The Saga of Monte Conero, Monsters and Friends…


Well, this week’s gone quite fast and I’ve still not done all the things I was hoping to do – as well as little things I want to do every day, the bigger stuff like sorting out a car/apartment, trying to get a teaching job, sorting out my finances, remain woefully incomplete!

Instead, I’ve been catching up on sleep. I’ve had what must be simply the worst hayfever known to mankind that’s had me sneezing more than not and my throat swell so I can barely breathe. However, I’ve now found some good hayfever tablets that work so I no longer have an excuse to not get on and do things!

We’ve also had a few sightseeing trips with the school:

  • Grotto di Camerano: These are some caves under Camerano – there’s apparently more in the way of caves than streets above ground. It was a bit of a distracting tour – we went with a bunch of French tourists who had a translator so after every few words of Italian, the translator was wittering on in French for about double the time. I think she was making stuff up. I definitely would have (“And this cave is where Santa Claus keeps his reindeer in the summer”). Anyway, I picked up about half of it and I think I might go there every 3 months or so just to see if my Italian’s improved any. Perhaps in a few years time, I’ll understand two thirds 😉

Grotto di Camerano

  • Ascoli Picena: Ascoli is a bit further south from here – about an hour drive. It’s set in a valley between hills/mountains. I liked it, but wasn’t overly struck. The city is very run down – they don’t have any money to restore the old buildings which is a real shame. The duomo (cathedral) was fabulous though – really very grand and the crypt between was really nicely done out with a lovely colourful ceiling mosaic. If I had a crypt, I would do it out exactly the same. Perhaps I’ll have “must have crypt” into my list of apartment requirements.  They have countless churches. Almost every street has a church. I can’t understand it – did they do no market research?! If you’re considering building a church, would you not think “hmm, but there’s a church next door but one… perhaps I’d best build it elsewhere”. Marco was his usual incredibly knowledgeable self, reeling off names and dates and history like a true tour guide.


A main piazza in Ascoli Picena. Note the small dogs. The Italians have a lot of small cute dogs. That or large scary rabid looking dogs. There’s one I forget about down the road from here that creeps up in his garden whilst I’m walking past and then unleashes the loudest barking making me jump out of my skin. I think he plays a game to see how many unsuspecting pedestrians jump into the road and get run over. Next time, I’m going to creep up on him whilst he’s sleeping and bark the hell out of him…


In the cathedral

In the main square – see the fountain on the left? You can drink out of it. I thought people were being disgusting but no, no, the water isn’t just recycled around endlessly.

  • The Saga of Mount Conero: I went for the longest walk ever yesterday – 20kms I think – to Mount Conero, specifically to the monastery at the top. I thought it would be a 4 hour round trip. Long, but doable. And I need to walk off a lot of ice-cream. BUT I went without a decent map. Or food. Or much water. Or decent walking shoes. And I was listening to music and looking at the scenery and lizard spotting and my mind was wandering and before I knew it, I’d walked too far to go back. Besides I thought I’d be at the monastery soon enough anyway so I carried on and thought I’d try and catch a bus back. Anyway, I then turned a corner fully expecting to be half way up the mountain to the monastery but no, the monastery has mysterious qualities much like the horizon or the end of a rainbow – it was still a speck in the distance on an even larger mountain. 

Can you see the monastery?! If you squint and put your eyes up close to the screen at the top of that green mountainous blob, you can see it. This was about 3 hours in!

  • The Saga of Mount Conero continued: Anyway, not to be beaten, I continued, and after a 5 or 6km perilous road walk (I’m getting the hang of mentally calculating which side of the road I should be on based on probability of death), I started climbing THE mountain. I was the only one climbing up, everyone else was coming down (I worry there’s a cable car I don’t know about). And in large groups too. Every group seemed to have a member who would incredulously ask “er, you’re doing this on your own?”. Pah! PAH! And so started the Climb of Independence 🙂 Anyway, what felt like decades and several heart attacks later, I got to the monastery. My sense of achievement was only tempered by their being no buses or ability to get back. Why did I think I could get a bus? It was a Sunday and the bus drivers probably don’t work on Sundays. Or if they do, they probably have their lunch break between the hours of 00.01 and 23.59. And so….after 5 and a half hours, I walked back. 8 HOURS it took me in total. EIGHT! Up and down COUNTLESS hills and mountains. 

It took me a lot less time on the way back despite a “short cut” that took me past a creepy abandoned house and a wood I didn’t have the guts to go through (you should have heard the noises from it – no wonder they abandoned the house!!!) so had to double back. The speedy return was solely down to dreams of a relaxing bubble bath. Alas, my boiler decided to pack up and my bubble bath was freezing cold. I told myself that athletes, like my good self, always have cold baths (don’t they?) so had the bath nonetheless, but I can still barely move today.

I’m really impressed with the wildlife in Conero National Park – there’s so many different species of plants, flowers, trees, butterflies, lizards (in fact, I think the Monster in the Wood by the Abandoned House was probably a giant carnivorous lizard from the Jurassic era. Hmm. Perhaps that’s why Santa needs to keep his reindeer in the caves…) and it has snakes! I saw two 🙂 It’s a great place to go walking – I think I’ll definitely stay around here – there’s a lot of exploring to do. AND, I can walk to the beach – albeit it’s a 6 hour round trip but still, walking distance!


After careful prodding, I unfortunately ascertained this snake had bitten the dust. Marco assures me they’re not poisonous (particularly when already dead).

The highlight of last week was seeing some friends from home – thanks Chris and Brad for coming to see me :-)! We had a small pub crawl from Bar Bosco to Bar Maffy and then they came back to mine for coffee. I think they liked Camerano and definitely seemed to be impressed with the scenery around Le Marche and Abruzzo.


Chris and Brad on my balcony

I’ve been missing friends a lot this week – two of my closest friends have had babies, and there’s another one on the way so it’s sad to be so far away. I’ll have to plan a visit at some point. Anyway – tanti auguri to them 🙂

This week was supposed to be my first week off from the language school but Marco’s given me a good deal on Italian classes so I might still stick with it for this week and take a view next week as to whether to continue. I went out for dinner with a new set of students last night which was interesting – a couple of them (from England and US) have bought houses in Le Marche so I’ll definitely be taking some hints/tips from them. The students I met yesterday are WORSE than me at Italian – I hadn’t thought it possible, so I’m thrilled about that. Marco was concerned I might not like being a class with them but they look at me when I’m speaking in the same way that I look at people that know how to speak Italian…! It’s great – I’ve thought about it, and I definitely prefer being better than people 😉 Alas, I’m now in a class with someone that’s the same level or a bit better, so the ego stroking was short lived.

Bins – SUCCESS! Well partial success. Close monitoring of the bin situation has resulted in discovery of organic waste collections Wednesday, and regular waste on Thursday. And I’m pleased to report that they take bags of stuff that aren’t in the designated bags (which I don’t have and don’t know where to acquire). No success yet on cardboard and paper but I have high hopes for this week. EXCITING.

What’s a bit odd: This week’s feature – there are no prices on houses and flats in the papers or in the estate agents – you might get the occasional one with a price, but that’s it. I can see why they do it – they want  to entice you in so they can assess how much you’re willing to pay, get your details etc and there can be some negotiation. But it’s annoying – I’m happy to negotiate a price, but I don’t want to waste my time asking if the desired price is way out of my range so I just haven’t been following up. I’ll have to get over that at some point I think…

Right, that’s about it – this week there’s a few visits with the school planned and the weather should finally get consistently better from next weekend so hoping to do a few more beach trips.

Hope you’re all well.


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2 thoughts on “The Saga of Monte Conero, Monsters and Friends…

  1. Peter G

    Nice for you to have some friends visiting – keep the updates coming, they brighten up a Monday at work!

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