Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Acqualagna - Home of Truffles

Along with Alba, Acqualagna is home to 4000 inhabitants and the prized white truffle. This smelly fungus can retail for 4000 euros/kilogram, so purchase wisely. (The black truffle is considerably less expensive.) When you're in Acqualagna, remember to visit these places. (Info. from Corriere.it, 2003)

Main Drags: Via Flaminia, Via Pianacce, Via Furlo
Main Sights: Truffles (mushrooms) and dogs, Abbey of S. Vincenzo,
Candigliano Fortress, Gola del Furlo (Glen of Furlo), ancient remains near Via Flaminia
Tour Acqualagna, Italy

For Good Food, Consider Eating at These Restaurants (enjoy truffles with cuisine):
La Ginestra - Located in Furlo, tel. 0721/797.033, www.ginestrafurlo.it, Closed Mondays, hotel/restaurant.
Il Tartufo -
Via Risorgimento 3, tel. 0721/797.195, Closed Mondays
Il Vicolo
- Corso Roma 39, tel. 0721/797.145, Closed Tuesday evenings
L’Osteria del Parco -
Via Mochi 11-13, tel. 0721/797353, Closed Tuesdays.
Gipsy - Via Case Nuove 10, tel. 0721/700.035, Closed Tuesdays.

Birra al Pozzo - Via Pianacce 12, Acqualagna, Closed Wednesdays.
Furlo - Via Flaminia 66, Furlo,
Tel. 0721/700.096, www.anticofurlo.it, Closed Monday evenings and Tuesdays.

Typical Products of Le Marche - Where to Go Shopping
Urbani Tartufi - Via Risorgimento 1, Acqualagna, tel. 0721/797.195. Name says it all, truffles and the like. Closed Mondays.
Maria Gabriella Truffa -
Via De Gasperi 55, Acqualagna, tel. 0721/798.634), Truffles, pasta, polenta, oils.
La Bottega di Pietro Sorcinelli - Via Marconi 18, Acqualagna, tel. 0721/798.218. Preparation of three types of proscuitto, cinghiale (wild boar), and blend of cinghiale and pork. Assorted fresh pasta, local specialties.
Ghiottone - Corso Roma 89, Acqualagna, tel. 0721/797.095.
Latte e Formaggi - Corso Roma 60, Acqualagna. Rich assortment of local cheeses.

Oleificio Teresa Contardi' , Purveyor of Fine Olive Oils -
Via San Biagio 93, 61045, Pergola, Pesaro-Urbino, tel. 0721/778.295.

Wine - Agriturismi (Where two addresses are listed, I believe the first address is the vineyard/grounds, second is the cellar. Contact owner to verify. "Frazione" is the territorial subdivision, or a smaller town, hamlet.)
Villa Ligi di Stefano e Francesco Tonelli
Frazione Montevecchio, via Montevecchio 119.
Via Zoccolanti 25, Pergola, Italy, Tel. 0721/734351, e-mail: villaligi@libero.it. Produces Vernaculum, red light-med wine; 2 types are Vernaculum Grifoleto and Vernaculum La Rossa. Hints of strawberry and plum. Soft on the palate, although wine in the evoluntionary stages. Couples well with warm crostini and truffles, salami, proscuitto, tripe alla Marchegian, and even young fossa cheese.

Gli Ippocastani
Via Montesecco 123, Madonna del Piano, 61045 PERGOLA (Pesaro-Urbino), Tel. 0721/775252 - 0731/982182 Cellulare: 3358217475 e-mail: ippocastani@puntomedia.it, www.agriturismoippocastani.it

Villa Frattabella

Hotels (Alberghi) in Acqualagna (or nearby)
ALBERGO RISTORANTE BIRRA AL POZZO - Via Pianacce, 12 Acqualagna, Tel. 0721/700084.
ALBERGO RISTORANTE LEON D'ORO - Via Flaminia, 213 Acqualagna TEL: 0721/798164.
ALBERGO RISTORANTE LA GINESTRA - Passo del Furlo, Acqualagna TEL: 0721/797033.
ALBERGO RISTORANTE LA CAPANNA - Via Canfiagio Acqualagna TEL: 0721/708127.
ALBERGO RISTORANTE SHINE - Via Aldo Gamba, 56, Acqualagna TEL: 0721/797487.
AFFITTACAMERE - Via Candigliano, 3 Acqualagna TEL: 0721/798720.
BED & BREAKFAST - Via Pianacce, Acqualagna TEL: 0721/700016.
BED & BREAKFAST - Viale Risorgimento, Acqualagna TEL: 0721/798674
BED & BREAKFAST - Strada Frontino, Acqualagna TEL: 0721/708196

Read this info on "affitacamere" first.

Buona fortuna!

Other Helpful Sites:
Montefeltro Tour - Famous Duke of Pesaro-Urbino region, has good info on Acqualagna and other towns
Map Acqualagna - Street or region map
Acqualagna Comune - with additional links
Acqualagna Truffle Festival - Held in Autumn, Late October-Early November
Gola del Furlo - Hidden gem near Acqualagna
Acqualagna Parks and Sights - Info from Italian Nature & Parks

Monday, April 17, 2006

Cuisine of Le Marche

You may be more familiar with the foods and wines of other regions of Italy. Marchegian cuisine is varied, as its provinces, which hug the Adriatic and Apennines. While I lived in Urbania, I tried to sample much of the regional cuisine. One of my favorites (I recalled eating over and over again!) was Olive all'ascolana (stuffed olives from Alla Ascoli Piceno). (You may come across different names, olive alla marchigiana, but as long as it's stuffed and deep fried, you're on the right track!) It's not a main dish, but an antipasto of deep-fried stuffed green olives. The dish requires a lot of manual labor, one I'm not particularly fond of, but I'll pass along the recipe.

Another dish that is particular to Le Marche is Vincisgrassi, which I was unable to sample. It's similar to lasagne with meat sauce.

Le Marche Recipes
Olive all'ascolana - Version 1
Olive all'ascolana - Version 2 (Italian)
Olive all'ascolana - Version 3

This last version (#4), is from a cookbook I have. I haven't tried it, but I'll post it because I LOVE eating stuffed olives!

Olive all'ascolana (stuffed olives alla Ascoli Piceno) Recipe
Serves 6
1 cup stock
1/4 lb. (100 g.) bacon, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 lb. ground pork
about 6 oz. (150 g.) beef
1 tablespoons tomato paste
3-4 (50 g.) chicken livers
1 egg
3/4 cup (50 g.) parmesan cheese, freshly grated
grated nutmeg
salt and pepper
approximately 50 large, green olives in brine
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 eggs (to coat)
oil for deep-frying

Directions: Soak 3 tablespoons of breadcrumbs in stock. Fry the bacon in olive oil, add the pork and beef, and fry these as well. Dilute the tomato paste with lukewarm water and add to the meat. When the meat is tender, add the chicken livers and fry for a further 5 minutes. Then grind all these ingredients in a food processor. Add the egg, parmesan, and soaked breadcrumbs to the meat and mix well. Season to taste with cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Pit the olives and stuff with the mixture. Coat in flour, beaten egg, and breadcrumbs, and deep-fry in plenty of hot olive oil until crisp. Drain on kitchen towels and serve hot.

More links to recipes from Le Marche
Delicious Italy
Food and Wine Mag

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Le Marche Tourism Links

Get to know the region by discovering the helpful Le Marche tourism links below:

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

My Trip Report - Urbania 2003


Have you ever considered a study vacation? Improving your lexicon beyond “pizza,” “grazie,” and “ciao”? What better way to become part of Italian society and learn the language while on an extended vacation! The government of Italy offers U.S. citizens scholarships to study Italian in wonderful and delicious Italy.

I fell in love with Italy after my first visit there in summer 2000. After that trip, I became a bona fide Italophile: taking Italian language classes at the local community college, cooking Italian, watching Italian films, etc. Fortunately for me, the regional Italian Cultural Institute was literally right around the corner from where I was living at the time – and through them I found out about the Italian Foreign Ministry’s Scholarships. I was awarded a scholarship to study Italian in a small town of Urbania at Centro Studi Italiani.

I decided not to study in Italy right after I had received word of the scholarship. Instead, I was busy with school and work. Lucky for me the Italian government was flexible, as it allowed me to defer the scholarship for a year. The following year I decided to take time out my schedule and take off to a town I had never heard of, let alone this region I had never explored.

Already, I started to ask myself all these rhetorical questions: What was I getting myself into? Why did I choose not to study in Rome, Florence or even Siena? What possessed me to select a small town in a region I had never heard of? Would I, a person who needs constant background noise and stimulation, go crazy and lose my mind in a quaint town after a few days? Well, it was too late to back out now, as the next day I would board my plane for Milan.

Other than that all my flight connections were delayed and rerouted, and I arrived a day late, I think everything went fine! No plane crashes, no plane malfunctions, no mean airline staff, etc. I don’t want to dwell on the past, I mean they could have bumped me up to first or business class, but hey! Anyway, I did enjoy London Heathrow Airport while I was there, and was there for quite some time.

(If it hadn’t been for the fact that I was “living” in Italy for a month, I think I still brought too much luggage. Most of my friends who know me think I travel light. However, I think I brought too much, and traveling on the train solo definitely hammered that fact in. Next time, instead of bringing a carry-on suitcase, I am opting for an oversized backpack, even though it’s not as fashionable, it’s easier to walk up and down the stairs of the train station – and a lot of those train stations don’t have escalators, or if they do sometimes they have power outages!)

Anyway, after being rerouted a couple of times, I finally arrived in Milan. I then recall taking the shuttle bus to the train station and then a train to Pesaro; however, I had missed the last bus to either Urbania or Urbino by several hours. So I was stuck in Pesaro for the night and had a taxi driver recommend me a hotel. (Even though it was rather late when I arrived in Pesaro, 11 p.m., there were plenty of taxis.)

To this day, I still recall the communication between the driver and me, as my Italian was pretty limited back then. I had asked him to drop me off at a mid-priced hotel, not too expensive, but I don’t think he had understood; perhaps he had confused me as some rich single tourist and drove me to the most expensive hotel in Pesaro. I could tell, even though it was dark outside that this particular hotel was out of my budget, so I asked him in my Italian, “Quanto costa?” and he responded “300 Euro.” I had an immediate knee-jerk response that could be understood in any language, “Nnnnnnoooo! E’ troppo caro! Mi dispiace.” (It’s too expensive! I’m sorry.) Fortunately, he understood and knew of another hotel, Hotel Gala (a perfectly nice and clean hotel that cost me 40 Euros, easily would cost 2 to 4 times that in Milan; I’m sure the prices have increased since I have stayed there, also the prices increase during the summer peak season), which is where I spent the night.

Usually I dislike staying in hotel rooms, but after being cooped up in airplanes, trains, buses, and taxis, this warm and toasty hotel room was paradise. Each section of my room in Hotel Gala was heated; it was such utter perfection, especially during the cold month of March near the Adriatic coast. (...to be continued)

DETAILS (NOTE: Italy's Country Code is 39)
Centro Studi Italiani
Via Boscarini, 1 - 61049 Urbania
(Pesaro e Urbino) Italia
tel. 0722.318950
fax 0722.317286

e-mail: urbania@centrostuditaliani.org

Hotel Gala

Viale Trieste, 49
61100 - PESARO (PS)
tel. 0721.35114
fax 0721.68384

My review of Hotel Gala

(Update: Contact your local IIC for the scholarship application.)

Monday, February 20, 2006

Introducing Le Marche (The Marches)

I am hesistant to promote this area, as other tour guides are already starting to. Because with tourism, comes a bit of loss of the magic of this area. In fact, most of the tourists to this area are Italians. My focus will primarily be on the province Pesaro-Urbino, as I studied here. I will later expand on the other jewels of this region. For a good primer on this region, visit Le Marche Voyager site.

For a brief overview of the Le Marche (pronounced "lay mar-KAY") region:
Geography: The region lies on the eastern side of central Italy, between the Adriatic Sea and the Apennine mountains. It borders Emilia-Romagna to the north and Abruzzo to the south. And it borders Umbria and Tuscany to the west. The highest point in Le Marche is Monte Vettore in the Sibillini mountains at 2,476 metres. The coast has long sandy beaches popular in the summer; apart from the limestone Conero peninsula, it is virtually all flat.

Cuisine and Wine: Did you know that this region is home to truffles? (Not chocolates, but the very expensive mushrooms.) This region produces many fine wines. My particular favorite is the red, Rosso Conero or Rosso Piceno. Also worth tasting is the regional white, Verdicchio. To take a Rosso Conero-inspired tour, click here!

Transportation to Le Marche: You can fly into Ancona or another airport and take a train, bus or drive to your final destination. For more info. on travel to Le Marche, read this.

Transportation within Le Marche: Unless you have rented a car (your best option), you will probably have to take the bus. (Bus schedules vary daily, especially weekend and holiday service. Check with the ticket office, which may be the local caffe' or newsstand agent who sells the tickets.) Train service is usually limited in these small untrampled towns. For more info. on travel within Le Marche, read this.

Major Towns
The main towns of Le Marche are Urbino, Pesaro (that comprise the Pesaro-Urbino province), Macerata, Ancona, and Ascoli Piceno. Each region and provincial town has its own flavor, while maintaining marchegiani integrity. Urbino, a small hilly town, reminded me of Assisi and its namesake San Francisco. But at the same time, it has a vibrant university community which infuses young life that distinguishes it from the other towns.

Even Urbino and Urbania are quite different from each other, and they are only 17 km apart. The former is an Italian town of probably 20,000 or more inhabitants, with many businesses (hotels, restaurants) and a university. The latter is a small hamlet of only 6000-7000 people (granted there are less populated towns in Italy), and lacks a university. When I was there, there were only 7-9 restaurants, 3 hotels, a few agriturismi, a couple of caffe's (Italian bars), an underground pub, and several supermarkets, greengrocers, butchers, fishmongers, dry cleaners, a library/Internet cafe, a movie theater (that shows movies only once a week) etc. You get my drift, I think I patronized most of the businesses during my month-long stay.

But there was something about living in Urbania. Ok, after the first 2 weeks and settling into the groove. However, when people started recognizing you (of course they would, I'm not Italian!), and say "buonasera! -- it starts to feel like home. And cities, like Urbino begin to feel large. Imagine that!