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.


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,



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.


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.


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


Set menu

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


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



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.



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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The Englishwoman admires Corinaldo’s Infiorata and walks in the Corpus Christi procession 

On the first Sunday in June we arrived at our little local church,  Sant’Apollonia, only a bit late (the Chelsea Fan has observed that Mass and football matches always begin on time in Italy), as usual, only to find it closed.We thought there must be a big service at San Francesco, the biggest church in town, at 11.15, so off we drove, only to find that all the car parks were full and we’d have to park outside the Crai supermarket and walk up to the Corso.

When we reached the  Corso we found crowds assembling and obviously waiting for something. Fortunately at this point we bumped into Signora Chiara, the widow of the late great Fausto of I Tigli restaurant. She explained to me what was going on. Of course, I had forgotten, it was the feast of Corpus Christi (Body of Christ), or Corpus Domini, as they say in Italy, when the townsfolk process through the streets behind the priest who carries the communion bread, which is the Body of Christ. First Communions also usually take place on the day of this festival.

CC procession going past the comune

I first saw this procession as a teenager on my Gap Year in Perugia, and really liked it. Then I remember being in Corinaldo for Corpus Domini a few years ago, though I didn’t see the procession, but all the First Communion children coming out of church.

Signora Chiara also explained that nowadays there is not only a solemn procession on the day of Corpus Domini, but also an Infiorata, i.e. the streets are carpeted with flower petals. This is more common in Tuscany and Umbria, but is now spreading to Le Marche.

Flower carpet by Osteria de Scuretto

People stay up all night to finish the flower decorations, some of which are quite elaborate.




Small boy walking across IHS

Actually you couldn’t avoid walking over some of the floral decorations.

It’s good to see so many of the townsfolk joining in. These religious festivals are all part of the way civil society expresses itself hereabouts.


The Mayor walks in the procession, taking a leading position near the Host under its canopy.


As well as joining in the procession, the Mayor also  creates a decoration, on  which he works very hard. I wonder if he made the one in the picture above.


Corinaldo’s corpo bandistico also takes part. These volunteers are present at many a festival and celebration, which wouldn’t be the same without their enthusiasm and high standard of playing.


Love the baseball cap!


First Communicants

The First Communicants all wear simple white robes, so as to eliminate competition among the girls for the best First Communion dress.


The priest carries the Host in its monstrance under the canopy.

The last decoration that the procession will pass on its route to the church

This is the last decoration before the procession reaches its destination, the church of San Francesco.


We have reached the church and the procession has come to its end.


It’s all over, and the rain held off till just before the end. The Mayor and Giorgia Fabri (the blonde in the black outfit), assessore alla cultura among other things, are chatting  with their friends and colleagues. We went off for lunch at the Nova Taberna, a new restaurant with a fresh approach to traditional local cooking that we are keen to support. More of them next time.

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Sisma, in un caveau l’Infinito di Leopardi | Cronache Maceratesi

VISSO – Il prezioso manoscritto era conservato nel museo diocesano, struttura rimasta danneggiata dal terremoto

Source: Sisma, in un caveau l’Infinito di Leopardi | Cronache Maceratesi

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The Englishwoman experiences “Il sabato del villaggio”

I have chosen to use the title of a poem by Giacomo Leopardi, “Saturday in the Village” (Canto XXV) as a title for this post.

The poet Giacomo Leopardi was born in Recanati  in 1798; here he spent his childhood and youth reading in the library, collected by Monaldo,  his father. It is open to the public; you don’t need to make a special request. Thanks to Alex of Send In the Librarians (a great joint blog, by Alex and Victoria, for lovers of books and libraries – and cats) for telling me this. Without you, Alex, I might never have got round to visiting the Biblioteca of Casa Leopardi.

Saturday was fairly cool and damp, a good day for urban sightseeing, so we decided to drive down to Casa Leopardi. The library overlooks a little piazza, the piazza of the poem, and when you read Canto XXV you can imagine the young Leopardi gazing down at the bustling piazza – a bustle from which he was for ever excluded by his station in life.

In the piazza

In the piazza

A few lines from the Canto are carved on the building, which was the servants’ quarters, opposite the Casa Leopardi.

I fanciulli gridando carved lines from Il sabato del villaggio

“The crowd of children shouting in the little square, and leaping here and there, make a happy noise.”

Saturday is in some ways a good day for sightseeing, because you often get a bonus in the form of a wedding. This particular Saturday a wedding was taking place in the church adjacent to the Leopardi house.

I know the captions below, from “Il sabato del villaggio”, are quoted out of context, but I couldn’t resist them. Although Leopardi wasn’t describing a wedding at all, his words seem to fit.

"Questo di sette e' il più gradito giorno, Pieno di speme e di gioa"

“Questo di sette e’ il più gradito giorno, Pieno di speme e di gioa”

“This day is the most welcome of the seven, full of hope and joy.”

And here is the bride.

"...e reca in mano Un mazzolin di rose e di viole

“…e reca in mano Un mazzolin di rose e di viole”

“… and she holds in her hand A bunch of roses and violets” (No violets, actually).

There was a modest bar in the square  where the Chelsea Fan had an excellent cappuccino, in the late morning – shock horror.  I think if you want a cappuccino you should ask for it; never mind about  the done thing.  Do they want your money or don’t they? The Englishwoman is obviously a foreigner whatever she does, anyway .

In the bar we fell into conversation with a wedding guest  (no, he wasn’t a bit like the Ancient Mariner). He pushed in front of me in the queue and I glared at him in my best Paddington Bear fashion. The Chelsea Fan could feel the heat from the other side of the room.  He, the wedding guest, instantly apologised and made way for me.  We take queuing seriously in Le Marche.

Following this encounter I heard him talking about “la Brexit” with his friend and raised my eyebrows.  Oh scusi,  was he in the way of the Signora’s cappuccino? I said no, we were English and had heard them talking about Brexit. He made a remark which I didn’t catch but later we were standing near each other and he observed to his friend “Questi signori sono inglesi”. I took this as an invitation to chat, and it was interesting to hear how fed up they were with the EU. They didn’t seem to resent the vote to Leave at all.

The bride and groom eventually  appeared at the top of the steps, having burst their way through the screen of pink and white balloons.

"...Cotesta eta' fiorita E' come un giorno di allegrezza pieno, Giorno chiaro, sereno, Che precorre alla festa di tua vita."

“…Cotesta eta’ fiorita E’ come un giorno di allegrezza pieno, Giorno chiaro, sereno, Che precorre alla festa di tua vita.”

“This blooming age Is like a day full of happiness, A clear, sunny day, Precursor to the festa of your life.”

The kiss was the signal for us to join the queue for entry tickets to the library and the exhibition. After about half an hour we arrived at the desk and received the same painstaking and polite explanation as everyone ahead of us in the queue.  The upshot of it all was that we had to be back at 2 for the library tour. After a hurried lunch in the first restaurant we found, served by harassed and unsmiling staff ( they weren’t hurrying ), we made it just in time.  I told you the Chelsea Fan hates looking for restaurants at lunchtime!

I’ll post something about the collection in my other blog.

The guided tour was of course aimed at Leopardi fans, not librarians, so I’ll pass on to you some of what I gleaned about his life. The poet spent most of his youth in the library,  where, among many other studies he taught himself Greek and Hebrew from the rare polyglot Bible. A touching sight was the window

Giacomo's window

whence he used to look across to the servants’ quarters where Teresa, whom he called Silvia, sat singing over her weaving. She became the subject of Canto XXI, “A Silvia”, in which he rages against Nature for causing her early death and destroying her youthful hopes.

"From the balcony of my father's house I used to listen for the sound of your voice And of your swift-moving hand Running across the wearisome loom. I used to look at the cloudless sky..."

“From the balcony of my father’s house I used to listen for the sound of your voice And of your swift-moving hand Running across the wearisome loom. I used to look at the cloudless sky…”

Roll on the holiday! as Leopardi nearly said. What he actually wrote was “… ma la tua festa Ch’ancor tardi a venir non ti sia grave.” And I wish the same to all of you.



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