Hoar frost sharpens the outline of the hills on clear mid-winter mornings and the sown seed lies dormant in the harrowed fields. The colours of autumn have gone and all is mute waiting for the snow to fall. Welcome to the wintery issue of the Marche Voyager newsletter.
A better class of sausage...
Winter is the season for the glories of the pig, and one of the chief masterpieces in Le Marche is the cotechino, a larger sausage made with both pork and minced rind, gently boiled and eaten hot.
Although originally from Modena in the Po Valley, it has been taken to heart by the marchigiani whose version features the addition of spices such as clove, nutmeg and cinnamon. Served with the region's celebrated lentils, it's a fixed feature in the gargantuan dinner on New Year's Eve. It's also good with simple puréed potato or, for a grander dinner, roast in crosta, in a pastry crust, and served with a pear compote.
The region has some 500 piazze, or main squares, that are the focus for everyday town life; few are quite as glorious as Ascoli Piceno's magnificent Piazza del Popolo, but many are remarkable urban spaces worth lingering over.
We'll now be featuring a picture of one of the more interesting piazze in the region in each newsletter. This month's image shows the unusual, oval-shaped square in San Severino Marche in Macerata province, a handsome small town with an interesting pinacoteca, or art gallery.
Marche Voyager page on San Severino Marche
The celebrated Giro d'Italia, one of the world's most famous cycle road races, once again includes stages in Le Marche in 2011. On Wednesday 18 May riders will cover nearly 160 kilometres heading north from the Abruzzo coast to finish at Castelfidardo after a winding ride through inland southern Marche. The following day they head up along the coast to finish after 170 kilometres at Ravenna. The 2011 race runs from 7 to 29 May and covers 3,496 kilometres.
The Giro d'Italia website in English
The art of invention
The Pasquella is an ancient folk singing tradition that still lingers on in a few towns in Le Marche. On the evening of the 5 January, the eve of the Epiphany, small groups of singers and musicians would make their way from house to house singing a form of song called a pasquella. It combines a fixed form with endless improvised verses usually referring to local events and personalities, not always in a flattering way. As they made their way round the village the singers would collect food and plenty of wine. The name itself refers to Easter, or Pasqua, as the original song bid the people to prepare for Easter now that the Messiah had arrived.
For more than 25 years the town of Montecarotto in Ancona province has kept alive the tradition on 6 January, a national holiday in Italy, with a festival dedicated to the Pasquella. Throughout the morning groups of singers go from house to house before performing in the main square around midday. Festivities continue later in the afternoon with roast chestnuts and vin brulè, or mulled wine for everyone.
Tourism figures 2010
Le Marche has been one of the few Italian regions to see an increase in tourism figures this year. This summer (June to August) saw 1.267.771 tourists arriving in the region, 4.4 per cent up on the same period last year. The number of foreign visitors rose by over 5 per cent.
The total resident population of Le Marche on 1 Jan 2010 was 1,559,542 (source: ISTAT).
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