Adventures in Ascoli Piceno – Vintage finds for Villa Veneto

Every third weekend of the month there is the antique fair in the main Piazza of Ascoli Piceno.

I love the antique markets in Italy, but I don’t get to go as often as I’d like to, weekends always seem to be so busy.

This month however, I was determined to go. I needed to start browsing for our next project, Villa Veneto.  I had it all planned out, be on the road by 12.30 and home again around 6pm, just as the light is fading. I don’t know if it’s an age thing, but I find it more and more difficult to drive in the dark.  I crawl along like an old granny, nose pressed against the windscreen, blinded by those dreadful neon headlights.

I asked my friend Eddie if she wanted to come along too, she loves to see what I’m buying but always makes a hasty retreat when I start my negotiation with the stall holder! I also wanted her to take some photos and video footage, she’s becoming quite the professional.

We set off at 1.45pm, not a great start, but there wasn’t too much traffic around, the Italians were all still eating. Ascoli Piceno is a great place, but I have never entered or exited the same way.  

Those of you who have read my previous blogs are familiar with my sense of direction, it’s not great, well, none existent really, but this time I really thought I had cracked it.  After a slight detour, I parked in a resident only space, where we were politely asked to leave and directed to another car park by a lovely man and his dog. When someone kindly gives me directions, I repeat them back, thank them and head off. Then something strange happens, I make the first turning, no problem and then my mind goes blank, was it left or right at the church, straight across at the traffic lights? We never found the carpark but as we were heading along the one way system for the second time, Eddie spotted a free parking space on a small side street.  I impressed myself by doing the perfect parallel parking and without the help of a friendly local holding up the traffic and guiding me in. This scenario always brings me out in a cold sweat.

We headed straight for Piazza Popolo, with its impressive architecture and travertine floors, one of the most impressive towns in Le Marche and the perfect place to browse antiques.

We stopped off at Café Meletti for a light lunch and a glass of wine. The weather was warm, and we sat outside….. a wonderful place to people watch and check out the stalls from a distance.

I noticed some interesting pieces of furniture and we quickly paid the bill and headed straight for a pair of liberty period chairs. I had bought a few pieces from this trader before and he always has a great eclectic mix of furniture.  On closer inspection, the chairs were just what I was looking for, elegant comfy and velvet, with nice button detailing on the back. A couple of liberty glass wall lights also caught my eye. They were in great condition and would be perfect in one of Villa Veneto’s bathrooms, either side of a mirror.  A small circular wooden table was hidden at the back of the stall. It was the ideal size to place between the two velvet chairs in the entrance hall.

I arranged for Fabrizio to deliver the furniture the following week and we set off again to explore the other stalls.

I lose all sense of time while strolling round antique markets. I have learnt over the years to scan each stall, look a little closer and then dive in, checking to see if the mirrors are bevelled, turning chairs upside down to see if the seat is falling out underneath and counting the crystal drops on the chandeliers.

I saw a beautiful wall clock laying on a table. The stall holder was extremely enthusiastic about its chime but didn’t seem to be able to find the key to wind it up.  I told him I would return in half an hour to check it out. I found a beautiful sideboard with ornate detailing, and although I tried to convince myself this piece could work in the dining room, I knew in my heart it was too big and heavy to work in this elegant Villa.

We headed back to hear the clock chime. To my surprise, it was all packed up and ready to go. I looked a little puzzled, but he assured me everything was good. I told him I wasn’t going to buy it until I heard it chime. He unwrapped it and fumbled around with the key….. it didn’t fit, he tried to force it. Obviously, it wasn’t the right key.  I thanked him and moved along to the next stall.

A lovely liberty style lamp wearing a hideous shade was looking at me, I moved closer. Although quite old it was in good condition and had nice dimensions.  I work with a local artisan who makes wonderful lampshades in every size, shape and colour and knew he could make something more in keeping with the base. It was very heavy, so I paid for it and arranged to collect it later.

I spotted a couple of small chairs, covered in a sickly yellow, aged fabric, but the shape and the slender black legs were interesting. They both needed a little TLC and recovering but would be ideal to place in a couple of the bedrooms. I knew just the person to reupholster them. I have worked with Fabrizio for years, recovering chairs, sofas and headboards of all different shapes and sizes.  I bought the chairs and suddenly realised unless someone had kindly hitched up a trailer to my car, I couldn’t buy anything else, we were full.

We set off to find the car, balancing chairs, mirrors and lamps between us. Time had flown by and it was now dark, not a problem I confidently announced to Eddie, I remember the way home.  We set off along the one-way system and saw the green road sign for the A14. A slightly longer route, but almost in a straight line.  

We chatted away in the car, happy with our purchases and adding more to the wish list. We drove on for about twenty minutes, we were still in the centre of Ascoli, which we must have circled several times.  I assured Eddie we would behome soon. I can’t really explain what happened next, one minute we were in a busy town and then we were literally in the middle of nowhere. I must have found a short, cross country route.  Up and up we went, Eddie looked a little worried, the sat nav had given up and we didn’t have a phone signal. It was pitch black, not a flicker of light to be seen, or any other vehicles on the road. We bounced off the tarmac onto a white gravel road and still we were going up.  Eddie looked a little pale, maybe it was altitude sickness, I opened the window, but it didn’t seem to help. I was trying to play it cool, but I did get a little worried when I saw a signpost for Rome.

To cut a very long car journey short we arrived home two hours later than we should have.

Another adventure over and we had a car full of treasures for Villa Veneto. We were ready for a glass of wine.

Please contact Dawn for more information on Villa Veneto and their special pre-launch price. dc@appassionata.com / www.appassionata.com/properties/villa-veneto/

 

Visions for Villa Veneto – Dawn’s Story

The search for our next project came quite out of the blue. We were just contemplating when, where and what type of property we wanted to add to the expanding Appassionata portfolio.

A phone call that afternoon from our local estate agent suggested we should meet up, he had recently come across a few properties that might be of interest to us. Over the years we have become good friends, he knows how fussy I am and patiently drives me around the region and waits for my reaction, sometimes I don’t even get out of the car!

I am like a child on Christmas morning when it comes to looking at property possibilities. I love the thrill and excitement of the search, finding ‘the one’. The place that ticks all the boxes, has the ‘wow’ factor, and most importantly the ‘one’ that just feels right. When I walk through a property for the first time I like to walk alone, in silence, and absorb everything around me.

We viewed a few properties the following morning, a mixture of restored and partially restored farmhouses. All were in great locations, but the quality of the restoration was poor. We didn’t know the engineer or builders who completed the work, which was a concern. Often the extra work involved in redoing shoddy workmanship is very fiddly, time-consuming and expensive on a restored property.

We stopped off for a light lunch and a glass of ‘pick me up’ prosecco to refresh and regroup.

We headed down towards the coast, to Lapedona, a lovely medieval town overlooking the Adriatic Sea. I love Lapedona, famous for its classical music festivals during the summer months and the restaurant Didicus, serving some of Italy’s poshest pizza’s.

We parked up in one of the small Piazza’s in the historic centre of the town, opposite an ancient three-tiered fountain.  We took a short walk along the cobbled streets and I glanced up ahead and fixed my eyes on the beautiful detailed brickwork of a Liberty Villa.  

The house was previously owned by the former wife of Diego della Valle, the creator of the luxury brands Tods, Hogan and Fay, based here in Le Marche. The house hadn’t been lived in for several years.

The agent opened the door and it was love at first sight. The house had been restored by a highly respected building team, engineer and architect we had worked with before.

The heady height of the ceilings and the winter sunlight dancing across the beautiful floor tiles in the hallway, made me smile and nod my head.  Tall elegant doors led into the large, open, living space. The marble fireplace and parquet wooden floor lit up as we threw open the shutters. This definitely had the wow factor and my stomach was performing backflips, the visions were endless, and I had only seen two rooms.

The intricate black wrought iron railings and gentle stone steps lead up to the kitchen, added to the overall elegance of the space.  The kitchen was quite small and separate from the living space. It’s a standing joke with our building team….I always find a wall or two to knock down somewhere.  Here it was, the wall connecting the kitchen and living area was crying out to be removed. A flowing living, dining and kitchen space, ideal for entertaining, was needed here.

Upstairs, the three bedrooms and two bathrooms were all good sizes, they needed updating, redecorating, a little TLC and some fabulous furnishings.

We opened the French doors leading from the master bedroom onto the first of three terraces.

I made a promise never to become too nonchalant about the views in Le Marche. We are surrounded with the most amazing vistas. This view was stunning, the sea felt so close you could almost reach out and touch it.  Rolling hills dotted with olive trees and the air was divine.

The terrace walls needed repointing, and the floor tiles were grubby with moss and dirt. The drainpipe was hanging off the wall and all the windows and shutters needed a good sand and a few coats of paint. I had a strong vision of the finished space, with large terracotta tubs and vases filled with an assortment of brightly coloured cascading plants. A dining table at one end, with a bbq close at hand and a lovely L shaped sofa with comfy cushions to curl up on with and a good book.

The third bedroom also had its own terrace, overlooking the Piazza. This one also needed some TLC, but an ideal space for a bistro table and chairs and red geraniums. I could imagine our owners sitting here and enjoying a cup of coffee in the morning. A delightful spiral staircase led us up to the rooftop terrace.  I have seen many, many wonderful views in Le Marche, but even I wasn’t prepared for this one. I can think of many words to describe this vantage point, but I could never do it credit. You have to see it to believe it. 360-degree view of mountains, hills and sea whilst standing on a roof terrace reaching into the sky… in a beautiful medieval town.

A private solarium, ideal for soaking up the rays and leaving behind the stress and worry of daily life.  I have never been a fan of the hot tub and this property was so close to the sea, a daily dip in the Adriatic followed by a delicious lunch on the beach would be my choice. But our owners deserve another wow factor and if I could find an elegantly designed spa this would be the ideal place to relax, with a glass of chilled prosecco close at hand.  

We headed back downstairs to the entrance hall. There was a strange, custom built bench sitting to the left of another staircase leading down to another floor. I mentally removed this hideous piece of furniture with it’s 80’s floral fabric seats and replaced it with the beautiful iron railings upstairs. Yes, that would work, and the house would flow more easily.

As we walked downstairs, I was holding my breath and crossing my fingers, for windows and natural light, otherwise, this space wouldn’t work.  I breathed a sigh of relief, this was a great space, with lots of natural light! Another good size bathroom, a great utility room and a spacious corridor leading into two further rooms, unrestored but with lots of possibilities. Another living room, with TV, desk and sofa bed for extra guests? A games room, pool table?  We had recently returned from a family holiday and most evenings we had enjoyed happy hour with a cocktail and a game of pool. A great game for all ages, although it did get rather competitive amongst the male members of the family.

A tall wrought iron gate led off one of the rooms, but it was so dark we couldn’t see anything.  We all turned on our torches and waited for our eyes to adjust. The dim spot lights lit up a long narrow cellar with interesting old brickwork and detailed recesses. This was incredible, another wow factor.The area needed lots of work, bricks replaced, walls repointed and a new floor. A carefully thought out lighting design, to make the most of this special space would be key.

I walked back up to the top of the cellar and noticed the light from the other torches washing up the ancient brickwork.  This could make a wonderful cantina, wine cellar. Each of our owners could have their own section for their wine. We could start off their collection and gift each owner a selection of wines from the boutique vineyards of Le Marche.

I glanced over my shoulder and noticed some large orange cardboard boxes with the Tods logo neatly inscribed. I slowly lifted the lid of each one, hoping to see a beautiful pair of Tods boots in my size, sadly each box was empty….

The agent asked my thoughts on the property, I nonchalantly replied there was an awful lot of work to do and I would need a few days to think about it!

I just couldn’t believe it, what a find. I had always dreamt of finding and restoring a liberty villa and here it was. The perfect size property with amazing outside space in a lovely town, so close to the beach.

The adventure begins, sleepless nights of visions, colours, furnishings and all things fabulous. I put my heart and soul into all our projects, it’s the only way I can work. I restore each property as if it was my own. I love to watch each room evolve and come back to life, carefully choosing each item to compliment the age of the building.  

I hope you will enjoy sharing this unique restoration journey with me over the coming months. The stress and strain, laughter and fun and plenty of wine!

For more information on Le Marche and fractional ownership opportunities with Appassionata’s Italian lifestyle brand go to www.appassionata.com , or contact Dawn directly at dc@appassionata.com

Transforming A Chicken House Into A Chic Apartment

Mmm, this was a sentence I never thought I would write. Life throws us some weird challenges and this was mine!

A year or so after we had completed the restoration of Palazzo Scarsini, our home in Petritoli, we were still scratching our heads as how best to use the space on the lower ground floor.

Our home is a five-floor Palazzo dating from the 14th  century, situated in the historic centre of the town and very conveniently placed for the local bars and restaurants.  

Apart from the pigeons taking up residence on the terrace, the house had been abandoned for many years. We live in the top three floors, surrounded by original frescos and murals, which we uncovered during the restoration.

The lower ground floor is the Appassionata HQ, a large open space with brick archways and vaulted ceilings. Light floods in from the windows at the far end, behind the desks, offering wonderful, far reaching views.  I have to be honest and say the views are very distracting and I can often be found staring out of the window, daydreaming when I should be working. I’m sure I had a few school reports saying the exact same thing.

 The floor below the office was once used to house chickens, salami’s, wine and oil. The brickwork and vaulted ceilings are intricate and detailed, although in desperate need of restoration.  The Belle Arte, the Italian National Heritage, informed us the space would be listed, owing to the age and artisan interest and was probably used as a small chapel in its early days.

We pondered for a few months on how to use this wonderful space wisely. The engineering and building costs came in high but this was a space that deserved to be loved and cherished for another 500 years.

The idea of keeping chickens and collecting fresh eggs daily was very appealing, but the thought of them not being out in the open, roaming free just wasn’t right. I didn’t think they would appreciate the beauty and space either.

Over dinner and drinks, always a good time to make a decision, we decided to create an apartment. A separate entrance leading from the cobbled streets would give a sense of total privacy for guests.

The original water well for the house with its beautiful curved, low, brick wall was a lovely feature but was situated right in the middle of ‘the bedroom’!  I really wanted to keep it, line it with copper and create a circular bath. I mentioned this to our amazing housekeeper, Roberta, who along with her team, keeps all the Appassionata properties in tip-top condition. Roberta rolled her eyes and shook her head.  The thought of cleaning all that copper, she likes everything to gleam, was just too much work. I had to agree, practicality had to come before design. This time.

The sandblasting was amazing, but the mess was horrendous and I had to apologise to all the neighbours for the clouds of dust flying out the doors and windows and settling on their freshly laundered sheets.

I also worried about the lighting in the living space.  The high ceiling was crying out for a Murano chandelier, but I also wanted to highlight the newly cleaned and repointed brickwork.  I phoned Fabrizio, our friendly lighting expert. He advised installing tiny LED strips running behind the edge of each recess. We added a dimmer switch and the effect was wonderful, the walls looked like they had awoken from a long slumber.

After much debate, I decided to carefully remove the circular bricks and well and save them for another project.  This space would make the perfect bedroom with an arched window showcasing the view across the hills.

I chose cream coloured travertine floor tiles to complement the warm brickwork and soft furnishings and lamps gave the space a homely, holiday feel.

I am a huge fan of Venetian plaster and use it in all our Appassionata properties.  I wanted to use a stronger shade in the shower area, lavender. A bold, but gentle colour, soothing and relaxing, with its marble finish and subtle swirls.

I integrated the modern amenities of everyday life, wifi, TV, washing machine/drier etc into this historic 14th-century apartment.

It was a joy to watch this dark, dusty space come alive. To bathe in its light and furnish it with love for others to enjoy in the future.

If you are interested in staying in the Palazzo Scarsini apartment please contact me dc@appassionata.com or visit our website https://www.appassionata.com/properties/luxury-rental/

Rolling Out Recipes From Le Marche – Chickpea Soup

January Blues

January is the month I feel the need to hibernate.  Christmas and New Year are over and the decorations are packed away for next year. Some people plan a detox, diet, cleanse and clean. Others choose to join a gym, take up a new sport and make promises difficult to keep.  I would quite happily dive under the duvet and not resurface for a month. What a luxury, to allow mind and body a few weeks off.

Back to reality, and if I can’t hibernate I want to offer my body some healthy nourishment during the colder months.

The light dusting of snow last week is fading, exposing the countryside once again. The logs are stacked up outside and fireplaces are lit each evening.  Seasonal vegetables include pumpkins, potatoes, onions, carrots and cavolo nero, a dark green type of cabbage. The hunting season continues, sadly for us vegetarians, providing pigeon, wild boar, pheasant and guinea fowl.

Zuppa di Ceci – Chickpea soup Serves 6-8

Here we share one of our favourite winter warming recipes…. 

Ingredients

  1. 500g (1lb 2oz) dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in cold water
  2. 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  3. 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  4. 1 large celery stalk, trimmed and chopped
  5. 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  6. 4 tablespoons olive oil
  7. 2 sprigs rosemary
  8. 1 small red dried chilli, left whole
  9. 100g (3.5 oz) silver beet (swiss chard) trimmed and finely sliced
  10. 2 ripe tomatoes, skinned and pureed or 150g (5.5oz) tin of peeled tomatoes, pureed.
  11. 6 thick slices white, country bread
  12. Extra virgin olive oil to serve

Drain the soaked chickpeas and place in a large stockpot.  Add the onion, carrot and celery. Cover with 3.5 litres (14 cups) of cold water (add the rest later if it doesn’t fit) and bring to the boil.  Skim the surface to remove any scum. Lower the heat slightly and cook, uncovered, for about 1.15 hours, or until the chickpeas are tender. Season with salt and pepper in the last half hour of the cooking time.  Puree two-thirds of the chickpeas with their cooking liquid, leaving the remainder whole. Return everything to the pot. Add a little hot water if too thick.

Chop one of the garlic cloves.  Heat the olive oil in a saucepan.  Add the chopped garlic, rosemary sprigs and the chilli.  When you begin to smell the garlic, add the silverbeet. Saute on a medium heat for a couple of minutes before adding the tomato.  Season with salt and pepper and continue cooking for about 5 minutes until the tomato has melted into a sauce and seems cooked. Remove the rosemary sprigs and discard.  Add the tomato mix to the chickpea pot and simmer for another few minutes to blend the flavours. Check the seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper, if necessary.

Toast or grill the bread slices, rub one side with the whole garlic clove and drizzle with olive oil.  Put the soup into individual bowls with a splash of olive oil and grinding of black pepper. Enjoy!

For more information on our fractional ownership opportunities or details on Appassionata’s Italian lifestyle brand go to www.appassionata.com

La Befana – The gift-bearing witch

While in most other parts of the world, Christmas and New Year holidays have now come to an end, Italians are still celebrating.  On January 6, the Epiphany, is a national holiday to commemorate the visit of the Three Kings, to the manager of Baby Jesus.

The Feast of the Epiphany is an important post-Christmas date on the calendar and is a national holiday in Italy. The tradition of La Befana, who arrives on the Epiphany, plays a big in the Italian Christmas holidays. Befana also marks the end of Christmas and New Year’s festivities in Italy.  The children go back to school, adults go back to work, and the Christmas decorations come down.

The Feast of the Epiphany commemorates the twelfth day of Christmas, when the three Wise Men arrived at the manger bearing gifts for Baby Jesus.

La Befana, arrives on her broomstick during the night of January 5th with toys and sweets for the good children and lumps of coal for the bad ones.

According to legend, the night before the Wise Men arrived at the manger they stopped at the shack of an old woman to ask directions. They invited her to come along but she replied that she was too busy. A shepherd asked her to join him but again she refused. Later that night, she saw a great light in the sky and decided to join the Wise Men and the shepherd bearing gifts that had belonged to her child who had died.

She got lost and never found the manger.

Now La Befana flies around on her broomstick each year on the night before Epiphany, bringing gifts to children in hopes that she might find the Baby Jesus. Children hang their stockings on the evening of January 5th, awaiting the visit of La Befana.

La Befana Festivals

The town of Urbania in Le Marche, holds a four-day festival for La Befana from January 2 to 6. Children can visit her at the La Casa della Befana. This is one of the biggest celebrations in Italy. 

The Befane races, Regata delle Bafane, are held in Venice on January 6. Men dressed as La Befana race in boats on the Grand Canal. 

If you enjoy new experiences and a wanderlust lifestyle come and visit us here in Le Marche…… 

For more information on Appassionata’s Italian lifestyle brand go to www.appassionata.com or email Dawn directly at dc@appassionata.com

 

An authentic Italian Christmas

Over the years, Christmas in England, and indeed many other countries has become over commercialised and rather daunting. Often the decorating begins in August and Christmas trees and lights are up and flashing while shopping for the last of the summer bargains in September! Roll on December and everyone is tired of the crowds, the Christmas parties and searching for the end of the scotch tape.

January is steeped in depression. Credit cards have been maxed out, everyone’s detoxing and excess kilos need to be shed.

Christmas in Italy feels more gentle, elegant and authentic. The priorities are different. December 8th is known as the L’lmmacolata, the celebration of the immaculate conception. It is also the day most Italian’s decorate their trees and set out their nativity scenes. Many towns and cities celebrate with Christmas markets, selling traditional gifts and decorations.

Family gatherings over the Christmas period are really important. Food is simple and delicious, locally grown and home cooked. A glass of wine or two is normal, but rarely to excess. Mass is attended by all generations, babes in arms, grandparents and everyone in between. The children usually receive one or two gifts on Christmas Eve, carefully chosen and lovingly wrapped.

Enjoy the festive season where ever you are, but try and remember the true meaning of Christmas.

For more information on Le Marche and fractional ownership opportunities with Appassionata’s Italian lifestyle brand go to www.appassionata.com , or contact Dawn directly dc@appassionata.com.

 

 

Truly in love with Truffles – Dawn’s Story

I must confess before I came to Italy I had never tasted a fresh truffle.  One November evening, years ago, our foody friend, Giampaolo, suggested a trip to the mountains for dinner.  It was truffle season, and he had a friend who had a restaurant who had a cousin who had a friend who had just been truffle hunting the day before.  Ever eager for a new experience we jumped at the chance and into the car. When I enquired about the drive time, Giampaolo had shrugged, smiled and estimated about twenty minutes. An hour and a half later we pulled up outside what I thought was someone’s house. It was really, but they had opened their hearts and dining room to lovers of homegrown, home cooked food.  A family affair, the norm in these parts, Nonna busy cooking in the kitchen, daughter waiting tables and her husband looking serious about wine.

The delicate scent of truffles enveloped the room. The candles flickered and the fire roared, the atmosphere was warm and cosy. I could feel my cheeks glowing and my eyelids drooping……and the rich Amarone wine was going down a treat.

It was a truffle lovers paradise.  Course after course arrived, each one subtly flavoured with fine shavings of fresh truffle. I think there were six courses, but I confess to being in a dream-like state and can’t quite remember. The soup and pasta dishes were wonderful but my favourite…. poached egg with truffle slices scattered on top, so simple, so delicious.

Truffles are weight for weight, one of the most expensive foods on the planet. Luckily, however, a little goes a long way and in Le Marche you can indulge in them without pawning the family silver.

The white truffle is the finest – and the most expensive, tartufi bianchi, and can cost well over €3000 a kilo depending on quality and seasonal abundance. The black truffle comes at a more modest price. If you want to buy them fresh you have to be here between October and the end of December for the bianchi and between December and March for the neri pregiati.

A Few Facts

November is prime truffle time and truffles represent the greatest culinary treasure of the gastronomic area here in Le Marche.  For those who like a little adventure, it is possible to take part in a special truffle hunt with a professional truffle hunter, who finds these underground fungi with the help of his trained dogs.

You will get your shoes dirty following the dog and his master through the woods early in the morning and, if you are lucky enough, you will see the dog furiously digging and the truffle hunter extract the truffle carefully with a special tool. He then covers over the hole in order not to damage the natural spores, and scrapes off the earth from the truffle.

After that you are invited into the kitchen and with the help of a trained chef you can cook or simply taste the  traditional truffle dishes of Le Marche.

Ten Truffle Facts

1) Most truffles rarely grow in the same spot twice and are embedded under the soil, close to roots of holm oaks, chestnut trees, poplars, pines and hazelnut trees.

2) Truffles can be stored for several days in a paper bag in the refrigerator, but the strength of their flavour decreases rapidly with time.

3) Since Roman times truffles have been used in Europe as delicacies, medicines, and even aphrodisiacs.

4) Traditionally, pigs were used to hunt truffles but in Italy their use has been prohibited because of damage caused to the soil. Dogs have now replaced them as they are easier to train. The lagotto romagnolo is the official dog breed for truffle hunting in Italy.

5) Most of truffle hunters are serious about keeping their truffle finds and locations secret.

6) Truffles must be collected at the proper time otherwise they will have little taste. You can buy fresh white truffles in Le Marche between October and the end of December.

7) Truffle hunting can be arranged seasonally for white truffles from September to December.

8) During the last weekends of October Sant’Angelo in Vado in Le Marche hosts the Mostra Nazionale del Tartufo Bianco Pregiato, an excellent chance to taste white truffles and see the town at its best.

9) From the end of October to the first two weekends in November Acqualagna in Le Marche is transformed into Italy’s “truffle capital” as it hosts the annual Truffle Fair.

10) White truffles are perfect to enrich main courses and can be inserted into meats, under the skins of roasted fowl, or stuffings. They are generally served raw, shaved into flakes, adding flavour and fragrance to omelettes rice and fresh homemade pasta. 

If you enjoy new experiences and a wanderlust lifestyle come and visit us here in Le Marche……

For more information on Le Marche and fractional ownership opportunities with Appassionata’s Italian lifestyle brand go to www.appassionata.com , or contact Dawn directly at dc@appassionata.com

Rolling Out Recipes From Le Marche – Truffle Pasta

As the cooler months arrive in Le Marche, our ingredients change with the weather pattern and we adapt our recipes to the local produce around us.

Years ago, I once asked a neighbour what he did when he wanted to eat strawberries in November and he looked genuinely confused.  Why would I want to eat strawberries in November, they grow in summer! Nature takes care of us during the different seasons and the earth gives us what we need.  I eat oranges in winter because we need their vitamin C.

After this short, but very interesting conversation I started to change my focus on food. It isn’t always about what we want to eat, but what we should be eating, produce that grows naturally during the seasons each year.  As the months and ingredients change, so does the family table in Italy.

November is prime truffle time here and truffles represent the greatest culinary treasure of the gastronomic area of Le Marche. 

Try out one of our favourite truffle recipes, it’s quick and easy to prepare and truly delicious.

RECIPE – Truffle Pasta

Cooking Time: 20 Mins

Serves: 4 people

Ingredients

500 g linguine
100 g Parmesan cheese
150 g butter
60 g fresh black truffle
salt
pepper

Method

  1. Grate cheese. Cook pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente, according to package instructions.
  2. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large sauté pan.
  3. Reserve some of the pasta water before straining.
  4. Add cooked pasta to sauté pan and toss to coat with butter.
  5. Add grated cheese and some pasta water to loosen mixture to desired consistency and mix to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Thinly shave black truffle over each bowl at the table. Enjoy!

If you want to experience delicious, locally grown food and fine wine visit Le Marche.

For more information on Le Marche and factional ownership opportunities  with Appassionata’s Italian lifestyle brand go to www.appassionata.com , or contact Dawn directly dc@appassionata.com

Olive Oil – The Essence Of The Italian Diet

Years ago, growing up in England, olive oil was something we used a few times a year when we had guests over to impress. Unless you were prepared to pay a King’s Ransom the olive oil on sale was pretty basic and tasteless.  Fast forward a few years and I treat olive oil the same as wine, with respect and enjoyment. Here in Le Marche, we are blessed to be surrounded by olive groves. The olive tree is a dominant and enduring feature of the Italian landscape, and the months of October and November are spent picking and pressing the olives and trimming the trees.

Appassionata, Le Marche, Italy, Fractional Ownership, Olive Oli, Olives

The olive tree ranges in size from a small shrub to an immense, gnarled tree, spreading it’s branches far and wide. It yields both fruit for eating, as well as a rich prize of precious olio di oliva, the basis of the so-called Mediterranean diet. Olive oil, and especially olio extra vergine di oliva (extra virgin olive oil) is certainly one of the greatest gifts Italy gives to the world. Olive oil is widely considered a superfood, being both very healthy and utterly delicious. No surprise, then, that it fits in so well with today’s modern lifestyles and diets.

A Few Facts

The traditional production of this trendy modern superfood has changed little since time immemorial and essentially remains a very simple process. The olives are harvested and ideally taken to the frantoio – the olive oil mill – as quickly as possible. The first phase is known as la frangitura whereby the whole olives are ground to a paste. 

In the old style traditional frantoio, this was done utilising slowly revolving granite and stone millstones. Then the ground olive paste was layered into straw or fibre mats placed on top of each other in a press. Extra virgin oil would come from la prima spremitura fredda,  the first cold pressing, whereby under gentle pressure, the liquid was extracted from the olive paste. This liquid consisted of both oil and water contained within the olives. The liquids had to be separated and this was normally achieved either by using a centrifuge or simply by decanting.

Appassionata, Le Marche, Italy, Fractional Ownership, Olive Oli, Olives

In modern state of the art frantoi, technology is now used to make sure we get the best possible product.  Producers have full control of the whole process, modern machines are used, leaving no room for a second pressing. In modern systems the label “first press” is often more of a marketing tool than a real reflection of the production methods.

In both cases, the old style frantoi and the modern ones, the olive oil produced after these important phases is unfiltered olio extra vergine d’oliva, extremely low in oleic acid (by law less than 1%) and traditionally stored in large earthenware urns known as orci or in modern stainless steel containers. Such oil, when made from carefully harvested olives and straight from the frantoio, is undoubtedly one of the greatest and most special food products on earth.

Top Tips

  1. KEEP AWAY FROM THE LIGHT – Extra virgin olive oil should be stored at cool temperatures, away from light and without exposure to oxygen. The oil is happier stored in dark glass bottles or tin containers and always close the bottle as soon as you finish using it. Keep it in a cupboard and it will prolong the taste.
  2. EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL DOES NOT AGE WELL –Check the date on the bottle and make sure you are getting oil produced during the last harvest. Buy only the quantity you might need for the year to make sure you are not stuck with old olive oil when the new oil is out on the shelves.
  3. GREEN COLOUR DOES NOT AUTOMATICALLY MEAN TOP QUALITY – The most emphasized characteristics of extra virgin olive oil is often the colour.  It should range between green and yellow. However, a deep green colour does not automatically indicate a better quality oil. The professional olive oil tasters use blue or green coloured tasting glasses so not to influence their final judgment. Focus on taste, smell and acidity levels rather than colour when buying extra virgin olive oil.
  4. FIRST PRESS AND COLD PRESS – Remember that quite often the label “first press” is only a marketing tool and does not really mean that there were two different pressing phases. Extra virgin olive oil must be produced entirely without the use of any solvents, and under temperatures that will not degrade the oil (less than 86°F, 30°C). If it was not produced “cold press” it cannot be extra virgin olive oil. 

Appassionata, Le Marche, Italy, Fractional Ownership, Olive Oli, Olives

10 Reasons To Love ‘Liquid Gold’

  • Olive oil is rich in healthy monounsaturated fats.
  • Contains large amounts of antioxidants.
  • Strong anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Olive may help to prevent strokes.
  • Protects against heart disease.
  • May reduce the risk Type 2 diabetes.
  • The antioxidants in olive oil have anti-cancer properties.
  • Can help treat rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Has antibacterial properties.
  • May help fight Alzheimer’s disease.

A Little Beauty Hack – Olive Oil Hair Mask

One of my favourites…

  • ½ cup of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 egg yolk

Just mix together all the ingredients to a smooth paste.  Apply to your hair and leave on for twenty minutes. Wash off with warm water and then apply your favourite conditioner, rinse again, dry and admire.

For more information on Le Marche and fractional ownership opportunities  with Appassionata’s Italian lifestyle brand go to www.appassionata.com , or contact Dawn directly dc@appassionata.com.

Introducing Ascoli Piceno

Ascoli Piceno – a city older than Rome and built around the stunning Piazza del Popolo. This famous piazza is known as the ‘Living Room’ of Italy and what a room it is, surrounded by Renaissance and Gothic Palaces.

The elegant marble floors and walls glisten in the sunshine with shades of milk and honey, transporting you to a bygone era.

Appassionata Ascoli Piceno Le Marche Italy Cafe Meletti Bar

Getting around this beautiful city is easy, just put one foot in front of the other, although I am still in awe of the architecture and constantly bump into people and objects while gazing upwards! As I wander around the town I feel the history seeping into my soul and try and imagine who has trodden this path so many years before me. In every corner of this city, you will stumble across Roman ruins and noble towers, churches and travertine columns, a cultural heaven.

For those of you who like a little more structure to your day, you can choose to partake in an organised walking tour with a local guide. These vary in time, you’re in Italy after all, but usually last between two and three hours and take in all Ascoli’s architectural gems.

Appassionata Ascoli Piceno Le Marche Italy Cafe Meletti Bar

Cafe Meletti & Dustin Hoffman in Ascoli for the filming of Alfredo Alfredo

Tucked away in a corner of the Piazza is the famous Cafe Meletti Bar, named after its founder, Silvio Meletti who first opened its doors to the public in the early 1900’s.

It quickly became the place to be seen, both Ernest Hemingway and Jean-Paul Satre frequented it often.

It has also been featured in many films over the past few years, including ‘Les Dauphins’ and ‘Alfredo, Alfredo’ starring Dustin Hoffman.

Appassionata Ascoli Piceno Le Marche Italy Cafe Meletti Bar

I walk into the bar and gaze upwards, admiring the fresco ceiling and Murano chandelier.  A circular marble-topped table beckons me, I reach into my bag and switch off my phone. This is an experience that needs no interruptions, I pull up a chair, place my order and gaze across the Piazza, soaking up the atmosphere of this very special place.

For lovers of antiques (that’s definitely me )there is a splendid antique market held in Ascoli Piceno on the third weekend of every month. The market is set up in the town’s splendid medieval centre, including  Piazza del Popolo and Piazza Arringa. Selling everything from quality art and chandeliers to rusty old nails and door hinges. It is the perfect opportunity to go browsing for weird and wonderful things with a backdrop of some of the most beautiful architecture and buildings in Italy. This is one of my favourite places to find hidden treasures for our Appassionata homes.

Ascoli Piceno is only a 45-minute drive away from our properties and makes the perfect place for a days outing.

Come and discover Le Marche with Appassionata