Italian ‘black diamond’ discovery marks Le Marche out as foodie paradise!

12th March 2015 will always be a date to remember for the Cavanagh-Hobbs family. Henceforth it will forever be known as ‘Truffle Day’ or more precisely ‘Giorno del Tartufo’, for it was the day they first discovered this rare ‘black diamond’ beneath their land in Montefiore dell ‘Aso, Italy.


Having moved to the breathtaking region of Le Marche, similarly beauty-blessed neighbour of Tuscany, from the UK eight years ago to found fractional ownership company Appassionata, Michael Hobbs and his wife Dawn Cavanagh-Hobbs wanted to truly immerse themselves in Italian life. Not content with simply renovating stunning rustic and urban properties, the family also purchased a ‘tartufaia’ or truffle plantation in 2010, a site of 7 acres that had had 1,240 trees inoculated with the Tuber Melanosporum fungus – or the Perigord Black Truffle.

Yet, as is the case with all truffle plantations, the Cavanagh-Hobbs family were in for a long wait. Notoriously difficult to farm and calling for a great deal of time and patience, truffles take between seven and twelve years to emerge, if they do at all, hence their status as a culinary delicacy, expensive to produce and purchase. Yet, having periodically searched the land with locally trained dogs over the years, it seems that this was the year the family would stumble upon their very own ‘black gold’.

Michael Hobbs, Founder of luxury property company Appassionata, explains more about their exciting discovery,

“The Appassionata Tartufaia is a magical place, generating an aura and energy that is hard to quantify, it makes you tingle. I have always felt that there was activity underground and the developing brules (burnt brown circles) that formed around the trees were an indication of mycorrhizal activity. We have been working hard while waiting for the truffles to appear and occasionally checked for truffles but it was during our last walk of this season that we found our first ever truffles.

“We didn’t have high expectations of finding them and were really just going through the motions but after 10 minutes of the dogs going from tree to tree, the young dog Balou got excited and started digging at the base of one of the trees near to the fence line. The handler pulled her back to inspect and carefully dug around the disturbed soil and hey presto we had found our very first truffle!”

Like all treasure-troves, the tartufaia, or truffle plantation, soon began to spill forth its jewels, as more and more truffles of varying shapes and sizes were literally unearthed from the dusty soil beneath. With the largest a behemoth weighing some 79g, the joy on the family’s faces could not be hidden as all their hard work was seen to pay off – at long last! With an eventual haul of 370g of black truffles in one small area, covering half a dozen trees, the prospects for the future of the site looks very bright indeed.

Yet March 2015 has not only been a landmark truffle time for this Le Marche family, their discovery also times perfectly with uncovering of the very first cultivated truffle on British soil. Just two days before the Montefiore discovery, Paul Thomas unearthed the start of a batch of the UK’s first ever commercially-produced truffles, in Leicestershire, paving the way for a new, growing industry that could prove highly lucrative. In turn, this could also prove true for the Cavanagh-Hobbs family who plan to develop their truffle sideline by selling both the raw article and investigating the creation of a range of authentic truffle-infused products, potentially utilising locally-produced olive oil and cheeses.

Michael Hobbs explains how he feels their recent discovery helps highlight the region’s gastronomic delights,

“Le Marche really is a foodie’s paradise. Freshly-produced oil from the finest olives ripened under seemingly endless sunny skies, wild game and smoky sausage, fresh seafood, not to mention the wonderful local wines that grace the region, are all part of the distinctive cucina tipica that puts Le Marche on the map and is drawing more and more attention worldwide. At Appassionata we are proud to be a part of this ongoing tradition, producing our very own olive oil, wine, lavender crop – and now truffles too!”

And as the Cavanagh-Hobbs family celebrated by eating the first truffle found, carefully slicing it over a frittata alongside some local salami and 30-month old parmigiana, rounding it off with their very own Marche Rosso, a 2013 Montepulciano, they looked forward to welcoming new owners of their latest project Casa Tre Archi to the gastronomic wonders of the region, including their newly treasured truffles!

Casa Tre Archi from Appassionata is a beautifully unique property of three bedrooms and three bathrooms, built into the ancient town walls of Le Marche’s Petritoli. Featuring a turret wall as part of the lounge, the townhouse also boasts a stunning roof terrace with standout views across the rolling hills of Le Marche and has been renovated to the very highest of standards.

A luxurious yet homely property, Casa Tre Archi enjoys sea views, beamed ceilings and traditional terracotta-tiled floors and is close to a range of local shops and restaurants and a short drive from beautiful sandy beaches. The property is offered as part of a fractional ownership scheme and shares of 1/10th of the property providing five weeks’ exclusive use annually, are available from £65,000.

For more information, contact Appassionata on +39 33154 13225 or visit

Interview: How One Italian Tourism Board Banks on Local Products and Food

Emilia-Romagna is a region of northern Italy, just above Le Marche and home to some of the country’s most iconic products including Ferrari cars, Ducati motorcycles, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, and balsamic vinegar from Modena.


Among tourists, however, the region often takes a back seat to the country’s most well-known destinations including Rome, Florence, and the Amalfi Coast. Emilia-Romagna hosted just over 9 million visitors in 2013, of which 28 percent came from abroad, according to the Italian National Statistical Institute. Emilia-Romagna is the sixth most visited region in Italy.

In a country that’s not known for its stellar tourism marketing efforts, the Emilia-Romagna Region Tourist Board is working hard to change this by raising awareness of its ancient history, culinary significance and warm culture through digital media. It runs contests, hands its Instagram account over to locals, and hosts as many bloggers and digital journalists as possible.

Still, tying the world-renowned products with the experiences available in the region is a balance that the tourism board works at daily.

Skift recently spoke with the organization’s CEO Emanuele Burioni and his team about the region’s challenges to raising its profile, its successful formula for working with media, and how it plans to overcome a shrinking budget with partnerships.

Skift: Your destination has many attractions including the world’s oldest university, renaissance cities, and beach resorts. However, most travelers thinking about a trip to Italy focus on Naples, Rome, or Tuscany. How do you raise awareness of the region and get people to Emilia-Romagna?

Emanuele Burioni: There are products made in Emilia-Romagna that are better known than the region, which we refer to as “fast cars and slow foods.” The main products are Ferrari, Ducati, and Lamborghini. There’s also Parmigiano Reggiano and Prosciutto di Parma. Our daily challenge is connecting these great products to the overall image of the region.

Skift: Are you telling tourists to come to this region because of the products?

Burioni: We’d say come to this region because it offers experiences and products that can’t be found elsewhere.

This region kind of invented mass tourism in Italy. The middle class didn’t traditionally have summer holidays, but after the second world war, the coast started creating rooms for people to come on holiday. We went from a few thousand people in the winter to millions coming from northern Italy and Germany in the summer.

We are now at the point where we are trying to reinvent mass tourism because our previous offering is not that appealing any more. With the same amount of money, travelers can go to Seychelles or the United States.

We recently came out with a brand new strategy based on the Via Emilia, an ancient Roman pathway that led from Rimini to Milan. It is recognized, at least in Europe, as part of our heritage and we’re trying to tie our products and marketing campaigns to it. We are trying to convey the idea that tourists aren’t buying Emilia-Romagna but are buying the history and experiences of the Via Emilia, which comes with fast cars and slow foods that they can’t find anywhere else in the world.

Skift: Emilia-Romagna has really invested in digital media and tested a variety of different campaigns. Can you tell us more about those more marketing strategies and which have been the most successful?

Burioni: We are working hard on the digital side of our marketing presence, especially with social media. We try to connect online digital campaigns with offline campaigns. The key word here is handcrafted hospitality, which ties back to the cultural identity of the region. One of our major successes has been the Blogville project. We tried to open the format of traditional blogger tours towards a more wiki-like format. We don’t provide bloggers or journalists with pre-defined programs or places to go. We just provide them with an apartment and allow them to choose what to do. The resulting freedom allows our guests to tell stories that the public, and even ourselves, would not expect.

We have offered the apartment for two years and will run it for a third year with the region of Lombardy. We have so far hosted some 130 bloggers from five continents. It’s been a great success in terms of photos and stories as well as the originality of the stories created. Giving people complete freedom has proved very successful for us.

On social media, we are also trying to get people from the region involved by engaging individuals, businesses and institutions. For example, we asked locals to rewrite Wikipedia entries about food and history in our region. They were proud to be a part of it and we got better Wikipedia pages as a result. We also outsource our Instagram account to individual photographers from the community to create a collective take on Emilia-Romagna.

Skift: Are you able to measure what the impact of these blogger trips, whether it’s increased awareness, website visits or actual visits?

Burioni: We’re at that very point right now. Frankly, we don’t have standard measures yet, however, businesses report travelers calling from China or Brazil after someone from their country visited. For example, a center that teaches cooking classes hosted a blogger from Shanghai and then Chinese citizens called asking for the same experience. We are getting to the point where stakeholders themselves want to learn more about this kind of exposure. We have hints that it’s working.

Skift: The region is so rich in local, and world-recognized, cuisine. What role does food play in attracting tourists?

Burioni: It is a core part of our branding strategy. There are plenty of certified products and renowned chefs here, but food is more of a way of living for locals. People love to spend time not just preparing and eating food but sitting at the table together.

This idea of relaxed conviviality is part of our identity and that’s precisely what we try to convey. That’s the more interesting, difficult to explain, part of social media marketing. We are trying to handcraft hospitality the same way that our food is handcrafted, to customize the experience for each guests.

Imagine an old woman in a small kitchen making pasta for her guests: She wants to provide every guest with what he or she wants. We are trying to bring that spirit to digital media. We have much smaller numbers than other organizations on social media but we try to treat every conversation we have on social media as if it’s the only conversation we’re having with a visitor.

Skift: How do you make sure that people know these great products are tied to the region?

Burioni: We are trying to customize the food tourism experiences more and more with time. For example, we bring Instagrammers and video producers to experience a Sunday lunch with a local family. A local will host them, bring them to shop for food products, cook with them and share Sunday lunch. The whole experience is then broadcast via social media. It’s an experience that we provide for normal tourists too. In more and more cities around the region, young cooks are opening the doors to their homes to teach visitors how to cook. The personalization of the food experience is the stronger part of strategy in this respect.

Skift: How has social media become more of a priority in recent years?

Burioni: Social media is becoming more and more relevant to our overall strategy, because it is the platform through which we talk with visitors, reach a broader audience and gain insights on what visitors enjoy most about the region. There are only four out of 50 people in the organization working on social media and we are still in our infancy in terms of measuring outcomes. I ask that we increase overall awareness of the brand and understand that the outcome is more lateral at this point.

What is happening now is that we are becoming a kind of cultural hub when it comes to digital culture. We provide our public, and sometimes our private, stakeholders with insights about digital culture and the relevance of social media. The main goal, in the short term, is not about increasing room occupancy. We can’t measure that yet. What I can say for sure is that we are providing a platform for our stakeholders to express themselves.

Skift: All destinations struggle with funding. Do you see this changing in the next 5 to ten years as the economic significance of tourism is better realized?

Burioni: In this country, funding for any single public activity is shrinking and it’s likely that public money for tourism in this regional and Italy as a whole is going to shrink more in the next 5 to ten years. For example, we went from a budget of 14 million euros for 2014 to 10 million euros for 2015.

Our effort therefore is to work even more closely with the major companies that are established in our territory to increase awareness of the products and our region worldwide. We are going to more often partner with other destinations in Italy to better promote and sell the country around the globe.

Skift: What about relationships within the travel industry? Will you be working more or less closely with other sectors?

Burioni: I definitely expect more collaboration. I see our own road changing in a major way. Our role is shifting from being a content provider to being an attention provider for people. In the past, travelers would come to us for information and the basics of the destination or experience. What we are doing now is becoming a platform where all stakeholders, locals and visitors can express themselves and share information.

For example, there is a small neighborhood in our region called Brisighella that is in the running to be named the nicest neighborhood in Italy. Through digital media, we are trying to engage the whole local community to vote for this town. It’s not about the vote per se. It’s about the shifting role of our organization, which is to direct public attention towards the needs of the destination or the needs of our guests.

Whenever someone asks us something about an attraction or site, we outsource the question to our overall community on Facebook and Twitter and ask them to answer the question.

Skift is publishing a series of interviews with CEOs of destination marketing organizations where we discuss the future of their organizations and the evolving strategies for attracting visitors.

The Wines of Marche

The Wines of Marche

The Marche region is well known for the quality of its whites made from the prolific Verdicchio grape. Crisp, fresh Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi wines, easily recognisable from their green amphora bottles, have impressed wine lovers on an international scale as great partners for seafood.  However some exceptional modern wines can be found in standard bottles, many of them well-structured wines of great depth and character.

Marche's vineyard on the hills near AnconaA typically verdant Marche’s vineyard, on the hills near Ancona. © iStockphoto/Thinkstock.

Although many commercially successful wines are produced in Castelli di Jesi, in the hills west of Ancona, it is in the mountainous terrain of Verdicchio di Matelica that the most distinguished wines are made, with a fuller mouthfeel and greater complexity than those from Jesi. In terms of overall quality though, Verdicchio in all its forms undoubtedly ranks among Italy’s finest whites, with quality steadily improving for many years as producers have realised the grape’s potential for making interesting wines that are capable of developing in bottle. Some good sparkling wine is also produced from Verdicchio, using both the Champagne method and the tank method of fermentation.

Despite the dominance of the Verdicchio grape, some very fine reds are also made in this serene region on the Adriatic sea. Sangiovese and Montepulciano are important, both in blends and as single varietals. Two DOCGs exist in Conero and Vernaccia di Serrapetrona. Rosso Piceno is important in terms of volume, made largely from Sangiovese grapes grown in the DOC zone across the east of the region, from Ascoli Piceno to Senigallia’s rolling hills along the coast. The Montepulciano grape thrives on the slopes of the Conero massif where Rosso Conero DOC wines are made from no less than 85% Montepulciano. Historically both Rosso Coserno and Rosso Piceno were areas in which easy to drink, approachable reds were made. More recently though there has been a trend towards producing wines that are capable of ageing: in the best vintages they can age for up to ten years.

Marche's rolling hills landscapeGently sloping from the Apennines, the Italian peninsula’s mountainous spine, to the Adriatic sea, Marche’s landscape is well suited for wine grape growing. © iStockphoto/Thinkstock.

Recently promoted to DOCG, Vernaccia di Serrapetrona is an unusual spumante red which is now gaining a following abroad. Another intriguing wine made from Vernaccia grapes is Lacrima di Morro d’Alba which gains extra flavour and concentration from the addition of a must produced from partially dried grapes, which induces a second fermentation. To the north, in Colli Pesaresi, Sangiovese dominates the reds, producing wines that are usually drunk young although wines from the best years have a complex structure and can age for 3-4 years. Many wines from this area are similar to those from Romagna just to the north.

Some pleasant dry whites come from the DOC of Bianchello del Metauro, whose best examples show some class. A fortified Vin Santo wine is also permitted here. Quality reds from Montepulciano and Verdicchio and dry whites from Verdicchio are produced in Esino DOC. There is also a regionwide IGT for Marche under which many interesting blends are made using local varietals as well as Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay which grow well on the temperate slopes. A substantial proportion of the grapes grown in the Marche region are destined for IGT wines.


Holiday homes for mums – make relaxation the ultimate Mothers’ Day gift

Mums do it all these days. Since 1996 the number of working mothers has leapt by almost 800,000, to a total of 5.3 million according to a study by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The figures show that the number of women in the workplace with dependent children has leapt by almost a fifth in just one generation.

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The change is partly thanks to government initiatives to encourage single mothers to work, but even the number of non-single mothers who work has jumped by 10% since 1996. ONS data shows that just 10% of women now stay at home after having children.

Though many mothers feel guilty about leaving their offspring in order to work, successive studies have shown that the impact on children is actually a positive one. The latest, from economics professor Silvia Mendolia at Australia’s University of Wollongong, has shown that children of women working more than 35 hours per week are actually more likely to pursue higher education.

The pressure is certainly on for mums to achieve it all and balancing fulltime work and childcare responsibilities is without question a tiring feat. So, this Mother’s Day, make relaxation the ultimate gift, as working mum Dawn Cavanagh-Hobbs of luxury fractional ownership company Appassionata explains,

“I feel lucky that my business allows me to balance time with my children and grandchildren, but not all mums have the flexibility to do so. Demanding careers and parental responsibilities can be exhausting and I know so many mothers who are lucky if they even get five minutes to themselves during the day. It means that the times when they do get to relax are so important.”

And what better way to relax than on a holiday in the sunshine? Appassionata’s latest fractional ownership holiday home, Casa Tre Archi, is perfectly located for families with young children who want to experience life in Italy while having everything on hand that they might need. Owner Chris Everard was delighted with how beautifully the house had been set up when he visited recently with his daughter and brand new granddaughter,

“The thoughtfulness, unrestricted kindness and generosity of spirit displayed by the Appassionata team in the setting up of a beautiful new baby’s cot, a selection of mats, toys and baby equipment was a true act of empathy and kindness.”

Monti Sibillini – National Park

The Apennine Mountains, Le Marche, Italy

sibillini mountains marche The Monti Sibillini National Park, was established in 1993 to protect the incredible wildlife and medieval villages in the Sibillini Mountains, a beautiful stretch of the Apennine Mountains to the South West of Le Marche.

The Sibillini Mountains are dissected by paths that take you along rivers, past stunning waterfalls and caves, through gorges and up the many peaks that include ten over 2000m.

Make sure you include a visit to one of the many great Refuges or Rifugii that serve up superb food using produce from within the park

The Sibillini National Park also has information centres where you can find out more about the area’s tracks and trails, flora and the fauna and abbeys and monasteries. Alternatively take a quick glance at our Sibillini Hiking starting points map; which shows where many of the best walks start and finish. We have pages dedicated to ramblers who want an independent walking holidays and also a page for guided hiking.

The parco nazionale Sibillini tourist website has a wealth of information on the area and the main events and places of interest. Alternatively, you can purchase the detailed topographical map of the area, great for Italy walking holidays and cycling holidays. Buy this online or at local Tabacchi when you arrive.

The Monti Sibillini National ParkLake Fiastra Le Marche from Lame Rosse terrain

The Monti Sibillini Parco nazionale includes ten mountains over 2,000m. These include include the highest Monte. Vettore (2,476m), home to glacial Lake Logo Pilato.

The main spine of the Eastern Apennine Sibillini Mountains has some impressive gorges, the sources of the main river valleys of the Aso, the Tenna, and the Ambro. Of these, the gorge Golla dell’ Infernaccio is extraordinarily beautiful, is a must see for any holiday maker.

It is still home to Padre Pietro a Cappuccian monk who lives a hermit like existence rebuilding his church “San Leonardo” that sits on the original foundations of the first Cappuccian Priory.

Glorious Lake Fiastra & the Gola Del’Fiastrone

No family holiday to Le Marche would be complete without a visit to Lake Fiastra with its acquamarine water, lovely beaches, rental boats, tavernas and pizzerias.


Drive up above the town to the village of Fiastra for great views from the castle and the delicious food at Rifugio Il Trebbio. Also the gorge below the dam Gola del Fiastrone is impressive. Try to take the detour to Lame Rosse where you can visit red sandstone pinnacles that teeter above you like something from the Arizona desert.

Appenine Mountain Flora

For the avid botanists or wild flower lovers amongst you, on the West is the enormous plateau of Castelluccio and the Piano Grande and up above Sarnano near Sassotetto is the Piano di Ragnolo. Both are home to jaw dropping arrays of flora during the Spring and Summer months.

We have many botanists who visit the Marche area for the 1,800 floral species in the Sibillini National Park, which include the Apennine edelweiss, the moss campion, the bearberry, Alpine Pasque-flower, the martagon lily, and a number of very rare orchids.

Monti Sibillini National Park wildlifesiibillini mountain holidays marche italy

The mammals in the Sibillini Mountains National Park include wolves, wild cats, pine martens, porcupines, snow voles (which keep ruining our lawns!), and roe deers.

For the bird watcher, the birder, twitcher or the ornithologist there are more than 150 kinds of birds, such as the golden eagle, the goshawk, the sparrow hawk, the rock partridge, the peregrine, the eagle owl, the wall creeper, the snow finch, and the chough.

trekking holidays in Italy - Lame RosseActivities in the Sibillini National Park

The Le Marche Sibillini Mountains offer a really dramatic landscape, with a highest peak of 2500metres, flower filled plateaux and the rolling hills below, offer an ideal location for Appenine Mountains walking holidays, cycling holidays, bird watching, photography, drawing and painting.

The Sibillini National Park tourist office run Sibillini tours and treks throughout the spring, summer and autumn months. We also have our own walking and cycling itineraries, the village of sarnano has 10 circular Le Marche walks or MTB trails available on line or you can visit the Club Alpini site for a range of Itineraries (just put them through google translate if you canna speeka da lingo).

Many visitors to the Villa come on walking hiking holidays, or cycling holidays as we are only 1km from the national park and there is fantastic trekking from the doorstep and we supply a range of detailed itineraries. There is also Parascending, white water rafting and extreme sports on offer nearby, two of Italy’s most stunning gorge walks and mountain lakes with beaches and trattorias.

Why are they called the Sibillini Mountains

Well, the Sibillini Mountains, in the central Italian Appennines were named after a Sibyl, a mysterious prophetess or witch. She, allegedly, reacted badly to being informed that Mary and not she would not be mother of God. Her reaction provoked God to order her to live in a Sibillini mountain cave with devils, until judgement Day.

Sibillini National Park Places of importance

hermitage-at golla-dell infernaccio-le-marche

The Monti Sibillini National Park has some important architecture, including a number of impressive churches, monasteries and abbeys, castles and fortresses.

These include the church of Saints Vincenzo and Anastasio at Amandola, the Sanctuary of Madonna dell’Ambro just down from Amandola at Montefortino, the Abbey of Saint Eutizio at Preci, Santa Maria di Rio Sacro at Acquacanina, the Hermitage of the Grotta dei Frati at Cessapalombo, and the Sanctuary of San Liberato between San Ginesio and Sarnano.

There is also Santa Maria in Casalicchio at Montemonaco, the aforementioned San Leonardo Priora at Golla dell’Infernaccio (Montemonaco), The abbey of Piobbico at Sarnano, the Sanctuary of Macereto at Visso, and Santa Maria in Pantano at Montegallo between Amandola and Communanza.

Michelozzo Library, a Renaissance Jewel, Reopens in Florence

The beautiful Michelozzo Library at the Museum of San Marco in Florence has reopened.


This Renaissance architectural gem, commissioned by Cosimo de’ Medici in the 15th century as part of the Dominican complex of San Marco, underwent a one-year renovation process that allowed for the restoration of the original design of the floor.

“The Library of San Marco is one of those places where the very meaning of Humanism is contained: an intimate and pure space, a space dedicated to preservation and study, to concentration and calm,” said Interim Superintendent for the Museums of Florence, Alessandra Marini.

Under the reign of Lorenzo il Magnifico, the library became one of the favorite meeting points for Florentine humanists such as Poliziano and Pico della Mirandola, who could easily consult texts there in Latin and Greek. San Marco is also famous as the seat of Girolamo Savonarola’s speeches during his short spiritual rule in Florence in the late 15th century.


The former convent, now the museum, houses a major collection of works by one of the great artists of the Renaissance, painter Fra Angelico, who lived in the convent during the 15th century. Panel paintings include the Deposition executed for Palla Strozzi, the San Marco Altarpiece commissioned by the Medici in 1440, and a Tabernacle of the Linaioli (1433–1435), whose frame was designed by Lorenzo Ghiberti. There are also a great number of small frescoes by Angelico and his assistants in the monastic cells and a number of larger frescoes including the Annunciation.

Greater visual prominence has been given to two panels painted by Zanobi Strozzi – the School of St. Thomas Aquinas and the School of Blessed Alberto Magno. Panels illustrating the story of the library were also added.

For more information and opening hours, click here.

Nourish the soul

Nourish the soul

The 2015 Expo is taking Milan, and the whole of Italy, on the world stage. It is a place for encounter, a forum for debate on hot topics such as nourishing the planet and producing energy for life.


To contribute to the success of the Expo, Macerata Opera Festival has chosen for his 2015 edition four titles which offer a great portrait of the Italian culture, with a special emphasis on the bond between man and nourishment, the latter having a great symbolic value. Rigoletto, Cavalleria Rusticana, Pagliacci, La Bohème. So as to never forget that opera is energy, and essential nourishment for the soul.



SFERISTERIO / 17, 25, 31 July – 9 August 2015

Rigoletto is an opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi. The Italian libretto was written by Francesco Maria Piave based on the play Le roi s’amuse by Victor Hugo.

Conducted by Federico Grazzini

Directed by Francesco Lanzillotta

Set Designer Andrea Belli

Costume designer Valeria Donata Bettella

Light designer Alessandro Verazzi

Rigoletto Vladimir Stoyanov

Gilda Jessica Nuccio

Il Duca di Mantova Celso Albelo

Sparafucile Gianluca Buratto

Maddalena Nino Surguladze



SFERISTERIO / 18, 24 July – 2, 8 August 2015

Conducted by Christopher Franklin

Directed by Alessandro Talevi

Set designer Madeleine Boyd

Costume designer Silvia Aymonino

Light designer Alessandro Verazzi


Opera in one act by Pietro Mascagni to an Italian libretto by Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti and Guido Menasci, adapted from a play and short story written by Giovanni Verga.

Santuzza Anna Pirozzi

Turiddu Rafael Davila

Alfio Alberto Gazale


Opera in a prologue and two acts, with music and libretto by Ruggero Leoncavallo.

Canio Yusif Eyvazov

Tonio  Marco Caria



SFERISTERIO / 26 July– 1, 7 August 2015

Opera in four acts by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica.

Music by Giacomo Puccini.

Conducted by Leo Muscato

Directed by David Crescenzi

Set designer Federica Parolini

Costume designer Silvia Aymonino

Light designer Alessandro Verazzi

Mimì Carmela Remigio

Rodolfo Arturo Chacón-Cruz

Musetta: Serena Gamberoni

Marcello: Damiano Salerno


Italy Unpacked – To the Centre of the Earth

Close friends, close talkers: Giorgio Locatelli and Andrew Graham-Dixon enthuse about Italian art and cuisine to each other at a distance of about five inches, taking turns to be demonstrative expert and eager pupil. It regularly topples into self-parody, but it well evokes Italy’s rich flavours and uninhibited passions.


The second leg of Andrew Graham-Dixon and Giorgio Locatelli’s journey takes them to the heart of Italy and the regions of Le Marche and Umbria.

After a snack of Le Marche style stuffed olives they uncover the Renaissance city of Urbino and the palace of Federico da Montefeltro. Scholar, connoisseur and commander of a private army; Federico is one of the driving forces of the Italian Renaissance. Then, in the dark depths of the Apennine Mountains, they explore one of the largest underground caves in the world, the Grotte di Frassasi.

In Umbria, the green heart of Italy, Andrew shows Giorgio one of the greatest Renaissance paintings by Pinturicchio in the little town of Spello. Giorgio takes Andrew to the Norcia Valley where for centuries people have made mouth-watering pork sausages and salamis. Giorgio makes a succulent dish using the ingredients from the fertile land – fresh pork sausages and lentils.

Marche of Success: Le Marche outpaces Tuscany as emerging holiday hotspot

The latest figures from I.Stat, the Italian National Tourist Board, reveal that the previously undiscovered region of Le Marche is now outshining Tuscany in tourism growth.

Photo by Davide Campanelli PHOTOGRAPHY

Photo by Davide Campanelli PHOTOGRAPHY

Tuscany, famed since the 90s as one of the world’s top tourist destinations, registered an increase of 4.6% in foreign arrivals from 2012 to 2013, whilst the far more unknown neighbouring region of Le Marche saw impressive growth of 6.3% year-on-year.

With 389,313 visitors now arriving on Marche soil, more and more people are beginning to recognise that this Italian location has all the benefits of close-by Tuscany, seemingly endless rolling hills, beautiful open spaces and ancient hilltop towns, yet without the hefty pricetag.

A brighter spotlight now being shone on Le Marche as increasing numbers of people learn of its charms: friendly locals on hand to help each other out or savour a delicious three course lunch, longer for formal occasions, with family and friends gathered close. Surrounded by stunning countryside, enveloped by the warm sunshine as joyous gazes fall on ancient architecture and well-worn stones that tell stories of the true Italy of old, reassuring and beautiful; enlightening and eye-opening.

The Marche region is the true microcosm of ‘la dolce vita’, with much to offer to locals and tourists alike and yet somewhat undiscovered, meaning its hidden charms remain protected, its treasures left unexposed and still to be revealed – an exciting prospect for visitors looking to discover the real ‘Italia’, as growing numbers of visitors are realising.

Dawn Cavanagh-Hobbs, Founder of property company Appassionata, based in Le Marche, explains that they have also noticed an increased interest in the region in recent years,

“When my family and I took the leap to move to Italy seven years ago, we settled on the Marche region for many reasons and the fact that it is very much undiscovered compared to somewhere like Tuscany was certainly a big draw. Over the last few years we have definitely noticed that more people are looking to this beautiful corner of Italy for an escape from the rat-race, with many interested in having the base of a managed holiday property to return to.

“What I loved about Le Marche back then is what I still love about Le Marche today: its beautiful, untouched countryside, the traditional feel of the ancient hilltop towns, the warm climate, and the fact that it seemed to welcome us with open arms, valuing, as we do, family and a sense of community above all else. Le Marche was then, and remains today, a magical place and one I know that anyone visiting will lose their heart to, it is impossible not to.”

And as Dawn references, although increasingly compared to popular Umbria and Tuscany, Marche has far more untapped potential. Property prices, for example, are dramatically more affordable than in other more well-known tourist regions, with Magic Marche claiming that properties are around 35% cheaper than in Tuscany.

Combine this with the low cost of living of Italy compared to many other top holiday destinations, such as France where groceries are almost 14% more expensive and the Consumer Price Index (a general cost of living indicator taking into consideration consumer goods prices such as restaurants, transportation and utilities) reveals France to be almost 6% more expensive (according to the Numbeo Cost of Living Index 2015 report), it is clear to see why Italy is gaining increasing interest overall and why, in turn, attractive and affordable regions like Le Marche are even more so.

In line with this affordability, the recent devaluation of the Euro against the Pound means that British visitors will get even more for their money when holidaying in Italy this year, with the European Tourism Association revealing that holidays across the Eurozone should be around 18% cheaper for UK travellers due to the 8-year Euro low, indicating that the country is likely to see a boost to their tourism coffers that in 2013 stood at an impressive $44 billion, according to the United Nations Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

With I.Stat showing that tourists from over 50 countries visited Le Marche in 2013, it is clear that it is a region to watch as 2015 continues to evolve, and with an increase in UK arrivals from 2011 to 2013 of 1.5%, it is certain that there is still much further to go for this still somewhat undiscovered region of hidden charms. Jane Smith from Magic Marche concurs,

“Le Marche is Italy all wrapped up in one place… Overall the market in Le Marche has really started to motor again. Every property sector is attracting attention, viewers and buyers – we have not seen such all-round interest since 2008.” It is an exciting time.

One such property that is gaining interest is Casa Tre Archi from Appassionata, a beautiful townhouse in Le Marche’s hilltop town of Petritoli. Built into the medieval town walls, which are beautifully made a feature of as part of the design of the property, Casa Tre Archi also boasts three bedrooms and an expansive roof terrace with stunning views of the surrounding countryside.

Traditional, yet luxurious, this restored property incorporates wonderful original features whilst providing a comfortable and beautiful setting in which to relax and live the Italian dream. Close to award-winning local restaurants and a short drive from beautiful sandy beaches, and with just five or six non-Italian families living in Petritoli full-time, including Appassionata owners Dawn Cavanagh-Hobbs and her husband Michael, this really is a slice of true Italy at its finest.

Casa Tre Archi is offered on a fractional basis, with a share of 1/10th of the property priced at £65,000, providing five weeks’ exclusive use annually.

For more information visit or contact the Appassionata team on +39 33154 13225. 

Overseas buyer confidence strengthening in Italy

Overseas buyer confidence strengthening in Italy

With the euro at a seven year low against the pound and prime prices in some parts of Italy at their lowest level since the financial crisis, buyer confidence is strengthening, it is claimed.


According to Rupert Fawcett, Knight Frank’s head of Italian sales, stock levels remain high. ‘As we move into the traditional spring selling season, more good quality homes are coming onto the market. Not only are vendors being more realistic on price but in some cases prices are 30% below their 2009 peak, with even larger margins being observed in areas such as Umbria and Lombardy,’ he said.

‘There is a growing sense that prices have reached the bottom of the curve and that whilst we are unlikely to see price growth in the short term, we are also unlikely to see significant falls. Sterling and the dollar are now at record highs against the euro making a second home purchase in Italy even more attractive to buyers from the UK, the US and increasingly amongst expats who have relocated to Asia,’ he explained.

He also pointed out that the European Central Bank’s decision to introduce quantitative easing at the end of January may ultimately lead to a stronger Euro but it has, for the moment, strengthened confidence amongst Eurozone purchasers. The Greek election result by comparison has had little impact on enquiry levels.

All of these contributing factors have led to a visible increase in enquiries and viewing numbers. The number of viewings generated by Italian properties on Knight Frank’s website jumped 31% between December and January. ‘This is an indication that recent currency fluctuations and the ECB’s shift in policy is impacting on buyers’ minds,’ added Fawcett.

In terms of the focus of demand, the firm has found that Tuscany continues to generate the highest number of viewings and sales, but Liguria, Venice and Rome are also attracting strong interest.

‘The latter two underline the increased interest in city living, with Florence joining this triumvirate. Whilst an improved lifestyle remains the key motivation amongst buyers in Italy, the potential investment opportunity is increasingly a consideration for those looking at a city purchase,’ Fawcett said.

He added that apartments provide an easier ownership route without the need for a large capital outlay and minimal ongoing maintenance.