The air is heavy with the smell of fermenting must in small towns dedicated to winemaking, buzzing api - the three-wheeled, 2-stroke vehicles that beetle along the backroads of Italy - are piled impossibly high with bright orange, plastic crates brimming with grapes, and maritozzi, inviting buns made with sweet grape juice, appear in the baker's. Autumn has come again to the Marche.
Truffles with everything...
As regular readers of the newsletter know, 1 October marks the much-awaited, official opening of the white truffle season. The highlight of the tartufo bianco calendar is the Fiera nazionale del tartufo in Acqualagna, which this year celebrates its 50th birthday. It begins a week earlier than usual, on 25 October, then continues on 31 October, 1,7,8,14 and 15 November.
Autumn is also the season for wild mushrooms in the Marche, and funghi fanciers should head for the Festa del Fungho on the weekends of 26/27 September and 3/4 October at San Sisto outside Piandimeleto in Pesaro & Urbino province.
Acqualagna truffle fair website (in Italian)
Festa del Fungho at San Sisto website (in Italian)
Fair squares #19
This autumn's image of one of the region's piazze features the Marche's most spectacular town square - the travertine-paved Piazza del Popolo in Ascoli Piceno, regarded by many as one of Italy's finest urban spaces.
A spirited production of Mozart's joyous Le Nozze di Figaro and Verdi's stirring Nabucco are the opening productions in the annual opera season at Jesi's Pergolesi Theatre that opens on 2 October.
Jesi opera season programme
Lyrical notes #2
The provisional programme for the 2016 Rossini Opera Festival that celebrates the master of bel canto in Pesaro in August, includes productions of his La Donna del Lago and Il Turco in Italia.
Rossini Opera festival website
An artist recovered
Luca di Paolo, now reckoned one of the leading Renaissance artists in the Marche, has a major exhibition dedicated to his work this autumn in Matelica in Macerata province. Until recently his paintings have been relegated to the shadows due to a lack of proper attribution; now, as the show testifies, he can be seen as one of the region's more exciting painters from the Quattrocento.
The exhibition, entitled Luca di Paolo e il Rinascimento nelle Marche, is hung in the elegant rooms of the 15th century Palazzo Piersanti and is open daily until 1 November 2015.
Home from Rome
The remains of a palatial Roman domus, or villa, in the heart of Pesaro were recently opened to the public by Italian premier Matteo Renzi.
Built at the end of the 1st century BC, the villa on Via dell'Abbondanza (a lane in front of the town's cathedral) was only unearthed in 2004, and boasts remarkable black and white geometric mosaic floors in all its rooms.
Cultivate your garden
If you live in the Marche and have grand plans for your garden, you might like to know that the pretty town of Castelleone di Suasa in Ancona province has more plant nurseries than anywhere else in the region - there are some 10 vivai in the area, well-stocked for the serious gardener.
American TV soap opera writer and romance novelist Leah Laiman’s latest book, Lingua Terra, is set in the Marche.
Described on Amazon as “a new kind of hybrid: compelling romance, vivid guidebook and delectable cookbook all in one”, the novel tells of an American woman who loses her job in New York and moves to the Marche for a year. Mixed in with the romance are regional recipes from the Michelin-starred, Marche chef Lucio Pompili who runs Symposium at Cartoceto (PU).
Lingua Terra on Amazon.com
Furlo gorge update
The spectacular Furlo Gorge in the northern Marche was closed to motor vehicles last year when a section of the road collapsed. Now, sadly, a large part of the gorge has also been closed to pedestrians following a rock fall at the eastern end. However, it is still possible to visit the Roman tunnel and to walk a good part of the gorge from the eastern end (coming from Fano, exit at Calmazzo before the modern, long tunnel).
Arriving from the western end, the beautiful 11th century romanesque church of San Vincenzo and the village of Furlo is still visitable, and the strada panoramica will take you up for breathtaking views of the gorge.
Works to repair the road have now started and, keeping fingers crossed, the gorge should be open again in time for next year's season.
Ireneo Aleandri, the architect responsible for the majestic Sferisterio arena, home of the Macerata open-air opera festival, modelled his design on the celebrated Royal Crescent at Bath, England.
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