Saturday, August 30, 2008

Off the autostrada in emilia romagna and conero

30 august---where did the summer go?
The pictures are of a little gem of an agriturismo you can only find by exiting the autostrada and taking it easy for a little while. they have suites and regular rooms and a nice menu. I even drank lambrusco, adrian!
The balsamic vinegar factory dates back centuries and our tour guide was the 17th generation from the family. You can find it in america with the name Giuseppe Giusti.
Then on to the conero promontory just south of Ancona where you see the famous beach of the 2 sisters which you can only get to by hiking a very step trail or by boat, then the coastline of Sirolo and finally sunset over that part of the Marche from the hotel terrace where you can enjoy a nice beer or prosecco and watch the colors change.

Aida and Verona fotos

30 Agosto
The pictures show the Arena in Verona, a shot of the spectacle of Aida, pix from the Giardino Giusti in Verona and Enoteca Segreta.

Aida in Verona's Arena, Monte Conero, aceto balsamico

30 Agosto
Time to get in another post. The week has been full of activities for me. We are winding down the busy season here at Nascondiglio di Bacco and I woke up early today to see our nice German family off with a quick breakfast. They had many interesting stories to tell, having found out about the Marche in a book called The Big Laugh written by a german author.
The wife had spent 6 months in the USA in the mid 70's and the stories she told took me back to a simpler, more trusting time in our country's history. She and a girlfriend hitchhiked all across the US and were welcomed into people's houses wherever they went and given the keys to the car and the house for the weekend while the family went away. She remembers having much more trouble in Mexico with the men there than in the states where everyone was wonderfully friendly (one truck driver drove his big rig into Seattle to buy them dinner at a real restaurant when he heard they were only eating fast food).
I took my little excursion up to Verona to watch Aida by Verdi-4 hours of spectacle with up to 100 people and 3 horses on the stage at one time. I didn't get Adrian's email in time to choose the highly rated restaurant Botega di Vini, but instead ate at Enoteca Segreta which is a wonderful little corner in an alley with a nice wine list and carefully selected foods. I had duck and goose salamis and gnocchetti and a cheese plate paired with the wines of the Veneto. The enoteca is right next to an always completely full restaurant full of tourists and I think we came out on the winning end with our choice.
We saw all the sights in the guide book in Verona, then on to Aida, parting the next day after viewing the Giardino Giusti, another little gem in Verona worth a visit. The one thing I didn't like is the entrance fee charged by the Duomo and another church although you could fib and say you are just entering to pray, but in my opinion when you take money for entering a church, you are also asking the Holy Spirit to leave.
Enough pontificating.
As I drove back on Autostrada A4, then A22, then A1 and A14, I thought this must be a bit like Hell. You don't see anything, experience anything, just rush and rush to get from point A to B. But fortune struck me and there was an accident on A22 with a line of cars 6 km long and I exited the strada and headed for Modena on the back roads. That allowed me to find Villa Lesignano for lunch and the oldest acetoficio in Italy where balsamic vinegar has been made for 17 generations. The oldest barrel dates to 1600. The latest generation gave us a tour and I picked up a couple of bottles for the B&B.
Back to the fast lane I came up with a plan to visit Monte Conero, home of Rosso Conero wines and famous for secluded beaches and a national park and spent a pleasant couple of hours on hiking trails and watching the sunset over the Ancona province of the Marche from the terrace of the hotel on the top of the promontory.
Back to Nascondiglio di Bacco, it is time for the potatura or pruning of the olive trees prior to harvest. I cut out all the non producing sucker branches to give extra nutrients to the branches with olives. I finished about a third of our trees yesterday and reminded my right hand where the callouses are supposed to be!
The pictures are of Verona from a monastery above the city, the balcony where Juliet listened to the love ballads of Romeo, the Palazzo d'Erbe (famous meeting spot in Verona), the statue of Dante in the palazzo degli uomini and one of the Scagliere tombs (ruling family of Verona mentioned by Dante). Check out more fotos above.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Where have I been and Where has summer gone?

25 agosto
Buon compleanno al mio amico Michele 26 Agosto!
Well, I know it is well past time to post on the blog when my friend KR has to write me an email to ask if i am still alive. Sorry, but weeks and months have been passing too quickly. Another week of being full has kept us hopping, but I have had time for a couple of nearby excursions.
1st was to the FestivaLiszt at the church Santa Lucia in Grottammare alta or the old part. Maybe those of you who are music afficianados will recognize the pianist, Yves Henry, who once upon a time was a child prodigy but now is all grown up, though still talented. He played Liszt and Chopin and Schubert and after listening to Chopin, I think that composer must have died young on purpose as he must have been very depressed. Liszt was a bit lighter and more enjoyable for me. I had a great time people watching and imagined that this musty old church built in the 6th century could have housed a group quite similar 70 years ago. There were the wealthy dowagers in the front row, the husbands dragged there by their wives, the pianists who shook their head at every perceived little mistake, the contadinos with their swollen fingers and hands like mine, etc.
Luigi Lepore, one of our fellow master's students came to visit for a night with two young Dutch girls in tow and we all tried out a nice seafood restaurant in San Benedetto del Tronto called Chichibio. Highly recommended by us all and now you can get a 10% discount if you stay with us at Nascondiglio di Bacco.
As we have been full, I have been baking bread just about every day to keep up. From "super white" to 5 cereal to whole wheat and yesterday regular white, the guests seem to really enjoy my bread and Raffaele's breakfast sweet cakes. I modify the recipes from my grandmother's Joy of Cooking cookbook from 1963.
We currently have guests from Italy, Germany and Belgium, so English is spoken here more frequently the past few days. All very nice folks who have enjoyed the beaches nearby and the mountains to the west.
Tomorrow I am off to Verona with a friend to see Aida in the Arena at Verona. Imagine the colliseum in Rome open for concerts and you get the idea. You can see the structure online or wait for my fotos in a couple of days. I have now read the story of Aida so I will be able to understand the plot and am excited to once again be able to visit this northern Italian city which I like better than Venice (but then my tastes are strange)
Bacco has been enjoying little trips to the zona Sentina beach to take baths of sand and seawater. Here, you see a very windy day with huge waves, which no longer bother Bacco and the local kite surfing experts at play. I am anxious to get him back into the mountains for another climb soon.
We are finally winding down the season and after next weekend when we are full for the last time this year, we will have lots of openings.
Divino Vino is a big wine festival in Offida and starts the 5th of September and will be something to look forward to as well as the wedding of Marta and Allesio which is coming up the same weekend. These are friends of Raffaele's who have also invited me, so I am excited about the opportunity to dress up a bit.
Our workers are about done with cutting back all our new vines to 2 branches each and tying them to the tutors and we have a little problem with butterfly eggs in our grapes in the old vineyard, a problem which requires a biological pesticide, but otherwise the vineyards are doing well. We could use a bit or a bunch of rain for the grapes and olives and hopefully, that will arrive next week.
I hope that catches everyone up and from now on, I should have more time to keep current.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Not enough rain, but a gorgeous rainbow

18 agosto
Yesterday it teased us a bit by dropping 5 minutes of rain on us near dusk which provided one of the beautiful rainbows i have ever seen. Enjoy the individual photos and then the amalgamation which Raffaele's computer made from my individual pix.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sagra di Porco and lunar eclipse

17 agosto
Buona domenica or happy sunday everyone. If you are diehard blog watchers and also check out the nascondiglio di bacco blog, you have seen the pictures from the festival of pork at the nearby town of Rotella. I had driven through there a bunch of times but never explored the town and it is really fascinating with small medieval streets and little plazas and for 3 nights, was the center of pork lover's paradise. We entered through the mad pig's head and made our way past stands selling anitpasti, primos and secondos of every sort of pig part. Bands were playing, boys were strutting and the girls were trying to look pretty.( i am sure i robbed that from some rock song).
You see Giorgio, Giuseppe, and Ola in the 3 little pigs cutouts.
There is a festival or 4 every night in the Ascoli Piceno province and our local village of Borgo Miriam has one which starts tonight and features strozzaprete which means priest choker) pasta and beer.
There is also a nearby Liszt festival at Grottammare, a jazz concert at San Benedetto etc. Too much really, to choose from.
Last night was the full moon for those who ventured out after dark and as I watched it, I could see the lower left hand corner disappear, so with my trusty google sage, I looked up partial lunar eclipse, August 16, 2008 and it came right up on my computer. The picture shows the reflection of the full moon in the concrete pond and the initial phase of an 81% eclipse.
We are still full, but today only one turnover, so not a bad day. I also finished placing the tutors we had, but we lack another 1.000 to completely finish the pecorino.
The 1st picture is Giorgio chasing Giuseppe on the beach near Porto d'Ascoli.
All for now.
Have a great week!

Friday, August 15, 2008

more photos from the birthday

Aren't the signs great!
They are birthday wishes from our guests and the translations are: Happy Birthday-signed by everyone in the 2 families, 2. You are over 50 and with Bacco at my side i will always be cool!!!
3. We hope every grape you grow is a success!
4. This post is reserved for our birthday boy, Happy Birthday.
Finally, you see a photo of Fabio playing with Bacco in the Adriatic

Birthday party at Nascondiglio di Bacco

Ciao everyone, sorry i haven't had time to write, but here is the week's update. My buddies came in from near Napoli and from London and Giorgio put on an incredible tasting for 30 people with mozzarella, which i have said before is not my favorite cheese, buffalo steaks of 2 types (tenderloin and kc strips, basically) and wine from Campania. It was really something special. The mozzarella was just a few hours old and the difference between fresh and packaged, supermarket mass produced moz. is like the difference between Kraft singles and a fine English aged cheddar. The meat was wonderful, lean and tasty and the wine was quite good as well. All that and my peach ice cream made the same day with a shot of our passito for just 25 euros.
Speaking of euros, the dollar is rallying, so it is time to get your travel plans for Italy together!
We have been full and 2 rooms of our guests were quite nice and prepared signs and hung them up at about 5 in the morning along with balloons for my birthday which you can see. What nice folks!
In fact, we have been full of wonderful guests and just about all of them took off today, so we had 5 rooms to completely makeover for new arrivals today.
Yesterday evening was the big Ferragosto holiday in Italy or for the catholic church, the ascension of Mary. We celebrated by offering our guests a free happy hour with really good prosciutto from Pettarci in Visso, melon, and Prosecco (coke for the kids). Everyone enjoyed themselves and one couple even had a light dinner with us. I made pizza and Raffaele made a salad for the wife.
We haven't had any rain for a bit over 5 weeks and the forecast isn't very promising, so we are watering all the plants and the garden, but they are less than happy.
The photos show Giorgio and Gaia preparing and serving the mozzarella, Fabio getting ready to cook buffalo steaks on the grill, Giorgio explaining all the products and Bacco enjoying a bone the next day. Finally, everyone gets a little rest at the pool the next day.
Ciao dds

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Driving the tractor

12 agosto
Today, I drove the tractor of our neighbor for the 1st time and treated our pecorino grapevines with a dose of sulfur and copper to control the mold which has been a problem this year. I didn't kill anything or anyone!
I heard from my old partner Joe's nurse that he was moving one side well enough to write his name which is a huge step and a blessing. Kindly keep him and his family in your prayers for recovery after his stroke.
Back to the vines; they are looking relatively healthy and we are still putting in the iron rods to train them to grow up and not out. In September the workers will put in the rest of our poles and cables and we will be done for the year.
The old grapevines up the hill are changing color and looking sad just like last year, but I tried our red wine again last night and it is again drinkable after returning to the stainless steel tank for several months.
The pool is a big hit, and now and then our guests will stay there all day long. We are still trying to sell another 998 lunches to pay for the pool.
With my birthday looming, I have some friends coming in from afar to celebrate with me. Fabio and Ola and Giorgio and Gaia are arriving from London and Caserta. We are planning a tasting of all things buffalo tomorrow night which will include mozzarella freshly made today, sausage and fresh meats, etc. We have 30 people signed up for the tasting and at midnight we will pop open the prosecco to celebrate another of my years "misspent".
The pix are of a recent sunset and another of Bacco trailside. I need to choose a mountain for my birthday climb now
Have a great week!

Friday, August 08, 2008

The vineyard, meteors, the pool, bread and Bacco

8 Agosto
As it nears the festa of San Lorenzo and my compleanno, it is time to remind everyone of the best meteor shower of the year. It will peak between the above 2 festivals on the 12th of August and after the moon sets around 0130 until dawn, you can see up to 90 meteorites per hour. The best chance to see a "fireball" is nearer to dawn about 0500. The temporale di stelle cadente will start about the 10th and continue until the 14th if you catch a cloudy night.
Yesterday, we finished inside work at 1430 after fixing breakfast for 17, lunch for 8, cleaning rooms etc. I took a half hour to listen to the COR sermon for the week and then headed down into the valley to put in another 400 tutors. I also baked a new bread which is a combo of whole wheat and 5 grain flours. As I may have written, we are now full until the 23rd of August and turn down at least 5 or more requests a day for rooms around feragosto which is the 15th of August and a holiday similar to our 4th of July.
It is good to be wanted!
Today, I think is day 131 for the pool and it still has its glitches. The "pool guys" which is a title I am using more and more loosely (they are at least guys), are coming almost every day to try and figure out the problems. The pool is easy on the eyes, at least, and swimmable and the guests really enjoy it. By chance or luck, there is always a place in the shade throughout the day and a place for the tanners as well.
The pictures show our Cabernet Sauvignon vines, our Pecorino vines where I am still putting in the iron training poles, our 2 new workers who started Tuesday, HALLELUJAH! and are cutting each vine-all 28,000- back to 2 branches and tying them to the tutors, the results of the new bread recipe and Bacco guarding his cow hip which used to be twice as big! A big PS, the weeds in the middle of the rows are not important and can be eradicated with our neighbor's tractor when the time becomes necessary. Right now, we just have to keep the zone around each vine clean.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Zecche!!! Fiori, La Mattra

6 agosto,
Ciao and sorry for the delay in posting. We are full and it takes a batch of time to take care of all 7 rooms as well as the vineyard. Yesterday I put about 650 iron poles next to the pecorino grapevines as training devices which will stay there for the life of the vine, I hope. It was 93 degrees or better, so the american went out with his arab hat as the italians call it (it is actually meant for sea kayaking) and spf 30 sunscreen, and 2 bottles of water, to labor. I have to quit when the water runs out. After returning from that work, I entered my room and asked Raffaele to look at all the black spots on my tile floor, which I thought might be mice scat, but it seemed unlikely that a caravan of little rodents had camped out in my room during the day to leave their droppings. Raffa noticed that many were moving and explained they were italian ticks. I couldn't believe how many there were! At least 200 if not more. Unfortunately the culprit was Bacco who evidently found a nest of them and rolled around in it for a while. Today I picked off another 100 from him even with frontline which I use every month (I must confess, I was 5 days behind schedule)
As misfortune continued, we had used the last of the frontline, so after breakfast I made a roadtrip to buy a stash big enough for a year.
The pool is still having hiccups, but is much enjoyed by all the guests despite its flaws. The fountains still don't work and today, I found the cascade inactive and the lower pool half empty.
In other news, I explored a bit of the coast north of us one evening and found St Elpidio to be cute and civitanova marche a bit less so for the beach aspect. There are highly rated restaurants at St. Elpidio and Porto San Giorgio, but those must wait for another day. I also visited a refuge in Umbria sunday afternoon and saw Nocera Umbra which is a picturesque town. I was able to unwind a bit after our busy week.
The pictures are of sunflowers near the house of our friends Andy and Elena who stayed with us a bunch while reconstructing their new house near Porchia, another Umbrian flower I hadn't seen before, our neighborhood pizzeria/restaurant where we go when we are too tired to cook (La Mattra) and finally and blurry so noone gets grossed out. a few score of Bacco's friends I picked off this morning.