Friday, 21 September 2012

"It is towards Girolamo Guerrisi that we should extend the finger of blame - or, indeed, the hand of congratulation - for inventing the fable that Marco Polo brought pasta to Italy from China." ("Delizia!" by John Dickie)

In this quote Dickie is referring to a short story printed in an American publication called "Macaroni Journal" of 15th October 1929.  The title of the story is "A Saga of Cathay" (written by the above Guerrisi) and its protagonist is none other than a fictional Venetian named Spaghetti.  I'm not altogether sure what relevance this has to my blog, other than I was reading the book whilst on holiday last week and was much amused.

We spent the week visiting the area around Recanati which is just south of Ancona.  It's a little inland from the much coveted holiday resort of The Conero Peninsula (National Park).  There are, undoubtedly, many wonderful things to see and do around here.  A tour of Leopardi's library in Recanati is a must.  Not so the watery cappuccino served in the Porto Recanati bars.

The folk of Recanati are justly proud of their town.  One elderly man stopped his car in the middle of a busy thoroughfare as we were walking along to ask (these obvious tourists!) where we were from, "Ooh, I love the English!"; to sing the praises of his town; and to give us directions, unwittingly,  to all the sights we'd just visited; all the while totally oblivious to the traffic snarling up behind him.

But there's none so proud as the policewoman (vigile urbano) in Filottrano;  super smart in her spotless white and blue starched hat and impenetrable Ray-Bans.  We stopped her in the street to ask directions to a small WWII museum we particularly wanted to visit in the town.  She was fairly sure it was closed on a Saturday morning, but was immediately on her service mobile to someone who might know more.  That 'phone was busy.  Undaunted, she marched us across town to the museum building.  It was closed, but the opening times on the door said it should have been open.  We would have given up, but not our new friend. She led us into the public library next door and demanded an explanation, to be told that the curator was away on holiday - "in America!" (with the key in his luggage?).  We thought we'd come to the end of the line and took leave of our new friend with effusive thank you's and goodbyes, as she went off to resume her civic duties.

We wandered back into the street.  Whereupon, stridently approaching us, was the very same uniformed lady. She'd had a brainwave and, as consolation for our disappointment, invited us back to her offices where she had maps and guides to the town.  Not wishing to disappoint her, in turn, we trooped again, single file through cobbled streets, into the marbled innards of the local police station with its enviable, antique cotto floors.  Here she unlocked cupboards and drawers, producing bounty-loads of tourist guides.  For this she had to take off her official police-woman's hat, but not, we noted, her "official" sunglasses. We now have many more reasons to return to Filottrano, other than the WWII museum.

Back "home" the rustico awaits the plumber ... (at least he's not in America as we see his van about town most days).   Paolo has taken on another hand to construct the low wall which will define the sloping pathway down to the front door.

Progress on the annexe is encouraging, it's almost ready for the roof to be put on, with its reclaimed (coppi) tiles.

Back to the plumber.  He promised to come last week;  then this week;  now he's promising to come next week.  From experience, I know that this trait in plumbers is not exclusively Italian.  Wherever it may have originated, it's gone global.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

"But there's a full moon risin', Let's go dancing in the light, We know where the music's playin', Let's go out and feel the night." ("Harvest Moon" Neil Young)

Last week saw a full moon by night and much activity on our building site during the day.  A digger and bulldozer cleared swathes of land around the house and annexe.  In reality it's only a few acres. but, now bare, make thoughts of future landscaping and planting quite daunting.

A drive of sorts, has been gravelled.  It is on an incline rolling down the west-facing hillside.  Not a steep slope, but sufficient to instil some worries as we watched the conveyor lorry, job done, loaded with the huge 120 ton dozer, attempt to climb it; heaving its weight up to the road and failing on the first two attempts.  (We left after the second.  It wasn't there the next day.)

Whilst the house sits silently, still awaiting the plumber, the annexe is taking shape fast; the exterior walls already as high as the window sills.

During the day we too have been busying ourselves.  Finally we have bought a little terra cotta "fontanella" which will be placed on the wall adjacent to the front door.  So much more modest than our original designs on custom-made marble, but more in keeping with our humble rustic residence.   (And less than a third of the price.)
The carpenter making our windows and doors advised us to go to Fano (north along the Adriatic coast) to choose the "maniglie" (door and window handles and knobs).  Finding the shop was difficult.  It is a little, un-signposted shop, tucked away on a lost industrial estate on the less celebrated side of town.   Only known it seems, by "passa parola" - word of mouth.

Inside; a "tardis" of door and window fittings, from the ultra modern to convincing replicas of the antique.  The shopkeeper, indifferent to two strangers wandering in by chance (as if!) to his premises, until, that is, we mention the name of our carpenter, whereupon we are long lost family.  We come out with a precious, glossy brochure to browse through at our leisure, trusted to return it to the carpenter with our order, at our leisure.  Except there'll be no leisure here because, at this stage in the proceedings, every excuse for contact with the carpenter is called upon in order to spur him to complete his task.

The week ended with a visit to the  "Festa della Cipolla" (Onion Festival) in Castelleone di Suasa.   The very same one I mentioned at the beginning of the summer and which has been much anticipated.  Well here we are at what is, certainly weather-wise, the end of summer, and Castelleone is sizzling with the pungent smell  of frying onions.  There are three bands playing, mostly 70's rock and pop, and mostly ignored.  There are some tired stalls selling sundry wares and an ice-cream parlour is attracting some interest.  But, mostly, there are "osterias" (makeshift food- stalls), serving the multitude with multitudes of dishes - all of them containing onions. The onions being celebrated are small, red and sweet - typical of the region.

Every osteria is full, whilst hopeful, eager queues form to pre-pay for their meal.  The food is served tepid, on disposable plates with plastic cutlery and plastic cups for drinks, whether wine or water.  The plastic covered tables and bench seats are all placed, sardine style, in the narrow cobbled streets, under a clear, chill sky.      

There must be several thousand visitors all come to Castelleone to eat onions and... well, just to be here on this harvest night.