Welcome to the winter issue of the quarterly Marche Voyager newsletter with cheese in a pit, serious cycling, and some big-time culture this summer.
Food glorious food
After the cenone of San Silvestro - the blow-out feast that marks New Year's Eve - what better than a word on a couple of the culinary delights of the region that help make winter easier.
First is the northern Marche's unique cheese, formaggio di fossa. This is a pecorino, or ewe's milk cheese, sealed up in a pit, or fossa, in the ground for a number of months to give it a wonderfully strong bite. It's only made in a handful of towns in Pesaro and Urbino Province where it's unearthed in mid-winter with much ceremony. Try it as a cheese course with a dab of honey or use it in shards with good olive oil - from Le marche, naturally - for a simple pasta dressing.
Second is the southern Marche speciality from Ascoli Piceno, the irresistable olive all'ascolana, or deep-fried, stuffed olives. These are made from a particularly fleshy green olive grown locally that is carefully stoned, cut into a spiral, stuffed with meat and breaded before being deep fried. Try them with crema fritta, delicious breaded and deep-fried cubes of a sweet egg custard...naughty, yes, but very nice.
On your bike
The celebrated Giro d'Italia, one of the world's most famous cycle road races, this year includes two stages that pass through Le Marche. On 13 May - after leaving Cesena in neighbouring Romagna - the race heads through the Montefeltro area in the north of the region and includes a gruelling 1,460-metre climb over Monte Catria before finishing at Saltara.
On the following day the race heads south from the lively seaside town of Civitanova Marche in Macerata Province on its way to the mountains in the Abruzzo region.
The official Giro d'Italia website (in Italian)
This year's summer opera festivals in Le Marche look set to draw in the crowds. The Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro includes Dario Fo's production of L'Italiana in Algeri in the giant BPA Palas sports stadium while Macerata's Open-Air Opera Festival in the masssive Sferisterio stadium includes a new production of Mozart's Magic Flute to mark the 250th anniversary of the composer's birth.
Full details in the Marche Voyager opera page
Gentile comes back to Fabriano
A major exhibition of the works of the great 15th century painter Gentile da Fabriano, the leading exponent of the International Gothic School, takes place from 21 April to 23 July 2006 in his native town of Fabriano. Gentile da Fabriano e l'altro Rinascimento. La pittura del Quattrocento a Fabriano (Gentile da Fabriano and the Other Renaissance. 15th Century Painting at Fabriano) features a number of his principal works alongside works by other artists from Fabriano and looks set to be one of the region's cultural highlights this year.
The exhibition website (in Italian)
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