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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 6 of 14: Fish Dinner and the Hokey Pokey

photo by Mindy Smith

Raffaella_Marcello_Portonovo

Today is cloudy and cool. After a few cups of very strong coffee and not much for breakfast (I am still full from yesterday), we meet in the lobby and are happy to see our guide Filippo who will join us again today. We drive south along the seacoast to Ancona. The train tracks follow along the seacoast as well. Filippo points out to us the harbor which includes the Arch of Trajan, atop the harbor walls.

There are a lot of buses in the Piazza, dropping worshipers in front of the beautiful San Ciriaco di Ancona. Evidently there is a special event in honor of the Beatification of Pope John Paul II.

We visit the remains of a Roman amphitheater. At one time, it held over 6,000 people, the largest in the Le Marche region.

We are all in need of coffee and I enjoy a marrochino coffee for .80 cents. We pass the Fontana del Calamo, where there are 13 faucets with faces which we find amusing. Filippo tells us that in Italy 13 is a lucky number! Seven is unlucky.

We walk to one of the local beaches, Passetto. There is a carnival and market but it is raining so there aren’t many waiting in line for the rides. At Passetto is the war memorial that commemorates the fallen of the First World War. The entire structure, including stairways, when viewed from the sea resembles a flying eagle, the symbol of Fascism.

(I must have been asking Raffaella a few phrases in Italian because in my journal on this day I’ve written “ non credo” (I don’t understand) and “grazie a voi” (thank you all).

Next on the agenda is a wonderful visit to the Moroder winery. The estate is located at Montacuto, a small outlying district of Ancona in the heart of the Conero Park. Our very handsome guide is the son of the owner. (Yes, Colleen, he would be the perfect son-in-law). We enjoy a delicious “lite lunch” with wine tastings. Everyone buys bottles of wine and agrees that this area would be a great place to stay as a “base” for exploring this part of Le Marche.

Next we drive to the charming and secluded bay of Portonovo. We walk along the beach and imagine how popular this area must be during the hot summer months. I pick up a few orange colored rocks to take as a reminder of my brief visit. We laugh when Marcello calls out to us “come on sheeps, vai vai” to get us all back into the van. Too funny. We are sheep.

Our next stop is Scapezzano where we meet the wonderful Roncarati family who own and operate a small, independent farina mill. Nino shows us the different equipment and how it separates the farina into different types of flour. He has the most gorgeous blue eyes I have ever seen. Is there a Mrs. Nino? Yes, damn it! Later we will return for a fabulous fish dinner, all prepared by Nino. We hop in the old van and drive to a bakery where we get a tour and make our own bread. The loaf I made could be used as a medieval weapon, right up there with the canon made of fig trees!

When we go back to Nino’s mill, his family is there and we set up the table for our meal. At first everyone is a bit shy, they speak very little English, so Marcello, Rafaella, and Filippo have their work cut out for them in translating. This is the first time Marcello has brought a group to Nino’s mill.

Nino has put so much love into this meal! He worked all day preparing our meal which consists of local fish from the Adriatic. As we consume more wine, we all loosen up a bit and soon are laughing and taking photos. Nino first serves a delicious fish pasta, followed by a gigantic bowl of mussels (moscioli). Oh. My. God. These are the best mussels I have ever eaten in my entire life. I ask Raffaella to please tell Nino how fabulous they taste. Also to explain to him that where I live, mussels are often seen on menus, but by far his are the best ever! I watch his face (and those blue eyes) as she tells him this. His face lights up and you can tell how appreciative he is that I’ve complimented him. He then serves up a plate of cannello (?), stuffed razor clams. He has tied each one up individually with string so when it’s untied, the shell opens up as if lowering venetian blinds. Amazing!

More wine, more fish! We are all having the best time with this wonderful family. Michele thinks it would be fun to show them how to do the Hokey Pokey! We are pretty much wasted at this point of the evening so we "shook it all about"! Gualtiero (I’m guessing he’s in his mid 60’s) takes a liking to me and wants us to pose together for a few photos. When we first met “Walter” earlier that day at the farina mill, he was very serious, didn’t smile much ... well, ha ha, he has now become the life of the party. Even his daughter, Roberta, says to Colleen “I don’t know my father like this!”

We exchange hugs. Nino gives us each a box of his homemade dried Fettuccine. I doubt they will ever have such a fun group as ours again!

**side note** After I got home, I had prints made of the photos I took that evening and mailed them in a thank you card to the Roncarati family. I received a lovely email from Roberta, thanking me so much for the card and photos. She said they all had a wonderful evening and they consider us friends and we are welcome there at any time. Along with the truffle hunt, this was one of the best days of my life!

All we talked about on our ride back to the hotel was what a lovely and generous family we had just spent the evening with. Marcello knows only the best people!

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