Jesi and its secret rural “museum”

Talking about Jesi usually includes mentioning its most famous character, born here by chance in fact, Federico II, Frederick the II, the Christian conquerer who managed to make peace with Muslim Saladin, after decades of bloody fights between Europeans and Arabs. Now, the story is too long and interesting to actually write about it now. But just be contented with knowing that this crucial figure in the history of Europe and the Mediterranean was born in the little town of Jesi, which is located halfway between Ancona and Fabriano on the route connecting to Rome.

This said, the idea of this post is much, much more limited. If you ever go to Jesi and you have 20 minutes to wait at the station, don’t just stand there with nothing to do, or maybe try out all your ring tones on the phone.. take a walk out of the station and make a right. A few metres and you will find a small café, very oldfashioned, rustic, some would say even ugly.. but if you go across the first room, you will find a real museum. A museum on how farmers lived in the early 20th century and even earlier. In fact, it’s not really a museum, it’s supposed to be a wine drinking place, but I rarely saw anybody in there. It’s very dark, a bit abandoned.. but still, it’s an amazing, atopic thing to see. There you can check out agricultural tools, but also musical instruments, toys of all sorts, bycicles, wooden benches, etc.

So the point of this post is to point out how rural life has a meaning in Marche, a region that lived almost exclusively on agriculture for several centuries up to the 50’s. Also, this place I’m suggesting you to know is a good chance to explain what “atopic” means. “Atopos” means “no place”, “unpredictable”, “foreign”, impossible to categorize. And so is this little café, where nobody would really enter unless they know what’s hiding in there.. so keep in mind, Jesi has secrets everywhere for you to find out. The owners don’t seem to have an idea of how precious that place is, but I guess that’s ok as long as they keep everything inside and visible (even though barely, due to the lack of light) for any “atopic” passer by..

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Camerino, Machiavelli and.. Napoleon. Meanders of history on top of a hill.

First of all, thanks for following the blog. “Ancona war cemetery” provoked several feedbacks from around the world, so that makes me want to go on for sure with my idea about setting up an exhibit on the war memorial stories..

As for today, let’s go to Camerino, which is famous for its pharmacy University, its location surrounded by mountains and its glorious history. Despite being a very small town, Camerino was home to a very important noble family, that of Varano, which controlled most of this area between Umbria and Marche. It might seem very isolated, but if you consider how long it took to travel back in the middle ages, keeping the region safe was all but easy. If you add to this that this was one of the main roads connecting Loreto (home to pilgrimages since 1200’s) and Rome, well then you might understand why the Varano dynasty managed to stay very rich and powerful for centuries. That’s why if you travel around the “marca di Camerino” you will see a lot of ruins and castles, which mark the territory once ruled by the Varano family. Their period of glory ended with the invasion of Cesare Borgia, also known as Duca Valentino, of whom you can read extensively in Machiavelli’s “The prince”. Obviously, as in other cases, he killed them all and that’s how the middle ages ended in Camerino.. However, descendants of the family can be traced back for sure until the 1800’s when one of them got married to a member of the Bonaparte’s family in Ascoli Piceno, where part of Napoleon’s family was rooted.. and no, it’s not a legend, you will see in next posts..

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The war cemetery in Ancona

People in Ancona call it the American cemetery, but in fact there’s not one american soldier buried in it.. The World War II cemetery of Ancona is a place few people know, despite its amazing location, just in the outskirts of the town, facing Monte Conero and not far from the Stadio Del Conero and the Tavernelle cemetery. Here are the graves commemorating the soldiers of the Royal forces of Britain, which also meant, at the time, soldiers coming from places such as Pakistan, South Africa, Botswana, Nepal and also places like Basutoland.. I know this because I’ve been trying to read all the captions, but it takes a long while.

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Another reason why I like this place is that the visitor’s book contains a lot of signatures, including those of relatives of soldiers buried there, and even fellow soldiers, especially from Britain, Canada and Australia. It’s quite emotional to read how some people finally found the grave where their loved ones have been laying for decades now. A war that is far in time, and, although fought on the right side, against the Nazis, many of these youths, especially the pilots, happened to destroy as many Italian homes and families as the bombs they dropped. This is not supposed to mean anything else but the fact that war sucks, always. Especially then, when most of the army was made of people who had no choice, unlike today, with professional army and all.

Everytime I pass by in front of there, and I do often because my mother lives very nearby, I send a thought to these people who would never have thought to die so young, so far away from their homes. I wonder how many of their relatives actually know that they’ve been here this whole time, and I hope I will be able to find as many as I can. One I did find, thanks to a signature on the visitor’s book, sent me the following picture of one soldier buried there. Hillary, this is the woman’s name I found in the visitor’s book, lost her uncle near Monte San Vicino, and he was later brought here to be buried along with the others. This is how he looked like just before leaving for Italy, where he stayed for good. His name was Roy Saunders.

2012, the year of the snow in Marche

Sometimes people think of Italy as some exotic place, stuck in time, where everything is old and the sun always shines.. well, not this winter! At least not in the Adriatic coast, where it snowed with no interruption for 2 weeks. Something no one has ever seen around here. The only comparison available is with 1956, when it also snowed a lot, but not for so long.. Funny enough, it snowed more in Marche (so far) than on the Alps.. in fact, it has created great damages and quite a few victims, as we’re not so used to such weather around here. So I guess, if you want to visit Marche and you expect to see the sun and enjoy the weather, you’d better come in spring-summer-autumn, just so to make sure.

In the picture, you can see one of the main streets of Macerata, a town that’s quite used to the snow, but the man walking on the boulevard there could not expect that there would be 2 weeks more of snow ahead.

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Ripatransone, home to Michelangelo’s first official biographer

It was a sunday morning, my mother was coming to visit us in Macerata. Let me check if there is any “sagra” going on.. i don’t know, maybe some food festival, religious feast or something.. We find this one in Ripatransone, in the province of Ascoli Piceno. A few times I’ve heard the name of this little town facing the Sibillini mountains on one side and the sea on the other side. Never though have I known it was home to Ascanio Condivi, first official biographer of Michelangelo.

Not only this, Ripatransone is one lovely town, with a vibrant Renaissance vibe, a little Florence on the Marche hills. Perfect for a day trip, especially when it’s too hot in the valley and you feel like you need to enjoy the view on the mountains while drinking some good wine.

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Sant’Angelo in Pontano

I think Sant’Angelo in Pontano is probably one of the least visited places in Marche, which is one of the least visited places in Italy.. it figures!

Yet, many here heard the name of this town, either because of its longstanding presepe tradition, or because of San Nicola from Tolentino who lived also here. We are indeed in the land of San Nicola, to whom are dedicated many churches in the area. See more here.

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A dear friend of mine, photographer Roberto Bonfigli (a big Nikon fan), has a little house there in Sant’Angelo, so we went several times. Lucky chance, because the rural area is beautiful and the colors of towns and hills around there are truly amazing. Also, clean air and silence make it a real worthy place to visit, especially if you know where to eat and where to have a siesta afterward and maybe a talk with a nice artist/farmer like Roberto.

If you want to read more about Roberto’s farm in Sant’Angelo in Pontano, read Zero The One.

The roads to Ancona (from Macerata) are endless

What I love the most about Marche is that you can always be on the road to a next town. There is always a next town somewhere, very near. Not only, the paths you can take are virtually endless. For example, I have been living in Macerata for about 1 year, and I managed to find 6-7 alternate ways to go to Ancona from here. The picture above was taken along one such path (in fact, the path I don’t take anymore because it takes a little bit longer). Basically, I have become an expert on shortcuts between Macerata and Ancona =)

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In the slideshow you can see Catherine, who came to visit us from Baltimore, Usa last Christmas. It’s certainly not the best weather, but it’s perfect if you like to check out Catholic related events such as Presepe Vivente, the living scene of the Nativity, taking place in many little towns scattered around Marche. It usually takes place on december 26th and january 6th.