The Englishwoman encounters a mermaid and a gryphon at San Vito sul Cesano

We’re going to resume our much-interrupted journey along the valley of the River Cesáno and the Roman road which runs alongside it. We’ve already visited the ruined Roman town of Suasa, on the other side of the river, and the Romanesque churches of San Lorenzo in Campo and San Gervasio di Bulgaria.

A bit of history for those who are interested

After Suasa was abandoned following the fall of the Roman Empire, there was no administrative centre in the Cesano valley. In the early Middle Ages, the monasteries of San Lorenzo and San Gervasio (both tenth century), plus San Vito (around the year 1000), Madonna del Piano (S Maria in Portuno, tenth century), San Biagio in Serra Sant’ Abbondio (1000 AD), of which only the churches survive, and the still-existing monastery of Fonte Avellana, formed a close network, which took over the administration and organisation of the surrounding countryside and its settlements. There is a good website, http://santamariainportuno.it/ (which is why I haven’t yet posted about Madonna del Piano), which contains this information, which I originally got from a lecture at the church. It also has photos of details of the interiors of the churches, http://santamariainportuno.it/monasteri_val_cesano but doesn’t identify them. If, having read this post,  you have a look at the photos, you will be able to tell where at least one of them comes from.

Back to San Vito

Fortunately, from my point of view, some of these churches have retained something of their mediaeval character. My followers will know that the one-size-fits-all Baroque church renovations of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries leave me cold. Luckily for lovers of the Romanesque, though perhaps unfortunately for the churches, lack of money or remoteness has preserved them from the worst excesses of restoration. The eleventh-century San Vito church, San Vito sul Cesano east frontthe one I visited most recently, is known as “La Pieve Romanica” or “La Pieve Antica”(“The Romanesque parish church” or “The old parish church”). By the way, for those who didn’t know, the word “pieve” derives from “plebs”, the Latin for “common people”. According to the comune’s website, the church ceiling fell in in the earthquake of 3 June 1781, it contains a fine picture of Mary of the Sorrows, and has been declared a national monument and recently restored. Shame it’s kept locked. As the book “Santa Maria in Portuno nella valle del Cesano”(Bologna, 2006) says, “the capitals, sculptures and paintings contained within the churches of the Cesano valley wait only to be discovered” (p.41, my translation). That was written eight years ago and,they are still waiting, never to be discovered unless some agreement can be reached about keyholders.

Half a mile from the main centre of population, the church offers infrequent services, for the benefit of a dedicated small group which obviously really loves it.  As I mentioned above, it is usually locked without any indication of a keyholder. I didn’t want to go along and join in one of the services, just as a way of seeing the interior. Perhaps next time I’ll venture to disturb the inhabitants of the house built on to the church .

It is the sculptures on the outside of the church which are really fascinating and are worth the journey. According to the book cited above, they have probably been re-used from elsewhere.

San Vito sul Cesano carvings of mythical creatures

San Vito sul Cesano: carvings of mythical creatures

The upper carving, in the lower plaque on the right, represents a two-tailed mermaid, but otherwise I don’t know what they represent, either in themselves or as allegedly Christian allegories. If any reader  happens to know,  please tell us via the comments facility.

San Vito sul Cesano carvings on the east end of the church

San Vito sul Cesano: interlaced pattern and winged beast (gryphon?)

San Vito sul Cesano : dog with a cheeky grin

San Vito sul Cesano : mythic beast

There is something pagan, wild and primitive about them which is reminiscent of Wiligelmo’s Duomo at Modena. The interlaced pattern on the left of the upper photograph above is reminiscent of Celtic craftsmanship. Maybe they are embarrassing to the modern Church hierarchy, as I can find little written about them and they are certainly not as well-known as they deserve to be. They are not mentioned on San Lorenzo in Campo’s website (San Vito is a part of the comune of San Lorenzo). There is a large and unsightly gap, over the porch,  where one sculpture has been removed, or window blocked up?

San Vito sul Cesano -  blank space where carving has been removed

San Vito sul Cesano – blank space where carving has been removed

Next stop Serra Sant’ Abbondio!

Posted in Architecture, Churches, History of Art, Religious art, Romanesque Churches | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Driving In Le Marche

If you are holidaying in Le Marche, a car is a must to explore those out of the way hill-top towns and villages.  Given the geography of the region, roads in Le Marche can be a bit winding and bumpy, and driving through those beautiful hill-top towns and villages can really challenge your manoeuvring and navigational skills. While driving through the mountains is a great scenic experience, the roads can be a little harrowing, and coastal tracks really only have room for one way traffic.

So, in order to make sure you enjoy driving in Le Marche, here are a few things worth knowing: 

What You Will Need When Driving In Le Marche [...]Italian Road Rules [...]Italian Driving Etiquette [...]

Source: bellavallone.com

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The Englishwoman in Corinaldo; a personal take

Corinaldo Le Marche italy

Corinaldo

One of the most beautiful small towns in Italy. It actually belongs to an association called “I borghi più belli d’Italia” (“Italy’s most beautiful small towns”) which claims to have strict entry conditions. When we take our guests round the town, they are always amazed that it isn’t better known. I’m doing my best to remedy that.

Corinaldo Porta di Sotto, one of the town's main gates Le Marche Italy

Corinaldo Porta di Sotto, one of the town’s main gates

Chances are this will be the first gate you see. You can go in this way and walk up the steps, seen here from the top. They are very steep so don’t do this every time.

Corinaldo La Piagga - the steps

Corinaldo La Piaggia – the steps with Pozzo della Polenta

Legend has it that a not-so-bright citizen dropped a sack of cornmeal into the well (Pozzo), which you can see about seven steps down, thus creating the eponymous polenta.

At the top of the steps, on the left, is the Comune building, or town hall. This was built to rival the Augustinian convent, now the Hotel Giglio, opposite. Walk along its classically harmonious portico

Portico of Corinaldo's Comune

Portico of Corinaldo’s Comune

and enjoy the view therefrom. Many’s the time I’ve come this way to do business in the Comune though I’ve also come here to be shown some less well-known corners by a very busy official who kindly spared me his time. After dealing with the official paperwork, I treat myself to this view from the far end.

Corinaldo view from Comune portico

Corinaldo view from Comune portico

In this part of Le Marche, which is hilly rather than mountainous, there is no building stone and one of its delights is the local brick’s many soft shades of terracotta .

We always call in at the IAT (tourist office), opposite the Comune, to see what’s on and chat to the charming assistant who speaks excellent English. Here you will find various tourist guides and leaflets, including a guide to the walk round the walls, the best way to see the town. But read my remarks on opening times and the Italian way of life before you embark on either visiting IAT or walking round the walls.

Refreshments

Read my post on caffès in Le Marche. Some local establishments aren’t really for tourists or foreigners. We tend to allocate our patronage to three establishments.

First, the Chiosco, or kiosk, (their WC is for public use and very clean) just outside the north corner of the walls, opposite the tower called Lo Sperone and above the Porta San Giovanni.  The barmaid is invariably polite and pleasant, though she works long hours and must get very tired. This is a good place to see the life of the town going on, as it is near the main parish church of San Francesco, the Farmacia Comunale (muncipal pharmacy) and the road around the walls. Here you can enjoy looking on at local festivities such as weddings and First Communions.

Corinaldo Church of San Francesco

Corinaldo Church of San Francesco

The crowds are waiting for the bride.

The Caffè del Corso, which has recently had a facelift, is near the banks, the hairdressers, the Comune, the IAT and the Hotel Giglio, so people tend to pop in here for a quick coffee around 10 or 11 when they have run their errands. Guests from the Giglio also come here. Here you can buy your stamps and postcards from the post office/tobacconist/stationer’s opposite, write them and then post them in the box on the wall of the Comune’s portico.

At the top of the Steps, and consequently popular with tourists, is the Osteria de Scuretto – see my post. It’s also a good place for seeing the life of the town, as it’s across the square from the laundry and at the end of Via Cimarelli, a street with lots of shops.

Food Shopping

We buy good local cured meats  and cheese in the Corinaldo Market (not a market; a local grocery), under the walls, near the Porta di Sotto  in the Costa del Gioco di Pallone. NB It doesn’t open in the afternoon till 4.30. If you want to take produce home, Signora Gabriella will slice and vacuum pack it for you. We buy freshly-made pasta in a pastificio in Via Cimarelli, and in the same street there is a greengrocer (frutta e verdure) which also sells tasty ready-cooked vegetable dishes.

Eating
The Tigli (closed on Monday) is a beautiful restaurant in a former convent built into the walls. If you book in advance or arrive early enough on summer evenings you can eat outside on the terrace. The menu is good traditional local cooking; go for seafood, pasta, pizza and the scaloppini di vitello. The 9 Tarocchi  (closed on Wednesday), also built into the walls, and Armoguasto, halfway up the Steps, serve traditional local food too, but with a modern twist. At the 9 Tarocchi go for the involtini di bresaola – rolled-up slices of bresaola (cured beef) with a filling of ricotta cheese and ribbons of grilled courgettes. Armoguasto’s has only recently opened and we’re still sampling their various dishes – my gnocchi were very good.

Theatre
Teatro Goldoni
Another small, charming theatre recently reopened. For what’s on try visiting the communal website or the local newspaper, posters, the IAT and the theatre itself.

Library
You can use the internet here for free, though the connection doesn’t always work. There are some fine antiquarian books, going back to the 16th century, – the helpful librarian will show them to you – and the Corinaldo section of the Catasto Gregoriano (early C19 property register, consisting of maps and explanatory notes). The communal archive is attached to the library – visit by appointment.

Festa
Pozzo della Polenta (Well of Polenta). Takes place on the third weekend in July to commemorate the town’s successful resistance to Francesco Maria della Rovere’s (the Duke of Urbino’s) siege of 1517, and the local folk tale mentioned above.  A good one with all the trimmings.

Festa del Pozzo di Polenta Corinaldo Le Marche Italy

Festa del Pozzo di Polenta

If you get the chance, go to one of the flag-waving (sbandieratori) shows. Sbandieratori are an important part of central Italian culture, although like most English people I’d never heard of them before I came to Le Marche, and this group, Araba Fenice, travels all over the world with their shows. They are spectacular!

Corinaldo flag wavers/sbandieratori; the myth of Persephone

Corinaldo flag wavers; the myth of Persephone

 

Sbandieratori/flag waving finale of the myth of Persephone Corinaldo

Flag waving finale

Posted in Corinaldo, Entertainment, Food and drink, Hill towns, Holiday, Italia, Italy, Le Marche, Libraries, Theatre, Tourism, Travel, Vacanze, Vacation, Viaggi, Where to eat | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Hill Towns of Le Marche: survival guide for tourists

Hill towns of Le Marche

The frank guide to towns, sights and where to eat, drink and shop, with advice on how not to end up disappointed, fed up and frustrated.

Welcome to the Marche, between the Apennines and the Adriatic, where the hills swoop surreally up and down, where the people are honest, hard-working and polite, where crime is rare, where the olive and vine are fruitful, where hill-towns are ennobled by spacious piazzas, proud fortresses, dignified churches and imposing defensive walls. Why aren’t they better known? Well, Tuscany it’s not. We’re not talking about world class master pieces. It’s the ensemble which counts, the mellow brick against the blue sky. Moreover, mostly the young people speak English and there are few concessions to non-Italian customs – though tins of baked beans have been spotted for sale in the south of the region. Read a short piece by Anne Treneman, the [London] Times parliamentary sketch-writer in The Times travel section of 15.11.2008, to get an idea of what to expect.

This site aims to give you clues to enjoying the area, whether you have come as a tourist or longer-term resident. We foreigners rely on each other for tips and wrinkles, so even if you know a lot, you may find something helpful here.

I’m a librarian so you will also find information about libraries with historic collections, of which there are a lot in the Marche.

Useful info

Opening hours

If you’ve been to Italy, you’ll know what I mean.. Hot, footsore, thirsty, hungry and what would be cross if you weren’t on an expensive holiday (and the children are cross), you arrive at the local restaurant only to read “Chiuso per ferie” or “Chiuso per turno” or “Aperto ogni giorno tranne lunedi.” If you didn’t know what Chiuso means you do now! Or still worse, you think you’ll drive down to the village to buy stuff for your first meal. What with one thing and another you don’t get out till 11.45 and by the time you get there the charming little shop is Chiuso dalle 12 alle 15. Or the local art gallery/museum is only open two evenings a week (this is not an exaggeration).

What to do

Well, you are reading this which is a good start.

Lead the Italian way of life. They have been living in this country for thousands of years and they have evolved an excellent way of coping with the heat. They do everything early in the morning, before the sun is too fierce – yes, even on holiday – or after 3 pm, when the sun is starting to decline. Between 12 and 3 they are having lunch and a pisolino (nap). They stick to this timetable all year round, even though it can be cold and wet in autumn, winter and spring. So, quite lively towns can seem dead between 12 and 3, to the point of being depressing.

Since writing this I have observed that shops and tourist offices are now often closed till 4 or even 5 pm. I think this is to save staff and other costs because of the recession (la crisi economica).

If you are arriving at an airport or station and hiring a car to reach your destination, stop at a motorway service station and buy the basics. If you are staying in a town and plan to go on foot and use public transport, the chances are you will find somewhere open, outside lunchtime and Sunday. Once you have arrived and settled in, either get out early to your shopping, or at least be in the shop by 11.45. Or do your shopping between 5 and 8 pm. In summer large supermarkets are often open all day “orario continuo” and on Sundays “Aperto anche domenica”.

The Marchigiani are hard working. Lots of caffè-bars are open from 7 am to 2 am. (They often serve quite acceptable pasta or salad lunches, by the way.) But they believe in work-life balance, which means that most establishments close one day a week. It’s often Monday. Do a recce before you go out to eat. Walk or drive around a bit, find at least two restaurants and establish when their closure day is. Arrive before you’re really hungry. And obviously if you are going to visit a new place, you can’t do all this. Remember what I said about the bars and, if you have children, consider eating on the road at the snack-bar or restaurant attached to a service station.

As for sightseeing … well, the Marchigiani have a lot of heritage and they can’t afford to look after it all properly. They choose to spend the money on free entertainments,  instead. Don’t rely on anywhere being open, be prepared to be disappointed, and remember that, as an alternative, non-isolated churches are usually open, except between 12 and 3. The sacristan has got to have his lunch. If they are saying Mass you can sit quietly at the back taking it all in if you don’t want to or can’t join in.

Food and eating

It’s a myth that Italians don’t eat ready meals. They do. They buy them at a “rosticceria”. You’ll often see young mums who don’t want to cook after a morning on the beach buying the entire lunch at one of these establishments.  They also serve rosticceria-type dishes at supermarket deli counters. Use them – point at what you want. For pudding they have fresh fruit or buy a dry and stodgy Torta or crostino at the local pasticceria. If you want a nice pudding to eat at home, buy a selection of little cakes, or a semifreddo (ice cream cake) at a caffe or gelateria (ice-cream parlour) or buy an ice-cream to eat in the street at a gelateria. NB Algida is Unilever and you could buy their stuff at home.

Sightseeing

I haven’t listed all the sights; you can usually find these in guidebooks or on the web. Instead I’ve picked out interesting points.

Entertainment (general)

Free

Most hill-towns have an extensive programme of free entertainment in the summer. Visit the tourist office and/or the Pro Loco, study posters, and buy the local newspaper, Corriere Adriatico or Resto del Carlino. Even if you don’t speak Italian you will find their pull-out “what’s on” sections useful. Don’t rely only on web-sites or printed leaflets. Keep your eyes open generally. Wander along to the main square in the evening.

Paid-for

Particularly noteworthy are pageants, rievocazioni storiche, which involve all or any of:-

the locals dressing up in historic costume and processing about the town, meals cooked and served by local volunteers, competitions involving anything from welly-whanging -or its Italian equivalent -to archery, flag wavers (sbandieratori), drumming (preceded by regular nocturnal practice), dancing, son et lumiere, fireworks etc. They are great fun. Visit your nearest town’s website to see if they have one.

You pay for these at the historic centre’s main gate. Often it’s the only way of getting in to the old town. You will get an idea of what it was like to enter the town in the past, when, no doubt, even if you had to pay no customs dues, you had to bribe the guards.

Things get a bit quieter outside the summer season, but this is when the local theatres have their programme of theatre (prosa), orchestral music (concerti), and singing and opera (lirica). Le Marche is said to have more theatres than any other Italian region. See the photos below for some of them.

Jesi; teatro Pergolesi, Le Marche, italy

Jesi: Teatro Pergolesi

Cagli Theatre, Le Marche, Italy

Cagli Theatre

Mondavio Theatre. Le Marche, italy

Mondavio Theatre. Shame about the cars – some locals would like the piazza to be pedestrianised.

If using the web to find out what’s on, you may need to visit the local commune’s website and navigate to “teatro” or “eventi” for music. A useful site for theatre is http://www.stabilemarche.it/stagioni.asp?id=126 .

Posted in Borghi dell'entroterra, Hill towns, Holiday, Italia, Italy, Le Marche, Libraries, Tourism, Travel, Vacanze, Vacation, Viaggi | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Some hill towns; the Englishwoman survives in Cingoli, Gradara, Matelica, Mondavio, Urbania, Urbino.

Cingoli
Small town known as the balcony of the Marches, for its spectacular views. Touristy, but consequently clean and beautifully kept. I visited it at lunchtime in October – it was deadly quiet and there were no restaurants open within the walls. One caffè had sinister blue lighting and a giant pool table – it’s the one with the view and probably ok in summer. The other, in the main square, offered quite a good selection of sandwiches and was comfortable. Being one of only two customers didn’t do much for the atmosphere, though.

What to see
Apart from the views, stroll round town and drink in the atmosphere.
Eating
See above.

Gradara

There is not a lot to this little town apart from its famous (among Italians) Rocca, where Paolo and Francesca, the lovers described in Dante’s Inferno, began their affair. It’s a popular Italian destination out of season and offers some delightful walks around the walls.

What to see
The Rocca, a lovely place, restored in the C20 by its (then) wealthy owner, but now maintained by the Commune, and inadequately signposted and interpreted.
Shopping
Lots and lots of shops selling old-fashioned tourist goods (typically lace handkerchiefs) of good quality but expensive.
Eating
Lots of eateries; the one we tried served good piadina (like wraps with cold meats and cheese) and was surprisingly pleasant, considering the nature of the town.
NB It’s quite difficult to find a parking space; if you are up to it, park lower down the hill and walk up.

Matelica

An important centre for wine making, still recovering from the 1997 earthquake. For example, the theatre is “in restauro”, (but see theatre below) and one church has had no electric light since the earthquake and is appealing for donations towards the cost of replacing it.

What to see
The sights (apart from the library) are well-covered in the guidebooks, and there are lots of useful maps and brochures in the TIC in the central piazza. The Matelica area was an important centre for the ancient Piceni, and special exhibitions of selected finds are often mounted, as well as what is usually on show in the archaeological museum. The TIC leaflet suggests a walk through town; I particularly liked the “stile liberty” (art nouveau) block in the main drag. As usual with these towns, look out for the attractively ornamented “palazzi” lining the streets of the historic centre: they often have beautifully carved doorways and window surrounds.
There is a fine fountain in the central piazza, boasting four sea-godlings known as: “Biutino, Maccagnanu, la Sirena and la Veloce ” by the local people.
Shopping
There is a good selection of local wine in the supermarkets.
Eating
I ate at a beautifully decorated local “risotteria”, “La Notte degli Oscar” with a cinema theme. Don’t mistake it for the local cinema, it is a restaurant. But there I ate the nearest thing to a disgusting meal I’ve ever had in the Marches. The bland and tasteless risotto di verdura (vegetables) contained microscopically small pieces of what I assumed were veg, and the coffee was lukewarm, sour and bitter.
However, there is a nice caffe-pasticceria (pastrycook’s) on the main square.
Theatre
What’s on http://www.comune.matelica.mc.it/turismo/eventi.asp?id=224 (Italian)
Library
http://www.comune.matelica.mc.it/english/bibliotecacomunale/index.asp

Mondavio
A charming small town with a magnificent Rocca (fortress). Popular destination for trippers of all nationalities coming up from the coast.
Website http://www.comune.mondavio.pu.it/ (Italian only).
What to see
Children will probably enjoy the reconstruction of the torture chamber in the Rocca.
Where to eat
La Palomba – attractive terrace restaurant at the back. Much of the food comes from the proprietors’ small holding.
Il Giardino – wonderful view.
Osteria della Rocca – Recently reopened by a man from Corinaldo. He is really trying hard and offers good food and pleasant décor at a reasonable price. Deserves your support.
Shopping
Della Rovere – semi precious stones and jewellery at reasonable prices.
Library
Looking at the website http://www.cultura.provincia.pu.it/index.php?id=516&L=2 (Italian only) I was amazed by the treasures that quite small Marchigiane libraries can boast of. How different from Britain, where Cardiff City Council is contemplating selling off its library’s treasures. Mondavio has hundreds of antiquarian books, including two dating from the fifteenth century. At present, however, its antiquarian section is not open to the public. Try asking to see the display in the museum.
Festa
La Caccia del Cinghiale (The boar hunt, don’t ask me why; it’s a reenactment of a ducal wedding), builds up over several days to Ferragosto, August 15, the feast of the Virgin Mary. Elaborate entertainment, son et lumiere, archery contests, as well as all the usual, – it’s one of the best.

Urbania (formerly Casteldurante)

http://www.urbania-casteldurante.it/ (Italian only)
An important centre for the craft of majolica and a bustling market town with a rich history, splendidly situated in the curve of the River Metauro, flowing deep in a spectacular gorge. However, when we emerged after lunch, it was deadly quiet, especially in the centro storico (historic centre) . The tourist office is helpful and offers attractively presented, useful information.
What to see
You can see demonstrations of how majolica is made – ring the tourist office first; we heard some people being turned away because they hadn’t booked in advance.
The same goes for the mummies, well preserved dead bodies on display in a local church, at set times only.
Explore the centro storico and look out for the collection of lovers’ padlocks and chains around a lamp-post on the Ponte dei Cocci.
Just outside town, signposted on the SS73 bis to S. Angelo in Vado and Arezzo, is the Barco Ducale, the Dukes of Urbino’s hunting lodge. The inside may not be open to the public, but it’s an interesting building situated in what is now a public park.
Shopping
Lots of shops selling majolica.
Eating
There is an attractive ceramic sign to a local “taverna” just off the main square. Like most tourists, we followed it and had a perfectly acceptable meal, though the proprietor is laid-back to say the least. Next time I’d visit the TIC first, ask for a list of local restaurants, and explore a bit more – assuming a time of arrival before 12 noon
Theatre
Teatro Bramante opened in 1864 and designed not by him but by Ercole Salmi of Urbino. Like many theatres of the Marches, it was reopened recently (2001) after many years of darkness.
What’s on http://www.stabilemarche.it/stagioni.asp?id=126 (in Italian). NB This website, Teatro Stabile delle Marche, is useful but only if you know Italian. For music, it’s best to use the commune’s website.
The town boasts a fine library, housed in the Ducal palace. It is based on what remains of Duke Francesco Maria della Rovere’s collection of printed books, after its removal to Rome by Pope Alexander VII in 1667, with significant donations by other local worthies, and frequently mounts exhibitions of selected items from it. I particularly liked the Duke’s buffoon’s diary, one of the few manuscript works in the collection. Like all good libraries, it includes more than books – two Mercator globes, a collection of prints and the voting record of the election of Pope Alexander VII
Festa
Festa della Befana (Epiphany) 2-6 January.

Urbino
This is the jewel in the crown of Marche hill towns. It’s a well-known tourist destination and as such not typical, because there are some masterpieces here. However, like many hill-towns, after a relatively brief flowering it knew years of obscurity and Florence and Rome are now home to many of its treasures. If you are not an art historian, you will not be excited by many of the pictures on show in the art gallery. Don’t worry, this is normal. Anywhere else in the Marche, it would be the town as a whole that counts.
History
The city rose to prominence in the 15th century under Federigo Montefeltro, (ruled 1444-82) a successful mercenary commander who was a patron of learning and the arts. However, his son, Guidobaldo (1482–1508), also a patron of learning and the arts but no warrior, had no male heirs. The title passed to the Della Rovere family, who moved their court from Urbino to Pesaro and under them Urbino quietly mouldered away. The Della Rovere art collection from Urbino passed to the Medici in 1631, and in 1657 Pope Alexander VII helped himself to the ducal library.
Urbino is also home to a university, which fills the town with students and keeps it lively.
What to see

Urbino Courtyard of the Ducal Palace

Urbino Courtyard of the Ducal Palace

Have a look at my blog posts:

Urbino – not the Ducal Palace

The sad side of Urbino

More about Giovanni Santi, the artist Raphael’s father

If it’s not too boiling hot, it is worth the climb up to the Parco Albornoz, where you get a fine view and there is a little refreshment stall.

Where to eat and drink
It’s hard to find a decent restaurant in popular tourist destinations like Urbino. They operate on the principle “There’ll always be another punter”. That said, it’s also hard to find a disgusting meal in Italy (see Matelica). Il Leone is good and offers local produce. There are quite a few caffes in piazzas where you can sit and watch the world wag past.

Piazza della Repubblica showing the church of S Francesco and part of the Collegio Raffaello Urbino

Piazza della Repubblica showing the church of S Francesco and part of the Collegio Raffaello

Outside the summer season, the caffè under the arcades in Piazza della Repubblica does quite nice cakes, though the icy wind blowing in every time the door opens is a bit off-putting.
Shopping
Not as many shops selling tourist tat (see Gradara), as you’d expect. There are one or two shops selling unusual mugs, candles etc, though 20 Euros for a mug is a bit steep. There are also one or two groceries/delis selling local produce
Festa
Festa del Duca. Includes street theatre, music and dance, concerts (free), and pageants. On a large scale and to a high standard.
Theatre
Teatro Sanzio
Designed by the Senigallese architect Vincenzo Ghinelli; building started in 1845 and it was finally opened in 1853.
What’s on: http://www.comune.urbino.ps.it/ci/391.aspx . This is a useful site for culture & tourism in Urbino generally; it also has an English translation of sorts.
Library
I searched the web for the biblioteca comunale (public library) but couldn’t find it. There isn’t one (see above); the Urbinati only have the university library.
Practicalities
If you have come by car, the best place to park is in the big car park under the walls. Warning to the not-so-strong: it is quite a steep pull up to the Palazzo Ducale, and the lift from the car park doesn’t always work.

Posted in Architecture, Borghi dell'entroterra, Churches, Cingoli, Festa, Food and drink, Giovanni Santi, Hill towns, History of Art, Holiday, Italia, Italy, Le Marche, Libraries, Matelica, Mondavio, Museum, Museums, Theatre, Tourism, Travel, Urbania, Urbino, Vacanze, Vacation, Viaggi, Where to eat | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Return to Corinaldo (continued)

Let me take you round some of our favourite places and activities in Corinaldo.

Where we ate and drank.

I’m pleased to say that Corinaldo’s Corso has livened up a lot since our last visit. In our opinion this is largely thanks to the energetic young mayor and his fellow town councillors, many of whom are also young.  A gelateria (ice-cream parlour) has opened,

Corinaldo ice-cream parlour, Le Marche.

Thanks to Edward Fennell for the photos, unless otherwise stated.

and we spent a pleasant interval there in the early evening, enjoying the delicious ice-cream and the view of the beautiful houses (especially the fine doorways) which line the Corso.

How to buy ice-cream. If you’re choosing ice-cream in Italy, I recommend going for a coppettina, or little paper tub, not a cono (guess!), because they are so messy (I never let my children have a cono), and I think the ideal combination of flavours is any fruit plus lemon and coffee, but I don’t like chocolate. You say “Da un gusto” (not recommended) or “da due /tre gusti” (one, two or three flavours) and point to what you want. Chocolate chip is Stracciatella.

A wine bar has also opened, just off the Corso but clearly signed, the Grotta del Cinquecento (16th-Century Cave), where we had a delicious glass of my favourite Lacrima di Morro d’Alba and the Signora kindly showed us their neveria, or underground ice-house, with which Corinaldo is honeycombed.

GROTTA DEL CINQUECENTO Corinaldo Le marche

Entrance to the Grotta del Cinquecento’s neveria. Thanks to the Comune’s website.

I’ve seen one underneath the Tigli restaurant, and under the communal art gallery.The Signora told us that The Grotta is owned by their family, the Spallacci, local winegrowers, who sell their wine there by the glass and very good it is too. You can buy bottles to drink at home in the local produce shop attached to the IAT or Tourist Office, or directly from the vineyard at 50 Via delle Ville (click here for a map). We also visited the Osteria de Scuretto, a local bar which also serves simple food (never tried it but probably good) at the top of the Piaggia, or flight of steps which make a spectacular approach to the historic centre. It is run by two energetic and hardworking ladies who are always pleasant, and is a lovely place to relax with (again) a glass of the local wine. To their credit, they don’t serve branded drinks, so don’t ask for a Campari Soda.

We enjoyed a meal out at the Tigli restaurant, where we always go on our first day back. Recently a new restaurant, the Trattoria Armoguasto, has opened

TRATTORIA ARMOGUASTO Corinaldo Le Marche

Trattoria Armoguasto interior. Thanks to the Comune’s website.

and we went there for a special celebration. It is a small place just off the Piaggia, and is the brainchild of two local ladies, whom we chatted to last summer. However, so successful is the restaurant that they are now not to be seen. Instead there are attentive waiting staff. We had an excellent meal – traditional local cooking with a twist.

An evening out

Italian municipalities offer excellent free entertainment all year round. The local traders expect it, to bring people in. I remember reading an article in the Modena local newspaper, in which the local traders were complaining that the comune wasn’t laying on enough free entertainment in August, to mitigate the effects of the summer holiday when everyone flees the stifling plains. This time we went to a literary evening, part of a series, “Autori nel Borgo Antico” (Authors in the Old Town). The topic was: “L’impegno politico e intellettuale delle donne del Novecento” (Twentieth-century women: their political and intellectual commitment), the title of a book by the two women speakers. What I took home with me was how much more active, politically, women were in Italy, than I had assumed. I also realised that Italian women didn’t get the vote until 1946. I bought the book and had an interesting chat with the authors, or should I say they listened to me kindly(!), in which I outlined my thesis that Santa Maria Goretti, our local saint, should be re-presented as a heroine of the fight against violence towards women, rather than, as  she was described in a sermon I heard on her saint’s day, one who resisted temptation. You will find the saint’s story, in Italian, here; suffice it to say that I don’t think a young girl of 12 would have been seriously tempted by the sexual advances of a 20-year-old. Anyway, in his attempt to subdue her he stabbed her; she died the next day, forgiving him, and she was subsequently canonised. Actually it turns out that Pope Francis agrees with me and Marietta, as she is known in Corinaldo, could be nominated patron of female victims of violence.

What I’ll do next time

I’m looking forward to visiting my favourite small, specialist food shops in the historic centre. There’s a greengrocer’s, kept by the usual energetic young woman (she’s married with a little boy), and a fresh pasta shop, both in Via Cimarelli (map C2), and a general food store, just outside the walls in the Costa del Gioco del Pallone (map D3), which specialises in local cured meats and cheese, the Corinaldo Market. It was closed with windows papered over – I hope just for redecoration. There’s also a recently-opened specialist cheese shop in the Borgo di Sotto (map D4).

Church

This Sunday we deserted our local parish church and went to the Cappuccini, as there was a special Mass there for Sacred Heart Sunday. Consequently we were lucky enough to see the motor bikes being blessed after the service.

Corinaldo - blessing the motor bikes at I Cappuccini Le Marche

Blessing the motor bikes.

Life as a second home owner has its ups and downs, but there’s so much to do and see in Corinaldo that the ups definitely outnumber the downs.

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Return to Corinaldo; the ups and downs of owning a second home

 

Living in Italy is a switchback of emotions for foreigners, whether you are an expatriate or a second home owner. For us, second home owners, there is the anxiety of the return to our holiday home after the cold, wet winter. Will there be a hole in the roof? How wet and mouldy will the walls be? Will there be mice or rats? Will there have been a burglary? We do pay a contadino to cut the grass and pop in occasionally, but he only contacts us in case of dire emergency. When I rang he said the house was ok, but that could mean anything.
The anxiety is followed by happiness as we round the bend in the white road and see our house waiting for us, with the trees in the garden having come on amazingly thanks to the recent heavy rain. This is swiftly followed by gloom as we open the front door and see the mould and flaky paint on the walls. However, we are soon borne upwards by a rush of relief as we see how clean and tidy our family left the house. There are no leaks in the roof, no evidence of theft. Then back down again when we realise how low the water pressure is.

Into Corinaldo for lunch at I Tigli, one of our favourite restaurants where we have been eating for over 20 years, though we are by no means their oldest customers,

I Tigli upper dining room

I Tigli upper dining room. Thanks to the Tigli website.

and it’s back up to the top of the switchback as we exchange greetings with the staff, admire the brick vaulted ceiling anew,

I Tigli lower dining room. Thanks to The Tigli website.

I Tigli lower dining room. Thanks to The Tigli website.

 

and enjoy good traditional Italian cooking and relax over a mezzo (half-litre carafe) of refreshing local white wine.

Our mood lifts yet further when we discover a no doubt highly toxic mould-removing liquid in the local ferramenta (ironmonger). Even better – it works!
But I must go into the comune

Model of Corinaldo in the entrance to the Comune

Model of Corinaldo in the entrance to the Comune

and sort out the IMU – local tax. As dwellers in rural Italy will know, you do everything municipal by personal contact. So, filled with the apprehension that is proper in Italy when dealing with officialdom (actually the Corinaldesi officials are helpful), I sit on one of the row of chairs outside the Ufficio Ragioneria (Communal Treasurer’s) and wait for the accountant. When she arrives, I explain that I want to mettermi in regola (sort myself out) with regard to IMU. I show her the visura catastale (copy of Land Registry entry) obtained last summer from the Agenzia Entrate in Ancona, so that knowledge of our house cannot be denied. She tells me that she has no record of my payment, and that is odd, because her records also show that I paid the ICI (old-style local tax) regularly. I agree and say that I tried to pay, but “they” told me they had no information about me. A lot of tut-tutting and muttering about casino (a mess) ensues, followed by the announcement that she will check when she has time. I feel deeply gloomy, as this check may not take place till 2016.

But cheer up! You can pay 2013 anyway. All I have to do is find a commercialista (such is Italian bureaucracy that one needs this professional to deal with it on one’s behalf, especially filling in forms) and get him to fill in Form F24 for me. Deep gloom again – I’ve lived here for over 20 years and still don’t know where to find a commercialista. Spirits rise again – the accountant tells me to go to the Confartigianato. Gloom – I can’t find it. Spirits rise – the nice woman in the Tourist Office (open, thank goodness) tells me where it is. Gloom – I can’t find the front door. Spirits rise –the kind receptionist in the doctor’s surgery on the ground floor tells me it is above them on the first floor and the entrance is round the corner on the right. Spirits rise again when the kind man in the Confartigianato fills in all the forms for me, for a very reasonable charge, and tells me to take them to the bank, pay 2013 now, and ask the bank to pay the 2014 bill on the due date.
Phew! I’m nearly there.

Gloom again when the Bancomat link isn’t working and we can’t get the cash out to pay the tax. We cheer up when we find another Bancomat and get the money out this time.

Next day we go to our bank, where the staff are always helpful, hand in the form and the money for 2013, leave the forms for 2014 and explain that we’ll transfer the money from England when we get back, which we duly did.

Result!

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