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Jamikins and Bikerscott Head Back to Le Marche

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Aug 18th, 2014, 03:42 PM
  #21
 
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LOVE your trip reports... your food descriptions make me salivate every time
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Aug 18th, 2014, 05:15 PM
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BikerScott and Jamikins….. a big raspberry to Sandra whatever…. what a PITA no matter what thread she appears on. I love your reports…. over 30 years ago my husband and I spent a lot of time in the area where you are now. Sure wish I could go back again…. but your reports are a good substitute. Have lots of red wine for me. (And I'll lift a few while I read your reports-
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Aug 18th, 2014, 11:20 PM
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Sandralist - so glad you could join us! I knew you couldn't stay away no matter how much you loathe our travel style (and you have an apparent lack of a sense of humour) It is always a pleasure!

We have the Michelin guide for our sat nav and speak enough Italian to know what is open and closed - we aren't particularly bothered if we miss something that is closed or starts late and certainly aren't surprised by it. We are here to relax, and we will enjoy our vacation our style - including sleeping in.

Feel free to comment away but we won't be acknowledging you going forward.
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Aug 18th, 2014, 11:24 PM
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Annhig - wow 4 hours!!! I am impressed!!! We went to Urbino more for photography purposes than to see the parade and hadn't actually planned to stay at all but had a front row seat so decided to wait for a bit! I hate crowds and it was pretty packed by the time we headed out!

I hope we aren't the cause of 7 years of bad summers but this year has been great in the uk...here in Italy it feels like September already!!!

Ruby and Grandma - glad you are enjoying it! The food is fabulous as always!
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Aug 19th, 2014, 02:25 AM
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Enjoying your TR as always - sandralist, move along, nothing to see.
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Aug 19th, 2014, 07:28 AM
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Thanks guys!

We had a lovely day today exploring Sassocovaro and environs! The sun finally made an appearance in the afternoon and we are enjoying the last drops of sunshine with some lovely local vino picked up at a winery yesterday...a girl could get used to this!
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Aug 19th, 2014, 07:46 AM
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Loving your report!
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Aug 19th, 2014, 12:02 PM
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Day Four – All the Wine

Another lazy sleep-in morning – this makes three in a row, possibly a new record. It turns out going back to the same place for the fourth time in two years removes the pressure to get up and out to see everything early entirely. When you know where you’re going and more or less what you’ll see there, it becomes far easier to justify an extra hour in bed to oneself (and more importantly to one’s wife, who would otherwise pester one until one got out of bed).

Today we had two missions – stocking up our wine supply at Terra Cruda winery just outside Fratte Rosa and lunch. Both of these seemed achievable, although the last time we tried this selfsame mission we didn’t achieve complete success on the second objective – we were determined to not let past failures unduly influence our mindset (because a positive mindset is 90% of the battle – preparation and planning is the other 90%. We’re from North America, if you aren’t putting at least 180% into it, you just aren’t trying hard enough).

The last time we went to Terra Cruda, we had instructions from Ashley on how to find it, which were basically “drive through Fratte Rosa, look for the little hard to see sign on the left on your way down the hill, don’t miss it because the sign is sort of hidden.” Despite these totally accurate instructions, we missed the sign because it was actually hidden and the winery seemed to be intentionally camouflaged for no apparent reason – instead we spend 30 minutes driving up and down tortuously steep and narrow dirt roads between fields and farms.

This time, we knew where we were going because we’d been there before, so didn’t think there was much that could go wrong, so of course we pulled into the wrong driveway and spend some time driving in a vineyard (there was a new sign at the wrong driveway, things had changed and they’d built a new tasting room and it really wasn’t clear). We eventually sorted ourselves out and found the right driveway and the fancy new tasting room.

Terra Cruda is an excellent little local winery that creates a range of wines using rare and local grapes – ones that for the most part you don’t find outside this little corner of Le Marche. It’s the house wine at La Tavola Marche, and our favourite from our previous trips. They are justifiably very proud of their wines and are more than happy to host a tasting session for as long as you want, and will allow you taste all 18 of their wines if you want to, even going so far as to provide a little plate of tasty snacks. The new tasting room is beautiful with an incredible view over the valley to the little village of Mondavio on the opposing hill.

We’d really enjoyed the sparkling wine on our previous trip so started with two of their sparkling roses. We were surprised with the pours – we’re used to doing wine tastings in British Columbia, Sonoma in California, and in the various wine regions in France, where a tasting glass is just that – a taste. At Terra Cruda, they really want you to enjoy the wine, so pour a full 100ml glass for each taste. I had to ask for a very small pour as I was driving, but even so got about 75mls per glass (which I either poured into the little bucket or gave to Jamie). We tried a few of the whites, and then moved to the incredible reds – the depth and complexity of flavour was impressive across all of their wines that we tasted.

As I was driving, I was having very small sips and spitting most of it out into the little bucket, giving Jamie the remains of each generous glass. By the time we’d finished an hour and a half later, Jamie had probably had about a bottle of wine between all the tasting glasses. We asked the girl doing the tastings if she knew of any restaurants around that would be open on a Monday – the last time we’d tried this, we’d tried for the restaurant in Fratte Rosa but hadn’t been able find it (despite walking around more or less the entire village). The one in Fratte Rosa was closed as it turned out, but one of the ones that was in our Michelin Red Guide in the sat nav was open, and only in the next village of Mondavio just across the valley.

We loaded up the car with our bottles of wine (we bought a few cases – after drinking so much in the tasting it was only fair to buy a bit to make up for it) and drove the ten minutes to La Polomba, the restaurant in Mondavio. They’re a partner of Terra Cruda, so they gave us a 10% discount card to use for lunch, as well as asking the restaurant for a nice table in the shade outside for us.

Lunch was excellent and incredibly filling – they don’t do half measures around here. Our first course was a spaghetti carbonara for Jamie and a tagliatelle made with faro flour and topped with bacon for me – both delicious (although mine was better). Our secondi was a slightly mediocre mixed grill for me and a fillet steak for Jamie – they were very concerned that it was undercooked despite her asking for it rare. It doesn’t sound like much, but trust me, it was a lot of food.

We drove home the long way, bypassing Fratte Rosa. We actually drove past the place we’d eventually ended up at for lunch on our last attempt at Terra Cruda – it didn’t look any better on a second viewing. The drive was beautiful – this is a lovely part of the world with winding roads over hills and down valleys, with forests and fields spreading across the landscape. Jamie passed out for quite a bit of it, so I was left enjoying the view while listening to quite frankly some very strange Italian songs (we always listen to local radio when travelling – it’s fun to hear what they listen to in other countries).

The long route we choose took us through Cagli before turning up towards Piobbico. We spent an afternoon in Cagli on one of our previous trips and quite liked the town, not realizing how nice the countryside just outside of the town was. We’ve been looking at this trip with a distant view to someday moving out here, and have added this part of Le Marche to the list of places to keep an eye on.

As is our tradition, we stopped at Café Del Corso in Piobbico for our afternoon gelato – some things just shouldn’t change. The woman who had been working there last year was back, and it seemed she remembered us, which was a surprise. We’d spent a long time moving beyond the formal greeting with her to the point where she said “ciao”, and when we walked in she gave us a look of surprised recognition and said ciao. Somewhat oddly, she also knew that we were staying at La Tavola Marche – as I was ordering my ice cream she confirmed that we were in fact staying there and that we knew Jason and Ashley. When I said that we were and that we did, she looked very excited and bustled off into the back, returning with an Amazon package – she wanted to know if we’d bring it up to them for her. Strange, but this apparently is life in a small town.

We were more than happy to play delivery service for the afternoon. It turns out that after many arguments with the delivery service about whether La Tavola Marche exists or not, they’d finally gotten them to agree to leave any deliveries at the Café to be picked up on the next drive through town – it made us feel like locals by proxy to be included in this.

We didn’t end up having dinner. Lunch had been so filling that even late in the evening all we felt like eating was a little snack before bed. The afternoon and evening included sitting outside our little flat with our books and a bottle of wine from Terra Cruda enjoying the silences of the countryside as the sun set on the hill behind the house. Really, in the grand scheme of things, there aren’t many better ways to spend a day, all things considered.
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Aug 19th, 2014, 12:44 PM
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sounds like an excellent day, Scott.

How are you going to get all your vinous purchases home? We're going to Germany in a few weeks time and would like to bring some cases of wine home with us, but as we are flying [like you] we're not sure how to go about this.

any ideas?
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Aug 19th, 2014, 06:17 PM
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Love you report. The best thing about vacations is doing what you want to do.
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Aug 19th, 2014, 11:18 PM
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Well we don't plan to bring any home!! We bought a case for the room but I am sure you can ship it home to the UK(??)

We plan to visit another winery as well so we will check!

Thanks Paqngo, so very true!!!
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Aug 20th, 2014, 02:43 AM
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Hello there!! I have not been online for quite some time so only happened upon your trip report now. I am thoroughly enjoying it. As always. And wishing you happy lazy mornings and wonderful fulfilling adventures. As you know we went to Terra Cruda on your reco and were do happy we did!! Did you have the grappa in the chocolate cups at the end? Isn't that an incredible idea?
Buona giornata e ciao ciao for now (no rhyme intended!!)
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Aug 20th, 2014, 11:58 PM
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Hello Flame! So glad you are along for the ride! No grappa this time as we had enough wine! So yummy!

The weather continues to be a bit hit and miss but it is stil lovely and warm and we are enjoying every minute!
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Aug 21st, 2014, 09:38 AM
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You're back in my neck of the woods! We have definitely had a chilly summer. We were in Scotland in June and it was warmer and sunnier there than back home.

If you're thinking of moving to Le Marche, there is a sort of British expat community in the Caglia area. I'm not in touch with anyone there, so I don't know anything more than that it exists. I myself would rather be nearer the coast, where most of the services and cultural resources are.

Whatever you do, try to spend some time in your chosen location just going about your daily business, maybe renting an apartment, in the depths of winter, to see if you'd really be able to live here. When I first came here, going on sixteen years ago, there were half a dozen recently-arrived German families living in our town. I believe all of them have returned to Germany, some within a few years of their arrival. For several of them, it was the gloom of winter that disappointed them. I think a failure to integrate into the community, aggravated by the language barrier, that left them feeling isolated here.

I may have mentioned this before, but it would seem easier to me to fly into Ancona, with Ryanair from Stansted. That's what we do when we go to London. You can rent a car at the airport, and it's just a bit over an hour from Piobbico, with only about 15-20 minutes on the A14.
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Aug 21st, 2014, 02:05 PM
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Bvlenci, I was hoping you would post! Which area are you in??

We thought we liked the area around Sassocovaro but on a second visit not so much. We love Piobbico, and the area around Fratte Rosa and Cagli but haven't been farther south. We also live Urbino/Urbania area. We are going to do a drive to Ascoli Pizeno and environs thus trip for sure and also want to look around Jesi. Your comments are spot on and in reality we are looking at a whle before moving (unless we strike it rich on the lottery ha).

Looks like a rainy weekend but hope to hit the coast tomorrow for some beach weather!
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Aug 21st, 2014, 02:07 PM
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I think the flight to Ancona is probably easier in some senses but Stansted isn't convenient for us and we HATE RyanAir! We are using points on BA now so Bologna 'works'!
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Aug 22nd, 2014, 12:27 AM
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Day Five – Stone Crows

We’ve been talking for a while about eventually moving to this part of Italy when we are ready to retire (or win the lottery, whichever comes first). On our last trip through we drove through what we thought was Sassocorvaro on our way home from San Leo and really liked the look of the area and town itself. We decided to spend a day driving around the area again to see if it really was as nice as we remembered.

We had a chat with Ashley in the morning while sitting on our little patio outside our room – apparently there are two ways to get to Sassocorvaro, one of them is fairly quick through a tunnel, the other is quite a bit longer over the mountain. We had nothing in particular we needed to be anywhere for, so went for the longer mountain route. What Ashley failed to mention (and presumably didn’t know) was that the mountain road is possibly the worst road in all of Italy. I watched a show on the BBC earlier this year called “The Most Dangerous Roads in the World”, but they didn’t have anything on this monstrosity. At one point, it looked like the subsidence had caused half the pavement to fall into the valley below, leaving a path barely wide enough for the car. We were convinced that if we blew a tire or broke the suspension on one of the giant potholes that we’d have to live there…

We eventually made it out of the mountains and drove into the little village of Sassocorvaro. We quickly realized that the town we had thought was Sassocorvaro on the previous trip actually wasn’t, and decided it was possible we’d just seen a sign for it while driving and jumped to conclusions. There was a little café just near the parking lot we’d stopped in and after the drive I was in deep need of a break and a coffee. Actually, what I needed was a large glass of scotch, but I would have to drive again at some point so just had a cappuccino.

Sassocorvaro is quite a small village perched on a hill overlooking a little man-made lake. We walked around it in a few minutes, and found a little taverna which had a decent looking menu. It was a bit early for lunch, only 12:15 or so, but we could see into the kitchen where a lot of bustling was happening, so we wandered around for a bit while we waited for them to open the door. By 12:30 there was no update on the door front, so I loitered in front of the kitchen windows to see if it looked like they were close to being ready – I even worked up enough of my terrible Italian to ask “che ora…aperto?” (which isn’t even close to being a proper sentence, but it seemed to get the job done). The cook responded in a high-speed stream of Italian, of which I managed to understand a single word – “pronto”. I know this word from English, where I’ve always used to it mean “quickly”, but I was second guessing myself so I looked it up in Google – in Italian it means “ready” as it turns out. I assumed this meant that they’d be ready soon, so I opened the front door to see if I could find someone else who could tell me when that might be. I think in retrospect what the cook was actually saying was more along the lines of “we’re open now you massive twit, go inside, we’re ready for dealing with your total lack of Italian” because it was relatively full of people eating (in our defence the door wasn’t glass so we couldn’t see inside – it really did look closed).

We had quite an average lunch in the end. It was very much a locals place with us as the only tourists in sight. We may have actually been the only tourists that have ever been in that restaurant before. We had the daily set menu, which seemed to be the popular choice – I went for pasta ai fagiole (pasta with beans) and Jamie had the carbonara. There are some that say that Italians don’t eat carbonara, only tourists eat it, but I can say with some confidence that in Sassocorvaro in mid-August a goodly number of local type Italians ate and presumably enjoyed a plate of spaghetti carbonara. The secondi was an odd selection of dishes – Jamie had melon and prosciutto and I had a sausage frittata. The melon was good, because lets be honest, you’d have to make an actual effort to screw up raw melon and slices of ham.

From the edge of Sassocorvaro you can see down to the lake below, and the little town built along the edge of it. Was suspected that this may have been the town that looked so nice as we drove through it last time, so got back into the car and headed down the hill to find out. Mercatale wasn’t the town either, but it seemed quite interesting given its size. We parked at one end and walked through it in about 10 minutes, then walked back. There wasn’t a lot to see to be honest. There was one more possibility down the road – the slightly larger spa town of Macerata Feltria.

This time we had success. We recognized a bit of the town that we drove through so excitedly parked and got out of the car, expecting to find a quaint little town full of interesting and entertaining things to see and do. We were a bit disappointed to discover that Macerata is a vaguely seedy town that appears to have had its heyday several decades previously. I think the brief view we got as we drove through town a year ago gave us an unrealistic opinion of the town. We were a bit disappointed but spent half an hour or so wandering around looking for a redeeming feature – we didn’t really find one.

Somewhat discouraged we found the car and started back towards our side of the mountain, this time being very careful to take the tunnel and not the pass over the mountain (because I’m a major geek, I’m reminded of Lord of the Rings here – the only reason the Fellowship ended up in the tunnels of the Mines of Moria was because the road over the pass was so terrible…feel free to begin mocking now). We felt that the only way to restore our good spirits was to stop in Urbania on the way home for a bit of gelato – it’s amazing how much a nice bowl of gelato will make you feel better.

We had a quiet evening in, reading our books and cooking what turned out to be some viciously spicy pasta in our room (I over-poured the crushed chilli flakes when making the sauce and had had enough wine to decide to leave them in). A long but productive day overall. While we were disappointed in the towns we visited as places to live given our expectations, we could at least cross them off the areas to look at when that big lottery win finally comes through. Jamikins still got some nice pictures though.
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Aug 22nd, 2014, 01:28 PM
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Days Six and Seven – Cooking and More Wine

We had a day at home planned after the driving yesterday. We were going to be doing a full day of cooking lessons with Jason for the day, including making a big lunch for ourselves and then an even bigger dinner. We’ve done a lot of cooking here over the last few years and have pretty much exhausted Jason’s normal itinerary for a full day of lessons so we went a little off-tangent for what’s normally presented.

We started just after 10am with a much needed cup of coffee before getting stuck into prep for the day. There was a lot we had to get going early to be ready for dinner, the confit rabbit especially needed a few hours marinating in salt and herbs before we could immerse it in the liquid fat and slow cook it for a few hours. The menu for lunch included homemade cavaletti (a sort of semi-hollow hand-made pasta) with bean and tomato sauce (one of my favourites), and fresh spinach sautéed in garlic and lemon juice and topped with a poached egg. Dinner was even more unusual – the rabbit that I mentioned earlier, as well as passatelli in brodo (sort of a drop-noodle in a broth had had been bubbling all day), fresh figs wrapped in prosciutto and stuffed with cheese which were then baked, and all finished off with a giant lemon curd tart. It was all delicious. The topper of the day was learning how to make quick-pickled peppers and onions and a longer and much stronger pickled green beans from the garden (which we’ll be taking home with us).

The day was excellent – it turned out to be unexpectedly sunny other than a relatively brief but violent thunder storm. We spent the afternoon break after lunch sitting outside under an umbrella enjoying the crashing of the thunder and the torrential downpour with a glass or two of wine in our hands. We were in bed relatively early, needing sleep after the quite busy day.

The following morning we accidently slept in a bit longer than intended. We didn’t have much planned for the day, just a trip out to another winery closer to the coast. We drove for about an hour before picking a restaurant from the Michelin guide suggestions for a nearby town. San Costanzo is a small but nice little village featuring an even smaller restaurant which prides itself on being as close to zero mile as it can be, which means that it tries to source as much of it’s ingredients as it can from the local region. Lunch was, as it generally is around here, cheap, filling and tasty. We started with a pasta each, an angel hair spaghetti with a ragu for me (there’s another name for angel hair pasta here, but I can’t remember what it is) and cheese ravioli for Jamie. We then both had tagliata for our secondi, which is grilled steak, with olive oil drizzled on top in this case. We’d expected a fair sized portion, but the mountain of steak which was delivered was massive. There was no way we could finish it, but we gave it a good try.

Fortunately we’d parked on the far side of town and really appreciated the walk back through the village to start to settle a bit of lunch. We don’t generally eat this much or this rich of food back at home, and it’s starting to take it’s toll on my system – I’m glad I brought a supply of indigestion aids with me.

It was a quick drive to Azienda Agraraia Guerrieri between the villages of San Costanzo and Piagge. We got there just at 2:30 when the tasting room was meant to be re-opening from the afternoon break. There was another couple already there, waiting in front of the doors to the tasting room. The winery itself is quite large, looking more like a North American winery tasting room than what we’d found in the wineries we’d visited in France or even other parts of Italy.

We wandered around for a bit while we waited for the place to open – not a big issue for us, as it gave Jamie a chance to take a few photos of the vines and the giant cartoon-like statue of Bacchus before our tasting. The Italian couple who’d been there before us evidently got impatient and at 2:45 stormed off into the cellars behind the tasting complex to find someone – they dragged one of the cellar workers around to open the tasting rooms and give us all some wine.

He did a really good job, considering his normal one was loading wine around in the warehouse. By the time we sat down outside there were about a dozen people waiting for him, so he was quite busy running around pouring samples of the various wines for everyone. We decided after some extensive tasting that the spumanti and red wines were better than at Terra Cruda, but Terra Cruda’s whites were the winners. We were forced to buy a few more bottles (at these prices it seems silly not to be drinking really good wine for only a few euro more than the average stuff we’ve been getting at the Conad). The cellar guy even threw in a few bags of their pasta to fill the wine box we didn’t quite buy enough wine for.

The drive home was fairly quick, and Jamie managed to stay awake. We really like the area closer to the coast, but suspect that the house prices will be quite a bit higher with the proximity to the ocean and therefore probably out of the running for our retirement planning (unless that lottery win really does come through, and then the sky’s the limit).

Dinner was back at La Tavola Marche – Jason and Ashley were doing their legendary Thursday Pizza Night complete with pizzas cooked in the old wood pizza oven in the little outbuilding behind the house. There was a big group out for the evening. In addition to Jamie and I, there was the retired Dutch couple from up the road as well as their family who were visiting from Holland (about a dozen of them all in all if you count all the kids running around) and the friends of Il Dottore, the local guy who lives up the road the other way and has sort of been Jason and Ashley’s guide to surviving in the Italian countryside. A Yoda to their Luke and Leia if you will allow me to take it to that geeky place again (Jamie will be cringing as she reads this).

The mosquitoes were out in full force for the evening. Fortunately for everyone, I am an accomplish mosquito attractor and like the Pied Piper, drew them away from everyone else. For this, I received no thanks, but did go to bed with a good half-dozen new bites to scratch at.
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Aug 22nd, 2014, 01:40 PM
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At the moment, we're at our little summer hovel in the upper Potenza valley, one of my favorite spots on the earth, although I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to live here year round. Many of these inland towns are like ghost towns in the winter, and you seem to have to go to the coast for almost any sort of services.

Internet access here is a big problem, so I have only brief and infrequent access.

We live in the province of Ancona, inland of Senigallia.

The bad road may be partly due to the extreme flooding we experienced this spring. A good many roads have been reduced to single lanes in places because of landslides caused by the heavy rains.

I don't know who told you that Italians don't eat carbonara. It's essentially a Roman dish, I believe, but it's been adopted nearly everywhere in Italy.

San Leo used to be in Le Marche, but they seceded and latched onto Emilia Romagna. I read that many of
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Aug 22nd, 2014, 01:54 PM
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Your harrowing road experience sounds totally frightening. I wonder whether it can be compared with our very frightening road experience around the Bolognola area that I wrote about in our last trip report. Glad you made it safe and sound. Hope you continue having a great time and weather holds up.
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