Welcome to the autumn edition of the Marche Voyager newsletter as a much-truncated tourist season draws to a close.
Although it's been possible to holiday in the Marche, foreign visitors have been thin on the ground. Beaches, restaurants, museums, shops and hotels are open again, but with strict social distancing and all the other measures we're slowly getting used to. Fingers crossed for a not-too-rocky winter...
Mention Italian olive oil and most people think of the celebrated produce from Tuscany or Liguria but many are discovering that the Marche now produces some of the finest olive oil in the country.
The 2020 edition of the prestigious Slow Food Guide to Extra Virgin Olive Oils gave only 28 Italian oils the coveted Chiocciola, or snail's shell, award and three of them were marchigiani.
The show must go on...
The Rossini opera festival in Pesaro and the Macerata open-air opera season both managed to go ahead in a greatly reduced form this summer.
Opera in the piazza at Pesaro
The opening concert in Pesaro in August, Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle was dedicated to the victims of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile the Macerata open-air opera festival staged Mozart’s Don Giovanni and two concert performances of Verdi’s Il Trovatore.
Fair squares #34
Piazza Garibaldi in Mercatello sul Metauro stands high in the Appenines in the northern Marche like an exercise in Renaissance perspective painting.
House of myths
An excellent reason to visit the white truffle festival at Sant'Angelo in Vado any weekend in October - apart from the obvious delight of eating tartufi - is to visit the Domus del Mito, or House of Myths, the remains of a 1st century AD Roman villa with some 1,000 square metres of elaborate, polychrome mosaics.
Only relatively recently discovered, these remarkably well-preserved mosaics represent some of the finest ancient Roman discoveries in central Italy over the last half century, but are rarely on show to the public; the annual Mostra Nazionale del Tartufo Bianco Pregiato each weekend from Saturday 10 October provides one of the few occasions when they can be easily viewed.
A not-so-grand tour?
The celebrated French essayist Michel de Montaigne passed through the Marche, a journey he recounts in his Travel Journal in Italy of 1580/81. Of Fano he writes: "This town is famous above all those in Italy for beautiful women; we saw none but very ugly ones." This generally tetchy tone seems to have stayed with him as he visited Urbino: "...a town of little distinction [...] with nothing level about it, and everywhere you have to go up and down." While Montaigne notes of the Ducal Palace that: "...there is nothing very attractive about this whole building either inside or around it, and it has only a tiny little garden..." Perhaps his bad temper, though, was caused by the motive for his journey: to find a cure for his chronic kidney stones!
Central bank figures suggest that there were over 5 million foreign tourists who took their holidays in Italy in August 2019, spending about 4 billion euros. This year estimates suggest a drop in the same month of over 70% and almost 2 billion fewer euros spent. Let's hope for a better 2021.
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