10 June: Catriona has a birthday to remember

Author: Mrs A

Location: Loro Piceno, Le Marche, Italy

Monday: Catriona’s birthday is the event that had brought us all together on this occasion, and what a place to celebrate. Our friends’ spectacular house and grounds we are staying in has ever changing views over the the valley, buzzards and swallows constantly soaring overhead. At night, fireflies light up the undergrowth and there is a nightingale that sings beautifully after dark.

The terrace and pool have views to die for, and there are multiple zones to sit in and relax, surrounded by beautifully groomed gardens and an olive grove below.

A house and pool with a multi million dollar view

We had a lovely birthday breakfast for Catriona with strawberries and yoghurt, keeping it healthy in anticipation of more delights to come, allowing Catriona to open presents and cards and Mr A to read out a poem he had composed, in special birthday tradition.

After a little refreshing pool time I accompanied Catriona, John, Stuart and Karen back down to Abbadia di Fiastra to show them around there. We explored the church with its frescos dating back to the 1500s before taking a stroll along the avenue of mulberry trees and looping back around the fields.

The walkers

Birthday girl enjoying the serenity

Very quiet on a Monday morning

Returning for a light lunch it was a relaxing afternoon had before G&T o’clock.

Mel and Catriona

G&T to start…

Mr & Mrs A enjoying the view

Full team: Barney, Karen, Mel, Mr A, Catriona, John, Mrs A and Stuart
Karen and Stuart enjoying the view

Mark and I had bought Catriona a magnum of champagne from Pannier when we were in France, which she kindly shared with us all (given she would have to abandon all her clothes in order to take it home!) – deliciously good memories there!

Birthday girl with champagne

Before long it was time for Catriona’s birthday dinner, cooked by a private chef at the house. We don’t think you could find a better restaurant than this!

  • Full menu:

    • Warm asparagus salad, lemon dressing with crispy pancetta and crutons

    • Pappardelle, pork ragu with mushrooms and fresh herbs

    • Roasted beef with mixed vegetables

    • Chocolate texture with cherry compote and roasted hazelnuts

    Catriona’s private chef, Fabrizio preparing our entree of asparagus

    Fine views across the valley

    Surrounded by views and flowers, the table is set for dinner

    The village lighting up behind us
    Amazing menu in a great setting

    The fine wine flowed and the music got louder…there was dancing and laughter and I think Catriona’s next decade was entered into in fine style!

    Fabrizio joins us for a post cheffing beer before he heads off
    Catriona, Karen and I boogie on the ‘dance floor’

    5-7 June: Our introduction to Le Marche

    Author: Mr A

    Location: Abbadia di Fiastra, Le Marche, Italy

    Wednesday: We have friends of friends who have kindly invited us and some of our friends (with it so far?) to stay with them in eastern Italy in the region of Le Marche (pronounced lay markay). To be honest, until they gave us their address we had no idea where that was, or even pronounce it. Well now we do and what a find it has been.

    Le Marche doesn’t roll off the tourist tongue like Tuscany, and the thankfully the coaches aren’t rolling down the streets just yet in this region…. We arrived via the excellent west to east route along SS77. A dual carriageway with tunnel after tunnel bored through the mountains that run in a chain down this part of central Italy.

    We were making for a campsite our friends had suggested in the grounds of an old abbey and country park near to their village. We had given ourselves a couple of days to explore the area and get things prepared for the onslaught before everyone else arrived.

    We arrived to find a beautifully near deserted camping area, with only a couple of other vans there. We picked our spot and had just set up the chairs…as a motorhome drove right next to us completely blocking our view. I gave him my best evil eye and exaggerated “what the ….” shrug…he moved off when Catherine joined in! She’s a terror…

    Time for lunch

    So with view restored we were soon visited by a young cat who was clearly Italian given his chattiness and general exuberance! He was to become our constant companion over the next two days..,well until someone else pulled up he thought might feed him…

    There goes our last tin of tuna…

    It was time for our customary exploration on two wheels. What a ride we had, as we came round corner after corner with a new vista of perfectly green fields opening up…and the odd snow capped mountain! This was cycling heaven.

    Fields of spinach

    We made our way through the park, exploring Roman ruins, admiring the bird life, and smelling the wild flowers.

    Thursday: The next day we went further afield through several of the nearby villages. And not a tour bus in sight…

    Yes, still snow up there
    More fields of poppies looking towards more hilltop villages…

    The castle in Colmurano
    A couple of happy cyclists

    in the late afternoon we headed out again, I had spotted a winery within striking distance of the bikes.

    Now that’s a decent driveway!
    The terrace tasting area with fabulous views
    Murola tasting room
    Enjoying a few drops of red…yes we invested in a case and a half
    A post tasting tour around the barrels and bottling plant

    After some initial confusion about what we wanted, as I had asked for a “wine tasting”, which apparently in Italy is more of a wine experience with food (and €15-20 a head), not a tasting with the purpose of trying before you buy. We embarked on our mission to stock up with some more wine before the rest of the troops made it here. It’s a tough job but someone has to do it. And what a great selection of wines they had, set in beautiful grounds. Our host Anna even offered to deliver our wine to the campsite! Now thats a service I doubt you’d find at your average Tuscan posh as you like winery.

    We think we will like it here!

    A fantastic cycle home to Truffy

    Friday we did a little more exploring on foot, taking a look at the monastery and abbey, and taking some of the footpaths at a slower pace, listening to the birds, smelling the flowers and generally just enjoying the peace before the storm.

    Poppies are everywhere splashing red into the fields
    Wild roses
    Inside the abbey

    Our friends Melinda and Barney arrived at around 5pm to escort us to their home in Loro Piceno, and tomorrow four more friends arrive from the UK. It’s all going to get a lot busier around here!