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Marvelous Marche part one

IMG_2259To be honest, if you asked me about the Italian region of Le Marche a few months ago, I would have likely sported a blank stare and admitted that I absolutely knew nothing of this area of il bel paese. And what a shame that was! While I am slowly but surely trying to visit different areas of my adopted country, like my recent trip to under-discovered Valtiberina, Le Marche is a bit further away and was never really a place I thought about visiting. Luckily, I got the chance to join along on a blogger weekend #sibillinisegreti along with a variety of other bloggers from around Italy to discover the region and all of its numerous offerings – with the promise of my own personal kryptonite, truffles!

Seriously, mention the word ‘truffles’ and my ears prick up like a CIA operative on a secret mission, I am obsessed. This previously was proven when I ate the entire stock at our local truffle fair in Florence this past September. woops!

Back to Le Marche – This area of Italy traverses both mountain and sea with my trip focusing on the mysterious and luscious green oasis that is Mount Sibillini with its peak at Mt. Vettore, 2,476 meters above sea level. The area surrounding the mountains is full of legends, and when we first arrived at Montemonaco we breathed in the mountain mist and felt the first autumn chill in this beautiful mountain town that is apparently famous for stunning backdrops, white potatoes, cured meats and cheeses and a local accent that is quite unique to my Florentine-trained ears.

marche1We visited the local museum of Mount Sibillini and learned all about the mountain’s namesake Sibyl, a goddess who apparently haunted these mountains along with a few fairies and all sorts of legendary characters according to local stories. Personally I did feel this area of Italy felt a bit like the black forest in Germany, especially since this particular weekend was a bit cooler and rainy which only further increased the mysterious feel.

This place is also home to Pilato Lake {uniquely shaped like glasses}, the only glacial lake of the Apennines and home to a strange, unique species, Chirocefalo Marchesoni, which only exists here in the world. They made it a point to note that the male Chirocefalo has errr, two members of reproduction, which I thought meant that lago di pilato really did host something special in those waters.

Chirocefalo in a jar

While I felt like MonteMonaco seemed very quiet, perhaps even too quiet for my tastes – I was informed that in the summer time many overly stressed Italians from Milan and Rome occupy the otherwise empty homes and use it as their mountain getaway. One possible sign from this was a particularly apocalyptic scene from what was surely an abandoned garden filled with strewn toys and a scary doll that continues to haunt my dreams today.

good night children!

Our first dinner that evening was in the town of Amandola, not far from MonteMonaco, always near the Monte Sibillini national park. The friendly ‘Amondolese’ number around 4,000 in a charming town with a beautiful central square complete with a clock-tower beautifully lit when we arrived that night.

Our first dinner was the perfect start to what was a truly culinary weekend, we sampled on local cheese and wine and a gorgeous egg-pasta that resembled cannelloni filled with olive oil and local pecorino (sheep) cheese, all washed down with local white wine.

marchefoodIt was a great meet & greet with locals who live and work in these towns and get a chance to get to know them a little better over a delicious meal. We met a number of foreigners and Italians from other areas of Italy who sought to change the pace of their lives and enjoy the high quality of life this area of Le Marche has to offer. Interesting indeed, perhaps Tuscany is not the only place that people come to escape after all?

Day one ended with us heading over to the country house that was our ‘home’ away from home for the weekend with Giovanna, the quirky owner of La Querceta di Marnacchia, possibly one of the best B&B’s I have ever had the pleasure to stay in. Impeccably maintained, this place was my dream come true. Isolated, stunning surrounding landscapes abundant with fruit trees and large rooms, everything modern and comfortable with a personal touch with her family photos that in a way felt like the telling of her story.

Stay tuned for part two of ‘Marvelous Marche’ where we gorge ourselves on cake for breakfast, learn how truffle dogs are trained, discover Amandola in daylight and giggle when I overslept during a nap and almost miss my truffle facial!

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