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.
Look what a beautiful vista there was from the house…
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!
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.
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!
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.
Here’s a pic of some of the houses surrounding the square…
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.
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.
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…
The coastline around Portonovo
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!
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 🙂
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!