Enough looking at pictures. It’s finally time for us to see the house for ourselves.
Last fall, we had penciled this first trip into March, but with some construction delays caused by bad weather in January and a chopped-up schedule on our end, we ended up with a trip in May.
Kevin had set up three full days of meetings and visits to suppliers, so we knew we’d be busy. Plus, we needed to meet with Giovanna, our lawyer, and to straighten out online access to our account at Banca Marche.
To be able to use miles to get to Ancona, we had to make two stops each way: London and Munich outbound, Munich and Frankfurt inbound. Early on the Sunday morning of our departure, I get a text from United saying our 6pm flight to London was cancelled and to rebook online. Of course, probably because we were using miles, online said I had to call. At this point, it looks like we may have problems getting to Ancona and that Kevin’s schedule will go up in smoke.
Fortunately, it only took an hour on the phone to get rebooked on a 9pm Lufthansa flight directly to Munich. It let us make the connection to Ancona on the same flight as before, so we arrived at the airport on time about 5pm Monday night.
So it all worked out well. Shorter trip, fewer stops, same arrival time. Plus, United, trying to recover from their PR disasters, gave me 7500 miles for the “trouble” caused by the cancellation.
We did have a longer trip to the hotel than I expected. For some reason, the phone gps led us away from the autostrada. Against my better judgement, I followed it, which turned a one hour easy highway drive into an hour and a half winding route through the Le Marche hills. Beautiful, but we were wanting a glass of wine more than a pretty view.
When we did get to the hotel, we had both: a room with a balcony looking out on the hills and a bottle of wine the hotel was kind enough to supply.
This work was done, but there is still a bit of a problem on the south side (the left side when viewed from the front) of the house. It leaves the house in a bit in a hole here, as I wrote about earlier.
The best solution would be to make the slope more gradual in this side, but the problem is that we’re already fairly close to the property line. There isn’t enough room to do the reshaping we’d like to do.
Also, the electrical line needs to enter our property on this side of the house. The best route needs to cross the adjacent land and the landowner wants to be compensated. (There is also apparently some issue about an electrical pole as part of the line installation.)
One possible resolution to both issues would be for us to buy some land on this side. It’s a plot of olive trees, so Anne would like to have the land for that purpose, as well.
Of course, we’re not in a particularly strong bargaining position, as there is only one place we could get the land we need.
Kevin has us set up to meet with the landowner. I hope we’ll be able to reach a reasonable deal, either with or without land purchase.
The first part of our homework deals with paint and stain colors.
Confirm the color we chose last year for the (mahogany) windows and doors.
Ditto for the external lintels.
Decide how to stain the interior lintels.
Select the color for the main (chestnut) beams and cross (pine) beams.
Pick paint colors for the ground floor ceiling (the part between the beams) and the walls.
Kevin wanted us to gather some paint and stain swatches to bring as input. We went off to Home Depot to see what we could find.
It became clear right away that this not an easy task, with the stain being the main problem. Since each wood takes stain differently, we need to see actual wood pieces with the stain applied, not a brochure with color swatches. (Shockingly, there were no examples of stained European Chestnut.)
Without knowing the wood color, it is hard to make any paint choices beyond “something off-white.”
Anne also feels that choosing colors from an American source isn’t that useful. We need to see what’s really available in Italy.
So we’re pretty much an F on this assignment.
The other piece relates to the fireplace. This has always been a great unknown. The floorplan included a fireplace in one corner of the main room, but it has always been unclear just what fireplace shape and orientation were conceived.
The design issue is further complicated by one adjacent wall being stone, the other plaster, so how do you merge the two together via the fireplace? If we use a lot of stone is the fireplace and the wall above the fireplace, will that be too “heavy”? What if the fireplace surround is stone, but the wall above is plaster? Does that make for an awkward junction between the two walls and their different materials?
We thought maybe we could sort this out by finding a picture of a fireplace with the right design. Despite our best efforts searching the web and Pinterest, we couldn’t find a good example. We could find fireplaces with some of what we wanted, but even taken together they don’t show a clear solution.
So maybe we get a C on this part of the homework.
Next week’s meetings will be interesting. I predict we’re going to need more time for research, exploration, and discussion than Kevin has in his agenda.
News flash: on April 20, 2017 a third IGP was added: Marche Olio EVO IGP.
Il Salame Ciauscolo IGP
A pork sausage that dates back to at least 1700, when it was devised by the poor farmers as a way to use much of the hog. It’s made from the shoulder, the ham, the bacon, and the fat, plus wine, garlic, and pepper.
Traditionally, it was made in winter, when the tenant farmers had more time and the lower temperatures helped preserve the meat.
The meat is ground at least twice, making the mixture very smooth. It is put in casings and aged 2-4 weeks in a humid environment. Each sausage is 0.5 – 1.0 kg (1 – 2 lbs.) and about 30cm (12in) long.
The texture is soft and smooth, resembling a paté. It is sometimes called “il salame che si spalma“, the “salami that you can spread.”
It is produced in the inland areas of Macerata, Fermo, and Ascoli Piceno provinces and the southern part of Ancona.
There is a sagra in Moresco (FM) in early September.
Maccheroncini di Campofilone IGP
This pasta is fascinating in many ways. It’s made of only eggs and flour — no water — and entirely by hand, including cutting it VERY thin, like what we call “angel hair” but more so. I’ve seen pictures, like the one below, but I’m not sure how they manage it. I’ve read that the range of thickness is 0.3 to 0.7mm, an incredible 1/100th to 3/100th of an inch, and of width 0.8 to 1.2mm, or 3/100th to 5/100th of an inch. (Not surprisingly, it cooks in less than one minute.)
The methods date back until at least the 1400s when it was made in a local abbey. Traditionally, it’s eaten with a meat sauce, but in a true marketing way, they say it’s delicious “with other sauces or simply with extra-virgin olive oil and a small spoon of Parmigiano.”
There is an annual sagra celebrating the Maccheroncini during the first ten days of August.
Campofilone is a comune of about 2000 people. The center of town lies a bit inland from the Adriatic, but there is a beachfront of about 1.5km.
L’Olio Extravergine di Oliva Marche IGP
This yellow-green olive oil can be grown and produced anywhere in Marche. It can be made from up to 12 varieties, 10 of which are native to Marche: Ascolana tenera, Carboncella, Coroncina, Mignola, Orbetana, Piantone di Falerone, Piantone di Mogliano, Raggia/Raggiola, Rosciola dei Colli Esini e Sargano di Fermo. Oil from these must make up at least 85% of the product. The other up-to-15% can come from two other varieties that have been grown in Marche for centuries: Frantoio e Leccino.
(These varieties show up in other Marchegian DOP/IGP products: Ascolana tenera is also the olive used for Olive all’Ascolana and Frantoio and Leccino are used in L’Olio EVO di Cartoceto.)
Olives have to be picked by December 15 and processed with 2 days of collection. It must stay under 30°C (86°F) during processing.
The flavor is described as mildly fruity, mildly bitter, mildly spicy. (All score 2 out of 7 on these scales.) There is a little variation toward a little lighter and a little more intense. The odor has a mildly herbaceous note and can have hints of almond or artichoke.
Marche’s Own IGP Products
Click to enlarge, zoom, and move Pin A: Casa Avventura Pin B: Salame Ciauscolo Pin C: Maccheroncini di Campofilione
As of now, I’m going to need to base my descriptions primarily on information from the website of Marche Tourism and those of the locales and the producers.
Casciotta d’Urbino DOP
“There are a thousand types of casciotta cheeses made in central Italy. but only one Casciotta d’Urbino.” So starts the description of the cheese on the website of the consortium of Casciotta d’Urbino producers.
It may sound like marketing fluff, but the distinction of DOP which it has received indicates that experts in Italian food have singled it out as a special type of Casciotta. It is described as a sweet cheese, tasting of the milk it is made from. It’s very soft and spreadable.
The cheese is made following a method more than 2000 years old. It starts with a mixture of 70-80% sheep milk and the remainder from cows. After pasteurization, the milk is heated to body temperature and the fermentation begins. After the curds form, it is drained and put into molds, which yield cheeses about 5-6 inches long, 2-3 inches long, and weighing 1.5-2 pounds. The aging lasts only 20-30 days.
Two fun facts:
It gained its fame throughout Italy in the 1300s. It is said to have been a favorite of Michelangelo and our man Pope Clement XIV.
The correct spelling of the name of the cheese is “caciotta“, not “casciotta“, with the “s”. An official made the spelling error and the name remains.
The recommendation is to drink a young, fruity white or rose.
The sagra is in late April.
Prosciutto di Carpegna DOP
Carpegna is a comune on the northern edge of Marche, near Emilia-Romagna. It sits on the edge of a large mountain park, Parco Naturale Regionale di Sasso Simone e Simoncello. Though the comune is only 30km2 (11 mi2), it’s the only area that can produce this DOP prosciutto. There are two variations: San Leo, delicate, and La Ghianda, more intense and aromatic.
Being near the mountains, Carpegna is at an altitude of about 750m (2500 ft). It’s said that a key element in what makes Carpegna ham special is the microclimate. Temperatures are moderate summer and winter and humidity is low.
Said to have a sweet aroma and taste, the ham has been produced here since at least the 1400s. Using a special method of seasoning applied to the meat from hogs fed on acorns, it was produced only in small quantities until the 1970s, when production started to be more commercial.
After a seasoning process of about 20 days, the prosciutto is aged for at least a year. The result is meat of color ranging from dark red to pink, surrounded by a layer of pure white fat. Each ham weighs between 8.5 and 10.5 kg (19-23 lb)
A wine merchant site recommends the red Lacrima di Morro d’Alba as the proper wine.
The sagra is the third weekend in July.
The consortium uses some “interesting” advertising, judging from the image at the right. Not only is the picture suggestive, the caption reads, “Only son.”
L’Olio Extravergine di Cartoceto DOP
It’s hard to say much about what distinguishes this oil from other Italian extra-virgin olive oils, especially the DOP ones.
A production factor noted on the website of the corsortium is that the oil is made only from the olive fruits and not from the pits, but I’d guess this is true for all DOP olive oils.
Also, the olives need to be gathered by hand, by a long-handled rake-type device, or by shaking the tree, and not touch the ground. All that can be done “pre-processing” is to separate out the foliage and wash the fruit. Oil need to be processed within 48 hours of picking.
Oil from the fruit is made by simply grinding the fruit, pressing it, keeping the temperature below 25°C (77°F), extracting the solids and water via centrifuge, and filtration. No heat, no chemicals, no second or third pressing.
Getting oil from the pits is a more involved process that uses chemicals and which includes heating, cooling, and steaming.
The varieties of olives used in this region vary from others, which is what probably makes the Cartoceto oil special. The formulation is at least 80% oil from three varieties: Leccino (harvested in late October, lightly fruity and sweet), Raggiola (harvested in early November, more fruity and herbaceous), and Frantoio (harvested in late November. adds an almond-like note). The remainder, up to 20%, can come from a selection of 7 other cultivars. The DOP region where the olives come from and where the processing is done covers only 5 comunes in Pesaro e Urbino, in the north of Marche.
The consortium’s FAQ has some interesting notes:
The oil can be kept for up to 2 years, but it’s best in the first year, as the decline in quality starts after about 8 months.
It should be stored in stainless steel or glass and kept from the light.
Very fresh oil sometimes can cause a little “bite” in the throat.
Color has nothing to do with quality. (It apparently starts out green and turns to golden yellow.)
There are two main classes of this olive oil: fruttato – fruity, smooth flavor, no bitter odor, and verde – the younger oil with a more herbaceous aroma.
Sagra is in early November.
Three DOP Products from Pesaro e Urbino
Click to enlarge, zoom, and move Pin A: Casa Avventura Pin B: Casciotta d'Urbino Pin C: Proscuitto di Carpegna Pin D: Olio di Cartoceto