Thursday, November 14, 2013

Marching around Le Marche

We’ve just spent a wonderful 10 days with Pam and Michael in their divine house in Le Marche. Lawrence has known them since his days in Hong Kong, so it was a very relaxed ‘timeout’ from the road.

On our way there south from Bologna we stopped at Ravenna on advice from Pam. We were blown away by the mosaics in the Basilica of San Vitale. These are not just any old mosaics. Created in 525 under Emperor Theodoric, these 1500 year old mosaics are so fresh and colourful, they look as though they were laid yesterday, telling timeless stories. They really do have to be seen, to be believed. There is nothing else like them – anywhere.

We had some lazy days enjoying being in a large house and I spent time with Pam weeding the extensive garden – simply enjoying the sun. It’s funny how mundane things like weeding become enjoyable when you are itinerant. Pam and Michael bought the place as a virtual ruin 10 years ago and have restored it to beyond its former glory. Max the Wonder Dog came later.
The House...

Pam and Michael and Max the Wonder Dog
The beach at Fano
 We also did some local touring, exploring lively markets, lovely local towns and of course Cantini. A highlight was Urbino with its Palazzo Ducale and wonderful mediaeval atmosphere. The marquetry has to be seen to be believed.

Pam, fortunately for us, is a wonderful cook and we had many lovely meals with local wine, enjoying the warmth of open fires.

Pam and Michael organised a caving trip before we had arrived and I wasn’t quite sure what I had let myself in for. The Frasassi Caves are the largest in Europe and can be seen on a rather tame tourist walk. This was not for us – apparently! We donned overalls, wellies, helmets with head torches and gloves, and went “off piste”.

Cavemen - after 2 hours crawling and sliding
Now, I’m not the bravest person in the world, but can put on a front when required. This was a challenge. We crawled through tunnels, slid on our backsides, swung across pristine ponds (so as not to disturb the water – would have been easier to walk through it) and sat in complete darkness, the likes of which I have never known, not even in the Australian desert. The Guides were fabulous and just ignored my cries of “you want me to put what where?” “Left foot here, hand there, swing across”, mostly in Italian, but I got the message. It was a real adventure and the caves are of course simply stunning. Rooms are the size of cathedrals – big ones. This was of course followed by a wonderful lunch with friends that also live in the area.
Inside of a cave with the lights out!!

November 13 was Lawrence’s 65th birthday. Yes, I’m officially married to an old age pensioner (without the pension). Yikes, this is not what I signed up for! To celebrate we went to lunch – now there’s a surprise. We went to the regional truffle capital, Acqualagna, and had our first real truffle experience. It was a simply delicious lunch with wonderful wine, but to be honest, I think porcini has more flavour. OK, call me a Philistine!

So now we are in Assisi, my favourite town in Umbria. It’s even more beautiful than I remember from my first visit in 2006. We stopped in Gubbio on the way, another stunning hillside Mediaeval town, larger than we expected. We’ll finish exploring Assisi  tomorrow and then check out more of what Umbria has to offer.
Glimpse of Gubbio

1 comment:

  1. Happy Birthday Lawrence!
    Kate you are normally off pissed, not off piste.


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