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Report 1933: Le Marche & Umbria: Three Women, Truffle Dogs and an Uncooperative GPS

By Pokey from MA, Spring 2011

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Page 4 of 14: Corinaldo, Cartoceto, Cantucci and Smelly-Man

photo by Mindy Smith

Colleen and Polenta well in Corinaldo

The breakfast room at our hotel is spacious and there is a lot of great food to choose from! Excellent coffee which is most important. Today we are driving to Corinaldo; the town of the “crazy people” according to our guide Filippo who grew up there! Corinaldo has some of the best-preserved 14th century defensive walls in the Marche.

Our guide, Filippo is adorable and very entertaining. He walks us around Corinaldo, telling us about the “polenta well” and the polenta festival held in July to commemorate the time when the town's people successfully resisted a siege thanks to gobs of the stuff which oozed up through the well and down the 100 plus steps of the town! Fact or fiction? You decide!

He also takes us to see the “famous” canon made of the branches of a fig tree ... crazy people indeed to think they could fend off the invading marauders with a canon made out of a fig tree! Filippo then brings us to a “house” which is really only the front facade of a house with a gorgeous view of the valley. Story goes, a young man from Corinaldo went to America and sent his father money to build a house in Corinaldo. Unbeknown to the son, the father spent the money on alcohol! The son got suspicious and asked for a photo of the “house” so the father built only the facade, thinking he’d fool his son. The money stopped coming from America shortly there after. The “house” is along a main street and even has a legitimate house number address tile! More crazy people!

We say our “ciaos” to Filippo; we will meet up with him again later in the week.

From here we head for Cartoceto (getting lost along the way and giving Marcello a hard time). We finally arrive at Cantina Bianchini and meet owner Dominic. He has a tasting table all set for us to sample his award winning olive oil! Rafaella translates and translates and translates. Oh my can the man talk! We are all hungry and wine-thirsty. Basta!

We are laughing at Michele because she sits “downwind” from Dominic.

We have delicious cheeses and salume ... along with plenty of wine. The dessert he serves is gone in a flash because it is so delicious!

After, everyone buys their wine and olive oil (and take a visit to one of the snazziest outhouses I've seen) we climb back into the bumpy-van and start to sing “Smelly-man” to the tune of “Smelly-cat” (think Phoebe from Friends).

From there we stop for a brief visit to the small town of Mondavio which is located about 45km from Ancona. The main attraction is the medieval castle which is the work of the Tuscan architect Francesco Giorgio di Martini. (I'll drink to that). It is one of the very few castles anywhere to have remained entirely intact. The five story main tower in the shape of an octagon dominates the castle. We have fun walking among the various medieval catapults and not a one of them seems to be made from fig trees!

Since we got lost going to Cartocento we have about 15 minutes to freshen up in our hotel rooms before we head out again ... this time to cook with a lovely and fun family in San Lorenzo in Campo.

Simonetta, her daughter Michela and son Marco invite us into their home and kitchen. We don our aprons and begin to cook! We help with Crostata Marmellata, Cantucci (small biscotti), Farro Salad, Strozzopreti con Radicchio, Chard con Cannellini, Roasted Potatoes, chicken breast stuffed with carrots and zucchini, smothered with caramelized sliced onions (to. die. for). We make bruschetta with the remaining caramelized onions topped with grated parmigiano and paprika. Simonetta is a single mom and the love and bond between her and her two kids make my heart happy. Michela works as a chef in the cafeteria of a large business and Marco (16 years old) goes to cooking school! Their enormous cat has recently been shaved because of matted fur ... she looks humiliated. I get my cat-fix.

Another wonderful day with Marcello and Raffaella.

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