Monday, February 28

Love, Murder & Monarchy ~ Gradara

...not to mention a pretty incredible view!
With the original structure built in 1150, this fortress has seen at least a few years of drama, war & love to say the least. By the 14th Century the Malaesta family had enclosed the town below the castle with a massive wall - 700 meters in circumference, guarded by 17 towers & 3 drawbridges!

No surprise, with this type of security the Malaesta family was able to keep a strong hold on Gradara for almost 2 centuries! They even fought a 42-day war waged by the rival Sforza family (led by the Duke of Montefeltro of Urbino) finally loosing the castle to them in 1464.

But here's where it gets juicy ~ according to tradition, Francesca da Rimini & her lover Paulo, were murdered her in the castle in 1289. Dante immortalized the story in the 5th canto of The Inferno.

Francesco was the daughter of Giovanni da Polenta, lord of Ravenna. Gianciotto, a courageous but supposedly super ugly solider (hey, that's the way the story goes!), obtained her father's consent to marry her. Fearing that she would be repelled by his ugliness he persuaded his handsome brother Paolo - yes, his own brother! - to court her on his behalf.

Once the marriage contract was signed the real Giancotto (the ugly brother) slipped into the marriage bed, to the understandable horror of the young bride! Ahh but the two lovers, Paolo & Francesca had fallen in love. When the ugly brother discovered this, he felt betrayed & murdered them both!

The soap-opera history sets the scene for this beautiful hilltop castle town with breathtaking views of Le Marche & the Adriatic Sea. A definite day trip - about an hour & half drive from our farmhouse.

Throughout the summer months (June - August), every Thursday evening there is a grand re-enactment of the closing of the gate with a procession complete with medieval costumes, fire-eaters & more!

For a totally unique experience check out The Medieval Table -The pleasures of the table in the Middle Ages, medieval dinners in the restaurants of the old center.

"Amor ch’a nullo amato amor perdona,
mi prese d
el costui piacer sì forte,
che, come vedi, ancor non m’abbandona." Dante Alighieri, Inferno, Canto V

Tuesday, February 15

Podcast from Italy: So you want to move to Italy, now what?! And - How to order a caffe!

So, you want to move to Italy, now what?! We get this question all the time, so we decided to breakdown a few of our top answers on taking the 1st steps to moving to Italy from language lessons to estate agents! This week Jason makes the Carnival sweets- castagnole. Plus how to properly order a coffee in a bar.

Thanks for listening & leaving feedback/comments! 

Saturday, February 12

Sauteed Spinach - Garlicky Goodness!

It doesn't get any simpler than sauteed spinach! When its done right I can't get enough of that garlicky goodness, when its mushy - its an inedible mess. (The key is in the squeeze! Read below) We grow loads of spinach, which requires lots of washing to get all the extra sand & grit off the leaves. 
Enjoy this 5-minute dish, again & again! 
As an old sailor used to say,  "I'm strong to the finish 'cause I eats me spinach."

Thursday, February 10

Romantic Italian Gourmet Getaway for 600 Euro/Couple - Now That's Amore in Le Marche!

I spell Valentine's Day: I-t-a-l-y!
Forget the roses & whitman's chocolates, make her swoon! Nothing says "I love You" like a holiday in Italy - the home of passion, romance & wine. Combine the ancient history & romance of Rome with a stay in the oh soo dreamy rolling hills of the Italian countryside add in a wine tasting & couple's cooking class ~ it's the stuff movies are made of!
Now that's amore!
(And yes, I know how cliche' that was - but as a hopeless romantic - who cares!)
Fly into Rome, the eternal city and wish upon a coin at Trevi Fountain (the backdrop to almost every famous kiss in Rome), saunter hand-in-hand down the Spanish steps with the other lovers reciting Keates and dine in Trastevere to eat as a true Roman.
UNESCO World Heritage Site & Le Marche jewel - Urbino
Then hit the winding road (preferably in a sexy old Alfa Romeo convertible) and head for the post-card perfect Italian countryside of Le Marche. 

The mood is set-at our romantic 300-year old stone farmhouse where you will be welcomed with a bottle of chilled prosecco & a candle-lite five course feast. Heat it up in the kitchen with a custom rustic Italian cooking class & sample local wines with a tasting under the stars! 

Our cooking classes (featured in Budget Travel Magazine and  Food & Wine Magazine) are hands-on & truly from the 'farm to the table' with the first stop down to the garden farm to collect fresh fruits & veggies!  Everything we eat is local & seasonal as Chef Jason shares the secrets of cucina povera (peasant cooking).
It can't get much more romantic than that...

3 nights accommodation in apartment PESCA with breakfast, prosecco upon arrival, five course dinner with local wine, half day cooking class on local seasonal rustic recipes (class includes meal, wine & gift apron), wine tasting. Based on low-season, apartment Pesca. Including taxes.

... If you can't make it to Italy, buy a bottle of Brunello & cuddle up to these classic romantic Italian films. Top 5 Romantic Italian Films
La Tavola Marche Agriturismo & Cooking School
Visit our website for more information:

Tuesday, February 8

Podcast from Italy: Top 10 Places to Visit “Off the Beaten Path” in Italy & Deserts made with Pork Fat

Ashley & Jason in Ischia
 This week Jason & Ashley chat about their favorite places to visit in Italy "off the beaten path" and what to eat once you are there. From north to south there are a few hidden jewels to add to your list for your next trip to Italy besides Rome & Venice. As always, the conversation turns to food & this week we focus on local Carneval treats & how they are made with a very special ingredient - pork fat! Plus a few fun Italian proverbs. 

Civita di Bagnoregio

Castagnole - on left: with alkemis, on right: with honey

Saturday, February 5

World Nutella Day - A Finger Lickn' Good Holiday!

What better way to celebrate World Nutella Day but with a simply delicious Nutella recipe - think Nutella-walnut-brownie!

 If you are a fan of peanut butter - then get out a spoon & dig-in to Nutella! Italians opt for the hazelnut over the peanut and combining it with chocolate is just divine! Thus Nutella was born! Thank the lord - it's finger lickin' good! I had never really gotten into Nutella in the States, but after my first taste here, I was in love! Creamy, chocolately & nutty! (The recipe is different here than in the States, less sweet, more nut.) It's great on bread, for baking or just eating a spoonfull! We've even made a nutella pizza!! I would suggest, if you have a fireplace to place it on the hearth to warm for about a half hour before you consume - I know that waiting is generally frowned upon - but it's worth it & makes it extra good & extra creamy! Trust me here!

Here is our favorite Nutella recipe (first translated & tested by my lovely sister Meagan)- it is ridiculously simple! Think of it like a Nutella brownie!

Torta con Nutella e Noci
Nutella & Walnut Torte
4 eggs
125 g sugar
125 g chopped walnuts
125 g Nutella
125 g butter
60 g flour
.5 teaspoon yeast
pinch of salt
Beat the eggs with the sugar.  
Melt the butter & chocolate together.
Combine all ingredients.
Butter & flour a spring form pan.  Add mixture to pan.
Cook at 375 for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

(Since this recipe is Italian, it is in grams - click here for a conversion table.)

(notice how tightly she is clutching "the goods" to her chest!)

World Nutella Day was created by the lovely chocolate lovers at the fabulous Italian Blogs: Bleeding Espresso & Ms Adventures in Italy

Wednesday, February 2

Podcast from Italy: From Artichokes to Politics, Pottery to Charcuterie

This weeks podcast is jam-packed!  We chat about the process of taking raw pork & making cured sausages & salami. We visit Deruta in Umbria the home of Majolica pottery to make a big purchase at a discounted price! Plus commentary on the controversial documentary Videocracy about Berlusconi's media hold & how it affects politics, media & culture in Italy. What's in-season? Jason offers up a delicious Stuffed Artichoke recipe. And start practicing this week's Italian phrase for your next trip to Italy!

(Or just click on the audio player on the right coloumn of this page.)

~Thanks for listening, Ashley & Jason
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