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The Croatian Coast
Vacation in Cartoceto
August 2 - Martina Franca to Cartoceto
were up and out pretty early - Pina and Enrico came by the flat at 9:00
am and we left shortly thereafter.
God - we only had one slow down - not far from our starting point - a
very ugly accident - we were caught in about 4 km of backup - little by
comparison to the southbound traffic - that backup was easily 12 km.
had some moments of confusion - Tom had programmed the GPS to take us
to the next destination - Cartoceto - I found the place on the map but
the mileage the GPS claimed and the mileage I calculated just didn't
compute. Finally, about 30 km from the destination I figured it out -
there are two towns of the same name about 50 km apart, both in Le
Marche. I thought we were going to the southernmost one, but the GPS
had us going (correctly) to the northernmost one.
We got to our
B & B around 4 pm - Cartoceto is tiny - really tiny - there is
post office, a pharmacy, a 'bar', our B & B and the restaurant
owners operate and that's about all - it takes about 15 minutes to
stroll the entire village. Ah, but what views - the countryside here is
gorgeous - it is green because of the vineyards and olive orchards and
the land is tidy - it reminds us of England, in a way.
town walls you can look over the countryside - there are villages,
churches and farmhouses scattered about. It is every bit as nice as
Tuscany, but without the crowds. Don't tell Rick Steves.
are a couple of things we don't like, though - only one restaurant in
town severely limits the choices (although this restaurant is excellent
- more later). The mosquitoes are dreadful - they go after fair skinned
people with a vengeance. Our hotel is owned by a German couple - they
are very nice, but they both smoke - and they cater to a lot of Germans
(who also smoke). The worst part was that we didn't have an en suite
room - our bathroom, while ours only, was down the hall - I'm not
happy, even though they provide bathrobes - it has been a long time
since I've had to put up with that - I assume that I missed that little
fact when I booked the room. Above the toilet there is a graphic
instructing men to pee sitting down - never in my life have I seen
anything like that!
We had dinner at the owners' restaurant -
it was quite good - Tom had a penne with sausage and I had tagliatelle
with goat cheese and cherry tomatoes. We each had a panna cotta, which
was served with chocolate sauce, peaches and plums, then coffee and a
liquor made from olives - we are in olive territory, after all.
even though I was rather grumpy about the bathroom down the hall (the
nerve - well over $120 a night), I have to say the breakfast was the
best we've had since we've been in Europe. Fresh watermelon, cantaloupe,
prosciutto, bread, rolls and cheese and a curious drink made from
bananas, kiwi and a variety of fruit.
We drove to Urbino - what
an enchanting town - it is a university town and one of the hilliest
towns I've ever seen anywhere - including San Francisco. We parked the
car close to the town walls and proceeded to hike - what a hike - it
was very rigorous, to say the least. Once we got to the top, we came
upon two squares - the first the Piazza Rinascimento and the second the
Piazza del Duomo - then the hills again, this time down at a steep
One couldn't live here without developing calves of steel.
Cadogan Guide said the cathedral was boring because the original had
been destroyed in an earthquake in the 1700's. Instead we found it
wonderful - clean, open, light and airy. There was a young man playing
the organ (we assumed he was practicing) - three keyboards, multiple
stops and foot pedals all over - he did a very good job on a piece by
The cathedral in Urbino, a mosaic high on a wall, an odd ascending alley
Note the long fasteners for the rods that hold the walls in - this looked like the runaway car emergency ramp
We left Urbino after walking around for a while - what a
nice place - clean, beautiful - it would be fun to stay here. we drove
to a little town called Cagli - there was supposed to be a polenta
festival there, but either our information was wrong or it only takes
place in the evening - nothing going on here.
The tower in Cagli
We decided to go
to the beach at Fano - big mistake - this is the first weekend in
August and all of Italy is at the beach - the traffic was terrible and
there wasn't any parking - we were unsuccessful , so we returned to our
Time for dinner - let's find someplace new - our first
stop was a place called Simposium - we thought it might be expensive
based on the long driveway - nothing could have prepared us - the
antipasti started at about $50 a plate - they even had a wine at $600 a
glass! What in the world are these people thinking? Who has a palate so
well trained that they can tell a $20 glass of wine from a $600 glass
of wine. Needless to say, we found another place and had a complete
meal for the price of one antipasto at that place.
Skype - we were able to call Tom and Matt this morning using Skype and
get caught up on their goings on.
Breakfast this morning wasn't quite as nice as yesterday's - no fresh
went with Judith, the owner of the hotel, and the young Dutch couple
who are staying in the hotel to an olive oil production place - Judith
was the interpreter for the Dutch couple (from Italian to German) and
we tried to pick up the lecture in Italian - we actually did pretty
well, all things given - he didn't have a heavy accent and didn't
speak any dialect, so we were able to get the important points.
Obviously, he is sold on the Mediterranean diet - lots of olive oil,
little meat, lots of vegetables, avoid hydrogenated fats. The olive oil
production was quite interesting - the olives are crushed by a very
large stone (wheel), then the resulting mush is put on a filter - the
filter is put on a piston, then many more filters, also heavy with
crushed olives, are placed on top until the stack is about 6 ft. high.
A hydraulic press at 400 bar causes the olives to release their oil and
the water, which
are separated - the water is used for fertilizer. The remnants of the
olives are sold - I think they are used for lower quality olive oil and
other products, like hydrogenated margarine.
The mill, the press, and the separator
The facility serves meals, so we made a reservation for dinner at 7:30.
the olive oil place we tried to go to a small town that Axel, our host,
had told us about - the GPS was determined that the only road to this
little town, Montefelcino, was unpaved - having been victims of her
unpaved roads before, we declined - we never did find the town, even
though it is only about 10 km. from Cartoceto.
We drove through
the countryside - lots of small, medieval looking villages along the
way, to a town with a castle that looks Norman - it is called Gradara.
It was blazingly hot - we walked around a little, but we were both
wiped out from the heat. We returned to the hotel and took a short nap
- we had to get out of the hot sun and we were both exhausted from the
Gradara and a closeup of its walls
had to call the host of our next destination in Pienza - Sgr. Ciacci
doesn't speak English as far as we can tell. However, we got the
message through that we were showing up tomorrow and staying for three
days. I am so glad we've learned a bit of Italian - we'd be sunk
Dinner - what an experience. The Dutch couple joined
we had dinner outdoors, overlooking the valley below, with the lights
of Fano coming on as darkness fell. The dinner was a fixed menu - our
host told us (in Italian) what we were having - we translated for Katja
we had a mixed salad with a cheese made from cow's and sheep's milk
(soft like a pecorino) accompanied by crostini - one with olive oil,
the other with tapanade.
Then we had a caponata - Tom isn't fond
of eggplant, but this was exceptional - eggplant, onion, capers,
tomatoes, olives in a kind of stew - it was delicious. This was
followed by what our host called a 'soufflé' which is about as good a
word as you can come up with - it was a little custard dish size
serving of a potato soufflé, served on a bed of a sauce made with sweet
red peppers (and olive oil). Then we had lovely ravioli, filled with
sage and ricotta in olive oil, then a specialty from this area - spelt
soup (faro in Italian) that had cannellini in it - it was wonderful.
For dessert we had a little tart filled with marmalade and a small
scoop of gelato with chocolate. Our wine was the specialty of this area
- bianchello - a lovely, dry white wine. We finished with coffee, for
which our host gave us some anise liquor to make into caffe corretto.
This was far more than we normally eat, but the portions were very
small and we took about two hours for the entire meal. As Tom's mother
used to say 'eat slow, you can eat more.'
We had a lovely
evening - we enjoyed learning about life in Holland these days - and
our co-diners were curious about the US without launching into