Posts Tagged With: San Michele

Alcohol improved drawings, snow-capped mountains and piadina making…

Buongiorno a tutti!

How is everyone? There’s not much to report I’m afraid this time around. I’ve been busy doing a bit of teaching, going to the art course on Wednesday’s and I’ve also been doing some ‘arty’ things at home. The art course was quite interesting last week. We drew using a biro and then poured alcohol over it (pure alcohol – the remnants of your wine bottle won’t work). It has quite an interesting effect! I’ll continue experimenting this week and when I’m actually happy with something I’ll post up a photo 🙂

We have snow capped mountains! It’s so pretty! I can’t wait to go snowboarding this year. I’ve just bought some more snowboarding gear too. My nearest snowboarding place is Sassotetto,  only 25 minutes drive away 🙂

I have been out and about, evidence below:

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Look, caps of snow on the mountain!!!!!!!!

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Before the snow came, in fact just the day before, I decided to have a drive in the mountains because when it gets snowy a lot of the roads are blocked off. I had plans to take some nice sunset photos but it was so windy that the tripod kept blowing over.

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This is taken from one of my favourite beaches – San Michele. 

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And this was taken from the other end of the beach. That’s Monte Conero ahead. Apparently it’s shaped like a lion’s head. I think you need to squint to get that.

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This was Sarnano taken at the crack of dawn before the snow came.

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And this is one of my new favourite mountain places near Amandola.

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At the weekend I went to a “Degustazione”, a sort of tasting event of Brunello and Chianti wine, where an excellent country band called Backroads were playing.  These guys sung in perfect South American accents (I checked and they were indeed Italian). Very impressive! Here I was able to show my prowess of wine knowledge by accidentally orchestrating the mixing of the Brunello and Chianti wines in one glass to create an interesting mix. Apparently this is not the done thing (but I can confirm it still tasted of red wine).

I also went on a Piadina making course at a lovely local B&B called Residence VerdeQuiete which has a great open space they use occasionally for running courses. Piadinas are a type of flat bread -a bit like a tortilla but perhaps a bit thicker and a bit more rigid. The course was great, run by Simonetta Sfoglina.  At the end of the session, we had a very tasty “degustazione” (the term works for piadinas just as well as wine!). We ended up with 6 or so piadinas to take away with us. I have to admit, I hanker after Mexican food which is hard to come by here so I somewhat corrupted the italian nature of mine and made fahitas with them!!! Mmmmmmm………………….

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Piadina! Traditional fillings are usually cheese, salad and/or meat based.

The next couple of weeks will be quite busy. On Thursday and Friday I’ll be heading to Forlì (it’s a city  in Emilia-Romagna, about 2 or 3 hours from here)  to meet with some other Italian based bloggers for a tour of the city. We are to be shown some of the local cuisine and to check out the art and museums, so I can’t wait for that. I shall report back at the weekend.

Then there’s a “Ciaspolata” (snowshoeing walk) on Sunday on one of the nearby mountains. I’ve never done that so I’m quite excited about that too. Then on Wednesday I’m off to Berlin for a few days before going back to the sunny UK for Christmas! I’m looking forward to being in a house with central heating. My bathroom is so cold that I’m considering getting a commode to put by the fire.

I think that about covers the last few days. I hope you are all having good weeks!

x

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Places to see in Le Marche, the Trials and Tribulations of aperitivos and the delights of iced coffee

Ciao!

Sorry I’ve been quiet for a couple of weeks – it’s been a bit non-stop here for a while!

This week I bring you more places to see in Le Marche, the trials and tribulations of having an aperitivo and the delights of iced coffee.

Investigating Southern “Le Marche”

Last weekend I went to stay in a new friend’s house in Curetta, a little village by the Sibillini Mountains (still in Le Marche). The house is absolutely gorgeous and set in beautiful countryside with rolling hills, a snowy mountainous backdrop and little villages to look out onto.

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Look what a beautiful vista there was from the house…

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Nice little patio area for eating

On the way, I stopped off at Civitanova. I’d heard it’s quite good to go out there in the evenings but from what I’ve seen, I’m not convinced. Having said that, everything by the beaches is always dead before June so I’ll go back before making a final judgement on it. On the plus side, the beach was excellent for long flat pieces of driftwood 🙂 I suspect I could map out quite a few beaches now in Le Marche in terms of their beachcombing value!

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Church tower in Civitanova

INTERLUDE TO PONDER ABOUT THE ITALIAN APERITIVO

We had an aperitivo and dinner in a local town I can’t remember the name of. Almost a year into my living here, I’m still completely flummoxed by the notion of an aperitivo. WHAT ON EARTH IS IT?!  Is it a drink? Is it a drink with snacks? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? (sorry, that felt like a Superman moment). So, here are my various experiences of having an “aperitivo”:

  • You order a drink, you get loads of nice little nibbly treats given to you with your drink. Not just crisps and nuts, but olives, little pastry things, some salads and other bits and pieces etc. The price you pay is for the drink alone. All this extra stuff is free.
  • You order your drink and then you can get some extra nibbly treats from the bar like a buffet and sometimes you end up paying a couple of euros more. You can obviously choose what you have if it’s on the bar.
  • You order your drink and you just get a drink. This is oddest one for me – if you go somewhere and you ask for an “aperitivo” – surely it should mean something more than just a drink otherwise you’d go in and just ask for a drink?!

It’s completely hit and miss what you get. If it’s the first option where you get given a plate of food, then they’ll often bring out a selection of dead animals. I’m vegetarian so that doesn’t work out well for me and I feel rude leaving things that they’ve prepared on my plate untouched. However, I feel ruder asking them “er, will you be providing me a selection of free food and if so, could you go one step further and provide me a vegetarian selection?”. Though I love having free food with my drinks, I do find the whole thing a bit stressful! I’m so caught up on the food element that when they ask “what would you like?”, I start blabbering about being a vegetarian when they actually want to know what I’d like to drink! ARGH!

Anyway, I digress. This “aperitivo” ended up being just a drink. He asked what we’d like, I plumped for wine. This bar, however, didn’t have wine (a bar not having wine?! A bar in ITALY not having wine?!?!). Only prosecco. I hadn’t realised I’d sort of opted for prosecco for my friends too. And then the guy brought out an entire bottle. Does that mean we were now paying for the whole bottle? Anyway – it turned out that’s exactly what it meant. We were the only people in this bar apart from the barman and an old lady (his mother it turns out) who both came to stare at us, standing a foot away open-mouthed and aghast for what must have been about two minutes before saying “you don’t come from ‘round here” (in Italian).  That was my oddest aperitivo experience so far! Lovely prosecco though.

Southern Le Marche continued…

Then we popped into a local trattoria for dinner and headed back. No scary experiences there. The next day, I helped out a bit in the garden. My host had a couple of gardeners in to help maintain the land a bit. They were a husband and wife team – a lovely guy called Fabio and his wife (with an unpronounceable name that sounds like a sneeze). A thoroughly lovely and incredibly generous couple. I ended up taking home lettuce, fennel and home-made oil that they’d given to us. They come from Albania. I definitely want to go to Albania now after speaking to them. Every sentence started with “In Albania, we have the best <insert food, wine, grappa, countryside, coastline here>. He bought along some Albanian grappa for us to try on the last day. Very sweet of him and everything but he insisted we try it as soon as he got there – 8am! I generally maintain a “not before noon” alcohol policy. I certainly don’t think I’ve ever done shots before I’ve even had breakfast. And goodness was it potent… I wouldn’t like to be up a precariously placed ladder operating a chainsaw after that – but yet he was!

Whilst I was there, I did some exploring of the local area. First stop was Monte San Martino which we could see from the house. Very cute and quaint but not much to do there.

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Excellent views from Monte San Martino

Next up was Amandola which was positively bustling in comparison and had quite a lot of young people around (that tends to stick out in these hill top villages – usually there are just gangs of old men!). Quite pretty little roads, just narrow enough to fit a small car, which were cute although became considerably less cute as my sat nav kept leading me around and around them!

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The square in Amandola…

Then there was Servigliano which was actually not a hill top village – more a valley village. It had an interesting layout, one that I’ve not seen before. It sort of had village “walls” and then some quaint little terraces inside with a big square. Nice to wander around and I hear it’s nice at Christmas as well so I quite fancy going back there then.

 

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Here’s a pic of some of the houses surrounding the square…

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And here’s the square.

My friend came back with me on Sunday to check out my own patch around Camerano. We went via Porto San Giorgio – a new beach for me, on the way back there.

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The Le Marche stretches of coastline, apart from my own Monte Conero area, seem to be much of a muchness. Large stretches of coastline varying between shingle and sandy beaches and in the summer, covered in umbrellas and sun loungers. Seeing other beaches always makes me appreciate my own local beaches which, because we’ve got Monte Conero, offer I think a more interesting coastline with bays and woodland and because some of them are difficult to get to, end up being a lot less commercialised.

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San Michele, one of my favourite local beaches

And we found a new bit of Portonovo whilst we were walking around… Makes a nice circular walk…

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The coastline around Portonovo

House hunting

My parents have been doing a sterling job at investigating houses for me to let out back home and I’ve been putting in offers and getting them turned down! Pah! Meanwhile, I’ve been investigating some new areas around here for houses which I hope might be a bit cheaper than Camerano. I’m currently looking at Polverigi and Offagna. We went into a couple of estate agents and organised a couple of viewings which took place on Thursday. Visiting them made me reconsider my requirements! The most I seem to be able to get for my money around this area seems to be a small 2 bed flat with little outside space. Selling houses here seems to take years so I don’t want to buy something that I can’t see myself living in for the next 10 years at least. The flats were all very well but not my “dream” home by any means. I either need to change area or amend my criteria a bit to something that requires work but could eventually end up being the place I want to live in. So, I’ve asked to see a couple of other places a bit further south which is a cheaper area and perhaps now I’ll look at more of a “country house” type of property.

Meanwhile, I’m going to be homeless come end of May so I need to try and find another property to rent whilst I find something more long term. I’ve got some feelers out but it’s a bit unsettling and I’ve grown to quite like this place!

Iced Coffee

In other news, I quite like iced coffee! I’ve discovered a less faffy way of making it based on this enthusiast’s recipe… It’s very nice and very refreshing! I think I’ll have to take some to school with me to keep me awake 🙂

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Iced coffee on my newly acquired driftwood stool/table…(one can never have enough driftwood eh?)

Ok, onwards and upwards. This week is another busy week with school – in fact, tomorrow is a nightmare 12 hour day extravaganza. 12 hours of teaching. ARGH!

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Wine consumption, Grease Spreaders and More Lizards…

Hi all,

Well I’ve had a friend here this week so there’s been a lot of sight seeing which has been great. I’m pleased to say that I’ve now seen the villages that I’ve been looking at from a distance in my apartment every day. I’ll write up a page on each area when I get time but meanwhile:

  • Osimo: It’s a bit bigger than Camerano (where I am). It’s still on a hill with a great view like pretty much all the hill top towns do. It’s got a fab little park which would be lovely to sit in and people watch. There are a few shops as well and in general, it seems like it could be a good place to live in or around.
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Park bit in Osimo overlooking a beautiful panorama of the sea and countryside. This photo doesn’t do it justice, it was rainy and horrid!

  • Castelfidardo: Is another little hill top town. Not much to say about this one – there didn’t seem to be much in the way of shops or anything that made it stand out from anything else apart from it has an Accordion Museum. I wouldn’t want to live there…
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The Accordian Shop / Museum. Possibly just a shop. Or a museum. It was closed (I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “Closed? What in Italy? At like, 4pm on a weekday? That never happens” but let me tell you, on this one occasion, this shop/museum was shut.

  • Loreto: Loreto is another hill top town. I recognise that there’s a theme in my choice of places to visit – I think my criteria for the next apartment/house is fast becoming “must be on a hill” though I do wonder sometimes if it means something about my personality that I like to look down on things ;-). Anyway, Loreto is apparently known for being the home of the Black Madonna who works miracles. Excellent to know. It’s got a big square with a fountain in the middle and it’s surrounded by very majestic looking buildings and a rather magnificent cathedral (Basilica della Santa Casa) at one end. If you’re catholic, it’s THE place to go. Particularly if you want to stock up on crucifixes from the surrounding tourist shops. There’s a street of shops that leads from the square to a church at the end other and that’s about it in terms of the main “town”. There doesn’t appear to be much general living accommodation apart from at the base of the hill in the valley, there’s a bunch of apartment blocks. My hill requirement rules that out for living but I really like Loreto. Well worth a visit.
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Loreto and the piazza

  • Sirolo: For avid readers, you’ll know I’ve been here already but last week was the first time I’ve been to San Michele beach which is a long (and narrowish) stretch of shingle/sand beach to the side of Mount Conero. It’s a bit frustrating to get to. You have to walk down the mountain a bit to get there but hopefully that means it’ll be less packed in the summer. I’ll do my duty and test this beach out for you, dear readers. We went to a restaurant – Da Silvio which was really lovely – overlooking the beach and would be fabulous on a hot summers day. Don’t be put off by the emptiness and the threatening looking waiters/chefs outside. They have only fish dishes I think, but they made me a veggie pasta which was delicious.
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Spiaggia San Michele. It was rammed.

  • Jesi: Jesi is NOT a hill top town 🙂 And I like it! I haven’t seen much of it – the weather has been very temperamental this last couple of weeks and the first time I went with a friend from the Language School, it was absolutely bucketing down. The second time it was for dinner with some other friends and we didn’t do so much looking around then. Jesi seems like it would be good to live near. Not on a hill though 😉 However, having said that, yesterday was “Cantine Aperto” (more on that below) which was in the Jesi area and the scenery around that area was just breathtaking. I could most definitely live around there.
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Taken from one of the Cantina’s around Jesi.

  • Macerata: This was a 50 minute drive away. I’d heard good things about the area around Macerata and it was indeed lovely (hilly wouldn’t you know ;-)) and it was quite a nice little town – much bigger than the smaller hill top towns I think – akin to Jesi. It had a cinema. So – I would live around Macerata as well – it would definitely be I think a nice place to go for meals and drinks.
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This photo’s a bit misleading – and in fact, I don’t know what it is. It looked good. But to go over and take a proper look required darting through traffic so I admired from afar…

  • Porto Recanati. This place should be a thriving seaside resort but because we’re still a full 5 days from summer, was completely empty. I actually left feeling as empty as it was. It was like when Will Smith wanders around the vacant city in ‘I Am Legend’. If there was tumbleweed, it would have been blowing. There were lots of vacant apartments, all a bit unkempt apart from maybe one or two (where Will Smith lived?) and a revolting skyscraper tower block at one end (why WHY do that to the seaside?!).

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    Porto Recanati – those doors are probably hiding zombies…

So, let me tell you about “Cantine Aperto”. I think in England, a place where you make wine is called a winery (that’s right eh?). The Italian’s call them Cantina’s. It seems to be anything from an actual legitimate business to someone’s cellar. But in this instance, I’m talking about the former. “Aperto” means open. I think the event is best described as a “Wine Tasting Tour / Drive Driving Expedition”. You pay 5 Euros which gives you a wine glass and a very becoming yellow wine glass holding bag that you put around your neck.  And then with your wine glass and your bag in hand/around neck, you drive around to, let me see, up to 71 (yes SEVENTY ONE) winery’s and have as many glasses of their wine as you want. And sometimes grappa (which I imagine is what petrol tastes like). And lots of lovely snacks. And then you drive to the next one. And then drive to the next one…. you get the idea. We went with the school and I think they knew the best cantina’s to go to so despite the weather starting off a bit grim, we had a great day marveling at the scenery and trying out the wines (and then came back and had some of my 88 cent wine and agreed that we couldn’t tell the difference). It’s an annual event (last Sunday of May) and I thoroughly recommend it. But I must say, I really can’t imagine that there is a more dangerous place to be than on a road in Le Marche on Cantine Aperto day. I’ll definitely go to the next one (though I might wear a neck brace as precautionary measure).

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One of the cantina’s. I did, for blogging purposes, try and make a note of the Cantina’s we went to but confess, I soon lost track. No idea wine, I mean why…

This is my last week at the language school! 4 days left. I’m quite scared!  This will be the first time, apart from holidays, where my life has been completely unstructured! No dull job to go to, no school to go to… My life in London was busy – work every day and out every evening and weekend seeing people or going places. Doing “nothing” for me, is or rather was, always incredibly unsettling. I mean – there are things to do, places to go, people to see… WHAT IF I MISS SOMETHING?! But my life here has been: school in the morning, homework, trips and pottering around a bit every day. It’s been a massive change and one I was a bit skeptical I could make without developing some sort of nervous tic but it’s been a relatively smooth transition. I’m surprised at myself. But next week and thereafter will be the greatest test so far of my ability to remain sane in the absence of a rigid agenda so watch this space. Next week’s post might be from some sort of asylum.

Having said that, I do have vague plans – I’ve decided to only apply timescales in the loosest possible sense to avoid inevitably missing them because I’ve not got some piece of “vital” paperwork but in general: I’m going to try and do some private teaching, I’m going to see if I can carry on with the Italian lessons but maybe just a couple of hours a week, I’m going to see if I can start progressing the paperwork that I need to get a car, and meanwhile I’m going to see if I can stay here in the apartment until the end of July to give me some time to a) get a car and b) find somewhere nice to live.

In other news, I have a confession to make. I haven’t taken the bins out since I’ve been here. There’s a detailed schedule of bin takings out (cardboard one day, glass the next, regular rubbish another, organic waste another, nappies another – thankfully not having to worry about that one at the moment. Not unless the bin situation becomes significantly more stressful) and I haven’t really grasped it. But now… well….there’s a backlog. And if I didn’t know how to get rid of the bins in the first place, I certainly don’t know how to get rid of a backlog. This week, I will be closely monitoring bin activities in the neighbourhood. And if I’ve still not cottoned on to it by next week, I’m going to go on evening walks to distribute the rubbish in bins in Piazza Roma. I mean, that wont look at all odd (“Crazy Lizard Photographying Near Naked Rubbish Distributing English Girl”).

That reminds me, here’s a picture of some lizards near school (one can never have too many lizard photos eh?):

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I call this one ‘Where’s Lizzy?’. I might do a lizard version of ‘Where’s Wally’.

I’ve decided I have enough material to have a regular “what’s a bit odd” section on my blog posts. So today’s feature: Grease Spreaders. Do you remember “skid paper” that they used to have instead of toilet paper in school (showing my age here perhaps)? It was basically a roll of tracing paper. I don’t want to dwell on the detail here but er, yes, not absorbent in the slightest… But in Italy, they have something similar: “skid napkins” if you will… If you go to a pizzeria, bar, anywhere I think that’s not a proper sit down restaurant, you are supplied with these “skid napkins” but they serve only to spread the grease further around your face. I’ve decided a more becoming term is “Grease Spreaders”.

And finally finally, I’ve found someone that wants crew in Croatia. I would have had to rule that out in the UK I think but Croatia is easy and cheap for me to get to – there are ferries there that run at least once a day from Ancona. Hopefully something might materialise of that.

And now, I need to prepare salad. Today has been a serious diet day to atone for the copious wine consumption yesterday…

Hope you’re all well.

X

Ps. Aww, WordPress have just wished me a happy anniversary – it’s been a year since starting the blog. How times flies…

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