The Englishwoman visits an olive press, the Frantoio Brignoni

Having mastered their opening times, we drove down to the Frantoio Brignoni, which is based on a small industrial estate (Zona Artigianale) at the bottom of Corinaldo’s hill, to buy a bottle of their excellent local olive oil. We like to buy local produce wherever we can. We think it’s worth paying a bit extra to help preserve the local way of life. Mind you, when we first came to Corinaldo everyone was growing sugar beet, but somehow we didn’t feel obliged to buy lots of packets of sugar.

While we were there, we were fortunate to meet Alice and Cristian, the proprietors. Alice is the third generation of the Brignoni family. Her husband, Cristian, joined her at the press when they got married.

Cristian of the Frantoio Brignoni, Corinaldo

Cristian of the Frantoio Brignoni.

Spring and summer are the quiet seasons. In April and May Cristian goes to South Africa and trains growers there. From August to September Cristian starts to get busy, he told us, looking for workers and cleaning the equipment.

From October to December it’s time to prune and harvest; this is the really busy time, when Cristian and the team are working 24/7.  (In Greece the harvest can take place in January and February.) There are about 1,500 trees to prune, because, although some growers prune their own trees, others are getting on a bit and Cristian organises the pruning for them.

When the olives have been harvested and delivered to the frantoio, they are cleaned, dried, crushed and malaxed (churned) for 20-40 minutes. At this stage the aroma is released. The operator decides by eye when the paste is ready. It’s interesting that even high-tech processes need human judgment. Similarly, in a gin distillery, special employees called “noses” decide by the smell when the gin is ready. (Cristian didn’t tell us that bit!) The oil is extracted from the paste at a low temperature, below 27° Centigrade.  This is European Union law. For olive oil to be described as “cold-pressed”, it may not be extracted at a higher temperature. You get double the quantity with hot pressing, but it’s not as good.

Here are a couple of photos of Cristian as he showed us round.Cristian shows us round the Brignoni frantoio

Cristian with Brignoni olive press machinery

Cristian is very keen on quality. Brignoni olive oil is 100% Italian, extra virgin and cold pressed, and therefore top quality. As for its taste and smell … that makes it special.

Brignoni olive oil

Brignoni olive oil – from their Facebook page.

He told us that there are three types of olive oil:- extra virgin, virgin and olive oil. The producer decides which is extra virgin and which is just virgin by chemical analysis and tasting.

There is also  lampante, or lamp oil, which is inedible without further treatment. That’s what was used as fuel for lamps from classical times until the nineteenth century. It is now sold to big companies and refined, with one per cent of virgin oil added, which enables it to be classified as olive oil. Artificial aromas are added to this olive oil, but the aroma soon vanishes. When you are choosing olive oil, look for a green aroma.

You should also check the label carefully. If you want Italian olive oil, the label should state “100% Italian olives”. Anything else is made with olives from more than one country.

We came away impressed with Cristian’s readiness to reach out to the customer. He speaks English and offered to show us round without being asked, and is ready to show anyone else round who is visiting the area. We promptly recommended the Brignoni press to our neighbours at the Adagio B&B, as somewhere for their guests to visit.

After our fascinating tour, we bought our olive oil and opened it that day to eat with, and enhance, our lunch. We then decanted it into four smaller bottles (to put in our cabin baggage on the plane), and are now enjoying a little taste of Le Marche in England.

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The Englishwoman visits Senigallia’s Biblioteca Antonelliana. Part III: Early printed books.

This time it’s my first love, not manuscripts but early printed books.

Libraries and rare books in Le Marche

The Biblioteca Antonelliana boasts no less than 11 incunabula, or books printed before 1500 (“in the infancy of the art”, as the Oxford English Dictionary charmingly puts it). I decided to look at the two singled out by Marinella Bonvini Mazzanti in her “Senigallia” (Urbino: QuattroVenti, 1998). She chose first Livy’s History of Rome.

Livy ed Sabellicus

I thought you’d like a passage about the elephants. This is from Book 21, chapter 58. Hannibal is crossing the Apennines, nearly as bad as the Alps and bitterly cold. Seven elephants died (lines 8-9). So much for sunny Italy! Note that a little line above a letter is an abbreviation, such as scribes used to use, often standing for n or m.

This edition was printed in Venice in 1491 by Johannes Rubeus Vercellensis or Matteo Capcasa. I love its beautiful, clear, elegant typeface. Capcasa has already popped up in my first blog post, “

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The Englishwoman visits Senigallia’s Biblioteca Antonelliana. Part II: Corinaldo’s churches.

If you love Corinaldo you’ll like this. Or even if you don’t but would like to find out more …

Libraries and rare books in Le Marche

I was fascinated by the difference between Gherardo Cibo’s illustrations, in Ridolfi’s manuscript, of the churches of Corinaldo (where we have our holiday home), and how they appear today. Here are the churches I know best.

Church of St Peter Corinaldo,  Ridolfi MS, Biblioteca Antonelliana, Senigallia

Once upon a time San Pietro was Corinaldo’s principal church; now only its bell tower remains.

campanile-s-pietro- Corinaldo San Pietro today. Thanks to Corinaldo Comune

San Francesco, Corinaldo, Ridolfi MS, Biblioteca Antonelliana, Senigallia

San Francesco, now Corinaldo’s parish church, formerly attached to a  friary of Franciscan Friars Minor. It has been considerably altered since 1596.

corinaldo-church-of-s-francesco San Francesco today.

San Niccolo, then S Agostino, now S Maria Goretti, Corinaldo

This was originally the church of San Niccolò. When it was taken over by the Augustinians, it became known as Sant’Agostino, and is now the Diocesan Sanctuary of Santa Maria Goretti, Corinaldo’s own local saint, who died in 1902 as the result of an attempted rape by a neighbour’s son.  Today’s church (below) is not the church Ridolfi knew; that church was mediaeval. The church…

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The Englishwoman visits Senigallia’s Biblioteca Antonelliana. Part I: Manuscripts.

From Chaldean missals to the history of Corinaldo’s churches … have a look at the latest post from my other blog.

Libraries and rare books in Le Marche

Senigallia is a pleasant resort town. As well as its lively Lungomare (Promenade) and its Spiaggia di Velluto (velvet beach), it boasts an attractive old town and a fine communal library.

It is much easier to explain face to face, rather than on the telephone, who I am; a British librarian, and what I want to do; spread awareness of the bibliographic treasures of Le Marche. So it was easy to book an appointment to look at some of the manuscripts and rare books in Senigallia’s  library, and return a day or two later, as Senigallia is just down the road from us. The staff were most welcoming and helpful. The conditions were not the best for photography, but I thought you’d like to see the manuscripts anyway.

The Biblioteca Antonelliana is called after Cardinal Antonelli, its founder, who in 1767 left all his books to the public administration of…

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The Englishwoman visits Offagna

I’ve been silent for some time because my family was keeping me busy. I am freer now, and looking forward to sharing more about life in Le Marche.

Offagna is a good place to visit if you have just been to  IKEA and want to enjoy somewhere uniquely Marchigiano. Or if you are touring it’s convenient for Ancona, but a different world.

We drove along winding hilly roads with breathtaking views on either side, and adopted our usual technique of not studying the map but parking just under the walls – there’s always somewhere – going through the gate, and walking up towards the Rocca, or castle. Most  hill towns have them and when we took our girls round them, we tended to grade them according to the size of the Rocca. Corinaldo hasn’t got one at all, Mondavio’s is one of the best, and Offagna’s is impressive too.

The walk up is delightful, but that day it was very hot. After this August I have got a lot less militant about opening times. It was too hot to visit anywhere between 12.30 and 5. Those long lunchtime closures are trying to tell you something. So our shopping trip to IKEA had had a Nordic effect and caused us to think “Fine, done our shopping, had lunch, off we go.” No. After lunch you need to be somewhere not too hot for a few hours. Next time we’ll aim to leave IKEA at 4 pm if we want to do something afterwards.

Offagna olive-press

We saw this olive-press just inside the gate.

 

Offagna door

I was fascinated by the hole cut in the top of this door. I’ve never seen anything like it. What is it for?

The church of Santa Lucia

The church of Santa Lucia

Andrea Vici, an eighteenth-century architect whose brother was a local priest, remodelled the sacristy of this church.

Glimpse of Offagna

I liked this facade.

A couple of glimpses on the road up. These Vendesi (For Sale) notices are ubiquitous, mostly faded by years of exposure to sunshine. You can buy them in your local Ferramenta, or ironmonger. The bottom has fallen out of the Marchigiano housing market and people don’t want to spend money on agents’ fees.

One of the best things about the walk up to Offagna’s Rocca is the way the views get more spectacular as you climb up. I arrived at a little piazza below the Rocca

Offagna entrance to piazza below Rocca

 

20170814_160712Offagna view from below Rocca

and thought this was as good as it got. How wrong I was.

House in piazza, Offagna

This is the sort of little house that children always say they would like to live in. There is a fairy-tale quality about it.

Having left the piazza, I continued on my winding way upwards and came this little garden.

Garden near war memorial, Offagna

The war memorial is just nearby.

Offagna war memorial

We walked all the way round the memorial, and as usual,  were saddened, though not surprised, to see how many people this small town lost in the First World War. Many soldiers died in the north-east, fighting Austria. And in the Second World War, many civilian dead are  listed, as usual. Victims of bombing in Ancona, or reprisals? In this case we didn’t know.

I had to wait till 4.30 for the fifteenth-century Rocca to open – no chance of a drink; any nearby bars were closed. However, it was worth the wait. Apparently, according to the Blue Guide, it is a good example of a transitional fortress, built when the use of gunpowder was changing defensive requirements. There were underground passages, arrow-slits

Offagna Rocca arrow slit

 

and battlements aplenty.

Offagna La Rocca battlements

The underground passages lead to what is either a corpse or a realistic model of a corpse. It is gruesome in the extreme and something I could have done without. I have not photographed it.

There were also some interesting displays. The collection of arms and armour didn’t appeal – it is not all ancient by the way, whatever the Internet guides may say; there is a collection of guns from the American West. But as I slowly climbed right up to the top of the central mastio, or tower, I quite unexpectedly came across these displays of Apulian ware.

Apulian vases

Apulian pottery

The bell on top of the tower was highly evocative, or suggestiva as the Italians would say (beware false friends!). It put me straight into Rosemary Sutcliffe or Charlotte Yonge mode. That is to say, I was immediately transported to a historical novel in which we brave defenders of Offagna were ringing the bell to warn of the approach of the hated Osimani (the people of nearby Osimo). Of course we could see them from leagues away, thanks to the position of our Rocca.

Offagna bell and battlements

Offagna bell La Rocca

The inscription on the bell reads, as best as I could make it out: MCCCCLXXVII JACOBUS DE ISTRIO FECIT AVE MARIA.  (1477 Jacobus of Istria made [it]. Hail Mary. )

I attempted to transcribe the rest of the inscription, but it reads a bit oddly and perhaps I missed something. It’s quite difficult to get round the back of the bell and peer up at the inscription. Anyway here it is: HONOREM DEO ET PATRIE LIBERATIONEM MENTEM SANTAM SPONTANEAM. (Honour to God and to the Fatherland liberation, a holy and willing mind.) Comments and corrections welcome.

Osimo also has what look like very good Feste Medioevali (yes, there’s more than one) in July.

This visit was really only a taster; next time we’ll look out for the work of Andrea Vici, the eighteenth-century architect, whom we discovered in Offagna but didn’t have time to follow up. He seems to have had some interesting problems due to arguments between local religious groups: watch this space!

Just one more photograph to leave you with. Offagna's clock-tower from the side.

 

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The Englishwoman visits the Leopardi Library/Biblioteca Leopardi

If you liked my post about Leopardi in Recanati (Il sabato del villaggio), you’ll like this.

Libraries and rare books in Le Marche

This library has survived intact for over 200 years thanks to Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837), one of Italy’s best-loved poets. He spent the greater part of his childhood and youth reading in this library, the creation of his father, Monaldo Leopardi.

The Italian class system is not the same as ours; however, I think it is safe to say that the Leopardi were what we would call gentry, and quite comfortably off. Monaldo was an “avid book collector” (p 363 of Canti / GiacomoLeopardi ; translated and annotated by JonathanGalassi. London : Penguin, c2010). In fact he spent so much money on this library that his wife had to sell her jewellery to restore the family fortunes.

I like Monaldo because he was more than a bibliophile. His instincts were those of a librarian; in other words, he wanted to share his books with everyone.

To children friends citizens Monaldo Leopardi [gives] the library in the year 1812 To children friends citizens Monaldo Leopardi…

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The Englishwoman eats at the Nova Taberna

This trendy new restaurant opened recently and we are keen to support the friendly young couple in charge, Giada and Aldo, as we think they are very bravi. They have spent time in Cork in Ireland and consequently they speak English. It’s difficult to sustain a restaurant in Corinaldo, because one needs solid local support to keep going outside the short tourist season of July and August, and the locals don’t eat out very often. We have been doing our best to make up for that.

view-of-nova-taberna-outside-on-la-piaggia

You can see from the photo that the restaurant is actually on La Piaggia, the flight of steps which is Corinaldo’s main approach and which all the visitors climb. An excellent location to  attract tourists.

A bride and groom asked if they might be photographed here, and the staff responded very positively, giving them a glass of wine each and really taking trouble to seat them appropriately.

 

Bride and groom outside Nova Taberna

We have eaten lunch and dinner here several times, inside and outside on the terrace, and the food has always been elegantly served and well-cooked. They have a good selection of local wines too, and the principal grape and the producer are named on the wine-list. The Rosso Conero below is 95% Montepulciano and comes from a vineyard in Candia, a village situated between the A14 motorway and the Strada Adriatica,

nova-taberna-wine-cacciatore-di-sogni

 

Below is the side passage that leads to the outside terrace at the back. The plants along each side are an excellent example of how the Italians can transform a rather ordinary space into something attractive.

side-entrance-to-nova-taberna

Note the fashionable vintage furniture in the photo below. I had been going to crop the partial view of the red-haired lady, but left her in because she was quite a character. She talked non-stop about food throughout her meal. Honestly, I am not exaggerating.

back-terrace-at-nova-taberna

We’ve eaten here often and I’m going to show you a typical menu and some of the dishes we have enjoyed.

nova-taberna-menu-2-june-2016

Set menu

It’s worth asking to see the set menu (menu fisso) if you aren’t offered it.

nova-taberna-gazpacho-di-frutta

Gazpacho di frutta

Carpaccio di pesca

Carpaccio di pesca

Another fruit starter.

La "nova" parmigianina

I can’t remember exactly what this consisted of but it was very good. We loved the blue plates and flower petals.

Gramigna all'ortica (nettles) e ricotta

Gramigna

 

Filled pasta - green and yellow again

Filled pasta – green and yellow again

Galletto (cockerel) marinato al gin e salvia (sage)

Galletto (cockerel) marinato al gin e salvia (sage)

They serve this quite often and it’s always good.The menu varies according to the season, but you don’t necessarily get something different every day.

Cous-cous

Cous-cous

This dish was vegetarian and they make a point of having a good vegetarian choice.

Specially for us!

Specially for us!

We told Giada and Aldo in advance that it was a special day for us and they came up with this little cake.

As you can tell from the way the food is served, Giada comes from an artistic family.

Sculpture by Giada's sister.

Sculpture by Giada’s sister.

If you are in the area Giada and Aldo are well worth a visit at the Nova Taberna. You can combine lunch or dinner with them with a drink at Scuretto’s, an ice-cream at  Sbirulina, the gelateria, and then a walk round Corinaldo’s walls, which you will need after all that!

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