Ascoli Piceno – a city older than Rome and built around the stunning Piazza del Popolo. This famous piazza is known as the ‘Living Room’ of Italy and what a room it is, surrounded by Renaissance and Gothic Palaces.
The elegant marble floors and walls glisten in the sunshine with shades of milk and honey, transporting you to a bygone era.
Getting around this beautiful city is easy, just put one foot in front of the other, although I am still in awe of the architecture and constantly bump into people and objects while gazing upwards! As I wander around the town I feel the history seeping into my soul and try and imagine who has trodden this path so many years before me. In every corner of this city, you will stumble across Roman ruins and noble towers, churches and travertine columns, a cultural heaven.
For those of you who like a little more structure to your day, you can choose to partake in an organised walking tour with a local guide. These vary in time, you’re in Italy after all, but usually last between two and three hours and take in all Ascoli’s architectural gems.
Cafe Meletti & Dustin Hoffman in Ascoli for the filming of Alfredo Alfredo
Tucked away in a corner of the Piazza is the famous Cafe Meletti Bar, named after its founder, Silvio Meletti who first opened its doors to the public in the early 1900’s.
It quickly became the place to be seen, both Ernest Hemingway and Jean-Paul Satre frequented it often.
It has also been featured in many films over the past few years, including ‘Les Dauphins’ and ‘Alfredo, Alfredo’ starring Dustin Hoffman.
I walk into the bar and gaze upwards, admiring the fresco ceiling and Murano chandelier. A circular marble-topped table beckons me, I reach into my bag and switch off my phone. This is an experience that needs no interruptions, I pull up a chair, place my order and gaze across the Piazza, soaking up the atmosphere of this very special place.
For lovers of antiques (that’s definitely me )there is a splendid antique market held in Ascoli Piceno on the third weekend of every month. The market is set up in the town’s splendid medieval centre, including Piazza del Popolo and Piazza Arringa. Selling everything from quality art and chandeliers to rusty old nails and door hinges. It is the perfect opportunity to go browsing for weird and wonderful things with a backdrop of some of the most beautiful architecture and buildings in Italy. This is one of my favourite places to find hidden treasures for our Appassionata homes.
Ascoli Piceno is only a 45-minute drive away from our properties and makes the perfect place for a days outing.
I love wine, in each and every colour. It has been mentioned I always reach for the fullest glass, regardless if it’s mine or not, but I’m just a ‘the glass is always half full’ sort of person!
In our local bars and restaurants, we have an abundance of sommeliers. Each one advising and encouraging us to try a new wine, theatrically arriving at the table, twirling and swirling, sniffing and snorting. I love the extra drama this adds to an evening out.
We are blessed to live in a region of Le Marche surrounded by rolling hills dotted with vineyards, family owned for generations. Their love and dedication to the art of winemaking is inspiring.
This is a wine region to be taken seriously and really does produce some stellar wines.
Thanks to the mild climate throughout the year and the constant exposure to the south, this land has been used for viticulture since the Middle Ages.
With around 24,000 hectares of vines, the cultivation of the grapes is now one of the most important agricultural activities in the Le Marche region. Thankfully most of the region’s best wines never leave and are enjoyed by local Italians and tourists……. and me!
Let me introduce you to one of our favourite local wine producers, Terra Fageto in Pedaso. Their hard work and passion is refreshing, creating a range of prestigious, genuine wines, each with its own personality.
This small winery is owned by the di Ruscio family and has been for four generations. I will leave Dante to tell you their story.
“This fragrant land, where ladybugs still settle. This land guarded with love, by the hard work of four generations. This land whose grapes look towards the shores of the Adriatic and are the result of careful organic farming. This land gives a harmonious and genuine wine. “
An article written and published in Italy Magazine by Georgette Jupe| September 21, 2018
Have you ever dreamt about owning a vacation property but couldn’t quite justify the cost, or the day-to-day upkeep? Luckily there are solutions that are alternative to renting that can allow you to have a second home in one of Italy’s most unsung regions without all of the red-tape hiccups that can come with investing in a second home abroad.
Appassionata is a luxury and boutique Fractional Ownership business run by Brit Italofiles Dawn Cavanagh-Hobbs and husband Michael in the heart of the beautiful and relaxing Le Marche region of Italy, in a place where life sings to a different tune. Where strolling charming cobblestoned streets and spending hours sipping coffee in a piazza are par for the course. Their well-designed properties are also all within close proximity to Le Marche’s mountains and coastline, and to two local airport to make travel to and fro as seamless as possible making la dolce vita much easier to reach.
But it’s one thing for me to tell you that but what about those who chose to change their lives and actually take the plunge in one of these beautiful luxury homes?
Diane and Mark are in their mid-fifties from South Africa, now based in London for the last thirty years. Both of them are successful businesspeople with two older children who are now embarking on their own vibrant careers.
Like many in similar positions, they always expressed an interest for a second, vacation property but had a hard time finding properties that truly fit their needs. Italy was always foremost in their mind, having spent time in Rome, Florence, Venice and Sicily so they decided to embark on a discovery visit with Appassionata without having ever visited Le Marche previously. The idea of fractional ownership was intriguing but naturally before making any large financial decisions, it was best to see the place in person.
Diane and Mark had a few requirements, namely a high standard of property (needed no renovations) with a garden and swimming pool — and in the case of the house they visited, the tennis court, vineyard and views were an added bonus. An important aspect was to find a place that wasn’t overrun with tourism and filled with predominantly locals.
Location-wise it needed to be sufficiently rural to allow for outdoor activities, but within a close distance to local shops for basic necessities. Lastly, it needed to be large enough to accommodate a group of friends and their children and partners. With this in mind it was time to visit the property.
They flew to Rome and drove to Le Marche, a beautiful drive that offered the first taste of what was to come. They settled in the accommodation that Appassionata owner’s Michael and Dawn Hobbs had arranged for them and instantly integrated into local life, visiting local restaurants and cafes before visiting Casa Leopoldi to inspect the property available. In their words “we found the rooms to be impressively decorated and by the end of dinner on the first night we decided to buy the final share of the property.”
Regarding the concept of fractional ownership this proved to be just the ideal situation for Diane and Mark. It enabled them to have all of the benefits of ownership, including a say in how the property was run, without having to deal with the daily management of the property itself. Each owner has a 1/10th ownership in the property which they have total control over and are allotted five exclusive weeks a year to use. As stated in The Sunday Times “The expense of buying a holiday home outright, along with the annual running costs seemed crazy, when you may only use the house for an average of 40 nights a year. – That is why Appassionata was born!”
They knew that any second property would be standing empty most of the year and renting it out to strangers would allow tenants who did not necessarily feel an attachment to the property as they did. The fact that there were only a small number of owners meant that there was a “family” feeling among the other buyers who all shared a common interest in maintaining the quality of the property.
Also attractive was the fact that the weeks set every year are not set in stone. allowing them to visit the area in a range of seasons. Due to the way the system works, if other owners aren’t using their weeks, that opens that time up to anyone who wants to use it.
Mark also sits on the board of the company as one of the owner representatives who meet for board meetings to stay involved with the management company during the year regarding matters of running the property.
I asked him how he typically spends a day in Le Marche to give us an idea of someone’s normal routine. He said “We normally start the day by going on a walk to the village to buy bread from the bakery or down the street to a local farmer for vegetables. If we are feeling particular energetic they swim in the pool or run by the beach before breakfast.” Something they often do is head to Cupra Marittima to rent bikes at Carlito’s bike shop to cycle at the seafront before heading to one of the many seaside restaurants for lunch. “In the late afternoon, we play tennis before heading to the village for an aperitivo before dinner at home for an evening barbecue.”
I also spoke to America-based Deborah of Italian descent who despite living in the states kept the beloved traditions of her Italian relatives alive. Her and her husband are working professionals who love travel and come often to Italy. Deborah explained to me over email “I felt a deep connection to Italy most of my life. As a young girl, I was fascinated watching Italian movies with actress Sophia Loren and my biggest dream was to one day own a home in Italy.”
Their intrigue for Le Marche was ignited after reading an article about Appassionata that made them ponder, could this be the solution for us?
As you may have predicted, as soon as they arrived in this often-overlooked region, the landscape was the first catalyst that took their breath away.
Deborah explained “Where else can you travel from the mountains through the rolling hills to the Adriatic Sea in less than an hour, the authenticity of this beautiful place is really what created such a hold on me”
This region indeed is one of Italy’s best kept secrets where one can swim in the blue sea, hike the rugged mountains and stumble upon so many charming medieval hilltop villages and hidden places carved into ancient stone.
Deborah was also won over by the seamless solution to own a luxury property for a fraction of the price. One of her initial concerns was an eye for interior aesthetics, something that she well appreciates in her home in Le Marche that Appassionata-owner Dawn has lovingly decorated. Her eye for detail is one of the reasons that the shares in these properties typically sell rather quickly. Dawn spent ages working hard with local artisans to make sure every single room was unique, with no small detail overlooked.
Mod-cons like a washer and dryer and other high-end appliances were an attractive bonus along with three attractive terraces with sweeping vistas of the countryside. As Deborah says “If you look closely on a nice day, you can even spot the Adriatic Sea in the distance.”
Additionally, one of the biggest hurdles they had before while house searching was the idea of owning a home but not being able to regularly maintain the day to day works, this making Appassionata’s full daily management of the property especially attractive for their needs.
“Appassionata meticulously maintains the property through the year so that when we arrive we can immediately embrace “vacation mode” with no worries. Everything is in full working order when we arrive and we can even have a stocked refrigerator if we arrange in advance” Deborah says.
I asked what else Deborah appreciated about local life in Le Marche as for me. She replied “It is a wonderful experience to just throw open the windows and watch the local residents going about their day, chatting over morning coffee and freshly-baked pastries or just taking in the delicious smells wafting from our neighbor’s cooking on Sunday afternoons. Not to mention the sound of church bells chiming in on the hour.”
They felt the warmth of the village and welcomed by other residents, helping them to fit into the fabric of local life. Deborah continues with “Needless to say, we have a fun, active social life in Le Marche.”
I asked her to explain how she spends a day in her village to which she replies “our days can be whatever we want them to be. Luxuriating at home, doing nothing or enjoying a glass of wine overlooking a beautiful vineyard. We may visit one of the many medieval villages and towns and choose between the sea and the mountains. The food and wine here is absolutely sublime. One can choose to dine under the stars at a gourmet restaurant or at a more casual seaside chalet.”
She finished with “For my family, the entire Appassionata experience has been the best decision we’ve ever made, rejoicing in “La Dolce Vita” year after year.
This is a question I have been asked many times over the past few years. While I don’t like to generalise, the common theme is people who want to experience real Italy, immerse themselves in the culture and history, value the importance of family and of course the great cuisine!
For our family, for our business, Le Marche is the perfect place. Trying to find some authenticity in this crazy, busy world is getting more and more difficult. Sometimes we just need to escape the chaos and experience something real and true.
Le Marche prides itself on being quintessentially Italian and that’s what people fall in love with, and it still remains one of Italy’s best kept secrets.
A Leader or Follower?
There are some people who are leaders, they are adventurous and like to make their own discoveries, each day is exciting and they have a thirst for knowledge. Some people are followers, they go where others have been and see what others have seen. They like to travel the well trodden path.
Most visitors to Italy travel to the main tourist cities like Rome and Florence and bask on the beaches along the Amalfi Coast. These places are amazing and definitely worth a visit, but does this give you a true insight into the real Italy?
For those of us who really like to get under the skin of a country and integrate with the locals rather than be surrounded by thousands of tourists, Le Marche is the place. I prefer to hear the beautiful tones of the Italian language being spoken while drinking my early morning coffee, rather than my mother tongue.
Picture a place where mountains roll gently down to a stunning coastline of blue flag beaches, dotted with restaurants serving the catch of the day.
A patchwork vista really does exist here, a blend of olive groves and vineyards and fields of sunflowers shimmering in the sun ….. sometimes I feel like I’m driving through a film set. Generation after generation have farmed the land for hundreds of years, growing produce for their family or selling it onto the local shops and restaurants.
This is a region brimming with ancient churches, abbeys and monasteries. Tiny village theatres, with fresco ceilings and gold leaf mouldings are found tucked away along the cobbled streets of virtually every medieval village. I have had the great privilege of watching many productions over the past years and I often have to pinch myself that I’m not in Covent Garden. I’m sitting in a tiny, exquisite, eighty seat theatre, built hundreds of years ago in a hill top town in Le Marche, but the standard, the professionalism and the dedication is the same
How Do You Spend Your Time?
I like to stay busy, which is good as I have four children, two grandchildren, four rescue horses, two rescue dogs, and six cats, and I work…..
Whatever your interests and passions there are so many possibilities here.
It’s All About the Experience
Here is a brief snap shot of our down time in Le Marche.
Monday evening was magical, sitting under the stars in the piazza of the museum, Polo Museale di San Francesco, in the town of Montefiore dell ‘Aso, watching an old Italian movie L’Albero Degli Zoccoli. This museum dates back to 1264 and the painting Polyptch by the famous artist Carlo Crivelli is the centre piece.
Sergio, the owner of Osteria della Cornacchie, one of our local restaurants, kindly invited our family over for dinner on Tuesday as a thank you for being one of his best customers. He is famous for his sense of humour, and polenta served on a wooden board. Italians travel for miles to taste this speciality and enjoy the great atmosphere.
Early to bed on Wednesday evening, as we had a 4.30am alarm call on Thursday morning. A sunrise concert performed by the violinist Valentino Alessandrini, down on the beach in the seaside town of Pedaso. The music, the setting, everything was totally breath taking. The waves crashing against the rocks added to the emotion of this very special occasion. It was certainly worth the early start and I will definitely be returning again next year.
Friday is the day I love to cycle along the promenade, which runs for miles alongside the beach. I pull over for a cappuccino, chat to the locals and browse the local market in San Benedetto. I can never resist stopping off for lunch in Grottamare at one of the best seafood restaurants in the world, Il Grecale.
Saturday evening…… this was something I have always wanted to experience, La Cena in Vigna, dinner in the vines. One of our local cantina’s, Dea Flora, organised a wonderful evening of food, wine and live music. A magical setting, with shooting stars lighting up the night sky.
Our philosophy is to celebrate and share the very best Italy has to offer, without compromise.
To find out more about the magic of Le Marche and our luxurious holiday homes, please contact me.
Fractional Ownership is a successful, growing concept, but few people really understand exactly what it means, or the benefits it offers those of us wanting a holiday home. It is frequently confused with timeshare, conjuring up a very negative view of being chased down the street in Marbella by an over enthusiastic salesman inviting you to enjoy a liquid lunch and sign on the dotted line!
Fractional Ownership was developed to create a more secure and reliable solution for those wanting to share ownership of a luxurious item.
The key to Fractional Ownership is ‘ownership’; you own a share of the property in perpetuity, with the right to sell at any time. Timeshare is all about ‘time‘, you have the right to use the property for only a short period each year, normally a week, but without ownership in the freehold asset. Timeshare is likely to reduce in value over time. Appassionata owners have undertaken several re-sales on behalf of owners over the last few years, achieving an average return of over 10% on the total value of shares sold.
“Fractional ownership with Appassionata was a much more pragmatic approach to owning a home in Italy. The properties are meticulously restored and fractional ownership was the solution to all of the expense and hassle of overseas home ownership.”
Victor & Sandra Jason – Owners USA
Ownership with Appassionata- means owning a luxury property which is professionally managed and maintained throughout the year. The ten owners split the annual running costs between them. Financially this makes good sense. On average a holiday home owner only uses their property for 40 days each year, but have to pay for the entire year.
Appassionata owners are all pretty savvy. They often have the resources to buy a property outright, but don’t want the financial burden and stress. They know they haven’t got the free time to use it all year.
With Fractional Ownership you arrive and everything is ready for you to start your holiday immediately….. sound perfect?
“Appassionata are a delight to deal with and the reason that everything works so incredibly well. Friendly, helpful, professional and most of all passionate about their work.”
Joanne Evans-Webb – Owner/Dubai
Fractional Ownership provides a modern solution to owning a holiday home. It’s makes more sense having a group of people share the running cost of the property and the house to be fully used throughout the year. It breathes more life into local communities having a property consistently used, adding to the rich culture and diversity of the local area by developing long term relationships with the local people.
It is a given that the legal structure for Fractional Ownership must be robust. The legal structure must protect the owners and the property, providing a simple and transparent way for the property to be managed. The Appassionata structure is secure, tried and tested.
Appassionata sells 1/10th shares in each of their properties, owners have exclusive use of their house during their 5 weeks of annual residency. Residency is booked in September for the following year, and gives all owners real choice and flexibility, with the opportunity to experience different times of the year.
To experience the quality and uniqueness of Appassionata properties or to find out more information please get in touch and we can arrange a discovery trip to Le Marche.
“The expense of buying a holiday home outright, along with the annual running costs seemed crazy, when you may only use the house for an average of 40 nights a year.
” The Sunday Times”
Enjoy the luxury of owning an Italian home, to share with family and friends.
The history of Agostini olive oil is a story of passion, tradition and excellence. A story that began in 1945, a business handed down from father to son, today, in its third generation. The Agostini company has created a unique olive oil, ensuring the highest quality and an unforgettable taste.
The Agostini Olive Mill has been nominated as one of the 200 best olive oil mills in the world, by the prestigious food sector magazine Der Feinschmecker. They are multiple gold medal winner in Italian and international competitions.
The company is located in Petritoli, in the Marche Region of Italy. Nestled between the Sibillini Mountains and the Adriatic Sea, where the air is pure and fresh, and the climate is ideal for olive trees.
In Le Marche the culinary heritage of oil dates back from the ancient Romans. In 1945 Alfredo Agostini started to produce olive oil in a small olive mill. Now, his son Gaetano Agostini is managing the company with his sons Marco and Elia, and his brother Maurizio.
Gaetano Agostini has been able to reproduce the same traditional process to make an extra virgin olive oil.
He personally selects only the finest quality olives. He carefully oversees each single step of the production, to obtain and guarantee a product with authentic quality and taste.
At the Agostini Mill the harvest is done by hand and the pressing takes place within 6-12 hours. First the cold press to allow the final oil a larger amount of natural antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamins and carotene, important for healthy living.
The passion and the commitment from the Agostini family has resulted in them winning several prestigious awards.
Over the years, their growing dedication to olive oil has made them continue in the direction of key guiding principles: Quality, Sustainability and Innovation with an absolute respect for the Land.
Agostini has embarked upon an Enterprise Project, focusing on sustainability and biodiversity. They believe that the land and its welfare will become the primary interest of our society in the future. An Enterprise based on dignity, of the people and of the land.
They began to implement this idea by starting the production of Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Its application for certification was made 17 years ago, and was promptly acknowledged in 2002 after three years of assessment.
Their main concern was to pursue the ultimate aim and minimize the environmental impact.
In 2010 they decided to abandon the old energy supply systems and focus on Renewable Energy, investing in a solar energy panel system placed on the roof of the olive mill. They chose to use renewable energy without needlessly occupying green space
This also allowed them to become completely energy-independent, while reducing close to zero c
arbon dioxide (CO2) emissions resulting from the use of the traditional energy supply systems.
They also looked at the issue around disposal of the waste products. In 2012 they decided to make a
step further in theminimization of the environmental impact. They installed a machine to extract the “Olive pit granules” from the processing waste. A 100% natural and ecological biomass fuel. In this way they are now able to recover an important and optimal natural source of energy which is usually thrown away.
Here’s our favourite variety from the Agostini Oil Mill, a gold medal winner in both Italy and New York!
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Sublìmis
Oil extracted in Italy from olives cultivated in Italy.
Variety/Cultivar:: Frantoio e Carboncella.
Harvest Time: October/November.
Max Acidity: 0,3.
Pac: Glass Bottle 0,250 Lt; 0,500 Lt; 0,750 Lt.
Type of Harvesting: Hand-picked.
Extraction System: Continuous Cycle, cold pressing ( within the first 12 hours after the harvesting).
Flavor:Intense aroma with strongly grassy hints. It has an intense artichoke taste and light scent of almond and tomato.
Food Pairing: Excellent on grilled meats, legumes soups, bruschetta and on all dishes enhancing the rich taste of mediterranean cooking.
The award winning Agostini Family:
One of our American owners,Debbie Yackal, was so impressed after tasting the oil she now ships and sells it in the US. Please check out her website:
We love receiving owners testimonials and understanding their motivation about joining the Appassionata family. Thank you Mary Harmon for this tremendous insight.
It is a quite interesting and uncanny set of events of how I came to know the properties of Appassionata in Le Marche, and subsequently purchased a share of Il Riposo.
In February 2017, I purchased a piece of art, an oil on acrylic, a contemporary heart, for my upcoming birthday gift to myself. It was entitled ” Appassionata”. I researched and found that this is an Italian musical term meaning with heart, with passion and vigor. Ok, so what does this art piece have to do with a property purchase in Le Marche? My family is still pondering that one.
For the last couple of years, I had been perusing properties for sale in the Tuscany region of Italy. My travels had taken me there a few times. I began to dream of having a small place in Italy not thinking I could really afford it, but one never knows, right? In those Tuscany visits, I had fell in love with the rolling hillsides, vineyards, wine, food and robust coffee. I also fell deeply in love with the generous spirit of the people and their love of family.
Imagine my excitement when the “Appassionata ” ad popped up on my computer screen out of the blue? While I am sure that technology tracking was the real culprit, I decided it was providence and made an impromptu decision to journey to Le Marche and check it out. In 2 weeks, I was on my way, on my adventure to Le Marche. I got off to a rocky start as my plane arrived late and it was dark when I began the drive from the Ancona Airport to Petritoli, in the last 5 speed stick Fiat for rent at the Hertz counter.
When I arrived, India, the Sales Director, was waiting for me and settled me into the most cozy and quaint medieval apartment I have ever seen. I snuggled in for a sound sleep in preparation for our tour the next day.
India and I met for fresh coffee before beginning our tour. As we drove through the countryside with almond and cherry trees in full bloom , I could barely contain my excitement. Once we reached the Patrignone village and opened the door to a visual display of beauty and love that was clearly displayed in the furnishings and detail throughout, coupled with the natural beauty of the hills, sea and mountains, I could not resist purchasing a share of Il Riposo.
I love the share ownership concept in conjunction with other families, to have access to a wonderful Italian property and share the expense of ownership. It helped that my family already owns a share of a beach home on BaldHead Island, North Carolina in the USA that we have had for many years, so I easily understood how it all works.
When our four children were young I frequently used the phrase sharing and caring. Share your possessions with your siblings and friends. Watch someone else experience joy and happiness from something that is dear to you. It shows you care. I’m not saying it’s easy. Try explaining that to a three year old, clutching their favourite toy. It can be quite a challenge!
Hopefully it was good advice. Our children have grown up to be thoughtful, kind and caring adults.
Appassionata was created around the same principles. We immerse ourselves into the caring Italian culture, grounded by strong family traditions. Small communities caring for each other. Old and young cared for by their own families, often sharing the same home.
Appassionata is a boutique, family business. We buy, restore, furnish and sell shares in luxury properties in Le Marche for a limited few. Ten owners share the purchase cost and all running costs of their home for five exclusive weeks each year. All the boring legal work has been done, by us. Owners can share their Italian home with family and friends and see the joy others experience from their generosity. Owners don’t have all the worries, work and stress normally associated with owning a holiday home. Appassionata does it all. They arrive, indulge and relax. Many of our owners have celebrated special occasions in their Italian home. Sharing memories and precious time together. Italy brings families together. We care about our owners and make sure everything is perfectly prepared for their next visit
Appassionata want to share this beautiful region of Italy and take care of you.
Appassionata properties are occupied throughout the entire year, and this constant flow of people helps support local businesses. Owners are given a warm welcome in the shops, bars, cafes and restaurants each time they return. Many of them become friends.
Our owners can also interact with each other, sharing their favourite restaurants, wines, beaches and designer outlets!
We currently have a few shares remaining in our fourth property, Il Riposo. An elegant three storey, four bedroom villa. Nestled within the beautiful medieval borgo of Patrignone. Ideally situated between blue flag beaches and the Sibillini mountains. There is certainly plenty to share amongst loved ones.
We invite you to come and visit us and see why we care so much about this hidden gem in Italy.
Please contact India Hobbs Mauger for more information
Pasqua is upon us, one of those special times of year that Italian families all get together to celebrate.
While you probably won’t see the Easter bunny , this a popular holiday celebrated as only Italians do. The days leading up to Easter include solemn processions and mass, Pasqua is a joyous celebration marked with rituals and traditions. The Monday following Easter, La Pasquetta, is also a public holiday throughout Italy. Church is always full, you will definitely not find a seat, standing room only. Many churches have special statues of the Virgin Mary and Jesus which are paraded through their village or displayed in the piazza. Parade participants are often dressed in traditional costumes, olive branches and palm fronds are carried during the processions and adorn the churches. At the end of the church service olive branches are given out to everyone to symbolise peace. These olive branches are kept in your house and exchanged the following easter for the new branch.
Easter Food in Italy
Easter symbolises the end of Lent, which requires sacrifice and reserve, food plays a big part in the celebrations. Traditional Easter foods across Italy may include some of these classic recipes – carciofi fritti (fried artichokes), a main course of either capretto o agnellino al forno (roasted goat or baby lamb) or capretto cacio e uova (kid stewed with cheese, peas, and eggs), and carciofi e patate soffritti, a delicious vegetable side dish of sautéed artichokes with baby potatoes. As most people are aware Italian cooking is very regional so dishes do vary. The centre of Italy – Le Marche, Tuscany, Emilia Romagna and Umbria will no doubt have for the first course cappelletti with ragu’. Meaning “little hats”, made with fresh egg pasta and filled with 3 different types of mixed meats generally pork, veal & chicken, the pasta is then made into the shape of little hats and served with a mixed meat or wild boar ragu’.
A holiday meal in Italy would not be complete without a traditional dessert, and during Easter there are several. Italian children finish their dinner with a rich bread shaped like a crown and studded with colored Easter egg candies. Another treat is the Colomba cake, a sweet, eggy, yeasted bread (like panettone plus candied orange peel, minus the raisins, and topped with sugared and sliced almonds) shaped in one of the most recognizable symbols of Easter, the dove. The Colomba cake takes on this form because la colomba in Italian means dove, the symbol of peace and an appropriate finish to Easter dinner.
Uova di Pasqua ‘Easter Eggs’
Although Italians do not decorate hard–boiled eggs, the biggest Easter displays can be seen in all the bars, pastry shops and supermarkets. The chocolatiers sell brightly wrapped uova di Pasqua—chocolate Easter eggs—in sizes ranging from 10 grams (1/3 ounce) to 8 kilos (nearly 18 pounds).
Some producers distinguish between their chocolate eggs for children and expensive “adult” versions. All except the tiniest eggs contain a surprise. Grown–ups often find their eggs contain little silver picture frames or gold–dipped costume jewelry. The very best eggs are handmade by artisans of chocolate, who offer the service of inserting a surprise supplied by the purchaser.
Our weekend in Florence was over in a flash and we reluctantly flew back to London Stansted airport. Low grey cloud and drizzle welcomed us with open arms. We drove home through the gloom and heavy traffic. I was now on a mission to return as soon as possible, my heart was still in Italy…..
I spent my evenings trawling through the internet. Searching properties for sale, contacting agents and familiarising myself with the region.
Four weeks later we returned to explore the area of Tuscany. Beautiful it certainly is but something was missing. We were attracted to Italy, the culture, the lifestyle, the language. Walking around the streets we were engulfed by large groups of tourists and their coaches. We wanted more Italianness, is that an actual word!
We were not down hearted, but more determined to find our perfect place.
I am a great believer in fate. A week later Michael phoned me from work. He had just had lunch with a couple of business associates, one of whom was David Scacchetti, a co-founder and CEO of Mamas and Papas. He was married to a beautiful girl from Le Marche, in the heart of Italy, and owned a house in Civitanova Alta. Michael had talked to him about our love affair with Italy and our plans to buy a home. David made Michael promise to visit the region of Le Marche before we made a decision. I was intrigued, although I had never heard of Le Marche, David has impeccable taste, it would definitely be worth a visit.
I spent the next couple of hours researching everything I could about the region. The close proximity to both the sea and mountains was a great plus and the air quality would be amazing!
Once I have an idea in my head I’m like a dog with a bone. I wanted to get the ball rolling. By the time Michael returned home that evening I had booked our flights to Ancona. The hotel booking in Pedaso was confirmed and appointments set up with a couple of agents to view various properties.
A couple of weeks later, clutching maps and a pile of property details we flew into Ancona. We descended the plane steps and I gazed around. Airports are never the most attractive places, but I instantly liked this one. It was small and neat, even I wouldn’t get lost here. I turned to Michael, “it smells lovely here, warm and flowery” he raised his eyebrows and shook his head. To me it was obvious, places have a particular aroma, it’s one of the first things I notice when I arrive somewhere new.
We picked up the hire car and headed to the coast road. The motorway is a much quicker route, but we wanted to explore.
“This is it” I said to Michael. “This is what?” We had been on the road for about thirty minutes, but I knew. A gut instinct, that special connection, when something just feels right. Michael gave me a strange look and we continued our journey. Beautiful white sandy beaches on the left, ancient hill top towns rising up on the right. We stopped for lunch at a beachside restaurant in Civitanova. After a light lunch of fresh mussels and a glass of chilled Passerina, Michael was beginning to agree with me.
We pulled up outside Hotel Villa Ricci in the small coastal town of Pedaso. I always love to stay somewhere which represents the country I’m visiting. I avoid staying in large modern skyscraper hotels. The furnishings are modern and minimalist and often quite boring. Villa Ricci was everything I loved and more. From the moment we walked through the door. Exquisite pieces of Italian antique furniture were carefully arranged on the marble floor. Beautiful crystal chandeliers caught the light of the afternoon sun. Beyond the reception was a large door leading out into an enchanting walled garden with the scent of orange blossom.
An elegant staircase took us up to our first floor bedroom which was just as beautiful. A lovely glazed sun terrace led off the bedroom with views over the Adriatic Sea, bliss.
We unpacked quickly and changed into something a little more summery. We went for a walk, the sea was so close, I needed to be closer. I kicked off my shoes and rolled up my trousers. The water was wonderful, refreshing but not too cold. We walked along the promenade and smiled at the locals, who greeted us warmly.
That evening we had arranged to meet up with one of the agents in our hotel bar. Fabio was half English, half Italian, so language would not be a problem. We arrived early and ordered a bottle of prosecco. We chatted to the barman, in sign language and charades, as he brought over a selection of olives and cheese.
The agent arrived, he was very friendly and knew the area well. His mother’s family had lived there for generations and he seemed well connected. We discussed in more detail what we were looking for, the classic Italian farmhouse which we would loving restore over time.
We mentioned we were also meeting another agent the following morning to view properties further in land, closer to the mountains. He tried to dissuade us, but we wanted to explore everywhere.
The following day, we drove inland in search of our dream. Amandola and the surrounding villages were lovely, but a little too remote. I was going to be spending time alone here overseeing the restoration. I didn’t want to feel too isolated and become the mad English woman living in the mountains! It was important to be within walking distance of a town with shops, bars and restaurants. The coast was also an important factor and we felt it was too far away from the water. We didn’t want to be spending long periods of time in the summer driving backwards and forwards to the beach.
The next day we met up with Fabio again to view properties closer to the sea. I had already seen my dream home on the internet a few days earlier. A dilapidated farmhouse with sea views and a fenced off paddock, ready for my horses! We pulled up outside. “I don’t think this is the right house Fabio, where’s the sea view?” He said if we drove a few minutes down the hill and round the bend we could get a glimpse! I focused on the paddock and asked how many acres were included. Fabio shuffled around awkwardly and told me the paddock belonged to the house next door! We spent the following few hours driving around the rolling hills of Le Marche. The views were breathtaking and the sense of stepping back in time was beginning to wash over me. Acres of vineyards and olive groves surrounded us. I felt my shoulders drop, totally relaxed, as I scanned the countryside.
We were taken to see a large pile of bricks and stone in the middle of a field, listed as a partially renovated house! We drove on. Another ‘house’ was eventually found a half mile walk uphill with no road access. The details stated this property needed minor building work, but something was missing, the roof!
I know the agents in England like to exaggerate on the details of the properties they are selling, but here in Italy it was a whole different level!
I tore up the remaining house details I had printed off, took a deep breath and opened my mind to more possibilities.
Michael was flagging so it was time to get him fed and watered in the nearest bar/cafe. I didn’t want him to go all negative and logical.
We stopped off at a beautiful restaurant, Casa de Mar, in Campofilone. Situated right on the coast, with the sound of crashing waves on the rocks and a beer in his hand, Michael was happy. We ordered sea food pasta and a bottle of pecorino from the local cantina, Centanni in Montefiore dell’Aso. The three of us sat and talked for a couple of hours. We tried to give Fabio a clearer picture of what we wanted, but to be honest, like most people, we didn’t know what we wanted until we saw it. Michael told Fabio that unless Dawn gets that special feeling about a property, we move on to the next. Fabio looked a little perplexed and gave me a nervous smile. With everyone watered, wined and fed we set off again.
We viewed our first occupied house. We were warmly welcomed by a lovely, elderly couple with very few teeth. They proudly showed us round their home, which had been in the family for three generations. We were shown the strawberry plants in the allotment and the oak tree planted by her great grandfather. The bathroom facilities were a little lacking. There was an outside toilet in a shed and inside a shower head was loosely attached to a couple of wall tiles.
It certainly had possibilities but it didn’t have the wow factor.
We drove on, to be honest I had no idea where I was by now, but it didn’t matter, everywhere was beautiful. We were taken to another farmhouse, a promising location, until we stepped out of the car and inhaled. Looking down the valley we saw a long low building. Fabio informed us, rather reluctantly, that it was a pig farm. We moved swiftly on. The next house we saw was lovely, a complete renovation but it certainly had potential. The owners greeted us and took us into a small out building with a rather interesting aroma. There were glass bottles lined up along a rather lopsided wooden shelf nailed to the wall. The owner opened a bottle and poured out a thick, red/brown liquid into a few plastic cups. Homemade vino cotto he informed us proudly.
Vino cotto, literally means cooked wine and is famous in the Le Marche region. It is a strong ruby-colored wine, usually semi-sweet, and traditionally drunk in small glasses with puddings and cheese.
It is produced from the must of the local grapes, heated in a large copper vessel until reduced to a half or third of its original volume, and then fermented. It can be aged for years and barrels can be topped up with each harvest.
It tasted and smelt a little like sherry and reminded me of my grandmother getting rather tipsy every Christmas. We sipped politely as we took a tour of the house. He was very keen to top up our cups, usually when our backs were turned. After the wine during lunch, the hot sun and the long drive I was beginning to feel a little light headed. I think the plan was to get us drunk and shake hands on the purchase of their home! We thanked them kindly for their hospitality and made a swift getaway to the sanctuary of our hotel…. to be continued.