lens. In statuary hall, I started getting right up to the pieces and found that the wide-angle gave me great images when I shot real close.

If this post is about technical issues and throwing around a dead architect’s name, then why the reference to the Renaissance city of Ferrara? · · · Sun-14   095It was August 14, 2011. We were on our third day in this left-leaning, Emilia-Romagna jewel and walking, in the meager shade, to the museum. And there behind wrought iron posts, on a windowsill littered with dirt, was a single Mandevilla – the image on the left. Of course I stopped the trek and shot the lone plant jailed behind rusting bars. (I had bought Mandevillas for the first time that summer and seeing them in Ferrara was a glimpse of home. I’ve planted them every year since.) It always surprises me to see plants in Italy that I grow in my own back-yard. I’m surprised because I keep thinking that the fauna and flora of Italy should be different than what we have in Western Pennsylvania.

The Mandevillas have now become harbingers of my trip to Italy and from the day I plant them, I begin a count-down to the date I leave. (I’ll have to be more conscientious and protective of this harbinger. Remember, I forgot all about the Snowdrops, the harbingers of spring, when the flower-bed on the side-yard was ripped out.)

Next week at this time I should be on plane heading for Rome.

todi – umbria

August 4, 2013 diario/journal, le marche

Part One – Not Leaving on a Jetplane3rd entry – le marche 2013

I began Friday, August 2 by going into work. It was a half-day for everyone and there were items that I was in charge of at the morning meeting. Got home by noon, had a quick lunch and got ready to leave. (Dan and Ellen drove me to the airport.) And given that I like going early, I got to the gate two hours before departure. We boarded on time and then began the nightmare. First, the plane had hit a bird on its way from Detroit and that residue had to be cleaned; next we were over-weight and two airline employees had to get off; then we pull away from the gate only to wait on the tarmac for 45 minutes; by this time the couple behind me who had been on the phone to the airline trying to figure out if they were going to make their connection in Detroit, when it was obvious that they had missed the connection, decided that they would rather remain in Pittsburgh than overnight in Detroit; we went back to the gate to let them off. It was now 4:30, an hour delayed. The flying time was only 38 minutes, but we had to get in the air before that applied.

It was 4:55 before we were in the air. I got off in Detroit at 5:45, and began my sprint to terminal A. (Terminal A is the opposite end of the airport. The whole wait-time I had been in contact with Rose and the were just as anxious because we were going to have to deal with the consequences of my not making the Rome flight.) I literally ran the whole way and got to the gate by 6:00. The lounge was empty, and they had to special open the door into the jet-way. I got to my seat with 10 minutes to spare. (As a sat down the thought of my luggage kept floating through my head. Did it make it onto the plane? If it didn’t how was I going to retrieve it? Was I going to have to drive into Rome on Sunday?) The plane to Rome was this luxurious, huge thing so at least the flight was going to be comfortable.

We got to Rome, the line through customs wasn’t too annoying, my bag was at Baggage Claim, and because we got to the rent-a-car before the crowd, we got our Punta and were on our way by 10:00.

Part Two – Todi and Tavola Calda

Sat-Aug3 016The original plans for this trip were to fly into Ancona, but those fell apart and we were back to driving from Rome to Earle-and-Suzanne’s. Driving out of Rome is like driving out of any modern metropolis. Driving time was three-and-a-half hours and we weren’t scheduled to have access to the house until 4:00. We kept debating how to stretch the time. We settled on stopping in Todi for lunch. We like Todi.

We got off the highway and made out way up the mountain to beautiful Todi. (The GPS is totally annoying as it keeps repeating – Recalculating, recalculating …) We actually go in to see the inside of the famous church outside the walls of the ancient city. (The last time we were here, the church was closed and a couple from the UK took our picture sitting on the wall outside the church.)

Parking is always a problem in the hill-towns, and we were practically outside the walls before we found a spot. As Rose and Derrick were negotiating the parking machine, the owner of the restaurant came out to tell us that on Saturday parking was free between 1 and 4. I looked at the place he came out of and decided that we needed to go in there with the locals and have lunch. It was a great first meal.

two farmers

August 4, 2013 diario/journal, le marche

Sun-Aug4 015the morning rhythms4th entry – le marche 2013

This year the farmers from up the road are running two tractors. Both the old farmer and his son are plowing. Last year one plowed while the other spread manure. This year, the manure was all spread when we got here. Earle mentioned that they have been plowing every day for the last two weeks. And they are plowing the fields around Earle-and-Suzanne’s. In the morning they are outside the the kitchen window. They begin at sunrise, and go till about 11:00. They will begin again around 5:00. (I want to ask some questions – what is the family’s name, why are they running two tractors, given that they leave behind huge lumps of earth, will they re-plow when it’s time to plant, what is in line for planting, and who do they sell the harvest to?)


The family name is Finocchi. The old man is the father and his name is Fausto;
the younger man is his son and his name is Fabrizio.
They will re-plow in the spring before planting. (OMG, do all that plowing again!)
The sunflowers are planted every four to five years and only the heads are harvested;
the stalks are plowed under to replenish the soil.
The farmers in the valley belong to a farming co-operative based in Isola di Fano.

Also, this year the region is much greener. Last year it all looked and felt dry and dusty, parched. And this summer that desert feel is gone. They had a wet winter and the water table is much higher. The Metauro has water in it. (Last year the river bed was wet with puddles here and there.) The garden is green; the oleander is tall and full of flowers; the lavender is a rich gray and sprouting blue plumes; the oak trees are dense and a deep green.

the market

August 5, 2013 diario/journal, le marche

Mon-Aug5 066the market in fossombrone5th entry – le marche 2013

Monday is market day in Fossombrone. And the first 5 images in the header slide-show are from the there. (The five images are: olives, zucchini flowers, hot peppers, tomatoes, and Borlotti beans. And my favorite is the zucchini flowers. Rose asked me if I wanted to cook them and I passed. If next week they have them, I’ll buy them and make fritters.) The image on this post is the tray, from one of the non-food vendors, brimming with all the trinkets/charms available to string into a necklace.


August 5, 2013 diario/journal, le marche

lunch on the veranda6th entry – le marche 2013

Mon-Aug5 146For the first time in 3 years, we sat and had lunch on the veranda. (In the past, lunch was a pick-up on our way to somewhere. Many times it was something we bought at the Co-ops and then ate when we got to the next town. Most of these experiences satisfied hunger. The quality of the food was sub-par. The only good experience was last year in San Lorenzo in Campo when we met all those great people. The shop-keeper introduced us to Visner and he even uncorked a bottle of wine for us to take away.)

We had bought this great cheese at the market and lunch gave us a change to eat it slowly and with a glass of wine. The table has on it left-to-right – bread, sopressata and prosciutto, wine, sliced cucumbers, ricotta, and various pecorino cheeses. It was totally relaxing to sit and eat and know that we could still get to an outing. (After lunch we went to Monestario Fonte Avellana – an amazing place.)

Today, there will be three separate postings.
– lunch
– Fonte Avellana
– after dinner conversation with Earle-and-Suzanne

the monastery

August 5, 2013 diario/journal, le marche

eremo di fonte avellana6th entry – le marche 2013

Mon-Aug5 169The Monastery of Fonte Avellana has a checkered history. There were periods when it had a notorious reputation. Today is boasts a library full of ancient manuscripts that the monks diligently copied, wrote and acquired.

It is a sprawling complex in an isolated wooded valley at the feet of Mt. Catria (elev. 5,600 feet above sea level) The monastery was founded in 980. Dante, who stayed here for a while, mentions it in the 21st canto of Paradiso.

Today, the monastery is a shadow of its former self. A community that at one time numbered a couple of hundred is now down to under 20. However, the Italian, Catholic tourist industry has stepped in and the monastery has become a pilgrimage site. The grounds were crawling with people who had just had lunch in the refectory and were waiting out the clock, to getting back on their tour bus, at the picnic tables that littered the visitors area in front of the monastery gift-shop.

The image on the right is of the window in the small refectory. All the windows in the chapter house and chapel are modern stained-glass and beautiful.


August 5, 2013 diario/journal, le marche

under the pergola6th entry – le marche 2013

Mon-Aug5 214This has become the signature picture of each of our stays here at Earle-and-Suzanne’s.

We had an almost vegetarian meal except for the porchetta – rolled pork seasoned with wild fennel and garlic. It’s a local preparation and very popular. (I discovered the rind, baked to hardness and smothered with seasoning.)

Earle joined us for a glass of wine and began talking about his trip to Puglia. I suspected that it was connected to his interest in restoring some ruin. And sure enough he told us that they are close to sealing a deal to buy and restore and four-cone trulli. These are the farmhouses of Puglia, where the itinerant farmers lived and worked the fields for the padrone. They are unique to Puglia and their cone roofs are famous. They will restore it and rent it out much like they do the house here in Le Marche.

We will be one of their first renters.


August 6, 2013 diario/journal, le marche

through a medieval arch7th entry – le marche 2013

Tues-Aug6 085Today we decided to venture close to home and go looking for the pecorino cheese cured in a hole in the ground. Cartoceto was our destination.

We had never been to this area and I kept thinking that it would be nothing like our little corner of Le Marche. And again the idea that Le Marche is really found off the main roads proved true. (I kept thinking that nothing off the SP-78 could be worthwhile and yet today was wonderful.)

Cartoceto is another hill-town and on the ridge. This area of Le Marche is about owning the hill-tops and leaving the valleys to the farmers. (Our area is about owning the valley, because that’s where the Metauro runs, and leaving the sides of the valley to the farmers. Here the water of the Metauro is the currency of power.) What I liked best about Cartoceto is that across the valley was its cemetery. The town’s windows look out onto the valley and onto the cemetery on the opposite ridge. (Aprigliano has the same set up. Looking south-east, the Apriglanese look onto the cemetery.) In the image, the cemetery is at the top of the ridge on the left. We drove there hoping to take a picture of Cartoceto from the opposite ridge, but the cemetery was a walled enclosure with no openings

i girasoli

August 7, 2013 diario/journal, le marche

Tues-Aug6 163i girasoli8th entry – le marche 2013

This year the sunflowers – girasoli – are everywhere. Earle said that they are more of a replenishing crop than a cash crop. The heads are harvested and the stalks plowed back into the ground.

We stopped in a field of sunflowers outside Todi and then yesterday on our way home, we saw a field with yellow heads above Isola di Fano and stopped. Unless the plants are young and you are shooting them as they reach for the sun, they are not interesting. So, I’m looking for a field of recently bloomed plants and a field I can get to where the flowers are facing me. (The Italian word – girasole – means turns to follow the sun. I need to find a field where they are turning and looking at me.)


August 8, 2013 diario/journal, le marche

la madonna della misericordia9th entry – le marche 2013

Wed-Aug7 005aWe went south specifically to see this painting. It’s in the cathedral in San Ginesio.

We walked into this dark church and are looking everywhere, and I spot it behind the altar. We start taking pics, but it’s a weird angle, so I go up the gate and find that the lock is not closed. Derrick and I open the gate and walk into the monks’ stalls and now we’re shooting the painting right on. Don’t you know it, this pretend priest comes in and at first says nothing and then goes off yelling at us. (He screamed something about an alarm going off.) We played the tourist card and left. But I got the shot.

When we get back to Isola di Fano, I’ll add more info about the painting. (The connection here at the hotel is sporadic and I’m amazed it stayed on long enough for me to do this post.) Tomorrow on our way back, we are stopping at another small town to see another rendering of La Madonna della Misericordia – Our Lady of Mercy. It’s a new awareness learning the word misericordia, because it sounds like another word in a famous Italian curse – porca miseria. I grew up listening to the old Italians cursing, and to re-imagine the new word as connected to Mary saving people from the Black Plague, and not to remember the cursing is work.

This particular rendering has a name – Madonna del Populo – by Pietro Alemanno; it is signed and dated 1485.


August 9, 2013 diario/journal, le marche

on the border with Abruzzi10th entry – le marche 2013

Thurs-Aug8 021Ascoli Piceno has the same problem as Reggio di Calabria. Everyone refers to these two cities by the first part of the name.

Also, the people at the hotel kept saying Ascoli with the emphasis on the first syllable. And this morning, two other guests were talking about Offida again putting the emphasis on the first syllable and it dawned on me, that I’ve been pronouncing the words wrong. Also, that once you say the word with the emphasis on the first syllable, there is no need for a second consonant sound at the end. (I’ve been wanting to spell Orvieto and Loreto with double t’s.) Now I understand that the double consonant at the end of the word is the clue to changing the emphasis from the first to the last syllable. The example is Abruzzi. The emphasis is on the last syllable. (It’s taken my a long time to figure this out, but then I’m finally using Italian enough to begin to relearn the language.)

American English generally puts the emphasis on the last syllable. This tends to slow the language down. Italian with its emphasis at the beginning or the word allows for a much faster speaking speed, because you don’t stop to emphasis the ending, rather you are speeding up and onto the next word.

The images is of the top of one of the two matching fountains in the Piazza del Duomo. (An inland city dreaming of sea-horses and fish?)

traventine stone

August 9, 2013 diario/journal, le marche

piazza del popolo11th entry – le marche 2013

Thurs-Aug8 002Ascoli’s Piazza del Popolo is both beautiful and famous. It’s one of a few main piazzas with large, flat paving-stones rather than the more common single stone to make the flooring. One guide-books refers to it as Le Marche’s living-room.

In one corner is the famous Caffè Meletti. The Caffè opened in 1904 and still has period decor. We went in last night and ordered their famous Anice. I like it way better than the Sambuca, because it’s more herby and less sweet. My goal once I get back home is to figure out where I can buy the Meletti Anice.

I really liked Ascoli and would gladly go back, I just have to figure out how to identify a decent place to eat, because the suggestions from both the hotel and the people online were not very good. (I suspect the hotel people were pushing restaurants that they had a connection with and the online people are too jaded to recognize a good restaurant.)


August 9, 2013 diario/journal, le marche

Fri-Aug9 059red sky at night … shepherds’ delight12th entry – le marche 2013

For the first time in 3 years it rained – unbelievable!! After the rain, the sky was a wonder and I shot it from my bedroom window and then I ran up the road and just shot and shot. The red is the sunset hitting the clouds; the horizon is the hilltops looking south-east. I brought the tripod thinking I would shoot the full moon, but I missed it, (Tonight there’s the sliver of a new moon.) but never expected to shoot the night sky after a rain.

We had spend two days down south and coming back north, it was great to have rain and to see the northern sky after such and unusual disturbance. Fausto Finocchi started to plow, but left when the thunder-gods began to argue. All the soil, in fields around us, has been turned over; we live in an undulating landscape of earth tones.

We had supper on the porch and watched the sky redden. I had to run and shoot it. (The last time i shot a sky this red was two years ago in December in Sault Ste Marie.)


August 10, 2013 diario/journal, le marche

the second madonna13th entry – le marche 2013

Fri-Aug9 008Sarnano is a small town in the foothills of the Sibillini the mystic mountains. (The dark-green fungal circles marking the grassy hillside are where the goat-footed witches come to dance at midnight. And from caves in the craggy mountains clairvoyant sibyls delivered prophecies in ancient times. Countless female-centred cults held sway in these mountains at one time or another, and one modern academic points out that, viewed from the air, seven ancient churches scattered across the Sibillini mountaintops replicate the arrangement of the stars in the constellation Venus. Witches, soothsayers, devils, goblins. How could there not be such things in such an otherworldly landscape?)

The medieval borgo with its narrow, steep streets culminates in a silent piazza at the top. There in a small church is a second Madonna della Misericordia by Pietro Alemanno. The central figure is very similar to the one in San Ginesio, but her robe covers fewer people. (It’s too bad that the painting is not displayed as well as the one in San Ginesio. In front of the painting is a smaller one of the crucifixion. Apparently this smaller piece is paraded through the old town on feat days.) In the crypt are two frescoes attributed to Alemanno. (On the pews were the weekly missals, the cover was Alemanno’s madonna cleaned up and minus the smaller crucifixion. Rose borrowed one to take back to Michigan.)

Sarnano had Wi-Fi signs all through the old borgo. It like Gubbio gives anyone in the old town access. I guess it’s the least they can do for anyone still willing to live in its steep, stone paved alleys.


August 10, 2013 diario/journal, le marche

tomatoes and fresh mozzarella14th entry – le marche 2013

DSC_7123The heat spell may have broken. We can only hope. We even have the windows open, there’s a breeze and the sun is, at times, hidden by huge white clouds. (When the heat and sun reign, the house is all shut and you live in the dark. Not something I really mind, but Rose has a very hard time with the enclosed atmosphere.)

One of the things that I like about staying here is that we can eat at our own pace and we can eat what we want. The Italian schedule of eating lunch before 1:00, because all restaurants close for the afternoon, and supper after 8:00, when the heat is gone, is hard to adapt to when you are a tourist and not used to the rhythms. We usually get to a place close to 1:00 and it’s a mad rush finding somewhere for lunch. And in Ascoli, the two places we ate at were disappointing.

on a vespa

August 10, 2013 diario/journal, le marche

young, daring and stupid15th entry – le marche 2013

DSC_2685I walked down the hill, because I want to shoot Earle-and-Suzanne’s and the Finocchi’s farm and land to try and capture the vastness of the mountain-side that these two properties sit on. However, a totally different image became the highlight of the afternoon descent. The image on the right happened after I had shot the mountain-side and was on the provincial road. (At 2:00 in the afternoon, no Italian would be caught dead outside. It’s too sunny and too hot. But today there was a nice breeze, so I figured I could try and walk. And I also figured it would be safe walking the busy road, because everyone would be home hiding from the sun and heat.)

I’m on the provincial road and listening for traffic so that I can make sure to be off the road when the cars speed by. I hear a motorcycle and as it comes around the bend I see a young man on a Vespa with no helmet, standing up, arms extended, yelling and screaming for joy while speeding down the road. I got the camera and shot. Wasn’t able to get a clear image as he raced by, hence the blurred one on the right. (He looks a lot like Christian. My nephew wouldn’t do anything like this, would he?)

earth tones

August 10, 2013 diario/journal, le marche

the house and the fields at sunset16th entry – le marche 2013

Sat-Aug10 051We ate under the pergola. Dinner was a tomato salad with lots of oily juice to mop up, and a Borlotti beans salad. We had lunch on the porch and supper on the upper terrace. Because the temperature had actually gone down we were able to sit and watch the sun set. The various shades of rust and brown are just comforting and they make the contrasting greens vibrant.

Each year I learn something new, this year I’m learning about fagioli Borlotti. (I have a built in prejudice against beans. In my family beans were associated with poor people and people who lived on farms, not people who lived the the medieval borghi that the Perri family called home in Aprigliano.) We’ve bought a kilo at the farmers’ market in Fossombrone and another at the market in Fano. Last night Rose flavored the beans with a soft sausage from Sarnano. The reason I like them is that they have a soft skin and no bean flavor.

I’m shooting from the upper terrace. The chimney and the clay roof-tiles are on the entrance to Earle-and-Suzanne’s, the second story shutters are on the bedroom Rose and Derrick use, and beyond is the clay hill-side of plowed earth.


August 11, 2013 diario/journal, le marche

Sun-Aug11 004the rich get richer17th entry – le marche 2013

Today we traveled to Sassocorvaro in the Urbino province. To get there, you take the road to Urbino and keep following it west into the mountains. The drive along the provincial roads was amazing, everything from Fossombrone to Urbino is new and wonderfully paved and designed. The road down to Ascoli was equally well maintained.

I began to think about legacies. Urbino was a Renaissance center and here we are all these years later and it still is a jewel. Pittsburgh is no longer one of the three corporate centers in America, but we benefit from the legacy of the time it was. The road to Urbino is new, modern and well maintained. (It’s too bad that the roads down south where there in no Renaissance legacy are still narrow, not well marked and full of 90 degree turns.)

Sassocorvaro is a hilltop town above the reservoir in the above pic. It’s a busy place; they were setting up for some kind of festival tonight and the town is full of small restaurants and tourist favoring shops. We seem to be following a couple from Milan the whole time we were in the hill-town. At one point they were talking to an old resident who was explaining where he lived as a young boy. He lived two streets down the mountain-side. (The above pic is of Mercatale, the town at the bottom of the mountain and next to the reservoir created on the Foglia River.)

We had a picnic lunch at a park beside the reservoir and then had a cold coffee at the park restaurant. Nine pine trees were integrated into the restaurant’s interior. The tree trunks were part of the restaurant decor.

new moon

August 11, 2013 diario/journal, le marche

Sun-Aug11 109august moon18th entry – le marche 2013

Dinner was spaghetti with a light fresh-tomato, onion, garlic and hot spice dressing. We then threw fresh arugula on top. (My dad would be making all sorts of comments about the Americani and how they have no regard for food traditions. Green leaves on top of spaghetti, NO!) We saw the arugula on top of pasta at the restaurant with the pine trees growing in the dining room.

Given that it was a pleasant night we stayed longer under the pergola, long enough for the new moon to become visible in the night sky. We began talking about the next trip that is planned for September 2014. What will be fresh at that time of year? The tomatoes will probably be done, and so will the Borlotti beans. Will we be eating lots of squash, potatoes, cabbage and root vegetables? I kept suggesting that there may still be summer vegetables given the different climate. Don’t think I convinced anyone.

Regardless of the fresh vegetable, it will be nice to be here when the weather is cooler and the mobs are home.


August 12, 2013 diario/journal, le marche

we only need a few tomatoes19th entry – le marche 2013

DSC_2847Today was market day in Fossombrone and we went expecting to buy some tomatoes for salad. Almost $80 later, we came out with bread, cheese and more cheese, 4 kilos of Borlotti beans, honey, half a kilo of hazelnuts, and a dozen cucumbers. (Derrick is taking the 4 kilos of Borlotti back to Michigan. This time he is leaving them in the shell and packing them in zip-lock bags. I’m always amazed customs doesn’t seize the various products they bring home.)

Rose and Derrick love the market and I can take pictures of all the various stalls. Today, the cut flowers vendor had some beautiful lavender.

Suzanne was up and telling us that for some reason there are many more people in Fossombrone this August. She suspects that children came home to visit family rather than head to the beach. (Last year the are was almost deserted. Today the parking was very busy and the market was full of people.)

along the ridge

August 12, 2013 diario/journal, le marche

the ridge opposite us20th entry – le marche 2013

Monn-Aug12 132After our expensive market trip, we decided to have lunch on the veranda and then go driving along the north-west ridge of the valley. (The Metauro River is at the bottom of the valley. And Earle-and-Suzanne’s is on the south-east slope.)

We began at San Ippolito another of the Medieval borgo that spires off the ridge. From San Ippolito, using the telescopic lens, I was able to see back to our side of the ridge and make out the Finocchi farm. Next we drove down the provincial road and stopped at Sorbolongo a small borgo that is famous for its snail festival. The valley on the other side is rolling hills and plowed fields, just like our side. Each borgo is situated atop a promontory and looks out at the fields below. The next Medieval fortress was Barchi and the image on the right is the entrance to the old borgo. On either side of the gate are two columns of wicker baskets. Last night they had a festival and these are left from then. In the old town saw a house I would be willing to live in. The house was totally restored, overlooking the valley and the best feature was its walled-in garden. My idea of a house. The garden was like a courtyard well sealed from the world.

The last borgo on the tour was Orciano di Pesaro. It had a modern plaza that was part of the rope climbing museum.

On our way back I wanted to stop at a convent outside of Fratte Rosa, but the GPS is programmed to take us the shortest route and it always messes us up at Fratte Rosa. The white-road back to Earle-and-Suzanne’s was over the hills and through the woods, so we missed the convent.


August 13, 2013 diario/journal, le marche

the sounds of silence21st entry – le marche 2013

DSC_2928The first year here everything was new. Last year we explored the area. This year most of the novelty and drive to tourist are gone. We plan market trips and grocery store outings instead. (I guess that happens when you’re familiar with your surroundings. The day-to-day activities become the ordinary.) The following post is a reflection.

I’ve been trying to figure out why I like being here at Cà le cerque. Is it’s location at the top of a hill, the farm-land that surrounds it, the lack of city noises? The answer is the remoteness of it all. (In Israel, when we were in the Jordanian desert, I understood the stories of the prophets’ finding Yahweh in the desert and in the desert wind.) Here I understand why all the monasteries are in the mountains, why all the holy places are up in the mountains. Guess in ancient lore the sacred and the profane chose to live in the emptiness.

Just like Ferrara made me aware of traffic noise by its absence, Cà le cerque makes me aware of all the ambient noises – TV commercials, iPod music, children, elevators, air-conditioners, humming laptops, phone rings, microwave dings, car radios, garbage trucks, highway rumblings – I live with. Here the cicadas dominate. Their mating calls fill the silence.

After a day of touristing, we come back the outside world is forgotten. I stop thinking about the mobs at the Fano market, the demons speeding the provincial road. The earth tones, the oak trees, the grapevines block all the noises from memory.

caffè shakerato

August 13, 2013 diario/journal, le marche

the town of ugly22nd entry – le marche 2013

Tues-Aug13 028Last year we tried to go into the Medieval town in Piobbico – the town of the ugly people – and we got stuck on the narrow road that leads into the borgo and we had to back out carefully making our way out. The road was very narrow, there were cars parked on the right and a fortress wall lined the left side. It was a miserable experience. This year we decided to go back for a caffè shakerato – a cold espresso with sugar syrup and ice shaken in a Martini tumbler and poured into a long stem glass – at our favorite bar. (The young woman asked if we wanted it from the machine or made a mano – done by hand. Obviously we asked that she do it by hand as we watched. She got three low glasses, added ice and a shot of sugar-syrup and brewed the first espresso. She threw the espresso into the glass with the ice and syrup, shoved the glass into the mixer tumbler and vigorously shook it. Then using the sieve on the mixer, she poured the concoction into this elegant glass. It was 1.40 euros.)

After our caffè shakerato, we headed up to the old town. It’s a 15 century fortress complete with ducal palace that Holy Mother Church appropriated. The entrance into the palace is now a courtyard in front of a large church. The rest of the palace is the property of the historical caretakers. (The image is of the campanile of the fortress chapel.) The small borgo is being retrofitted with sewers. I can see it being a very tony place, full of tourists, in a couple of years.


August 14, 2013 diario/journal, le marche

1anotte stellata23rd entry – le marche 2013

I like the Italian title for Van Gogh’s painting; it’s the title of the post.

Yesterday on our was to Piobbico, we stopped in Acqualagna. It’s the truffle center of Italy. In late October early November the place and the surrounding hills are over-run with Italians going mushroom hunting. The above was a huge piece of fabric hung above the narrow street. The town itself was unimpressive, (Other years, we were never there in time to see anything open.) but Rose and Derrick found a butcher shop that sold wild-bore sausage and they got some.

It’s Van Gogh’s title, it’s the name of the town, I like those sounds. (Alabama is an American word with all a’s, but none of the interesting consonant combinations. The cq and gn are uniquely Italian.)


August 14, 2013 diario/journal, le marche

craven idols23rd entry – le marche 2013

DSC_3011Everywhere you go in Italy there area idols. Holy Mother Church has legitimized all these by calling them saints, but they are statues of things people idolize and worship.

This morning we went to the restored little hill-town of Torricella di Fossombrone. (Last night the GPS took us all the way down to Pergola, 30 kilometers away, because down there is an official neighborhood called Torricella. When we asked the women, sitting around on the benches outside their homes, if this was the Torricella that had been all restored, they told us that we were looking for Torricella di Fossombrone. Rose had seen the blue sign on our way, close to Earle-and-Suzanne’s, but her suggestion was ignored in favor of the technology.) Sure enough the blue sign led us to the restored fourteen century hamlet.

The reason for the titles is because once again, while trying to do something related to a church, we ran into a mean old man. First the fool in San Ginesio who left the gate open and then yelled at us for going into the sanctuary, today’s mean old man told me that yes he had the key to the church of San Giorgio, but he didn’t give it out. What the hell were we going to do, steal their craven idols? He then condescendingly suggested that I take pictures of the outside of the hamlet. Being a good tourist is hard when you want to give someone the finger.

Meanwhile one of the women that was there with the mean old man was very helpful, telling us how the residents had all worked together to restore the houses. (It’s been a 30 year project.)

il pomodoro

August 14, 2013 diario/journal, le marche

arnaldo pomodoro’s sfera grande24th entry – le marche 2013

Wed-Aug14 066Pesaro’s main street goes from the old city center down to the Adriatic. At the terminus on the beach-front, the city put this huge bronze sculpture, the image on the right, which has taken on the name of the artist, rather than the name of the piece. This is all helped by the fact that the sculpture’s last name is the Italian word for tomato. Everyone knows and refers to the sculpture not by its name – Sfera Grande – but as il pomodoro – the tomato.

We went to Pesaro to tour Villa Imperiale, the 14th century castle of Francesco Maria Della Rovere, Duke of Urbino. This was a summer-palace/hunting-lodge for the family. The villa and grounds are still privately owned by the Della Rovere family. And the castle is open to the public one day a week during the summer months. The Della Rovere family like all Italian noble families are closely linked to the papacy. And the narrative of the castle is all tied to the story of the papacy in the 14th and 15th centuries. (I think it’s easy to think that Italian nobility, because it is so tied to the Roman Church, is different than all others. Not true. The difference is that women are totally missing from its ranks, unless you count all the Mary substitutes, and the powerful men all wear Cardinal red.) The villa boasts a series of frescoed rooms the last of which is a portrait gallery of the papal court of one of the Della Rovere popes. The walls are littered with men in red hats.


August 14, 2013 diario/journal, le marche

pesaro e urbino25th entry – le marche 2013

Wed-Aug14 020Across from il pomodoro we got on a tour-bus to go to Villa Imperiale. It’s my first Renaissance palace. The villa’s grandeur is certainly a faded dream. It’s claim to fame these days are the frescoed rooms.

The image on the right is taken from the second floor terrace of the new villa. The original fortress is the building on the right. Francesco Maria’s wife Leonora build a second villa and attached it to the original. The second villa is about open spaces – courtyards and enclosed gardens.

The tour guide did a running commentary in both Italian and English. The Italian had all the juicy pieces, the English version was the bare facts. In Italian he talked about how Francesco Maria, from the family that ruled Urbino, moved the duchy seat from the Renaissance city on the hill in the middle of Le Marche to the coastal city of Pesaro. And ever since there has been a rivalry between these two towns. (The guide being from Pesaro was pre-disposed to his side of the clashes.) The two cities are certainly the cultural centers for this region of Italy. The other large cities of the region are industrial power-houses with little memory of a time when noble families held sovereign control. (One of Francesco Maria’s brothers, didn’t like the fact that a faction in Urbino rioted against him because he raised taxes, after all he had to keep his court in the style it had become accustomed to. So he arrested the leaders of the group brought them to Pesaro and killed them. It’s a good thing the Tea Party ideologues don’t read history.)


August 15, 2013 diario/journal, le marche

eating fave in august26th entry – le marche 2013

DSC_3126The image is the logo of a group that is re-introducing, into the small hill-town of Fratterosa, the old fava beans of their ancestors. The young man at the stand talked about how the old contadini, who lived on the farms surrounding the hill-top, relied on the fava bean for a large part of their diet. (Sarcastic me told him that all the old contadini had left and gone to America. He did laugh.)

Fratterosa is on the hilltop on the opposite side of the valley. We look out our kitchen window and its church tower silhouettes the horizon. The town is also know for its ceramics and tonight they are having a festival celebrating both the fava and the ceramics. (Where last August 15 we went to the Sagra di Polente, this year we are going to eat fava.)

The title only makes sense if you know that fava is an early spring plant. You plant in the fall and the seeds winter in the ground. They are sprouting by early April and the fava is ready to pick by the end of the month. (I remember trying to find fava in the Strip, in Pittsburgh, in late June and the guy told me, they are an early spring bean. I had forgotten that, because in Sault Ste Marie the beans are ready in June. Well that’s because the ground doesn’t defrost until late May.)


August 15, 2013 diario/journal, le marche

Thurs-Aug15 078aan amazing meal27th entry – le marche 2013

We were supposed to go back to Piobbico for the Sagra di Polente, because we did not know enough about other August 15 events in the area. However, Rose strongly suggested we go visit Fratte Rosa and we got to see the set-up for their Ferragosto/Assumption event. It looked interesting enough that we decided to fore go Piobbico and go up to fair in Fratte Rosa. And we’re all so glad we did. (Tomorrow we leave Earle-and-Suzanne’s and begin our trek home.)

In the afternoon we saw signs for a wine-tasting in a sub-basement. (Rose and Derrick read the sign and knew that it was free.) We also saw the menu for a restaurant that featured fava dishes and rabbit. Derrick announced that he wanted to try the rabbit. (I was skeptical of it all, thinking that it would be like the sagra we went to last year – chaotic and not all that interesting.) The event turned out to be amazing.

We began at the wine-tasting for the Terracruda Vineyard. (They were running late and it was 6:30 before they took their first tour. I was thoroughly impatient and was ready to leave. The young man running the testing was very pretentious, but he proved to know his stuff and was an excellent host. We learned about Aleatico grapes. And ended up buying a 3 bottle pack. We so liked the wines that Rose liked their Facebook page and once we get home, we are going to see if we can buy it in the States.) Next we went to the restaurant advertising the coniglio – rabbit. Rose and I ordered the pasta, Derrick the rabbit. The pasta was great, and I asked Rose if she wanted to share a rabbit and fava. We did, and it was amazing.

We came back all hyped about our experience at the Fratte Rosa Ferragosto festival. Because the whole town was part of the festival, you go to go from booth to booth and see many different things. One booth taught how to make pasta. And because it was spread out throughout the whole town it did not feel crowded or oppressive. The pic is of the three of us eating at one of the many tables throughout the town. (Two kids and a stroller behind Rose and I got Photoshopped out.)


August 16, 2013 diario/journal, le marche

Thurs-Aug15 085leaving il chiostro28th entry – le marche 2013

Here on a hilltop surrounded by the peaks of the Sibillini, the world of work and responsibilities is far away. This morning we begin our integration back into the rhythms of our day-to-day world. We leave early afternoon and head down to Ancona for the day. We stay overnight and tomorrow we drive down to Rome.

I’ve never been to Ancona. (Frank remembers it from his time here and said the view of the Adriatic from its famous boardwalk is phenomenal.) The hotel, in the center of town, told us we could hang out at the pool while we wait for our rooms to be ready. The integration will be gradual – city, pool, restaurants, tourists.

Tomorrow on our drive to Rome we are stopping at the gardens in Tivoli. There nature has been tamed into ordered gardens and water features. (Did Walt Disney visit Italy before creating his fantasy lands?)

The slide show will also begin to change leaving behind the russets and greens of the valley for the formality of urban life.(The image is of the moon on Ferragosto over the rooftops of Fratte Rosa.)


August 17, 2013 diario/journal, le marche

angels and archangels29th entry – le marche 2013

Sat-Aug17 047We got to Rome early and headed over towards the Vatican. We decided to walk Corso Vittorio Emanuele rather than along the Tiber as we did back in 2011. The Vittorio Emanuele bridge that leads into St. Peter’s Square has two columns topped with angels. The image on the right is one of the two angels.

Rome is so unlike any other Italian city. Its wide streets and boulevards were build during the Renaissance and reflect the grandeur of that fabled time. (I believe that what makes this obvious is the size of the city. Rome, Florence and Venice are the three jewels of Renaissance Italy, but Rome is the grandest.) Rome has none of the oppressiveness of the Medieval borgos. It’s airy, full of green spaces and giant sycamores line the banks of the Tiber. The river is no dried-up bed; it’s been dammed and therefore full of water.

We walked through Campo de’ Fiori – the old ghetto – hoping to find a wine bar or restaurant, but Rome is empty of Romans in August and full of foreigners. We ended up in a horrible restaurant where the wine was terrible. The only thing was that it was air conditioned.

st. peter’s

August 17, 2013 diario/journal, le marche

saint peter’s left foot30th entry – le marche 2013

Sat-Aug17 025It’s been 40 years since I was last in St. Peter’s Square. (I visited during my junior-year-abroad.) Back then, the square was grey, its columns and facades tarnished by soot and age. Also, back then you could walk into the basilica; Michelangelo’s Pietà on the first altar on the right with no glass in front of it.

Today, the square is awash with tourists and security forbids entry into the church without first going through a metal detector and then showing everything in your bag. Also, the thing that amazed me was the brilliance of the white stone columns. In the blue afternoon their white luster radiated off the blazing sun. They are white marble, who knew.

My memory of the colonnade goes back to 1954. My family had come to Rome to secure the documents we needed to travel to Canada. After getting our passports, we went to St. Peter’s. I remember having lunch in the colonnade, its grey pillars a forest sheltering us. After eating, we went into the church and rubbed St. Peter’s foot and prayed for a safe journey. We also brought a souvenir of the statue to give to my grandmother when we got to Canada.

Sixty years later, the square is full of Chinese tourists hiding from the Italian sun under multicolored umbrellas. (Orientals under polka-dotted umbrellas seemed out of place in a Renaissance piazza.) The grey pillars have been cleaned of their memories of southerners looking to leave, looking to find hope in a new land. A land of the British empire, a land antagonistic to their cherished Catholicism.


August 19, 2013 diario/journal, le marche

Sun-Aug4 119what i learnedlast entry – le marche 2013

This was my sixth summer in Italy and a bunch of things fell into place. For example, I learned that I:

  • am OK with staying in a comfortable house on a remote hill-top
  • want to avoid beach resorts especially in August
  • like taking naps in the afternoon and avoiding the miserable heat
  • like being in a dark house with all the shutters closed
  • speak Italian like a native (The little nun in San Ginesio wanted to know where in Italy I was from.)
  • can understand what people are saying almost 100% of time
  • am OK with asking hotel receptionists and car-rental agents to explain things in English
  • know how roundabouts work
  • understand many of the Italian road-signs
  • need to stay out of the right lane when coming up on a highway exit
    (After the exit is a very short entry lane and drivers tend to be aggressive about pulling into traffic.)

  • will see the real Italy when driving on the paved off-roads
  • like Meletti Anisette better than Sambuca
  • can go into a specialty store and buy extension cords
  • can be organized even though the Italians default to laissez faire

i girasoli

September 2, 2013 diario/journal, le marche

in a field of sunflowersepilogue – le marche 2013

mario5cThis entry is so after the fact. It’s Sunday evening, September 8, three weeks after the trip to Le Marche, but because I want to use the pic on the right, I’m pretending time travel back to Saturday, August 3 …

We’re driving from Rome to Earle-and-Suzanne’s and decide to drive through Todi, one of the towns in Umbria we really like. On the plain below the town, we saw this huge field of sunflowers that still had their yellow petals. We stopped and shot pictures. Rose lifted her iPad and took the image on the right – an old immigrant in a sea of yellow with a sweater complimenting the flower petals.

I’m putting this image in, because it captures the elation, the giddiness of the beginning of the trip. The walking into the field is like a step into the looking glass. We’ve been staying in rural settings the last three years and have never found a field of new sunflowers. It seems that by the time we get here, all we find are mature plants with heads heavy with seeds and ready to harvest. (Found out from Earle that this was a sunflower year, meaning that the crop rotation had come full circle and the farmers were planting sunflowers so that the stalks could get plowed into the soil to replenish the nutrients lost during the last three growing seasons.)

The bookend to this posting is the fact that I left the yellow sweater in the closet in the hotel-room in Ancona. (I never use closets in hotel-rooms, so I never look in them when checking out. In 2009, I left three dress shirts in a hotel closet in Lamezia.) Is the leaving behind part of the sadness, the lethargy of the end of a trip?


September 3, 2013 diario/journal, le marche

affluence is a ghettoepilogue-2 – le marche 2013

Thurs-Aug8 050aWhen we were in the south, we headed to the Adriatic, to San Benedetto del Tronto hoping to find the Paolo Annibali sculptures along the waterfront. We couldn’t find them. However across the street from the beautiful ocean-front park were two proclamations, scrawled on the white walls of a fancy hotel, exposing the modern condition of isolation-and-sickness through that most virulent of art forms – graffiti.
Some of my countrymen seem to have figured out that affluence is not a gift from God regardless what the Calvinists claim, but a yellow badge that confines the human soul to a gated colony of lepers. And that beauty, as defined by modernity, is more about prosthesis and enhancements than symmetry, elegance and wisdom. (Last summer, the Franciscan Friars proclaimed tu sei bellezza about the Virgin Mary. This summer, in San Benedetto del Tronto, the young anarchists diagnosed beauty’s current condition . . .)

and beauty is sick

Thurs-Aug8 048

The rich are living in ghettos and the supermodels are dieing of beauty.

the money changers

September 14, 2013 diario/journal, le marche

prada, dior, coach and fendiepilogue-3 – le marche 2013

Sat-Aug17 015aIt’s Saturday, August 17 and we’ve gotten into Rome early with a goal of getting into St. Peter’s and the Vatican Museums. The Hilton bus leaves us off at the Campidoglio and we walked down Corso Vittorio Emanuele towards the river.

We crossed over on the bridge with the angels and headed down to Via della Conciliazione – the grand boulevard leading from the Tiber into St. Peter’s. It’s the connector between the cloister of the Vatican and the open city of Rome. Forget its symbolic significance, in modern times it’s the street where the pilgrims huddle during papal pronouncements, it’s the street with the Pontifica Academia Pro Vita, (Who said the Italians don’t steal from other cultures? So what that it’s one of America’s most cynical ideas? So what that the word pro isn’t in the Italian dictionary?) and it’s a street with the money changers. You want a knock-off handbag, it’s stacked on the paving stones ready for you to buy – no tax, no receipt.

Does anyone really buy these knock-offs? I can understand getting caught in a rain-storm and resorting to buying an umbrella from a street vendor, but what’s the circumstance that gives one permission to buy a knock-off purse?

  • My boyfriend’s 14-year old has a Coach bag and I don’t?
  • The tag on my Prada fell off and I’m not going out with a naked handbag?
  • OMG, Gucci makes a Lady Lock in mustard. None of my friends will have one.
  • The handle on my Dior broke and I’m looking for something better … say, a Ferragamo satchel.
  • I want to announce on Facebook that I bought a Fendi in Rome on Via Borgognona?

Am I that removed that it’s hard for me to believe someone would actually give their money to buy a cheap repro just so that they can pretend to have a designer handbag? What have we done to women’s minds?

The workers are all Africans making their way into a first-world nation, hoping to secure a place in the new world for their children and grandchildren. The Eastern Europeans head inland to work on farms and as domestics, the Africans head for the cities to manage the bancarelle one finds all over Italy. These new immigrants are at all the farmers markets, all around the major piazzas, the famous museums, the famous fountains, the ancient ruins, the empty churches.