The log pile is high and dry, morning frosts stiffen the grassland, and boxes of christmas panettoni block the supermarket aisles - once again it's the winter issue of the Marche Voyager newsletter.
Marche fishing ports bring in an abundant catch of pesce azzurro, various species of oily fish including anchovies, sardines and mackerel. Though excellent to eat and highly nutritious, they are often some of the cheaper fish on the fishmonger's slab.
Cheapest of all are the flashing silver anchovies that often appear on Marche menus simply marinated in vinegar as acciughe or alici marinate. Enjoy (them)!
A record total of twenty Marche wines managed to win Gambero Rosso's prestigious Tre Bicchieri award for Italy's finest wines for 2017, fourteen of which are outstanding examples of white verdicchio.
Gambero Rosso's Tre Bicchieri 2017 awards for the Marche (in Italian).
Fair squares #23
This winter's image of a Marche piazza is the Piazzale della Libertà on the seafront at Pesaro - not really a proper piazza but worth a detour for Arnaldo Pomodoro's splendid bronze Sfera grande sculpture. Incidentally, this year marks the celebrated artist's 90th birthday.
Venus stays a little longer
One of the most celebrated Renaissance female nudes, Titian's Venus of Urbino (1538), is to stay on show in Urbino's Palazzo Ducale until 8 January 2017 - it was originally set to return to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, where it usually hangs, on 18 December 2016.
The weeks leading up to Lent see carnival celebrations in many Marche towns. Two of the most lively take place in Fano and Offida.
Carnival festivities at Fano are claimed to date from 1347 and are among the most popular in Italy. They include a cavalcade of impressive floats on the three Sundays before Lent - 12, 19 and 26 February 2017.
In Offida on Shrove Tuesday (28 February 2017) bundles of canes stuffed with straw - known as i vlurd - are lit and taken in a flaming procession round the streets before being added to a giant bonfire in the main piazza.
Modern preoccupations with security mean you rarely see great works of art in the settings for which they were originally intended. But in the Marche there are still many small churches where you can find beautiful paintings in their original surroundings.
Perhaps one of the most striking of these hidden gems is the dramatic Crucifixion by Lorenzo Lotto (1480-1556) that hangs over the main altar in the modest church of Santa Maria in Telusiano in the small town of Monte San Giusto in Macerata province (detail of painting below).
The famed art historian Bernard Berenson - the man who revived Lotto's reputation in the early 20th century - reckoned it to be the finest Renaissance crucifixion scene, and the artist's greatest work.
If you're thinking of moving to Italy with the idea of starting a B&B or farmstay business, you might be interested in a five-day workshop in early April organized by that inventive couple Ashley & Jason Bartner at La Tavola Marche inn and cooking school near Piobbico.
Visit their website for more details.
To those who left
Villa Colloredo Mels at Recanati, as well as housing a handful of Lorenzo Lotto's greatest paintings, is also home to the Museo dell'emigrazione marchigiana, a museum dedicated to the many marchigiani who left the Marche in the poverty-struck years of the early 20th century.
The museum was opened in 2013, and features photos, letters, diaries, and other personal items documenting the struggles of some of the 700,000 people from the region who left Italy in search of a better life.
Earthquake update II
Since our last regular newsletter the Marche has again been hit by a severe earthquake. On Sunday 30 October, 2016 a Mw.6.5 earthquake hit central Italy, with its epicenter some six kilometres from Norcia and 10 kms from Visso.
The quake - the most powerful in Italy since 1980 - comes in the wake of the tragic seismic events on 24 August at Amatrice, and on 26 October in the same area as this one, all involving the same system of geological faults.
Significant damage has resulted in a number of towns and villages in the southern Marche - particularly in the area of the Sibillini national park - and in neighbouring Umbria and Lazio. Towns featured in Marche Voyager that have been gravely affected include Visso, Acquasanta Terme and Ussita, while Camerino, Amandola, and Sarnano are the most notable that have witnessed damage but remain visitable.
While rebuilding will take some years, bear in mind that tourism is one of the area's main sources of income. If you wish to show solidarity with the people affected, one thing you can do is not to cancel next year's planned visit to the Marche - the marchigiani need you now more than ever.
There is a museum entirely dedicated to natural dyes at the abbey of San Michele in Lamoli, Borgo Pace in the northern Marche.
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