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

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°

Misfortunes of a country during Napoleonic age

Thefts, art, miracles, battles… it seems that the Napoleaonic age in this slice of Italy has left quite an interesting legacy, in good and bad ways! From 1796 to 1813, when Tolentino Battle ended French power in Le Marche, Napoleon and his family set their residence in this region bringing French policy: personalities with civil merits or political roles acquired noble entitlements and started build neoclassical villas.

napoleon in macerata and ancona province

Our Napoleonic itinerary starts in Macerata province, at that time known as Musone Department, moving from Tolentino battlefield to the white neoclassical interioris of Villa Valcampana (Treia).

valcampana napoleon villa treia macerata

The same columns are protagonist on the facade of Villa Tuscolano in Appignano.

napoleonic villa le marche appignanno

Its jewel is the “esedra garden” (or “ninfeo”), ruined by now but keeping its poetry untouched.

villa tuscolano appignano le marche italy

You can almost hear guests’ laughs or the phantom of the owner Leopoldo Armaroli who whished to be buried in this peaceful place (even though he couldn’t because of Napoleonic Saint Cloud edict). Other stories and legends sourrounds this bucolic villa.

villa tuscolano appignano macerata

On the coast we find Villa Eugenia, Luigi Bonaparte’s property, while Napoleon  slept in Palazzo Torri (Macerata), famous for his semi cycle overlooking the facade, used as carriages’ depot.

The dark side of the story, behind the construction of these architectural masterpieces, is that, withTolentino Agreement, the French troops started the (usual) Church’s artworks spoliation stealing Black Virgin Mary in Loreto cathedral: the holy statue was returned from Louvre after an agreement with Pope Pio VII.

Even more curious is the story of another religious artwork, given back for superstition: the painting of Virgin Mary “queen of all Saints” you can appreciate on the left side of S. Ciriaco Cathedral (Ancona).

all saint virgin mary san ciriaco ancona

It is known that the painted Virgin has opened her eyes in front of some witnesses and the Bishop himself. Curious Napoleon, before burning it, wanted to see the painting but at the sight of the Virgin he turned pale and ordered to his soldiers to cover it with a drape and return it to the Cathedral with all its gold and jewels.

Aren’t you starving after the long walk?!

That’s why we left at the end of our itinerary Portonovo Napoleonic Fort.

Inside Conero natural park, set on a natural bay surrounded by green woods and crystal clear water, the French Captain decided to build this white fort using stones taken from a nearby Benedictine Monastery to prevent the landing of English fleet ships looking for protection in the bay. What it has to do with food? Nowaday the Napoleonic Fort is a renowned fish restaurant! We don’t know if Napoleon liked eating fish…but with such a view from the embrasure we are sure you will! °v°

museum palazzo bezzi tolentino napoleon

“Sweet Lamb” Easter cake – cooking “Agnelletto” Macerata’s way!

ingredients easter lamb macerata

If you are an animal lover (or just a cake lover!)

If you are looking for a traditional Easter’s dessert (or just for a dessert!)

this “Sweet lamb” cake, known in central Italy as “Agnelletto”, is the perfect end for a spring lunch or the best (and funniest) alternative to lamb meat 🙂 (it’s sweet and it doesn’t hurt anyone!).

filling agnelletto le marche

We checked the recipe in our master-chef-book: Tina’s! You already met her during our Limoncini cooking-session. There are several versions of “sweet lamb”, here we present the one made in a town in Macerata hills, Loro Piceno. Such a tiny village that you can’t keep a secret…that’s the reason why they all cook Agnelletto almost the same way!

The recipe is not difficult, you only need tons (really tons!) of ingredients and a little bit of creativity for making the lamb shape (or you can ask uncle Google and download it! Here’s one.).

le marche agnelletto receipe

Ingredients

For the dough:

400 g flour, 150 g butter, 1 egg, 2 yolks, 150 g sugar

For the filling:

100 g amaretti (or other almond biscuits), 200 g almonds, 2 yolks, 150 g sugar, 100 g candied fruit*, 100 g dark chocolate,  100 g raisins*, 2 cups of coffee, 2/3 little spoons of rhum, 1 lemon peel, vanilla extract, 2/3 little spoons of cinnamon.

*if you do not like them or you can’t find them, you can choose not to put them and add more almonds or chocolate.

For the icing:

2 eggs’ whites, 200 g powdered sugar, a pinch of salt.

Preparation:

We start from the dough: knead flour and warm (not melted) butter, then add the egg, 2 yolks and sugar. Knead till it becomes homogeneous and let it rest while you prepare the filling.

dough traditional agnelletto treia

Take a big bowl and put inside crunched amaretti (or almond biscuits), minced almonds, minced dark chocolate, candied fruit, raisin, sugar, 2 yolks, coffee, 2/3 little spoons of rhum, the vanilla extract, 2/3 little spoons of cinnamon and lemon peel. Mix them all using a fork or by hands.

filling of sweet lamb treia macerata

Now take a piece of wax paper and draw (or trace) the lamb shape with a pencil.

Divide the dough it in two parts, take one and roll it up. It should cover the paper lamb’s shape entirely. Now take your paper lamb’s shape, put it over the kneaded dough, and start tracing the lamb’s border with a knife (BE CAREFUL: this passage is just to impress the lamb shape on the dough, so use the part of the knife that does not cut! Try to make a little scar on the dough).

Now that you have a guide line on the dough you can definitely cut it following the guide (now use the knife’s blade 🙂 ). We used a pizza cutter instead of a knife, so if you find yourself more comfortable with it you can do the same.

lamb shape traditional receip treia

Take the remaining part of the dough and do the same: this time cut the shape at least 3 cm bigger than the border you drawn because we need a bigger shape to close the filling between the 2 lambs’ shapes.

Start spreading the filling on the smaller dough’s shape keeping the filling 1 cm away from the borders. When it’s done, put over it the remaining bigger shape and close the borders by pressing carefully with fingers.

filling the dough le marche food

If at this stage you break the dough shape by accident or because it was too thin (that’s our case 🙂 ) just take a little bit of dough from the leftovers you cutted and stich it carefully on the holes.

Take one raisin or a chocolate flake to make the lamb’s eye and put everything in the owen at 175° for half an hour (however, check it and take it out from the owen when it gets a golden surface).

Now prepare the icing beating two eggs’ whites with sugar and a pinch of salt.

When the sweet lamb has cooled down, cover it with this white icing and have fun decorating it as you like! Wait till the glassa dries.

PS: if you do not like icing, you can cover the lamb with powdered sugar too.

agnelletto le marche treia

Easter dessert is ready! Yummy! °v°

COOKING grand-MAMA Limoncini

limoncini ingredients le marche

Yes, maybe this Le Marche recipe about traditional Carnival pastries called “Limoncini” could be a challenge level for cooking beginners … but we are talking about my favourite Carnival cakes, so they deserve at least a try 🙂

Yes, I also admit that most part of these pretty Limoncini did not survive the afternoon…(malefic laugh!)

And yes, cooking with a perfectionist-burners-queen as my grandmother, Tina (whose hands you see in photos)  make me earn a 1000 points’ bonus … that I lost when I almost forgot to add  butter! No panic: I discovered you can successfully incorporare it with a little hint of flour also at the end of the dough.

But, you know what? I completed the level and the result was fantastic 🙂

This oranges and lemons pastries (“Limoncini” comes from “lemon”) are fried in the traditional recipe, but I prefer them baked. The recipe and process stay the same so…try both ways and choose your favourite cooking!

limonciniIngredients: 2 eggs, approximately 600 gr flour (the precise quantity depends on dough’s consistance, it must stay soft), 50 gr brewer’s yeast, 50 gr butter, 1 glass of milk, 1 spoon of sugar.

for the filling: approximately 150 gr sugar (as much as you like the pastries to be sweet, but enough to cover the rolled dough), 2 oranges, 1 lemon (if you prefer lemons you can use 2 lemons and 1 orange, or no lemon at all…it’s up to you!)

tina

Preparation:

Start melting butter for a few minutes at low flame. In the meanwhile, warm up the milk (it has to be lukewarm not too hot) and then add the yeast in order to melt it.

flour limoncini

In a bowl beat the eggs with a fork, and then add sugar, the glass with milk and yeast, and the melted butter too.

Keep beating and then start adding flour a bit at a time.

As you keep putting flour, the dough becomes more dense and when it’s solid enough, you can start knead it on a wooden board.

grandma works

From now on, be careful when adding flour, because the dough should remain as soft as possible to have fluffy limoncini 🙂 especially if you decide to bake them.

grandma tips recipe

When you (finally!) have a soft and uniform dough, leave it on the board for 10 minutes: it needs to rest and rise! Shhhhh!

limoncini le marche

limoncini traditional cake

In the meanwhile you can start preparing the filling by mixing  with a fork sugar, grated orange and lemon peel.

Cover with paper two baking trays and start the oven at approximately 170°.

Now you are ready to knead the dough! Put a hint of flour on the board, take your rolling pin and divide the mass in 2 parts.

tina making macerata limoncini

limoncini from le marche

Knead 2 rectangular shapes, then start spread the filling homogeneously but leaving 1 cm from external borders.

Now it’s time to roll them up starting from the longer side (at this stage if you haven’t put flour before kneading, it could be all sticked on the board!).

Remember to press the roll a little bit and close carefully the final part by sticking the dough or the tiny rolls may open while cooking!

tina and limoncini macerata

Now you just need to cut the tiny rolls: if the dough is soft, every 2 or 3 cuts immerse the knife into the flour so it will not stick on the dough. Put them on the baking tray and then straight into the oven for 15 minutes till they become golden (not too much otherwise they will be hard after cooling down).

limoncini from macerata

Happy Carnival from Le Marche by grandma Tina & thepicuspost °v°

limoncini le marche receipe

That French twist in Montefano downtown

Montefano - Macerata - La Rondinella - historical theatre

A walk in downtown Paris… Champs Elysees’ shining lights…a smell of gold and preciuous  eau de toilette…a nostalgic and decadent Belle Epoque atmosphere in those sparkling windows and well dressed ladies.

paris - tour eiffel

Entering  “La Rondinella”, one of Le Marche historical Theatres in “Montefano (MC),is like awaking from a French dream, after breathing Chanel n°5 walking near La Senna river and smelling sweet marmelade croissants in one of those alleys sourrounding Notre Dame early at morning.

Montefano - Macerata - La Rondinella - theatre

Montefano - Macerata - La Rondinella - balconies

Montefano - Macerata - La Rondinella - theatreA tiny jewel with 150 seats, buil at the end of the nineteenth century in perfect Liberty style. Two tiers of balconies and a horseshoe-shaped stall all wrapped in iron’s alloy flowers to live the atmosphere of a frivoluos night at the theatre just underneath “la Tour Eiffel”. Same industrial material and same sense of légèreté and elegance in the open-weave decorations.

Floral lamps lights up the whole theatre as the ones arising out of the darkness of a Parisian foggy night.

Montefano - Macerata - La Rondinella - theatre

Four muses designed by artist Bruschi watch from above actors and spectators: Tersicore, muse of dance, Euterpe liric poet’s protector, Thalia for comedy and Melpomene, representing tragedy. Besides them find man’s life stages: childhood, youth, manhood and old age.

Montefano -Macerata - La Rondinella - muses

So…welcome back from France and from this journey discovering one of the Italian’s Art Nouveau examples! Even without moving a step out of this Le Marche rural town 🙂

Sometimes travel is not a question of where you actually are, but where your heart feels! °v°

Montefano - Macerata - La Rondinella - theatre