Letters from Le Marche – chapter 3

Letters from Le Marche – chapter 3

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.

For more information and to visit us on a discovery trip please contact us at ifh@appassionata.com or +39 331 5413225  

www.appassionata.com

Sea and ski – why Italy is the perfect destination this winter

Travellers looking to escape the grey skies of the UK this winter are currently eyeing up southern Europe and, as ever, Italy is one of the top destinations for those looking for some winter sun.

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“Italy is incredibly popular as a winter holiday destination,” comments Dawn Cavanagh-Hobbs, founder of fractional ownership company Appassionata, who moved to Italy with her family in 2004. “Here in Le Marche there is so much to do during the winter months. The coastline offers some stunning scenery and extends for over 100 miles, making it perfect for walking, hiking and cycling holidays.

“The slopes of the Sibillini Mountains are also extremely popular, with everyone from amateurs to wannabe pros donning their snow boots and grabbing their skis or snowboards. We find that, for many of our owners, the combination of sea and ski provides the ultimate winter holiday experience.”

The owners Dawn refers to are those who have purchased shares in Appassionata’s luxury fractional ownership properties, which include stunning rural houses such as Casa Leopardi, complete with a roaring fire that is perfect for snuggling in front of with a book and a glass of wine from grapes grown on the estate as twilight falls on a winter evening.

Appassionata’s latest fractional ownership property – the three bedrooms, three bathroom Casa Tre Archi – is ideal for those looking to head south for some winter sunshine. The spacious property boasts outdoor space on three levels, allowing owners to maximise their time in the sun. In the medieval hilltop town of Petritoli, the townhouse is perfectly located for local shops and restaurants while also providing easy access to the Sibillini Mountains and the coastal town of Pedaso, which is famous for its fabulous seafood restaurants, large fish market and some of the best mussels in Italy. A one tenth fraction in Casa Tre Archi, which entitles the owner to five weeks’ exclusive use per year, costs from £65,000. Just one share remains available at this special offer price.

Overall, Italy attracted 47.7 million visitors in 2013, according to the World Tourism Organization. While big cities such as Rome and Milan and well-known areas such as Tuscany attracted their fair share of tourists, those seeking out the ‘real Italy’ are increasingly heading to Le Marche and many of them are looking to ski during the winter months.

In fact, for Brits looking to ski overseas, the 2012/13 season marked a turnaround in the market, with a 1% increase year on year in the number of skiers travelling abroad. It is the first time the sector has seen an increase since its 2007/08 peak, according to the Crystal Ski Report, but with countries such as Italy doing all they can to court tourists over the winter months, it seems that the 2013/14 season might be an even better one.

For more information on fractional ownership and the wonders of life in Le Marche, contact the Appassionata team on +39 33154 13225 or visit www.appassionata.com.

Italy’s boasts 269 Blue Flag beaches but it’s not just the golden sand and turquoise waters that keep visitors coming back for more

The number of Italian beaches to be awarded the prestigious Blue Flag accolade for clean water and pristine sands has increased again this year, according to the international Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE).

Blue-Flag

Italy now boasts 269 Blue Flag beaches in a total of 140 municipalities nationwide, compared to the 248 beaches in 135 municipalities recorded last year.

Liguria in northwest Italy retained its title as the region with the cleanest beaches (20) closely followed by Tuscany and the central Marche region (17).

Indeed, Le Marche boasts 180km of Adriatic coastline, lined with a stretch of spectacular Blue Flag beaches however it’s not just beaches that attract the intrepid explorer to this hidden gem of Italy.

The region is also bordered in the west by the Apennine mountain range with ski resorts and hiking trails. Between the Apennines and the Adriatic coast is a glorious hilly landscape with traditional farmland, vineyards, olive groves and sunflowers. Every few kilometres you come across pretty hilltop villages, fields of gold, sparkling rivers and lakes, castles, fortresses and medieval walled towns.

Dawn Cavanagh-Hobbs, owner of family-run fractional property company Appassionata based in Le Marche, comments,

“Italy has so much to offer. My family and I have settled in Le Marche since 2007, nestled between the Sibillini Mountains and the Adriatic Sea, and have never looked back. The landscape of this region is so varied; we have the benefits of world class skiing one day to sun worshipping on gorgeous beaches the next. The beaches near us are incredible – within just 10 km we have Pedaso, Cupra Marittima and Grottamare, all of which are Blue Flag beaches, absolutely perfect for soaking up the Italian sunshine. Here at Appassionata we have built this traditional Italian lifestyle into the design of our properties, enabling our owners to get the most out of their holidays here.”

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Dawn continues,

“With a location as truly beautiful as Le Marche, we wanted to ensure that the homes were on par with their environment with traditional architectural features and indulgent décor. We offer people from all over the world the chance to own a luxury property and share in the wonderful lifestyle ventures made possible by the breadth of the estate.”

A one tenth share of Casa Leopardi is currently available for just £195,000. For this, buyers can enjoy exclusive use of the property for five weeks per year, including the estate’s landscaped gardens, swimming pool, all weather tennis court and spectacular panoramic views. Within the house, spacious, light-filled rooms combine with outside terraces and unique touches to create an elegant, relaxed vibe.

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The continual rise of Italy as a luxury holiday destination combined with the benefits of fractional ownership make Appassionata’s Casa Leopardi an exceptional lifestyle investment for buyers seeking to indulge their passion for Italy and possess their own slice of ‘La Dolce Vita’. For more information contact Appassionata today on 0039 073 465 8775 or visit www.appassionata.com

A coastal view

Le Marche offers 180 kilometres of coastline, 26 seaside resorts facing the Adriatic Sea defined by beautiful beaches, picturesque bays, 9 marinas and 16 Blue Flag beaches.

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The varied landscape allows those who decide to take a vacation by the sea to choose between different types of beaches and to visit the natural beauty of the inland; a large number of itineraries in the villages above the sea or in the cities are available so as to discover their rich historical and cultural heritage. The seaside resorts offer services that can meet the requirements both of the families and of the young: they are designed to respect the territory and can be the perfect destination for a relaxing vacation.

The coastal landscape of The Marche, so varied in shapes and colours, offers a journey full of emotions: you can choose among wide fine sandy beaches, small rocky creeks, with rocks and palm trees, and white cliffs overlooking the Adriatic Sea, which is framed between the green countryside and the very long ochre strands.

The Northern coast, the so-called “Riviera delle Colline”, features cliffs, coves and inlets creating an amazing landscape. The beaches are sandy and white, in particular the long one in Gabicce Mare. From here you can start a tour , enjoying breathtaking views in the heart of the Regional Park of Monte San Bartolo, for approximately 20 km, and reach other amazing beaches, such as Pesaro and picturesque fishing villages, such as Casteldimezzo, Fiorenzuola di Focara and Santa Marina Alta.

Senigallia

Heading to the South, there is the coast of Ancona: we find Senigallia, a town boasting ancient origins and famous for its velvet beach: 12 km of fine sand. It’s an ideal seaside resort, thanks to the many accommodation facilities, the bathing establishments and the renowned restaurants. Driving South we arrive at Ancona, the capital city, having a longstanding maritime tradition, situated in one of the most beautiful stretches of the Adriatic coastline, the Riviera del Conero, located in the homonimous regional park. This protected area features a series of bays, steep cliffs and hidden beaches. A must see site is the so-called Due Sorelle (Two Sisters) beach, named after two large rocks emerging from the water.

The particular shape of the territory allows enjoying a marvelous sunrise and sunset by the sea. The grassy cliff of Monte Conero, plunging into the sea, offers a spectacular scenery: it interrupts the flat shore and creates a nice stretch of pebbled beaches, rocks and steep cliffs that plunge into the sea.

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Down south, along the coast of Macerata, lies with Porto Recanati, also known as the “Salotto della Riviera”, a modern seaside resort boasting 8 km. of sandy and pebbled beach, comfortable accommodation facilities and lovely corners of the old maritime village, built around the fifteenth century Castello Svevo. Nearby is Civitanova Marche, with a long sandy beach to the North, rocky to the South, divided by the fishing port and the marina. The town gives the chance to practice different sports, to go to trendy places and enjoy shopping in the many outlets in the area bearing the prestigious Made in Italy brands. Porto Sant’Elpidio, an amazing old maritime village, now a lively seaside resort, marks the beginning of the so called “Verde Riviera Picena”: pebbled and sandy beaches and clear water , surrounded by green hills. This Riviera boasts authentic maritime villages and seaside resorts such as Porto San Giorgio, Lido di Fermo and Pedaso to the South.

In the very South of the coastline there is the well-known “Riviera delle Palme”, between Cupra Marittima, Grottammare and San Benedetto del Tronto. Popular for its large beaches, its approximate 7,000 green palms, and the old Medieval villages, real balconies overlooking the sea, the Riviera delle Palme is a perfect destination for families, thanks to the beauty of the pine wood, the fine sand and the quiet atmosphere.

A few miles  to the South, the landscape shows typically Mediterranean notes: evergreen shrubs, palm trees, bougainvilleas and oleanders and such a rich vegetation evoke exotic essences and overseas scents. A bicycle path leads to Grottammare, the Pearl, known as the town of oranges, with its 5 km of fine and sandy beach. The long and wide beach is one of the main attractions of San Benedetto del Tronto, a well-known seaside resort surrounded by the countless green palm trees. San Benedetto del Tronto is also known as The Queen of the Sea; its history is well witnessed by the many museums scattered throughout the city, like the Maritime Culture Museum. Wide sandy beaches can also be found in Porto d’Ascoli, in the very South of the region.

Porto d’Ascoli

Along the coast different sports can be practiced: windsurf, water skiing, sailing, scuba diving, kitesurfing, swimming and beach volley. The sea, with its rich fish wildlife, is the ideal place for scuba diving; there are qualified scuba diving schools and diving centers with recharging stations, that can guarantee quality material and assistance at any level of immersion.

The Marche boasts 16 blue flags, certifying criteria of sustainability and respect for the environment, in terms of tourism. The standards also include: modern purification systems, sorted waste collection, limited traffic, large pedestrian areas, bicycle paths, environmental education and information, nice street furniture.

Along the 180 kilometers of the coast it is possible to dock in 9 marinas. In the province of Pesaro and Urbino the marinas are in Gabicce Mare, Pesaro and Fano; in the province of Ancona in Senigallia, Ancona and Numana; in the province of Macerata in Civitanova Marche; in the province of Fermo in Porto San Giorgio, the best equipped marina of the Adriatic Sea, with 900 moorings; in the province of Ascoli Piceno the marina is in San Benedetto del Tronto. The overall capacity is for approximately 5,000 berths.

 

Published in DestionazioneMarche