Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Day 2: Fermignano

We sleep through the night and Diana woke me at 8:30...that should take care of any possible jet lag. Looking out the window, we can only see a few feet away because of the heavy fog.

Breakfast is served in the same room as dinner and everyone is seated in at the same tables as at dinner. There are homemade breads and cake, cereal, tomatoes, ham, butter and fruit preserves. There is a lot of talk at breakfast about the plans for day trips; it is all very social but finally we get up to get ready for our expeditions.

We are heading for Pergola, a small town to the south, to see their prized possession in the local museum--the Bronzi Dorati (Gilded Bronzes). These are life size statues from Roman times that were found by accident in 1946 by some local farmers working their fields in the area. As we drive out from the Locanda, the visibility on the curvy road is very limited but as we descend and head west, the sun breaks through. This area of Le Marche is still very green in mid-October and the drive to Pergola is very pleasant once the sun breaks through. We pass through Cagli on the way--it must be market day because we see people walking along the road carrying a number of full plastic bags.

We make a quick drive through Pergola; it is an attractive town...the main street is lined with large palazzi...and there are parks and a large square. We make one wrong turn--misled for the hundreth time by the sometimes confusing Italian traffic arrows--but easily recover and find the town museum that houses the bronzes. It is in an old church and we are the only visitors. We pay the admission charge and the ticket taker escorts us to the room where the bronzes are displayed.

The Bronzi Dorati are four incomplete life size figures--two men on horseback flanked by two standing women. The remaining gilded bronze skins of the statues have been mounted on metal frames and they are displayed on a raised stage. Although this type of statuary was very popular with the Romans, there are very few remaining because most of them had been melted down for the metal. The explanatory panels say that there is still doubt about the identity of the figures but they have tried to match the statues with other statues from the same time.

There was a big fight about where the bronzes were to be displayed...after they were originally restored they were taken to Ancona, the regional capital, but, when they were loaned to Pergola for a show, the town refused to return them and barricaded the door to the exhibit until they were allowed to keep them. They are striking and very lifelike - you just about see the steam coming from the horses nostrils. The woman - possibly Cicero's wife - is pensive and impressive.

We quickly see the other exhibits in the museum, including some fabulous etchings for a book of Leopardi poetry and are on our way. We do a quick tour around the appealing "centro storico" stopping for some cookies in a bakery and then leave town. Heading due north, the drive is extremly scenic....the road continuously curving as it climbs and providing beautiful vistas in all directions--rolling countryside closer in and high mountains in the distance. The descent to Cartoceto is equally scenic; it packs a lot of beauty in a short 12 kilometer drive.

Since it is lunch time, we look up Cartoceto in our guide books and discover that there are two places in that town with excellent reviews. But when we drive through the town, there is little evidence that there is a town at all---no stores, no signs, no evidence of anything. We drive down some minor roads but see nothing. We call the restaurant and tell them we are in front of the church in the middle of town and they give us directions to find the restaurant. But the directions as we understand them don't correspond with anything that we can see. Finally, we check the map index and discover that there are, in fact, two Cartocetos--one about 35 km away which is where the restaurants are.

Now it is really lunch time so we head to the nearest town, Fossombrone. At 2 pm, most everything is closed but we do find a bar/sandwich place open right off the main square. We are greeted warmly by the proprietor and have a couple of delicious "piadine"....sandwiches on a tortilla-like flatbread.

After lunch, we drive through the striking Furlo gorge. The main road to Rome is in a tunnel under the gorge but the old road hugs the sheer high walls of the canyon next to the river. There is a hydroelectric plant in the gorge and there is a lot of hiking in the area.

I decide to take the back way to the Locanda through the town of Fermignano. We make one stop to buy a present for the new baby of friends in San Benedetto del Tronto where we are having lunch tomorrow. And then we proceed to miss our turn and we end up just below Urbino. We retrace our steps, drive through Fermignano and again miss the right road and take the longer route back through Acqualagna. We go past the Locanda and take the road to Fermignano just to find out where we had gone wrong. We find that we had been too impatient and should have gone another 1/2 mile to reach the right (and much shorter) return route.

We rest before dinner and then set out for a restaurant in Acqualagna recommended by Giulia--the Osteria del Parco. Dinner is very good and the restaurant is quite lively; all but one table is filled by the time we leave. We split a terrific veal carpaccio with rucola and parmigiano, Diana has a ravioli dish with pecorino cheese and then grilled lamb with roast potatoes and I have a pasta called maltagliati (badly cut) with a sauce of tomato and ceci followed by pork shanks...everything is quite good but the portions are enormous. No dessert is possible even though panna cotta is available. We drink almost a liter of the very drinkable house red and the bill comes to just over Euro 50 (about $63.00 US).

The drive back in the dark is not a problem.....unfortunately now that we have gotten the hang of the area, we leave tomorrow and won't be able to use our new-found experience.


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