The Beautiful Marche Region

24 Dec

We arrived at Casa Daniella, Carole’s house, on time and in daylight which was a good start.  We didn’t relish the idea of driving around unfamiliar territory trying to find our way in the dark without a map or an internet connection for my phone.  Thankfully, Carole’s turn by turn directions were spot on and we arrived stress free.

We were greeted at the car by Stella and Chiara, our charges for the next two weeks.  We don’t what Carole had told them about us but they seemed very excited to see us arrive.  We saw later that they greet all travellers down this road very enthusiastically!

We spent the evening settling in and Carole had prepared dinner for us as well.  It had been a long day so it was not long before we hit the hay, so to speak.

Casa Daniella is about 150 years old I believe.  It is a restored farm house.  In 1974 there was a major earthquake in this region and hundreds of dwellings like this one were seriously damaged.  When the insurance paid out the owners typically built new homes nearby rather than bother repairing the damage.  This led to lots of these buildings being abandoned until the 1990s when it seems that mainly Brits, but also some Italians other European nationals, bought them as renovation projects.  This one was bought by an Italian Army captain who spent 10 years restoring it before his divorce forced him to put it on the market.  Bad luck for him, good luck for Carole!

Carole showed us around some of the local amenities on Monday and answered our endless questions.  In the evening she again prepared dinner and she invited some of her friends for us to meet.  There was Gina and Gilbert live near Sarnano, 20 minutes away, and have a 10-acre lifestyle holding and Pam who lives 20 minutes away in the opposite direction but I can’t remember the name of the place. They were all ex-pat Brits but had lived here for at least 10 years.  It was a very enjoyable evening and Gina and Gilbert invited us to visit them on Friday morning.

Looking WSW from the house are the Sibillini Mountains which are part of a National Park.

Looking WSW from the house are the Sibillini Mountains which are part of a National Park.

NE is the village of San Ginesio.  This morning photo exaggerates the colour but we were very surprised at how many autumn leaves were still on the trees.  In Provence they are all gone.

NE is the village of San Ginesio. This morning photo exaggerates the colour but we were very surprised at how many autumn leaves were still on the trees. In Provence they are all gone.

View from the front of the house looking west to Gualdo under more neutral lighting a little later in the morning.

View from the front of the house looking west to Gualdo under more neutral lighting a little later in the morning.

Carole was leaving for the UK on Wednesday morning so that left us free to go out sightseeing on Tuesday.  The previous evening we had been told about Lake Fiastra which was on the other side of the Sibillini Mountains and where there was a very nice restaurant for lunches.  So off we went up the mountain, snow chains at the ready!

On Tuesday we took a drive to the Sibillini National Park.  In the centre foreground is Gualdo and this is photo is facing roughly east.

On Tuesday we took a drive to the Sibillini National Park. In the centre foreground is Gualdo and this is photo is facing roughly east.

Plenty of snow up here as we pass over the summit of the road through the Sibillini National Park on our way to Fiastra on the other side.  We didn't use our chains so it was a bit tricky getting moving again after stopping for this photo.

Plenty of snow up here as we pass over the summit of the road through the Sibillini National Park on our way to Fiastra on the other side. We didn’t use our chains so it was a bit tricky getting moving again after stopping for this photo.

This was only 300m further on and seemed to have 'photo opportunity' all over it.

This was only 300m further on and seemed to have ‘photo opportunity’ all over it.

I guess you get the idea now - there was some snow!

I guess you get the idea now – there was some snow!

Lake Fiastra is the largest body of water in the Marche region.  It is a 20 million cubic metre hydro reservoir.  This is looking back towards it source in the mountains while the main body of water was behind me on the other side of the bridge I am on.

Lake Fiastra is the largest body of water in the Marche region. It is a 20 million cubic metre hydro reservoir. This is looking back towards it source in the mountains while the main body of water was behind me on the other side of the bridge I am on.

We never found the restaurant but the drive was easily worth it for the scenery.

Carole left at 8am on Wednesday morning and we spent most of the day at the house except for a visit to the supermarket and later on a walk with the dogs.  Thursday started with a frost and was also a fairly quiet day.  We drove to Urbisalgia to look at the Roman arena and other ruins but we could only look from the outside because it was all closed.

Taken near the house this was the snow covering the mountains at midday on Thursday.

Taken near the house this was the snow covering the mountains at midday on Thursday.

This might look like  photo of an ordinary section of road with a couple of cars on it, but look again.  It shows two Italian cars both on their own side of the white line even though it is on a bend.  This is exceptionally rare both in Italy and in France.

This might look like photo of an ordinary section of road with a couple of cars on it, but look again. It shows two Italian cars both on their own side of the solid white line (equivalent to a solid yellow line in NZ) even though it is on a bend. This level of driving skill is exceptionally rare both in Italy and in France.

Not far from Gualdo at Urbisaglia there is a ruined Roman arena and old defensive walls.  It looks like the 2000 year old walls are faring better than the 2 year old signpost.

Not far from Gualdo at Urbisaglia there is a ruined Roman arena and old defensive walls. It looks like the 2000 year old walls are faring better than the 2 year old signpost.

Dating from the 16th century, these ramparts were built in Urbisaglia by the conquering village of Tolentino so they could keep the locals under control.

Dating from the 16th century, these ramparts were built in Urbisaglia by the conquering village of Tolentino so they could keep the locals under control.

No reason for this one except visual appeal.

No reason for this one except visual appeal.

It snowed in the night on Thursday, true to the forecast. And it was still lightly snowing at 0730 on Friday. We were due at Gina and Gilbert’s place for coffee between 10 and 11am otherwise we probably would have stayed at home.  About 0945 we started to venture up the hill and we only just managed to get out of the top of the road. The first half is gravel and that was no problem with our new all purpose tyres and no chains. The top half is smooth asphalt and the gradient kicks up for the last 100m to the main road. We were doing OK until that 100m then we started to skid and slide around a bit. As we approached the brow I decided to turn left instead of the normal right because it minimised the final steepness. Then we just had to find a flat, wide piece of road to turn around on and we were on our way!  Rookies in the snow!!

We woke to a light covering of snow on Friday morning.  It kept falling lightly for most of the day but it was still between 0 and +2˚C so it was melting almost as fast.

We woke to a light covering of snow on Friday morning. It kept falling lightly for most of the day but it was still between 0 and +2˚C so it was melting almost as fast.

This is one of our charges, Stella, taking a 'constitutional walk' in the fresh bit of snow on Friday morning.

This is one of our charges, Stella, taking a ‘constitutional walk’ in the fresh bit of snow on Friday morning.

Our cold little sports car!

Our cold little sports car!

Gina and Gilbert have a lovely property that they have spent years developing from ruins.  By the time we had done the tour, looked at the amazing ‘before’ pictures that left you wondering how they managed such a transformation and then talked lots, coffee became lunch.  And a very nice one too.  There was barely any snow left on the actual main road when we went home and even the hill down to Casa Daniella had cleared due to the cars using it.  When we arrived home it was time to take the dogs for their walk.  They were ready and keen even in the cold.

Saturday morning started foggy and it never completely lifted.  We found the ‘ferramenta’ (I think that spelling is OK) which is basically an old-fashioned hardware store.  I was so tempted to ask for “fork ‘andles” but it just would not have worked with a non-English speaker.  Damn!  Anyway, we got a couple of things and then went for a short drive through Penna just for a look.  When we got back home we took the dogs for their walk but today after going up the hill we continued down the hill past the house as well.  Big mistake!  Stella decided that she wanted to keep going down the hill way beyond the point where we and Chiara wanted to go back to the house.  In the end she relented persuaded by the offer of a treat (a chewy dog snack).

Saturday dawned foggy and it never all went away.  This was Gualdo near midday and all the snow on the fields from Friday is gone but the fog is still hanging.

Saturday dawned foggy and it never all went away. This was Gualdo near midday and all the snow on the fields from Friday is gone but the fog is still hanging.

Sunday is market day in San Ginesio so after breakfast we went there via a very minor route and took in some very nice scenery on the way.

The hilltop walled village of San Ginesio on Sunday morning.

The hilltop walled village of San Ginesio on Sunday morning.

The San Ginesio market in the village square.  It doesn't look very busy but there were parts of it in a couple of nearby squares as well.

The San Ginesio market in the village square. It doesn’t look very busy but there were parts of it in a couple of nearby squares as well.

We bought some clementines for our fruit bowl. It was a bit windy and quite chilly too so we stopped at a bar for coffee. It was surprising how cheap it was.  An espresso was €0.80 and a cappuccino was €1.10, much less than in France.  Also spotted in San Ginesio…

Snow tyres - check!  Parallel parking test - check!  Something really heavy in the back for winter driving - check!

Snow tyres – check! Parallel parking test – check! Something really heavy in the back for winter driving – check!

On the way home from the market…

From San Ginesio - the the rolling hills go for miles in all directions.

From San Ginesio – the the rolling hills go for miles in all directions.

Around Casa Daniella…

We opened a window one day and as well as the usual shield bugs and ladybug type insects seeking refuge from the winter there was another resident.  There were scorpions at Les Fadons but we never saw them, they were ocassionally found in the main house downstairs.  So now we have seen one for ourselves.  Tick that off the list, no need for any more!

We opened a window one day and as well as the usual shield bugs and ladybug type insects seeking refuge from the winter there was another resident. There were scorpions at Les Fadons but we never saw them, they were ocassionally found in the main house downstairs. So now we have seen one for ourselves. Tick that off the list, no need for any more!

This was taken looking roughly NE as the sun set on Sunday evening - actually at 16h45 so the middle of the afternoon in real terms!

This was taken looking roughly NE as the sun set on Sunday evening – actually at 16h45 so the middle of the afternoon in real terms!

This is Chiara posing in front of the sunset on Sunday.

This is Chiara posing in front of the sunset on Sunday.

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