A few years ago we were invited over to our friend’s house for supper in Montefiore. We arrived late, as usual, my fault not Michael’s! We were introduced to a lovely Dutch couple, Constance and Bert Jacobs. I liked them instantly, they have a zest for life and adventure and love Italy as much as we do.
I was lucky to be seated next to Bert, a striking man with a wonderful laugh and enviable thick wavy hair! We ate delicious food, sipped wonderful wines and chatted all night.
He told me they chose to move to Le Marche because life here fits like a glove, I know what he means. The first time they visited le Marche, they fell in love. Twelve years on and they still feel blessed to have discovered this special part of Italy they call home. When the sun is setting they love to sit out on their terrace with a glass of wine, watching the changing colours of the sky. Quality of life is important.
Bert has a wonderful, calm aura and as the evening went on he talked to me about his greatest passion, painting. I love meeting creative, positive people who love what they do. I felt this was going to be an interesting evening.
He was born in the Netherlands and trained as a master painter in Utrecht. When he finished collage he wanted to go on to the Art Academy, but had to do military service. After the army he needed to earn some money. He started out as a freelance interior stylist, creating set designs and shop interiors. He moved into the advertising business and stayed there for many years. His ambition was always to return to art, now retired and living in Italy he has the time and inspiration to paint.
I arranged to visit his studio the following week. They have a beautiful town house in the historic centre of Montefiore. The living space covers four floors, the gallery is on the top floor. The house is beautifully designed, both Constance and Bert have an exceptional eye for detail.
When I entered the studio I was speechless and quite overwhelmed. Surrounded by huge vibrant paintings, each one telling a story with colour, movement and passion. I gazed at each painting. I step back, move to the left, to the right. Each position gives me a glimpse of something new, something hidden.
Bert is quite uncomfortable when asked how, what or why he paints a particular piece. He told me he paints to express his creativity, feelings and emotion. His favourite theme is women, they are exquisite and unique. I agree!
He is inspired by beauty. A ballet, an ancient tale, a movement or an object. Expression, excitement and colour are characteristics of his work.
He paints on large wooden panels, using a spatula and acrylic paint. Working on a wooden base allows him to use more force when moving the paint around. The paint is colour fast, adheres well and is quick drying.
The paintings are very dynamic and have a powerful use of colour, but they also have a subtle and refined emotion. They are created with passion and sense of composition.
He is the most unpretentious artist I have ever met, which is very refreshing. He loves to hear what people see in one of his painting, everyone sees a painting through their own eyes.
Over the last few years we have become good friends and I visit his studio regularly. We have several of Bert’s paintings hanging on our walls at home. They bring a smile to my face and brighten up the day. Each time I visit his studio I fall in love with another one and always manage to find space for one more!
Family, friends and our owners constantly admire them and visit his studio to see his latest creations. Last year Bert was commissioned by our American friend to paint eleven paintings! They now hang in her beautiful home on Martha’s Vineyard.
I gazed around the Piazza and sipped my cappuccino elegantly, copying the glamorous Italians on the next table. Trying not to get the milky froth all around my mouth.
I love to people watch. The tourists racing to keep up with their flag bearing tour guides. The Nonna’s dressed in black, carrying their heavy bags of shopping back home to their families. I listened closely to the sing song melody of the Italian language, exaggerated with arms and hands waving in the air. Everything about the Italians is passionate and dramatic.
I meandered back to the hotel, absorbed in the sounds of the city. The walk should have taken me ten minutes. You guessed it, luckily for me I took another wrong turning!
I stumbled upon a lovely little shop halfway down a narrow street. The window had a wonderful display of tassels, braids and ribbons.
As an interior designer I am always on the lookout for things fabulous and unique. This was an Aladdin’s cave of colour and texture. I bought tassels in every shape, size and colour. Natural greens, blues and siennas with a hint of gold.
Each item was lovingly wrapped in tissue and delicately placed in a posh paper bag. No sign of plastic in this shop!
Shopping in Italy is a very different experience. Most shops are owned and run by family member. They are proud of what they do and love to tell you how many generations have worked there. Their knowledge is extensive, and they take the time it takes. Note to self, allow more time when shopping in Italy!
I floated back to our hotel, clutching my purchases and feeling rather proud of myself, I had found my way back.
My husband, Michael, was happy. The rugby match had gone well, his team had won and he was celebrating with a cold beer in the hotel bar.
He looked suspiciously at my shopping bag. “What have you bought”? I told him,” gorgeous tassels in natural hues………” I received the typical response from a man who thinks shopping is only to purchase essential items, food and drink. “How many tassels do you need, what are they for, how much did they cost”?!!! I quickly changed the subject and asked about our dinner plans for that evening, while visualising one of the tassels threaded through an antique key, hanging from wardrobe I had recently finished painting.
I eat fish, no meat. Michael loves meat and eats fish. He had spoken to the hotel manager earlier and asked his advice on fish restaurants on the outskirts of the city. Away from the touristy eateries and high prices. He knew the perfect place!
We were picked up in a taxi later that evening, it was the first and only time I have travelled in a taxi in Italy. The manager had given the driver directions to the restaurant so we both sat back and enjoyed the drive across Florence. Thirty minutes later we pulled up outside a large wooden door, with no sign, in the heart of an industrial estate. We stepped out of the taxi and looked at each other, both thinking the same thing. This can’t be right. Before we had chance to get back into the taxi, it roared off into the distance.
We rang the doorbell and waited. I was feeling a little nervous. Not about my surroundings, but it was nine o’clock and Michael was hungry, we needed to find food before he turned all hunter gather on me.
The door opened and we cautiously stepped into another world. Before our eyes was a busy, bustling restaurant. A beautiful, yet simple décor. Delicious aromas wafting from the open kitchen blending with the lively voices of sixty plus Italians all talking at once. In the large walled courtyard, huge interconnecting sunshades provided a soft textured ceiling. The lighting was low and atmospheric, with a blend of candles and fairy lights. Each table dressed with a small vase of fresh flowers. Crisp white linen tablecloths draped down to the cool cotto tiled floor.
We were shown to our table, and looked around. There were large families, three generations enjoying a celebration together. Young lovers with eyes only for each other. Young children out with their parents, babies peacefully sleeping in their pushchairs. Children are always made to feel welcome in restaurants in Italy, however posh or expensive. Family is very important and younger members are never excluded. Another plus for the Italian lifestyle.
Our waiter came to take our order. This was going to be tricky. He spoke no English, we spoke no Italian and had left our phrase book back at the hotel!
We shouted “menu” at him and mimed opening a book. Why do people shout in their own language at foreigners, expecting them to understand once the decibels are turned up?
He shook his head “no menooo, you wanta da otta fish o colda fish”. Whita wine o reda wine? Hot fish we both said, white wine we agreed
I glanced across at Michael, he was looking a little concerned. He’s lovely, but he likes to know what’s happening at all times, in the present and the future. I knew he would struggle with the concept of not being able to converse with the waiter, he loves to talk!
He also likes to see a menu, ask questions and check nothing has vinegar on it. He likes to see the wine list and chat about different grapes, countries, regions, years. He especially likes to see prices and mentally calculate how much the whole meal will cost. He likes to feel in control of the situation.
Our waiter disappeared into the kitchen and we sipped our wine, poured from a glass jug. Michael shared his concerns about not knowing what food would arrive and how many courses would be served. I tried to reassure him. “Let’s just relax and enjoy the experience, it will be fun to try new tastes and not know what to expect”. He looked doubtful and took a large swig of wine, it was delicious, he looked happier.
The more courses we ate, the more wine we drank, the more he relaxed. I wish I could give you a detailed description of the food we ate, but I can’t. I can remember the interiors, because I seem to have a photographic memory for those. I think I drank too much wine and the food detail got lost. It’s a little hazy. What I can remember is that every dish was exquisite, fresh and unpretentious. The seafood was scrumptious the pasta cooked to perfection. I think we had seven courses, to be honest I lost count.
I have never seen Michael so relaxed, enjoying the present and not worrying about the future. We had no idea how much this dining experience was going to cost, we didn’t care.
The waiter brought over bottles of grappa, mistra and limoncello, to help with the digestion! The limoncello was divine. Michael was so, so happy, he tried all three, twice.
We swayed over to the bar to pay the bill and hopefully order a taxi. Michael was very pleasantly surprised when he saw the total, half the cost he had toted up in his head. The bar man generously offered him another drink on the house. I began to wonder if I would be able to get him back to the hotel. The taxi arrived and I managed to steer him onto the back seat and close the door.
We were dropped off at the end of a one way street, only a couple of minutes walk from our hotel. We needed a walk! In the distance we could hear opera music, as we walked closer I recognised an aria from La Boheme, one of my favourite operas. We entered the Piazza, and there under the moonlight of a warm summer’s evening were hundreds of people enjoying an open air opera. I looked up to the balconies of the surrounding apartments, each one crowded with local Italians holding a candle and swaying to the music. It was truly magical and that was the exact moment I fell in love in love with Italy.
Sometimes we just need a little retail therapy to lift our spirits in February, especially when there are sale bargains to be found!
I asked my lovely friend if she wanted to hit the Tods outlet with me that evening, YES she messaged back seconds later. I suggested meeting at my house at 5pm, the designer outlets close at 10pm, so plenty of time to search for bargains.
I had visited the Outlets in Sant’Elpidio A Mare a couple of times, many years ago. I was optimistic I would remember the way, but decided to programme the sat nav, just in case. An hour later we were still driving around in circles being asked to do a U turn if possible!! I decided to pull over and ask for directions, as we cruised to a stop I noticed a police car behind. I asked if they could tell me the way, they smiled and said, “follow us” and off we went, breaking all speed limits until we screeched to a halt right outside the entrance.
Unfortunately, we realised the shop closed at 7pm, not 10pm, so there wasn’t a moment to lose.
Beautifully crafted bargains
This is a great way to shop the sales in Le Marche, surrounded by exquisite shoes, handbags and clothes, beautifully displayed and great prices. No overflowing rails to search through or abandoned shoes scattering the floor. This is a calm, clean, uncluttered experience and I’m already wondering why I don’t shop here more often, apart from the cost!
I love this orange bag
I’m bedazzled by the new SS17 collection, a gorgeous array of shoes, bags and accessories in vibrant shades of orange, pink and yellow, my spirits have been lifted!
I cruised up and down the aisles searching for a bargain, but I was constantly distracted by glass cases displaying even more fabulous designs from their new range.
The gorgeous Eddie in her new shades
My friend Eddie did rather well, purchasing the perfect pair of shades and a lovely leather purse, both at knock down prices.
Tods, the perfect therapy when you are feeling a little blue!
Italians are arguably the most romantic lovers in the world.
The word “romance” originated ‘from or about Rome’, which would suggest just about anything Italian is considered romantic. Italians have their beautiful nature, fantastic food and wine, their rich history and culture, and a melodious language.
We would like to give you the opportunity to enjoy a little romance here in Italy.
The Palazzo Scarsini Apartment nestles within the medieval town of Petritoli in Le Marche. This luxurious one bedroom apartment is the perfect place for those wanting to relax and unwind amidst the 15th century vaulted ceilings and chandeliers.
Enjoy a gentle stroll along the winding cobbled streets and you will find friendly cafes, wine bars and restaurants, serving traditional Italian food and wine.
The US dollar is at a thirty-year high against the British pound, and rightly so American jetsetters are casting their eye across the pond and setting their sights on trips abroad that will now see their money stretch a lot further.
With a reported 50% surge in stateside searches for UK accommodation, there could be a flurry of American travellers exploring Great Britain. However, for those looking to get off the beaten track of London sightseeing, and instead immerse themselves in authentic Italy – I say there has never been a better time to consider buying a fractional share in an Appassionata property!
Now I know what you’re thinking, our properties are based in Italy, which of course they are. But, the properties are actually owned by UK based non-trading companies, meaning they are priced in pounds’ sterling. Couple this with the fact that the fractional ownership buying process is also very straightforward and avoids all the complexities and substantial costs associated with purchasing a property outright in Italy – it’s a savvy option for discerning Americans to consider.
So, if you’re reading this from across the Atlantic, then I will leave you with a parting thought; prioritising a lifestyle investment like this now could see you afford a third more luxury for your money. Looking to your future, you will own a one tenth share in a stunning luxury property, giving you a picture-perfect family space for five weeks’ escapism each year – and it will last a lifetime.
To read more about our property on the market, Il Riposo, and to find out about our Fractional Ownership model head here, and I hope to see you on a discovery visit to Italy soon.