Posts Tagged With: montemonaco

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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The Throat of Hell, unique ways of procrastinating and what to do with an abundance of chestnuts…

Buongiorno a tutti,

How is everyone? It’s been a lovely here the last few days which has been a nice change from what has felt like constant rain lately! It was beginning to feel like I was still in the UK 😉

So things to update here are as follows…

Teaching & Procrastinating

I’ve been doing a bit of teaching again which has been good. Teaching adults is far less traumatic! I’ve also got a new local “language exchange” buddy which I’m pleased about.

I have not been editing my book. I have been procrastinating. Instead of editing, I have learnt how to do the Cups song from the film Pitch Perfect and I decided I should learn a new song on the guitar (which I have not played for years). Soon my art course will start so I’ll have less editing time. I’m very annoyed with myself!

Chestnutting

I’m still trying to do some thing with the mountain of chestnuts I collected. I have made: Chestnut Butter (it’s impossibly rich), Chestnutella (chocolatey chestnut spread which turned out alright only I use the term “spread” very loosely, because it basically doesn’t) and Marron Glacé  (which are candied chestnuts. These are nice but I think just one is equivalent to my recommended calorie intake for the week).

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This is my version of “Maron Glace”. I don’t think they will win any awards for their presentation.

Festa-ing

I have been ‘festa-ing’! I am usually cursed when it comes to festa’s. They’re often cancelled, I’ve just missed them by seconds, or they just don’t exist. I tried to go to one in Sarnano last weekend but that one had been cancelled without any apparent word. I don’t understand why I was the only person wandering around wondering where it was. It appears key festa information is beamed directly into the heads of the locals. The following day I tried to go to another festa and the car broke down, however I did manage to make that one in the end.

At this time of year there are lots of these festas focused on chestnuts, truffles, wine, or polenta. This one was in Morrovalle, a little village towards the coast, and was a general autumnal festa. It was rather small as festa’s go but cute none the less.

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The main piazza in Morrovalle

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This was a group called La Raganella from Belvedere Ostrense… Very good folk style music! http://www.laraganella.com/

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And this was another band in the main square, also very good with some very specific dance steps involving red scarves!

Then this weekend there was a lovely festa in Montemonaco in honour of chestnuts.

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The views from Montemonaco are spectacular.

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And the owner of this quaint little house was lovely! In fact, it seems quaint and small at the front but actually goes back quite far!

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Beautiful little street in Montemonaco

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They had 5 or so of these tin barrels roasting chestnuts… It was a great smell!

The thing that’s so nice about these events is that everyone is so friendly, it’s always a very good atmosphere and the stall owners are always eager to chat. We must have been talking for half an hour to a local about the state of politics and Italy in the war!

Walking into the Throat of Hell!

I had some friends staying this weekend and we went to the Gola dell’Infernaccio, the Throat of Hell. It’s a misleading name, it’s an absolutely stunning walk, particularly at this time of year. It’s a walk I’ve been meaning to do for ages.  Once parked you walk along a river through a canyon and then up to an “Eremo” (Hermitage) to San Leonardo. It was rebuilt almost single-handedly by a guy who lived there for several years. It’s very impressive. He sadly died earlier this year. From the hermitage you can walk to “La Cascata Nascosta”  (the hidden waterfall) which was a bit hazardous towards the end, I won’t lie! Too much rain has made the path into a rocky/muddy landslide. You basically have to swing from tree root to tree root like Tarzan (perhaps not quite like Tarzan because he swang from vines and wasn’t dressed for autumn temperatures). Anyway, here are some photos. I was quite taken with it!!!

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If anyone is interested in several other million autumnal tree pictures, let me know 🙂

Have a good week all,

x

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