Oh (how many!) albero!

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Xmas holidays are almosy over. Cause you know, “L’Epifania tutte le feste si porta via!”, or to say it in English, “Epiphany brings away all festivities!”.

So it really is time to challenge in your soul all left over Xmas spirit and make a huge provision of “merriness and brightness” for the new year!

tree quote

We were in desperate need of cold, pines’ smell and tiny lights so, no place was better than the “Urban Wood”!  Yes, a pines’ wood in the middle of the city: lots of well-lighted Xmas trees in the lovely frame of S. Severino city centre (Macerata province).

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We loved the project, the green spirit of which was made (imagine that you can adopt a tree of the forest and bring it at home after the 6th of January!) and this clever city that brought the idea to life!

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Walk through the forest, make a wish and hang it on a tree! There is enough “Christmassness” to fill your entire year!

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Silent night, Holy night!

The making of Italian “Presepe” (Nativity) is one of my “must”when talking about Xmas rituals. I would say is at the top of my “to do”festivity list because there is nothing funnier than spending time with family trying to make the little shepherds stand up or keeping the dog away from the tiny sheeps, or better…putting little Jesus on the trough after Christmas Eve’s Mass.

But better than make my own Presepe, is going to see the Living Nativities known in Italy as “Presepi Viventi”, where lots of people, in cold festivity days, dress up as shepherds, smiths, farmers, to represent Jesus’ birth in tiny alleys of medieval villages, cellars or stables. Is something magical, because the passion these peolple put in their characters and in the whole representation of the Sacred Family make Christmas seem more real and more near too!

NATIVITY MARCHE 2015 2

GENGA 26 & 27 december 2015

A “living Nativity” in a real, huge, fascinating cave! (The one hosting the amazing Valadier temple!). An easy path on a mountain with shepherds’ huts on the way! Funny plus so memorable!

ACQUASANTA 6 December to 6 January 2016

A little medieval town which could be a Presepe itself hosts this exibition of artistic and artisan nativities located in the towns’ old stables and cellars. Enjoy the fairy-tale walk across tiny alleys accompanied by Christmas songs!

TREIA

Another medieval town…another amazing “living Natvity” inside its high walls. Old professions, animals (I swear I saw 3 camels last year!) and great food to keep you warm!

MONTEFANO VECCHIO

Traditional, with that smell of fire and “vin brulè” oin the air! Enough to tune every soul on real, traditional Xmas spirit!

CANDIA 26 & 27 December 2015 ; 3& 6 January 2016

If you are near Ancona this is a traditional Presepe Vivente that definitely deserves a visit! Great food prepared by the sheperds and more than 200 characters!

ELCITO (San Severino Marche)

You need to go up San Vicino mountain to see this almost abandoned tiny village relive again on Xmas festivities! the stone houses are the perfect frame for one of my favourite Presepe Vivente.

URBINO 5 to 8 December 2015

A Renaissance town could only create … a Renaissance Living Nativity! Pretty unique and so fascinating! And do not miss all the other events inside “Duca D’inverno” festival.

PRECICCHIE 26 December 2015; 1 & 6 January 2016

A Castle…a Living Nativity! Do I have to say more? Or are you already on your way?!

CALDAROLA

I love the little medieval village of Caldarola! And even more in Xmas period when Living Nativity took place in little town of Pievefavera.

MONDOLFO 26 & 27 December 2015; 6 January 2016

Last but not least, the living Nativity of Mondolfo, that gets involved all inhabitants of this old little village!

So…the list is pretty long! Choose your favorite Presepe to see and if you want suggest us some more! We will be happy to go and see them too!

Notes on Olives’ mornings

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Is not that breathtaking and intense perfume while queueing at the olive mill,

or that tranquility’s sensation and calm buzz of old men’s with their hats on a Sunday morning,

is not even a question of taste itself (even though the final flavor is always amazing and so genuine!) or a matter of tradition (which, however, makes everything more sacred!),

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but most of all is a fact of waking up on foggy autumn’s mornings for doing something with your own hands. Something you can eat. Something coming from your own trees. Is also a “family thing”. An appointment with centuries of history you have to honor. One of those memories coming back from the past that live again, always in the same way, kept intact.

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These, after all the efforts, are the most amazing and thrilling feelings you’ll get from the hard hand work of olives’ picking. After days of early awakenings, frost and blisters on both hands. That pure and warm liquid gold coming from ancient gestures that makes us say also this year “Thanks Providence. And thank you Nature!”.

olive oil

The fragrance of autumn in a super traditional plate – taste our “sughetti” handed down recipe!

Italian autumn is…
every season has its colours and traditions. Especially when talking about food! Think about orange leaves and try to smell the fragrance of autumn grapes harvest: La Vendemmia as we call it!

Now you are almost ready to taste our “sughetti”!
must recipe
A super traditional but not so famous sweet plate that has been cooking for generations in our farmers’ families during this period of the year. Don’t worry they are alcohol free! Even though must is the main ingredient!

Ingredients:

Since it’s a very traditional and “country” plate there isn’t an official recipe with precise ingredients’ doses.

ingredients

You should see through the boiling phase if to add more flour or must, depending on how dense your sughetti will become! However here find two different (but not that much!) doses. We follow our granny’s Elda ones.

must anf flour

Elda’s: 10 lt of must,1.20 kg of “0” flour, walnuts and sugar as you like.

Esterina’s (granny’s mother): 1 glass of must every spoon of “0” flour, walnuts and sugar as you like.

Preparation:
Boil 2/3 of your must in a pot and put in a mixing bowl the remaining 1/3 cold and mix it with flour.

must and flour mixture

When it’s boiling add slowly and continuously the cold must stirred with flour and start to mix using a wooden spoon.
mixing

After add all walnut, well washed and dried.

walnut

From when the mixture started to boil it has to cook for another hour. And you have to keep blending mostly the whole time otherwise it could burn!

blending the mixture

At the beginning it could seem solid but the last half hour it should become softer.

hot must

To avoid the harsh taste of grape add sugar as much as you like (taste it!) but usually at least 5 or 6 spoons of sugar for 10 lt of must.

like honey!

While cooking, if it looks too dense or solid add a little bit of cold must instead add some flour if it seems liquid. In the end it should appear like honey. When it is ready, put the mixture in some glass or ceramic bowl without  covering and let it cool down.

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must plate

Our autumn taste is on you table too!

Buon Appetito!

Buon appetito!

Fresh air in a Medieval town – A day off in Spoleto

Italian summer is…Italian summer! Means ice creams, “granita al limone”, sea and…40 degrees at shadow! When high temperature don’t wanna give us a rest..it’s time to shelter from sun!
I’m talking about getting deeper into central Italy, inside green Umbria region to find fresh breeze on rocky uplands.

teatro Spoleto theatre

A refreshing experience for brain and soul!  Spoleto is a Medieval jewel – as lots of other villages in this area – set among Valnerina’s emerald green woods.
This people-oriented town is a crisp cocktail of history and charm. Perfect to visit in just one day walking with a self-made-guidebook and enough curiosity!

Pills of history we love most ❤ :

towerFirst human settlements go back to Prehistory, when this landscape looked a lot different: the valley, today overlooked by Rocca Albornoziana was initially a lake that definitively dried out during Medieval age.

spoleto village umbria

towerMiddle Age has been Spoleto’s Golden Age, when, in 1359, Pope Innocenzio VI built the majestic fortress symbol of the city : “Rocca Albornoziana”. But this castle also tells about Lucrezia Borgia, elected by her father, Pope Alessandro VI, head of “Spoleto Dukedom”. The lady gave name to the fortress’ “maschio”, the central tower facing the city, defence fulcrum of the castle. This is known as “Torre della Spiritata” – Tower of the Possessed – to remind the cruelties and revenges of the castellan.

Must Do and See:

ormaA walk on “Towers’ Bridge” – Ponte delle Torri – from Rocca Albornoziana. This structure is a majestic Roman bridge also used as a water system. It is 280 mt long! And the view on surrounding green valley is pure poetry!

 acquedotto spoleto water system

ormaEnter Santa Maria Assunta Cathedral with its Renaissance portico and the 8 rose window on the facade as lace marquetry. But find time to visit at least some other places among the dozens of churches and abbeys once old Roman temples or Paleochristian churches facing the dried lake’s crystal clear waters.

spoelto santa maria assunta cathedral

cathedral spoleto

ormaTime to eat! We lovingly recommend  Spaghetti with Black Truffle and Crescionda cake: typical dishes of this area. More difficult to find is a Slow Food product, the rare “sedano di Trevi”, a kind of celery to eat raw with olive oil.

There is enough to fill one day out…and our curiosity too!

Mystical Trails – Discovering “The Temple of Valadier” in Genga

It is really reducing defining this place misterious…or even mystical…because I would rather say magical! It could be an amazing location for any fantasy film: an octagonal temple framed in mountain’s cave which gets deeper into darkness. If I were an enchantress I would definitely make this place my home (and I do not exclude I’ll become one some day!).

san vittore genga valadier temple

The path to reach the entrance arch to “Temple Of Valadier” is really easy (actually I was expecting something more arduous!) but, for adventures’ lovers there are always other interesting trekking itineraries from near village of S.Vittore or even a speleologycal path inside the obscurity of the cave behind the church (on my “to try” list!).

cave san vittore temple of valadier

tempietto del valadier genga san vittore

Inside the cave, as in all this area, there are water infiltrations coming down from the rocks. As usual, I went there in Converse, but to avoid skids on slippery soil I do recommend more serious shoes!

genga temple of valadier

The Temple Of Valadier in its neoclassical shape and doomed roof was erected here by willing of Pope in 1812. It started to be a pilgrimage site for those seeking forgiveness, but the local population already knew this cave from ancient times and used it as refuge. From these stories comes the other name for which this place is well known: “Refuge of Sinners”. Nowadays even the crude hermitage at the entrance is abandoned, but the uniqueness and mystical strenght of this place is kept untouched.

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And from obscurity of the cave, it is nice to think some mythical creatures are hiding while staring curious tourists wandering in faint light!

temple of valadier genga italy

Of a love story & a Monsters’ Garden in Bomarzo

bomarzo crooked house monsters garden

“There was a rich man, a very rich lord, living in a big house surrounded by green woods just outside little village of Bomarzo (Viterbo province).
The rich man had a fervent imagination and used to make long walks in the garden near the big house bringing with him adventures’ books of nymphs and mermaids, of dwelling giants and horrific marine animals, of far away lands, so far from the big house and unknown to him.

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The rich man had a wife, a very beautiful lady, who loved gardens and flowers. He loved her so much. Unfortunately, one day she got sick and died.
The rich man was inconsolable and a veil of sadness covered the big house till he stopped crying and decided to honor his beloved in the only way he knew: with fantasy. The rich man decided to turn the big house in a “Wonders’ Villa”.

ogre bomazo monsters park
He called the most important sculptor of the region and ordered him to full the house’s park with statues from imaginary worlds and bizarre constructions never seen before. Once the artist finished the work, the rich man addressed the unreal garden to his wife and kept walking across the park remembering her with nymphs and goddesses.”

bomarzo nettuno parco dei mostri

I think handkerchiefs are needed at this point!

Actually no one knows a lot about the inventor of Bomarzo marvellous park, prince Orsini, but for sure, only a beautiful love story as this one could have brought to life this unique and unreal garden, the Monsters’ Park of Bomarzo (or Sacro Bosco).
It actually seems a nineteenth-century version of a fun fair! Despite the fact that instead of roller coaster we have the crooked house, and in place of horror houses there are giant monsters here and there! Not even water games are missed! Fountains, small lakes and streams flow all over the garden guarded by nymphs’ statues.

dwelling giants bomarzo garden

The prince actually succeeded in living us gobsmacked for astonishment!
A surreal place where, asleep under the musk, among climbing ivy, animals and mythical creatures seem still alive, like petrified from a spell, waiting to be waken. And stories tell also ghost of prince Orsini uses to come back here for a walk among his imaginary friends.

dragon bomarzo giardino dei mostri

Manhole covers fashion show – mind your steps while in Milan!

MANHOLES MILANO MONTENAPOLEONE FASHION

If there’s something I punctually do when roaming through a new city, is walking with my nose up and (likewise) punctually hit someone or a street lamp! And in the end, not all beautiful things have to be high up! If when in London they remind us to “mind the gap!”, it has to be the case that, in Montenapoleone road (Milan centre), they put a sign with “mind your steps!”. No risk of injury, but to miss a funny contemporary art show…completely free: “The manholes covers fashion show” (don’t know if this is the real name…but every show must have one!).

I am among those people that do not understand contemporary art (yes, those who say “I could have done this too”, “..who’s making a turtle walk on an A4 sheet and call it a painting?!”). But I also admit my ignorance on the subject as at highschool had been a miracle we reached the Futurists.

But there is something on contemporary art I found fascinating: you can find it basically everywhere! And if a drain and a Luois Vuitton as nothing to share, well, go for a walk in front of golden Montenapoleone boutiques (where, ladies, despite the fact you could or couldn’t afford a Valentino, you get back that amazing sensation of being 5 in a jelly-candies store!).

Both to celebrate Milan EXPO2015 and also for charity (the manholes covers will be cleaned up and sold at a charity auction sale) the biggest fashion designers literally “take to the street” creating colorful cover for the drain in front of their boutiques’ windows. Of course, each one has its style! So “mind your steps!” and that’s what you’ll find:

manholes milano montenapoleone

Grannies (& flowers) power! – The unknown spring contest inside Italian villages

flower village le marche

For those who “rain water it’s more than enough to feed plants” (even in summer with 40° and first cloud at 10000 km!), for those who “only succulent has a chance to survive” (but the chances will be higher in the middle of the desert!), for those who had granny’s green thumb only while playing with skin paint,

okay, so…for those like me 🙂 …it’s the most wonderful time of the year! There are so many flowers and colors and plants that no one is gonna notice our gardening ineptitude!

appignano spring le marche

But is when the game gets hard…that the grannies start to play!

On time, from the 21st of March, starts a very funny (and not to be missed!) show among Le Marche villages’ sleepy alleys: it’s the competition for “the-best-garden-balcony-doorway-of-the-year”! Through the silent roads, the hardened grannies pull out crockery of every shape, iron pillars of every kind, watering cans and most of all, green plants and flowers hidden in the houses the whole winter!

spring in italian village le marche appignano grannies

And who needs a green thumb if you could enjoy such an amazing show?! It’s definitely far more fun being the silent judge of this imaginary colorful contest (that in the end is not imaginary at all!). Plus the fun of roaming around in tight alleys where no cars are allowed!

So enjoy the show kindly given by these amazing grannies and…may the best win! °v°

flowers grannies italian village spring le marche

villages le marche italian spring flowers

flowers amandola spring plants le marche

flowers italy le marche alleys village

sarnano le marche spring flowers competition plants

appignano flower le marche italy spring

My personal Kapadocja – postcards from Sibillini “Lame Rosse”

lame rosse path fiastra

Have you ever been in Kapadocja? I haven’t (…yet!). But from photos of this unique land, I clearly imagine it quite similar to a place a lot-more-near me but unique as well in its own way. This place gave name to a path through Sibillini natural park called “Lame Rosse” (“Red Blades”). No need of a big imagination to understand why this red and consumed cliffs earned such a name!

lame rosse path map fiastra

Among green woods, walking approximately for an hour from Fiastra lake, here they are…

fiastra lame rosse path

….eroded  for million years (and still are!), the red peaks could perfectly fit one of Gaudi’s architectures.

lame rosse fiastra le marche

Surrealist rounded shapes (as muffins’ creamy tops 🙂 ) and deep narrow clefts to explore. The red cliffs has a millionaire story to tell to curious wanderers, whispered in this place’s silence and with your nose up, you actually ask yourself how is possible that a so fragile landscape (at least at the sight!) is still here instead of totally crumble under the wind.

fiastra sibillini trekking le marche

This tiny canion as been compared in its creation’s process to American Grand Canyon: the second is undoubtedly far way more big and spectacular, but let’s say this Le Marche corner looks just like its miniature. The easy path into shady woods make Lame Rosse a perfect destination for not-so-expert excursionists’ day trips…which is exactly our case!

sibillini lame rosse le marche

If you are on vacation in Le Marche, but you suddenly have a craving for Kappadocjan dreamy landscapes, take your trekking shoes (and you will need them on this pebbly ground!) straight into Lame Rosse path…and send us a thank you postcard! °v°