Posts Tagged With: Festivals

The Good Life in Emilia-Romagna: Part 1 – Places to stay

Buongiorno a tutti!!!!

How is everyone?

I’ve been on a blog tour in honour of the “Settimana del Buon Vivere” (the Week of Good Living) in Emilia-Romagna, a region of Northern Italy. I’m going to write it up as another Blog Tour Trilogy. In this post, I’ll give you a bit of background and focus on places to stay, Part 2 will cover food and drink and in Part 3 I’ll talk about things to do and  see in the area. There is a small chance that like all good trilogy’s I might split the final Part into two sections as there’s so much to talk about!

The Settimana del Buon Vivere is a yearly event at the end of September (this year’s event ran from the 25th September to the 2nd October) based primarily in Forlì and it focuses on health, culture, well-being and the environment. To that end there are: art exhibitions, concerts, shows, workshops, seminars… you name it, the list goes on!

There is a 43 page programme / newspaper listing the events for the week so all in all, an impressive programme and although there was a general theme in relation to “Water” this year, the festival covered a vast range of topics. To give you an idea of the events: There were free lessons in yoga, talks on mindfulness, seminars on how to use water responsibly (including how to grow plants with as little water as possible – this seminar is perfect for me!), mobile theatre events that took place in a truck and bus and discussions about sourdough bread… I picked out my personal favourites for these examples but to check out the full range, have a look here.

However, our particular blog tour only touched briefly on the official activities of the Settimana del Buon Vivere as our primary aim was to explore Emilia-Romagna as a whole: uncover some of the cities, learn about their traditions and culture, their food and wine and see for ourselves why the region is Italy’s capital for “good living”. We did, however, attend one of the official events – an Instagram Academy held in what used to be a church, San Giacomo in the city of Forlì.

The talk was interesting, covering how Instagram has come to be, how it can be used, particularly as an aid to tourism and it’s benefits. I have to admit, I do not utilise Instagram to the max, in fact, even to the minimum. I hadn’t quite worked out what point it serves over and above all the other social media which I already struggle to update! I know, I know… what kind of blogger am I?!! Anyway, I left the presentation relatively sold on its benefits. I shall aim to post regularly. If you want to follow me, I’m “lemarchescape” and as an aside, on Twitter I’m @suzzec (long story!).

During the presentation I drew the Instagram Academy team, and posted that up on Instagram there and then –  the two guys presenting “liked it” shortly after – oh the power of social media!

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Exploring Emilia-Romagna

Emilia-Romagna covers a large area – it’s one of Italy’s 20 regions (just north of Le Marche where I live), and has a population of almost 4.5 million people. It is over 14 times bigger than Greater London to give you an idea of its size, with mountains, plains, lagoons, sea and one of my favourite cities, Bologna, which is the region’s capital.

You can appreciate that it would be a challenge to experience and write about everything there is to see and do in the entire area during the course of the week we were there. However, we did our best! We had a whirlwind tour of some of the region’s cities, seeing them in a new light, learning about the traditions and culture in Emilia-Romagna and discovering the Delta del Po park. We went on a water-based tour of Forli, a street art tour of Ravenna and a tour of Cesena by bike. We went wine tasting, ciambella making (a traditional cake of Emilia-Romagna), bird watching, art and sculpture exhibition visiting, not to mention eating vast amounts of the local delicacies in an array of restaurants. I know, I know… it’s a hard life this blog tour business! I felt like quite the celebrity. In fact, I was even interviewed by the local radio station! To check out the interview click here. I can’t bring myself to listen to it. My Italian is just awful!

B&B Calicanto

We stayed at the Calicanto Bed and Breakfast run by Andrea and Anna and their family. Like it says in their kitchen, it’s a home from home (which is not totally true in my case, the rooms here are much more luxurious!

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A home from home!

The bedrooms are well decorated – a good mix between modern and traditional. Breakfast was served in a little dedicated kitchen area and amazing breakfasts they were too. Anna is a brilliant cook – she really should be running cake baking courses! There’s something different to look forward to everyday.

They have a large outside space, complete with sun loungers at the guests disposal where we spent most of our first day ‘chilling out ‘ before the blog tour commenced in earnest. If we hadn’t been jetting around the region for the tour, I could happily have spent the entire week relaxing at the B&B!

I think my favourite aspect of the B&B though was the ever faithful Mutley, the excellent and affectionate guard dog!

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I’m trying to get in as much drawing and watercolour practice as I can at the moment so with that in mind, I spent our first afternoon with the sketchpad…

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Ca’ Bevilacqua

To have a look at other options available to tourists coming into the area, we also visited Ca’ Bevilacqua in the evening for a buffet meal. Ca’ Bevilacqua is a B&B with three guest rooms and an area for events such as birthdays or weddings. The property is surrounded by a large hedge and a rather sturdy gate and in consequence you feel totally secluded – a real haven for relaxation. They have been featured in Country House magazine. We ate in the very atmospheric event area, a large almost open “barn” area with vines intertwined amongst the beams and falling down in cascades. Quite a romantic room that makes you feel like you’ve just come across it in the middle of a forest. This is where they host events – holding a wedding recently in what I think is an idyllic setting! Our hosts, Loretta, Vidmer and their daughter provided us with a lovely buffet meal and great company after a long and tiring day of exploring. These are some snaps from the evening but check out their website to see the B&B in all its daylight glory!

Ok, that’s it for this post. Tune in for Part 2. If you want to check out what my fellow blog tour buddies thought about our tour, have a look here:

A presto,

x

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Earthquakes, Traumatic Treks, Castrum Sarnani and Opera…

Buongiorno,

I wrote the blog below before the terrible earthquake struck central Italy yesterday morning.  I’ve experienced two or three earthquakes now in Italy and I thought the others were quite strong but nothing like this. The epicenter, where the most damage was done was only 24 miles away as the crow flies. I woke up at 3.36, like I think almost everyone else did in central Italy and it felt like I was in a washing machine. It’s very difficult to orientate yourself, or even get out of bed when everything is shaking so violently and things are falling from the walls and smashing around you. There wasn’t any warning – it doesn’t slowly warm up, it just hits. And it went on for such a long time, well over 2 minutes. Myself and the neighbours all convened outside. Each year in August, families from Rome come to stay in their holiday homes in the hamlet so there were about 10 of us outside in our night clothes on the road for 3 or 4 hours too scared to go back inside. We gradually began to get dribs and drabs of information about those that weren’t so lucky. Watching the terrible scenes unfolding from the worst hit places has just been heartbreaking. Over 240 people are dead and there are still lots missing.  Obviously terrible things like this happen all the time but rather unjustly, when it’s so close to home, it really puts things into perspective. My neighbours and I have all been very lucky.

There have been dozens of aftershocks, lots quite strong and each time everyone rushes outside again. The families from Rome have all gone back to their main homes and so there’s just the core of my little hamlet here now. It’s a lovely community spirit and everyone watches over everyone else though so I don’t ever feel too alone in that regard.

The house is full of cracks, a couple I’m a bit worried about but apart from a few glasses and a mirror broken, all is pretty much as it was. Someone will come today to check that all is ok and I hope it will be. There are 30 families in Sarnano who are not so lucky and have had to move out of their homes as they’ve been classed as too dangerous to stay in. AirBnB have a disaster relief scheme and I’ve offered my spare rooms on that, even though I’m a bit nervous to sleep in the house myself until the aftershocks calm down a bit. Last night I slept in my tent. Of course, life goes on and you can’t not sleep at home for fear of something that will probably (fingers crossed!) never happen, but at the moment it’s just not a very relaxing thought sleeping under concrete whilst there are still aftershocks (even one as I write!). In fact, there were at least another couple of tremors last night, one fairly large but under canvas (and putting aside the concerns about everyone else), it’s less scary and more awe-inducing!

Lots of friends and family have been in touch worried about me so thank you for your concerns and well wishes, it’s much appreciated 🙂

So that’s the earthquake. My thoughts (and hopefully more practical things like blood and clothes in the not too distant future!) are with the people of the towns worst hit. On a lighter note (though admittedly not much the first part of the update!) here’s everything else I’ve been up to!

Last time I wrote was a month or so ago so there’s another mass of things to update on. Summer here in Le Marche just seems to be very busy with things to do and people to see which is nice of course. Anyway, first things first.

The walk in Gran Sasso I was about to embark on the last time I wrote…

It was absolute stunning. I need to go back there again under my own steam to take more photos. However, I feel like our “day out” could be made into a disaster film without using much imagination. It was not a 10 hour trek as planned; it was 16 hours and consisted of more climbing than hiking (a particular challenge given I’ve never climbed before!). The fixed ropes that should have already been in place were not there, ladders fixed to the side of the mountain were missing the majority of their screws and rocks the size of footballs fell on our heads (thankfully  only on the ones that had helmets). We got down to the bottom of the mountain on our return just before nightfall and then had to try and find our way in pitch black to the cars. Nobody had phone reception to call for help, nobody had enough water (mine fell out of my bag), angry horses chased us and the angry wolf-killing dogs protecting them chased us too for good measure. And to cap it all I broke my very expensive camera…. On the whole it wasn’t an enjoyable experience and I eventually got into bed 24 hours later; an exhausted, sunburnt, aching mess. I haven’t quite worked up the courage to go out for any more group excursions since!

The views were stunning though…

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Valle dei Tre Santi

However, I have been on more successful walks and Valle dei Tre Santi was one of them: to discover the Valley of the Three Saints. It was a local walk, about 12km long and included some lovely little waterfalls and a “gola” (basically where two large rocks/mountains meet and leave a gap).

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Monte Vettore

I also finally made it up to Monte Vettore, the highest mountain in the Sibillini range at 2,476 meters. It’s the highest place I’ve ever walked up to so I’m pleased about that! It’s been on my list of things to do for months 🙂 Here are some photos…

Around Sarnano

I also had some visitors here so did some of my usual “tourist” route activities with them!

Montemonaco

We also went to Il Tiglio, a very plush Michelin starred restaurant in Montemonaco. We went for the “degustazione” menu – a tasting menu where you try a bit of everything on the menu. I had a vegetarian version which was very tasty. I think the best bit was just the sheer creativity… as a starter a branch came out with “berries” stuck on made of parmesan etc. Pudding was a sort of custard poured on the table with fruit and granola type stuff which sounds pretty normal but then the waiter poured liquid nitrogen over it to freeze it! It was a very interesting dining experience all around.  On the way back we stopped off in the town and took some photos…

Rocca Varano

We also made it to Rocca Varano, a castle on the outskirts of Camerino. I’ve often driven past and wanted to investigate. It looks particularly elegant at night, all lit up. So we headed there and predictably it was shut! We still had a wander around though. I’ll have to go back and explore the inside at some point.

Pescara

Pescara is another place that’s been on my list of things to do for months. It’s a city about 2 hours drive from here on the coast. I met a friend for lunch and a quick walk around the town so didn’t do too much exploring but it looks quite a nice town on first impressions.

Opera at the Sferisterio

I’ve also been to see the opera at the Sferisterio, a sort of ancient semi-circular Colosseum in Macerata. It was quite an experience. I was pleased to note that most of the Italians don’t understand what on earth is going on either. Even with the subtitles which were flashed up at the sides, it’s difficult to understand what’s happening because it’s all in ancient Italian that often doesn’t bare any resemblance to Italian nowadays. I think they could have been a little clearer as well in terms of the scenes and costumes (it took me a while to work out that there were two separate main women as they both looked the same, dressed the same and sounded the same…. note: I am reliably informed by my opera singing expert friend that they didn’t in fact sound the same).

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Castrum Sarnani and the Serafino

Finally, last week, we had Castrum Sarnani, a big medieval festival in Sarnano that happens every August. It’s a great event with things going on every day for a week or so. It kicks off with the Serafino, a competition between the four zones in Sarnano where they compete to win things like tug-of-war, tree-trunk cutting, tree climbing and a race with a jug of water on your head!

During the taking of these photos above, I got stung by a wasp. Over a week on, my finger has only just gone back down to normal size!

Once the Serafino has finished, the real party starts. Sarnano is filled with medieval demonstrations – candle making, flour milling, juggling, singing and falconry. There are 4 or 5 different “taverns” to eat at within town and you can pay for everything using special coins made by the resident blacksmith! It’s just a really lovely event – I highly recommend it!

I think that sums up the last few weeks. I hope you’re all having an excellent August 🙂

x

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Non essential DIY, chestnuts and Batfink the adorable kitten!

Buongiorno!

How is everyone?

Busy here again (no surprise there then!)! I fear my updates lately will become a jigsaw of pictures soon, a sort of “guess what I’ve been doing from these snaps” puzzle. The DIY bits haven’t reduced much but have been getting slightly more interesting. Batfink the kitten is a massive distraction from anything remotely productive. I’ve also been attempting to write a novel – I feel a bit guilty writing for the blog when I’ve got a daily novel target to meet! Having said that, I imagine I shall get bored of it shortly (though I hope not – I’m sure I have a book in me somewhere!). Here’s a more specific run down of current events here in Sarnano.

Fai da te (Do it yourself!

We SHOULD be doing beams. The sofa is coming in a week and I can’t even begin to describe the amount of dust that the house is covered in. Ideally it would be nice if the house didn’t look like it was in the midst of a dust storm when it arrives so finishing the beams is top priority now. And with that in mind, we have:

1. Created a chalk board in the kitchen

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For someone that hated teaching, it’s odd how much I like this chalkboard! One can never have too many plans.

2. Renovated the kitchen table and chairs.

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Before… Not an excellent picture of the tables and chairs as they were before – this was mid-scraping off the wax/varnish.

After... the table now matches the chairs which match the kitchen units. Just need to get / make some nice cushions now :-)

After… the table now matches the chairs which match the kitchen units. Just need to get / make some nice cushions now 🙂 Ignore the recycling bin.

 

3. Created a coat/bag hanging device out of my treasured driftwood collection before Pane Caldo burns it in the stufa.

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Works alright! One can never find too many uses for driftwood.

4. Made a note board which everybody, but one person, thinks is horrid. I’m still on the fence!

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Ok….. fine, perhaps one can find too many uses for driftwood. But it has an attached DRIFTWOOD PEN HOLDER! Who wouldn’t love a driftwood pen holder?!?!

5. Put “seasonal double glazing” on the windows. We have only single glazed windows and well….it gets cold and condensation-y here in the winter! It’s like an elaborate sort of clingfilm that you stick on to the window frame forming a gap between it and the glass and then you use a hairdryer to get it taut. It’s a genius solution – cheap, easy to do and we’ve not had any condensation on the windows we’ve done already but lots on the ones we’ve still got to do. Today, I’m writing on a particularly nasty, blustery, rainy day and the house feels warm (compared to usual at least!).

6. Bought a dehumidifier. Previously we had bought a damp meter. The rationale was that our cantina seems to be a bit damp (in fact, it’s entirely off the damp meter scale). The bedroom and bathroom need regular de-mouldifying (for the Italians reading this – please don’t make note of any of these “new” words) and the bed covers often feel damp to touch. We also have a flat roof terrace above this bedroom which has a pool of water on it all the time from the rain water – a little water feature/reservoir if you will, so it was interesting to note that the bedroom ceiling was officially “damp” too. I’ve since been measuring the dampness of everything in the house but it seems elsewhere it’s not such an issue. The Damp Reduction Plan included the purchase of a dehumidifier and  also an extractor fan to install in the bathroom. We have yet to do the latter but the dehumidifier is quite the success – I think it’s already extracted a bath’s worth of water from various rooms and we haven’t even tried it in the cantina yet!  The electrician hasn’t come yet to fix the extractor fan because, despite organising a day for him to come, I didn’t phone him every day to nag him. It’s all so efficient here.

7. Acquired/bought some wood from the next door neighbour.

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Apparently we shall need another two lots of these “larger” bits of wood. But we have a wardrobe of small branches and…

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Now all these smaller branches too (our stufa is quite small so we can’t have anything massive anyway)

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This is the stufa. That pot had water in it bubbling away yesterday – I think we’ll be able to make some soups and stews on it. Or at least, that’s my cunning plan.

8. Done almost nothing on the beams. When I say done almost nothing – we have actually put hours and hours into it with absolutely little, to no visible sign of change. There’s definitely been no change in the last few days as Pane Caldo has been hit with a severe case of ‘man flu’ and well, I have no patience for the beams. For anyone else out there taking off paint from their beams, here are some tips: 1. Chipping with scrapers can work OK to a point. Do that first. 2. Manual sanding will make you want to hang yourself from the very beam you’re sanding. 3. Electric sanding? You’ll go through a sheet every two inches. 4. Wire brush? Seems to have only compacted the paint on our beams. 5. Wire spin-ny brush on drill – speeds up the paint compaction process. 6. Paint/varnish removal goo – works alright up to a point, combined with the scrapers it seems to have been the best at getting the top layers of paint off. 7. Heat gun serves only to lose feeling in your arm.

Other Miscellaneous Items

I’ve also been on various chestnut hunting missions which have been fairly successful although I was caught out by the Italian signage system that led me into the middle of the local forest following the `number 4` trail. It pointed me up what I can only think will be a waterfall when in rains and then the signs stopped. In fact, the only signs that I did see were “don’t come in here, we’re hunting”. By that point, I’d gone reasonably far into the unknown, with no mobile phone reception and a dwindling phone battery. Even then I couldn’t stop picking up chestnuts. I think it’s an addiction.

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Mmm…… chestnuts

Also, on a cooking note, it’s been excellent having a decent kitchen. I don’t think I’ve ever had a decent kitchen myself before – it’s much nicer cooking now and we’ve since expanded our repertoire considerably from pizza and pesto pasta.

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Some very nice chocolate goo-ey cakes

One of our lovely neighbours gave us a new leaf vegetable to try. It’s a bit like spinach. They call is rape – you pronounce it rap-ay. I cooked it with some potatoes and other bits and pieces the other day and thought it was nice.  I don’t know what it is in English but it’s meant I’ve had to change my recipe naming strategy which is usually on the lines of “cheesy potatoes”.

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This is the vegetable in question.

Remember my mushroom fascination? I found an organised bunch of people that go out on nature trails and mushroom hunts. There doesn’t seem to be anything coming up now until next year unfortunately but I’ll write and try and join them.

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They had a display of lots of different types of mushrooms, all labeled with “edible”, “poisonous”. My favourite label was “suspicious”. I made a note not to eat any suspicious mushrooms.

 

Festivals

We’ve been to a couple of autumn festivals – one somewhere near Smerillo and one in Sarnano. The one near Smerillo (I say near Smerillo because that’s where we were heading to until we ended up going to another villages’ festival because I’d got the date wrong. It was seamless though, I hadn’t even realised we weren’t going to the right festival). It was absolutely heaving with people and full of food. I’ve concluded from this, and all the other Italian festivals I’ve been to, the crux of what is considered a good festival in Italy is food. There’s stall after stall of food – either of the ‘hot off the shelf wild boar kebab’ variety or different cheeses, honeys and  breads. And people queue for hours and hours and hours to get their lunch. If you go to any of these festivals, I suggest you take a packed lunch with you while you queue (alas, I think then you’d be missing the point of the festival).

Wherever we were, it had good views!

Wherever we were, it had good views!

 

And insanely long queues.

And insanely long queues…

And a great little band...

And a great little band…

And creepy stuffed people...

And creepy stuffed people attached to trees…

Batfink

I’ll give Batfink (named after Batfink the animated cartoon character who has rather large pointy ears) his own section this week because he’s so cute. When he sees me he runs up to me for a cuddle (and food, but I’m positive it’s mainly for a cuddle). We’ve come clean to the next door neighbour and have admitted he comes in sometimes, and far from minding she seemed happy that he had someone to look after him. So given he and all his fleas like to come in and sit on us in the evening, we decided to deflea him using Frontline and I must say, it’s a miracle! I’d never seen so many fleas on a cat before. Batfink was the itchiest cat ever, and you could see why – the nasty fleas were crawling all over him, his eyes, mouth, ears… ugh. Poor puss. Anyway, no more. We managed to get 20 fleas off him (all the fleas seem to come to the surface) and I imagine there were dozens more. And then….now that we’ve made him all cuddly, cute and de-fleaified – the next door neighbour seems to have claimed him for her own in the evenings!

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Batfink in a box

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Batfink on a lap

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Batfink on another lap

 

Right, that’s enough from me this week. Hope you all have lovely weeks!

xxx

 

 

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