Folk music ain’t dead yet

Sometimes you think of Italy as this exotic place where people live for music, they hug each other a lot and they dance like wild… well, that mythology belongs to the past, but sometimes it comes back to life if you are lucky.. this is one of those fortunate events that can make you feel differently about where you live. A night that was supposed to be a goodbye among few intimate friends (2 of them leaving for Switzerland.. for good) and it turned out to be a gathering of old and new friends, all united in a special bond, that of music, night, and a great setting.

Out of Marche! Gubbio, former part of Montefeltro

I have been thinking about the idea of having this blog focused only on Marche, and yes, it does make sense because Marche has so much to offer, but still, why keep it only to one region, once you consider that regions were introduced only in 1970 in Italy, while towns have a much much longer history than that?Image

Take Gubbio for example, it certainly does not belong to Marche, as it is a typical Umbria town, yet its history is entangled with the history of Urbino, one of the most famous Renaissance towns in Italy. Ruled by the Montefeltro family, Urbino is one of the best examples of what the 1500’s were in Italy. Even though a small town, it managed to conquer more and more territories, all the way to Gubbio, across the Appennines. In fact, the dialect here sounds more like the one of Ancona than the one of Urbino, but you can  be certain everybody here feels a strong link to Marche. We are cousins, so to speak. So I thought, why not share my amazement at the beauty of Gubbio, just because it’s outside my region?

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That above is the impressive palace of Gubbio, which alone is worth a visit to this town, only 20 minutes away from Marche. One character I always think about when I think of Gubbio is Peppino Brunetti, a frame restorer and golden leaf expert who’s been living in Ancona for all his (long) life – he’s 86 – and yet he cannot forget his family was from Gubbio, and his blood belongs there. Just to give you an idea of how local we can be.. Here you can find a video on Peppino, with subtitles in english: 

Gradara

After one year and a half in Macerata, we moved to the northern part of Marche Region, in Pesaro, where I’m working as a hotel receptionist at Hotel Gala, few metres away from the sea, but also not far from the Appennines which shape the borders of our region. One of the must see around Pesaro is certainly Gradara, a pleasant small borough on top of a hill, a typical medieval town bordering with Emilia Romagna.

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In fact though, Gradara is not purely medieval, as most of the Castle was remodeled in the 1920’s by its last owner, Umberto Zanvettori, who brought in his taste for liberty and art déco, turning the once medieval Castle, so famous for being mentioned in the Divine Comedy, into a masterpiece between decadentism and exoterism. One of the first impressions I had upon entering was a particular resemblance to the mansion of Gabriele D’Annunzio on the Garda Lake, in the north of Italy. Only the legend is left of the story of Paolo and Francesca, the two characters which Dante mentions in the Divina Commedia, the rest is much more recent history, between 1921 and 1923, when the Castle was rapidly restored and its contents, mainly ancient weapons, sold to Castel Sant’Angelo, the former Vatican prison which faces Saint Peter’s church in Rome.

Overall, I would say Gradara could be a bit disappointing if you look for a pure medieval context, but at the same time its uniqueness in style is so stunning and well preserved that it’s definitely worth a careful visit. Also, its location between sea and hills make Gradara a charming place where to eat one of the delicious local “piadine”.

“La Tela”, the place for fabrics, sewing and fashion

Macerata is famous for Matteo Ricci, first non Chinese to translate the Bible in mandarin chinese in the 1500’s, or also, it’s maybe barely known as birthplace for several other characters in the 20th century, from politics to art, all the way to Opera, which is held yearly in awesome Macerata’s Sferisterio. But now, who knows Macerata for its precious “Museo della Tessitura” (Museum of Sewing)? Not as few as you might think, in fact. “La tela” is indeed a must for many handcraft experts in the region and beyond, especially people with a passion for fashion.

These 2 women running the little museum have been working here for more than 20 years and their activity has grown to provide fabrics for reknowned haute couture companies to be used in fashion shows in Milan and Paris. Their museum, which is also a sewing laboratory, is really a place to visit if you make it to Macerata. Here you can find more info: http://www.latela.net/

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Mondavio: who won here in 1462, the Malatesta or the Montefeltro? The Vatican!

Yes, this picture is out of season.. now it’s spring and a foggy day might just mean an even warmer day. Time to put that coat in the closet for next winter. And certainly the past winter doesn’t promise anything good for next year. February in fact has been extremely harsh in Marche, especially in the northern province of Pesaro-Urbino. That’s where you can find Mondavio, whose main attraction, the castle is definitely worth a visit. And again, also the food is quite impressive, especially in the truffles’ season, in autumn.

Mondavio’s castle is preserved very well, and it also contains a wax museum, where late medieval scenes are reproduced in a perfect setting. We are again in the area of Machiavelli’s “The prince”, not far from Montefeltro, the region of Urbino, where Raphael was born. Mondavio is a perfect location, as it is equally distant to the sea and to the mountains, just across Ancona’s province. In 1462 this place saw its greatest battle, between the Malatesta family, ruling over the coastline between today’s Marche and Emilia-Romagna, and the Vatican-backed Montefeltro family from Urbino, which controlled an area across Marche and Umbria. The Vatican won, and Mondavio was given to the Della Rovere family, which had connected with the Montefeltro, whose Guidobaldo was however attacked by “Il Valentino”, Machiavelli’s infamous “prince”. With the end of the Della Rovere dynasty, Mondavio became officially under the jurisdiction of the Vatican, which kept it so until the unity of Italy.

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San Severino Marche, where the 13th century is still alive

San Severino Marche, a town you might never visit.. AND IT WOULD BE SUCH A BAD LUCK!

I have rarely seen a more charming medieval place than San Severino. Honestly, I had no idea.. I just wanted to go eat in this very good (and very cheap) locanda on the outskirts of the town.. Antico Oliveto is called I think (I’ll give you more info if you need it). But hey, there is not just food, right? Especially when the restaurant is all filled and you have to explore the town to deserve the food.

Now, the lower part of town is very nice, with the egg-shaped main square and the impressive buildings.. this place must have been quite powerful in the past. I read San Severino was always fighting with Camerino, the first being “ghibellino” and the latter a stronghold of the Vatican. However, I have to say, despite the great view in Camerino, San Severino is by far more beautiful. Instead of being a dark, religious mountain town like Camerino, San Severino is more bright, square. If Camerino reminded me of the 1500’s or the Inquisition (maybe because there is a quite important provincial prison there.. in a former church), San Severino is more like the 1200’s, the beginning of the end of Medieval time, the time of the first Universities, but also of crusades (amazing fresco on the theme in San Severino).

One of the few important events in San Severino today is the Biennale of Umorismo, dedicated to satirical vignettes and drawings. But seriously, if you make it to San Severino don’t just stick in the lower part of the town but do make sure to walk up to the tower and visit the amazingly beautiful Castello al Monte. It’s basically a whole village hidden from the view, intact walls all around and a small vibrant community living in it. Quite impressive really. Once you made it on the top, where the monastery and the tower are, you have to go down to the village and then I’d suggest follow the walls to the right, until you find an entrance arch. Make a few more steps and be careful.. you will pass by a little door leading to a court. There you will see a portal that seems to come out of The name of the rose by Umberto Eco.. it’s so freakingly intense really.

If you add to this the fact that there’s virtually no tourism around here.. well, it makes it all the better. Imagine visiting a 13th century crypt with frescoes so modern and engaging to take out your breadth.. then try the acoustic by singing or even simply speaking. Priceless. And trust me, these are just a few of the experiences I’ve had in San Severino a couple of weeks ago. A place I would recommend anybody thinks that Italy is just about Tuscany, Sicily, Milan, Rome and Naples. The little, unknown San Severino Marche kicks ass!

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