Michele Alesiani & his lovely family…
Address and Bookings….
Osteria Pepe Nero
via Castello s.n.
63064 Cupra Marittima, AP, Le Marche, Italy.
Michele Alesiani & his lovely family…
Address and Bookings….
Osteria Pepe Nero
via Castello s.n.
63064 Cupra Marittima, AP, Le Marche, Italy.
Over the past few years many people have asked me to write a blog, me, I’m not even on Facebook! But, I do like writing and relish the opportunity to share our Italian adventures with you.
Was it the classic midlife crisis move, maybe, maybe not, I like to think of it as making the most of life. In 2001 we had reached a cross roads in our lives, and the desire for adventure and change were strong. With four children almost grown up, we saw a window of opportunity, and jumped!
People frequently ask me why Italy, why Le Marche, quite simply we fell in love. Let me explain, up until a few years ago I had never visited Italy, we had travelled extensively around Europe and lived in America for a few years, but Italy remained undiscovered.
Out of the blue my husband, Michael, was invited on a business trip to Florence, and asked if I would like to join him, of course I jumped at the chance to visit the one country I had been longing to see.
I was so excited, landing in Pisa and catching the bus into the centre of Florence, I was finally in Italy for two whole days. As with every weekend, at home or away, there is always an important game of rugby on TV. Michael searched out a bar with sky TV to watch the game that afternoon. I was determined to make the most of the short time we had, plus I knew the shops were fabulous. I have a terrible sense of direction, no inbuilt compass, no natural feeling of north, south, east or west. Sometimes I get hopelessly lost, but these are the times I discover hidden gems. Florence was no exception, I was lost in minutes, wandering the crowded narrow streets which often led onto a beautiful piazza. I found a little café in the heart of the city, and ordered a cappuccino, my first lesson in Italian etiquette, don’t order cappuccino after 11am, it’s bad for the digestion!
To be continued…….
One of the reasons I love what I do at Appassionata so much is because I get to meet some really wonderful people. I am very opinionated, (quite a few people would tell you that, including my husband Charlie!) but I’m also passionate about everything I do… what is the point of doing something, anything, if you don’t throw yourself into it and do it properly? It’s a philosophy which guides everything I do at Appassionata, it’s ‘how we do things’.
Please allow me to explain.
A month ago when I was in the UK I got a lovely email from a lady who was enquiring about our property, Casa Tre Archi.
She had seen us advertised in Gate-Away’s e-newsletter. They were going to be in Puglia looking at properties and after seeing our advert decided to come up to Le Marche and visit us. Immediately I got a good vibe from her, she was very pleasant and asked all the ‘right’ questions. We had several emails back and forth and then 2 weeks later I was meeting them in Petritoli to show them around. Colleen, Duncan and Angus arrived just before lunch. After a long drive from Puglia on a rather warm day they were happy to be here. I showed them around and they didn’t give much away in terms of interest levels, but this is quite normal- usually the people who come and are gushing about everything from start to finish are the people you don’t hear from again.
I left them to enjoy some lunch with the local groceries I had brought for them and then we arranged to meet for dinner at Re Squarchio, our local Osteria, where we would also be joined by my parents, Dawn and Michael.
For our business its very important to us that people meet us and we meet them. I won’t go as far as to say that we have an interview process where if you score less than 90% you don’t qualify but we seem to be able to tell instantly upon meeting people if what we are offering is going to be suitable for them and for us. We do seem to attract very likeminded individuals, families and couples. They all have a deep love of Italy and all it offers, they are all wanting to make a change in their life, setting aside time for themselves, family and friends, away in their home from home. Many of our owners have high powered/stressful jobs and so when they come here they re charge, relax and enjoy the peace and tranquility.
After a lovely meal out with the Rouse family and having spoken to them a little bit more about the house and the buying process we said good night and they wondered up to the local café to have a gelato and a digestivo. They said that they would be in touch but in the meantime would I send them the contracts and one of the current owners details so they could talk to them about their experience.
Within 2 days Duncan called and said that they had decided to buy. We were delighted as they are lovely people and we knew that they would fit in perfectly as part of the Appassionata family.
They have now completed the purchase process and chosen their 5 weeks to use this year and we are looking forward to welcoming them back in August. From viewing to becoming owners in Casa Tre Archi took 15 days.
So back to where I began. I knew instantly that Colleen was someone who, like us, was passionate about Italy, and together with her terrific sense of humour, shared by her husband Duncan and their son Angus, we had a fair amount in common; they were likeminded people, both with us, and our other owners, the Appasionata family, and we’re delighted that they have joined us.
Are you amongst the many people who are put off the idea of looking at something you know you like, and think you’d be interested in buying, because you don’t want the usual spiel that many sales people bore you with?
Take me, I travel fairly frequently and like to purchase things, like many women do, in duty-free. However, if one of the overly smiley and falsely jolly shop assistants comes over, and starts pestering me about how my trip was, where I am going to now etc. at 7am as I’m browsing, I will often just walk out, as I want to decide, in peace, which perfume or lip gloss I want to buy, without any pressure.
I like to take this into account when I have clients coming over to view our properties in Le Marche, where we sell fabulous homes as fractional ownerships. A slightly bigger purchase I know than a £60 perfume or £25 lip gloss, but still these things matter.
We want people to immerse themselves into the beautiful region of Le Marche, to discover the place we hope they will decide to call home in Italy.
As they drive along the coast road and inland to the rolling hills, scattered with vineyards olive groves and stunning towns quite literally perched on top of hills, many of our visitors drive with the windows down, as fresh, sea air meets mountain air, and we know it’s hard to do anything other than relax.
As you drive up into the medieval town of Petritoli, you’ll see the locals, who will be curiously looking at what’s happening; for many of them, this has been home for… well forever. A trip down to the coast, just 20 minutes away is as far away as they’ve ever been.
Pulling in front of the ancient three arches, an unmistakeable gateway to the town, you will feel like you are stepping back in time. Walking along the narrow cobbled streets, dotted with cafés, bars and restaurants you will feel the warm, yet curious, welcome of the locals.
We will be here to meet you, and show you around our unique property, Casa tre Arche. But don’t worry, there will be no power point presentation, or heavy, pressured sales pitch. Far from it, we are here to show you the treasures that lie within, and to answer any questions you may have, usually over lunch or dinner, with you as our guests… a very Italian experience.
Where possible, and if Casa Tre Archi is available, we love our prospective clients to be our guests for the night, so that during their discovery trip they get the best possible chance to see and feel what a special place this really is.
Hidden in the beautiful, scenic marchigiani hills of Offida, PS winery and vineyard are making wonderful hand crafted wines giving full expression to the “terroir” of this special winemaking region.
The best definition of terroir I have found is from “The Wines of France” as follows: A ” terroir ” is a group of vineyards (or even vines) from the same region, belonging to a specific appellation, and sharing the same type of soil, weather conditions, grapes and wine making savoir-faire, which contribute to give its specific personality to the wine.
PS winery started from a dream and philosophy to make the best wines possible using sustainable and organic farming practices with minimal intervention in the winery. They use great care in every phase of their work; from pruning in the winter to leaf removal in the spring and summer to allow perfect sunlight exposure to the grapes for optimal ripening. Hand harvesting of only perfect grape clusters follows as well as clean winemaking techniques and judicious use of french oak to finish and refine the wines. Many of their wines are also unfined, unfiltered and hand bottled and fully represent natural wine making at its best.
Their labors began in 2008 with the planting of 35,000 vines, carefully selected for root stock compatibility with the soil type and climate. They chose clones which would express the specific and complex characteristics of the variety. The Cabernet Suavignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot clones are of french origin, while the Syrah, Montepulciano, Pecorino and Bruni 54 are italian. Organic dry farming techniques are strictly followed and they are certified organic by Suola e Salute.
By carefully observing each vine, they can manage how many grape clusters it can mature successfully and use a “green harvest” to remove excessive clusters. Using this technique, they are able to make really complex, optimally balanced wines even in this very young vineyard.
Every variety is vinified separately with each red undergoing an extended maceration prior to pressing. The Pecorino has a maceration on the skins of 7 hours before pressing to add a bit of phenolic character as well.
The winery was initiated with the goal of producing intense, exciting, world class wines.
Ascoli Piceno province in the Marches is perfectly located for this challenge with a wonderful climate typical of many of the world’s greatest wine growing regions. With this in mind we chose grape varieties and clones both traditional and unique to this area in order to make exceptional niche wines.
From the very beginning, they decided to use organic farming methods, despite the increased work and costs involved, out of respect for the land, the vines and the local ecosystem.
Choice of varieties includes approximately half traditional and half international and experimental varieties. All have adapted well to the vineyard’s soil, exposition and climate yielding wonderful results even in the first year’s harvest. From an inky dark Montepulciano and highly perfumed Pecorino to a complex bordeaux blend and individually bottled Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, we have been incredibly pleased with the quality of our wines. A beautiful Syrah, which is aged 2 years in french oak and Bruni 54, which makes a beautiful Passito, complete the list.
Work in the vineyard is almost non-stop from January to August when we get a bit of a breather before the harvest. Each plant is tended by hand from the pruning and tying to the leaf removal and green harvest. Careful analysis of the grapes’ maturity allows us to optimally choose the dates of harvest with each of the 8 varieties harvested by hand and transported rapidly to the winery in 20kg containers.
Each wine is vinified separately with extended maceration times for the reds before we decide which will be aged in french oak and which will be a part of our early released Thalia. The Pecorino has a 7 hour maceration before pressing to add just the proper amount of phenols without adding bitterness.
Often translated as “the Marches,” this Central Italian region has it all. Pristine beaches and rugged shorelines hug the sapphire-blue Adriatic. Rolling hills lie covered with vines and olive groves. There are well-preserved medieval towns and cultural centers, wonderful cuisine and great wines.
Perched on a steep hilltop, Urbino, whose historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage site, is Le Marche’s most celebrated city.
A cradle of the Renaissance, Urbino rivals even the most famous towns in Tuscany and Umbria for its grandiose architecture, rich history and impressive art collections.
Many of Urbino’s elaborate stone buildings were constructed in the mid- to late-1400s under the rule of Duke Federico da Montefeltro, one of the 15th century’s most dedicated patrons of the arts.
During his reign, Urbino was one of Europe’s greatest cultural centers. Visiting scholars, painters and poets would stay at Federico’s magnificent Palazzo Ducale, now home to Le Marche’s national art gallery.
Renaissance name-dropping here can bring art historians to their knees. Sandro Botticelli designed the intricate inlaid woodwork decorating the Duke’s private study. Among the masterpieces housed in the gallery are Piero della Francesca’s Flagellation of Christ as well as works by Raphael and Titian (known in Italy as Tiziano Vecellio).
But Urbino’s Renaissance connection goes deeper than one palazzo. Leonardo da Vinci planned the 15th-century reconstruction of the city’s original Roman walls. In 1483, Raphael was born here. Visitors to the artist’s home can see a fresco that he painted at age 14.
Urbino is just a short ride from Acqualagna, which shares the title of Italy’s white truffle capital with the town of Alba in Piedmont. Set inside Acqualagna’s Gola del Furlo Nature Reserve, Antico Furlo is celebrated for its truffle-based dishes and other locally sourced ingredients, including mushrooms from the nearby Apennines.
The local wine is the generally simple and quaffable Colli Pesaresi. Most common is a light, fruity red made predominantly from Sangiovese.
In Pesaro, Fattoria Mancini makes wines with greater elegance and depth, like its Colli Pesaresi Focara, a red made using Pinot Noir propagated from vines originally planted in the area during the Napoleonic administration in the early 1800s.
Mancini, whose spectacular vineyards overlook the Adriatic, also makes a Colli Pesaresi Roncaglia, a white blend of the native Albanella with Pinot Noir.
But, according to Alberto Melagrana, chef and owner of the Antico Furlo restaurant, the best wine to pair with the local white truffle dishes is Verdicchio.
“Contrary to popular belief, structured white wines pair better with truffles than reds,” he says. “A full-bodied 2 or 3-year old Verdicchio that’s been aged in casks and has good alcohol content is the best.”
Nestled between mountains and the sea, Jesi is home to one of Italy’s greatest white wines, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi.
Though there are no vineyards in the city itself, Jesi is the ideal starting point to tour the surrounding wine country. It’s also not too far from the smaller Verdicchio di Matelica denomination.
“In the last few years, Verdicchio has received more awards and mentions from the Italian wine guides than any other white wine in Italy,” says Alberto Mazzoni, director of the Istituto Marchigiano di Tutela Vini, the region’s largest growers’ union.
During the 1960s, a cheap, cheerful version of Verdicchio was one of Italy’s best-selling white wines both domestically and in major export markets like the U.S.
But by the 1970s, quality nosedived as large firms churned out industrial quantities to satisfy demand.
Verdicchio’s newfound respect is the result of massive investments in the vineyards and improved winemaking.
“In 1983, when I began bottling my production, I cut yields down to half of what the production code stipulates,” says Ampelio Bucci, one of the leaders of Verdicchio’s renaissance. “And instead of planting new vines or international grapes, I decided to work with old Verdicchio vines.”
Aged in large Slavonian casks, Bucci’s full-bodied, complex and mineral-driven wines, especially his Riserva, soon caught the attention of wine critics and connoisseurs worldwide.
Encouraged, other producers started focusing on quality over quantity. These days, Verdicchio quality has never been better.
Besides acting as the gateway to Verdicchio, Jesi’s maze of cobbled streets and ancient buildings are worth a visit. Leave the industrial sprawl below and go directly to the walled medieval center, the birthplace of Frederick II, one of the Middle Age’s most powerful Holy Roman Emperors.
The Palazzo Pianetti is a must see, noted for its rich collection of artwork, including those by 16th-century artist Lorenzo Lotto. Jesi also hosts the Enoteca Regionale, which carries more than 400 Marche labels, making it an ideal introduction to the region’s dynamic wine scene.
Just a short drive away in the seaside town of Senigallia is Uliassi, recipient of two Michelin stars. Chef Mauro Uliassi serves creative interpretations of local seafood specialties like smoked spaghetti with clams and grilled cherry tomatoes.
One of Italy’s premier white wines, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi features peach and almond flavors brightened by crisp acidity. Riservas, aged longer prior to release, offer moderate cellaring potential, up to several years. Top estates include Villa Bucci, Umani Ronchi and Garofoli.
In the Verdicchio di Matelica region, higher altitudes and a closed valley create a cooler microclimate than in the Jesi denomination, yielding wines with intense aromas, brisk acidity and marked mineral accents. Collestefano is one of the area’s rising stars.
Le Marche’s most beautiful beaches are situated inside the stunning Conero Natural Park. Even though these seaside resorts draw crowds in July and August, you’ll have the beaches pretty much to yourself in May, June and September. Some of the more isolated and hard-to-reach beaches are never crowded, even during peak season.
One of the most seductive spots along this strip of the Adriatic coast is Portonovo, once a simple fishing village. Located at the foot of Monte Conero, Portonovo’s white pebbly beaches, rocky shorelines and luminous green bay are set against a backdrop of the park’s woods and dense Mediterranean brush.
Just between the beach and park are two small salt lakes that attract rare birds and other species that thrive in the pristine reserve. After soaking up the sunshine and swimming in the crystal clear waters, take a short walk to the ancient church of Santa Maria di Portonovo.
Surrounded by old, twisted olive trees, the church overlooks the bay. Built by Benedictine monks in the 11th century, the perfectly preserved structure is a jewel of Romanesque architecture.
Mezzavalle and Le Due Sorelle are two nearby destinations. From Portonovo, Mezzavalle is a 15-minute walk along a steep, rugged footpath, making it a haven for sea lovers and hikers looking for unspoiled beaches. Another wild, pristine beach, Le Due Sorelle is accessible only by boat.
Heading away from the shore, Monte Conero offers numerous walking and mountain bike paths of varying levels of difficulty, offering stunning views of the sparkling sea below.
Monte Conero is home to Rosso Conero, a robust red wine that must be made from a minimum of 85% Montepulciano and a maximum of 15% Sangiovese. Most producers use exclusively Montepulciano.
With its fruity sensations of black cherries and raspberries, Rosso Conero is usually best enjoyed in its youth, especially if it hasn’t been aged in wood.
More structured wines from the Conero Riserva DOCG are usually best after four or five years.
In the south of Le Marche, near the region’s border with Abruzzo, Ascoli Piceno is one of Italy’s little-known jewels.
The striking city center is made entirely of travertine, an ivory-colored stone that’s been used here since Roman times, first to construct dwellings and temples, and later, churches, palaces and municipal buildings.
Even the pavement tiles in the city’s main square, the Piazza del Popolo, are made of travertine. Any visit to Ascoli Piceno should begin here, at the beating heart of the city.
Flanked by the imposing gothic Church of San Francesco, the 13th-century Captain’s Palace and the 16th-century vaulted Merchant’s Lodge, the piazza seems to glow when the light hits a certain way.
Many residents still walk in the square each evening to catch up with neighbors and friends, a custom now abandoned in most Italian cities.
Stop in at Caffè Meletti, located in one corner of the square, for pastry and an espresso in the morning or an aperitivo in the evening. Its Liberty-style architecture is a nod to Old World refinement and charm.
The recently reopened restaurant on the top floor serves delicious, creative interpretations of traditional cuisine, including olive all’Ascolana—fried olives stuffed with a mixture of meat, Parmesan cheese, vegetables and herbs.
This delicacy is made with the Tenera Ascolana olive variety, which, as the name suggests, are tender and fleshy. The local olive oils are among the best in Italy.
Walking is the best way to visit the city and take in the numerous Romanesque churches and medieval towers. In Piazza Arringo, stop at the Cathedral of Saint Emidio, named after the city’s patron saint and, according to local legend, protector against earthquakes. Inside, marvel at the intricately frescoed ceilings and vaulted crypt.
Outside of the town center, visit the Malatesta Fortress and the Cecco Bridge, as well as the temple of Sant’Emidio alle Grotte, built into the hillside.
Ascoli Piceno is in the Rosso Piceno denomination, which spans 120 towns in four provinces. Given the vast territory and the flexible blending regulations (varying amounts of Montepulciano, Sangiovese and other varieties), this red wine generally lacks identity and also has variable quality levels.
One of the estates making good Rosso Piceno is Le Caniette. Rosso Piceno Superiore hails only from the Ascoli province, which local producers maintain has the best growing conditions.
Yet, the most interesting wines from the undulating hills around Ascoli Piceno are white, especially the small production of Offida Pecorino DOCG.
Nearly extinct in the early 1980s, the Pecorino grape was saved by local winemaker Guido Cocci Grifoni, who, after years of experimentation, made his first vintage of 100% Pecorino in 1990.
Because of its intense floral aromas of acacia and jasmine, rich white-fruit flavors, creamy texture and mineral notes, more wineries are now producing this fascinating wine, which pairs well with fish and white meats.