Welcome to the winter issue of the quarterly Marche Voyager newsletter with a celebration of the region's swinish delights, a winter sports round-up, a saintly centenary and more.
Everything but the squeal
In the bright frosty air of January the upland valleys of Le Marche resound to the squeals of pigs as they face the butcher's knife in small farms across the region. The pig remains a central part of the traditional diet of the marchigiani and, as they say, everything gets used but the squeal.
Most of the carcass ends up being salted to produce prosciutto, pancetta, lonza, salami and sausages and the parts of the pig that need to be eaten fresh keep many a family going for a good few weeks.
The head is used to produce coppa di testa, a type of brawn, and even the blood is kept to produce a daunting dessert called sanguinaccio, a cross between chocolate mousse and black pudding.
The best belly fat is minced and salted to produce lardo, an essential ingredient in the rich meat sauces used to dress pasta while other fat is rendered down to produce strutto, or lard.
One of the first things to be eaten is the liver often used to produce delicious fegatelli; if you want to try making them at home here's the recipe.
Find a friendly "real" butcher who can provide you with some caul fat, the lacy fatty membrane that lines the pig's abdominal cavity. Then simply cut up and season some pig's liver in bite-sized pieces and wrap them in a piece of the caul fat with a bay leaf for each "parcel". These little parcels can then be grilled (ideally over charcoal) or pan-fried and doused with a little wine and served hot.
Burning off the calories
If you've overdosed on pig what better than burning off the calories on the region's ski slopes. Yes, while it may not be Switzerland, Le Marche boasts a clutch of small but well-equipped ski resorts up in the Sibillini mountains in the south.
These include Bolognola, Sassotetto, Ussita and Castel Sant'Angelo sul Nera.
Celebrating a saint
This year sees the 7th centenary of the death of one of the region's most celebrated saints, St Nicholas of Tolentino - an extra reason to visit his handsome Basilica to marvel at the grandiose Giottoesque frescoes in the Gothic Cappellone di San Nicola - vivid masterpieces of the 14th century.
A Marche saint through and through, San Nicola da Tolentino was born at Sant'Angelo in Pontano near Fermo in 1245. He became a friar in the Order of St Augustine and in 1275 entered the monastery at Tolentino where he died on 10 September 1305. Although a noted preacher and pastoral worker, his fame rests on the numerous miracles attributed to his intercession.
Tolentino in Marche Voyager
Gentile comes home
Plans have recently been announced for a major exhibition in 2006 of the works of the great 15th century painter Gentile da Fabriano, the leading exponent of the International Gothic School. The show in his native town of Fabriano is scheduled to take place from June to September 2006 and aims to exhibit his principal works alongside works by other artists from Fabriano
Marche wines on the web
The Regional authority has now added a highly informative site to its web portfolio about the wines of Le Marche. At the moment it's only in Italian but wine buffs with a smattering of the language should be able to glean some useful pointers, for example, to the region's award-winning producers and the whereabouts of the leading cantine, or wineries.
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