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Cooking in Talla then markets in Arezzo

a final day of food and wine in Tuscany

Hard to believe its been 2 weeks of wonderful experiences around Italy and we are finishing off with another day exploring the hills and towns that make up the provence of Casentino, just to the north of La Torre and Arezzo.
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Its only 30 minutes by car , but its a winding road over the hills laced with vineyards & olive groves as we travel from Capolona to Talla.
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The village of Talla is the home village of Christian , the winemaker for La Torre
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and he has got one of the local chef's from a little trattoria, La Taverna del Re to show us the art of preparing a very local version of a Ragu, one based on liver and the other veal ( from the last of the local chinina cows, very rare)
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After our final cooking school, we do some touring along the way back into Arezzo, to finally see the old city inside the walls of Arezzo.
Arezzo (Italian pronunciation: [aˈrettso] is a city and capital of the province of the same name, located in Tuscany. Arezzo is about 80 kilometres (50 miles) southeast of Florence, at an elevation of 296 metres (971 ft) above sea level. In 2011 the population was about 100,000.
Arezzo is set on a steep hill rising from the floodplain of the River Arno. In the upper part of the town are the cathedral, the town hall and the Medici Fortress (Fortezza Medicea), from which the main streets branch off towards the lower part as far as the gates. The upper part of the town maintains its medieval appearance despite the addition of later structures.
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Its a special day today as once a month the entire central Piazzas , plural, inside the old city are host to the monthly Antique markets.
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Michael Jackson's twin , the muddled wombat, is our crazy host, we recount lots of stories from the the past 2 weeks, we drink copious quantities of the local organic wine, we taste our 22nd pasta on tour, we laugh a lot, and finally end up with the locals for a singalong, of sorts,
From somewhere the grappa arrives, and from memory, Lemoncello, .
Finally we all head back up the hill to the wonderful La Torre for our final nights sleep in this extraordinarily magical place before we head to Rome for flights home.
I will do a Best of Tour summary as a final blog to this series and of course start researching the next trip to Italy (which could be as soon as February , fingers crossed )
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Posted by Bruco 00:21 Archived in Italy Tagged food travel in of italy italian tuscany wines arezzo agritourisimo chianti. Comments (0)

Harvest Celebrations Arezzo & Tasting in Cortona

2014 vintage at La Torre, lunch with the vineyard & winery workers

We are rallied to help in the preparations in the kitchen of Relais La Torre for the annual celebration of the grape harvest. Little did we know that our timing was perfect for this day of frivolity & merriment. This year the grape picking has finished a little later than usual so we get to join in the celebration where Tulio and his family thank the workers for their efforts in bringing in the fruit that will in time turn out some of the best wines in the region. All hand picked, from organically certified vineyards, the Sangiovese and a small amount of Merlot is tucked away beginning the fermentation and organic winemaking process that will produce this vintage of Chianti, Chianti Riserva, I Lastricheti ( amazing wine) & the Macchione. I hope we will be back to try these wines when they are finally bottled which will be in about 2 years time.

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The grapes for the other local speciality, the Vinsanto Di Caratello DOCG an amber coloured dessert wine produced from selected grapes of Malvasie, Trebbiano, Canaiolo & Colombano ( which i think is the variety we know as Colombard) are the ones hanging in the attic intensifying their sugar levels Its almost like a botytised Semillon with a dried fruit and honey flavour. We have been fortunate enough to try just a few.

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So we spent a few hours in the kitchen prepping and then its time to meet the crew who are arriving spot on time for an afternoon of celebration, aka drinking !!. Tullio doesnt hold back regaling stories and opening the rest of his wines that we haven't already tried. A wonderful host
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The day continues with a journey down to Cortona, about 30 minutes south of Arezzo. We have an invitation to meet the owners of Baracchi Estate the charismatic Riccardo and his Michelin Star chef and wife Silvia.
The Baracchi Estate is located on a beautiful slope just east of Cortona with a wonderful view of the Valdichiana Valley. This estate belongs to the Baracchi family since 1860 and witnesses the desire of maintaining the tradition of grape and wine making.

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Riccardo Baracchi runs Baracchi Winery with his son Benedetto, continuing a long family tradition. They create some of the region's best wines, such as the Baracchi Brut Rose, the Smeriglio Sangiovese, and the Ardito IGT. There are 60 hectars of land, 22 planted with vineyards, all at about 300mt in altitude with a southern exposure that lets the grapes fully matures.

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In addition to the winery, Baracchi owns Il Falconiere, a Spa Relais. Baracchi’s wife, Silvia, organises cooking classes at the restaurant and at their cooking school, called Under the Tuscan Sun. http://www.starchefs.com/cook/videos/interview/wine/riccardo-silvia-baracchi?sub=Wine

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As the sun sets in the west we taste the full range of the Baracchi wines including the award winning baracchi millesimato brut rose , their answer to the French Champagne.
Its been a big day so we head into Cortona to meet up with those who had decided shopping was more important than wine tasting !! Yet another amazing town on the Tuscan hill tops

The prevailing character of Cortona’s architecture is medieval with steep narrow streets situated on a hillside at an elevation of 600 metres (2,000 ft) that embraces a view of the whole of the Valdichiana. From the Piazza Garibaldi (still referred to by the local population by its older name, Piazza Carbonaia) is a fine prospect of Lake Trasimeno, scene of Hannibal's ambush of the Roman army in 217 BC (Battle of Lake Trasimene). Parts of the Etruscan city wall can still be seen today as the basis of the present wall. The main street, via Nazionale, is the only street in the town with no gradient, and is still usually referred to by locals by its older name of Ruga Piana.

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Although we only had about an hour to explore, it was enough to convince me that this is worth a day trip back to unearth the hidden treasures..
So its in the memory bank for another trip, maybe when we return to La Torre for an extended stay.
But for now, time for an early night before our final day in this wonderful part of the world.

Posted by Bruco 06:43 Archived in Italy Tagged food of italy italian tuscany wines arezzo agritourisimo chianti.cortona baracchi Comments (0)

Harvest Celebrations Arezzo & Tasting in Cortona

2014 vintage at La Torre, lunch with the vineyard & winery workers

We are rallied to help in the preparations in the kitchen of Relais La Torre for the annual celebration of the grape harvest. Little did we know that our timing was perfect for this day of frivolity & merriment. This year the grape picking has finished a little later than usual so we get to join in the celebration where Tulio and his family thank the workers for their efforts in bringing in the fruit that will in time turn out some of the best wines in the region. All hand picked, from organically certified vineyards, the Sangiovese and a small amount of Merlot is tucked away beginning the fermentation and organic winemaking process that will produce this vintage of Chianti, Chianti Riserva, I Lastricheti ( amazing wine) & the Macchione. I hope we will be back to try these wines when they are finally bottled which will be in about 2 years time.

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The grapes for the other local speciality, the Vinsanto Di Caratello DOCG an amber coloured dessert wine produced from selected grapes of Malvasie, Trebbiano, Canaiolo & Colombano ( which i think is the variety we know as Colombard) are the ones hanging in the attic intensifying their sugar levels Its almost like a botytised Semillon with a dried fruit and honey flavour. We have been fortunate enough to try just a few.

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The day continues with a journey down to Cortona, about 30 minutes south of Arezzo. We have an invitation to meet the owners of Baracchi Estate the charismatic Riccardo and his Michelin Star chef and wife Silvia.
The Baracchi Estate is located on a beautiful slope just east of Cortona with a wonderful view of the Valdichiana Valley. This estate belongs to the Baracchi family since 1860 and witnesses the desire of maintaining the tradition of grape and wine making.

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Riccardo Baracchi runs Baracchi Winery with his son Benedetto, continuing a long family tradition. They create some of the region's best wines, such as the Baracchi Brut Rose, the Smeriglio Sangiovese, and the Ardito IGT. There are 60 hectars of land, 22 planted with vineyards, all at about 300mt in altitude with a southern exposure that lets the grapes fully matures.

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In addition to the winery, Baracchi owns Il Falconiere, a Spa Relais. Baracchi’s wife, Silvia, organises cooking classes at the restaurant and at their cooking school, called Under the Tuscan Sun. http://www.starchefs.com/cook/videos/interview/wine/riccardo-silvia-baracchi?sub=Wine

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As the sun sets in the west we taste the full range of the Baracchi wines including the award winning baracchi millesimato brut rose , their answer to the French Champagne.
Its been a big day so we head into Cortona to meet up with those who had decided shopping was more important than wine tasting !! Yet another amazing town on the Tuscan hill tops

The prevailing character of Cortona’s architecture is medieval with steep narrow streets situated on a hillside at an elevation of 600 metres (2,000 ft) that embraces a view of the whole of the Valdichiana. From the Piazza Garibaldi (still referred to by the local population by its older name, Piazza Carbonaia) is a fine prospect of Lake Trasimeno, scene of Hannibal's ambush of the Roman army in 217 BC (Battle of Lake Trasimene). Parts of the Etruscan city wall can still be seen today as the basis of the present wall. The main street, via Nazionale, is the only street in the town with no gradient, and is still usually referred to by locals by its older name of Ruga Piana.

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Although we only had about an hour to explore, it was enough to convince me that this is worth a day trip back to unearth the hidden treasures..
So its in the memory bank for another trip, maybe when we return to La Torre for an extended stay.
But for now, time for an early night before our final day in this wonderful part of the world.

Posted by Bruco 05:39 Archived in Italy Tagged food of italy italian tuscany wines arezzo agritourisimo chianti.cortona baracchi Comments (0)

Montepulciano a masterpiece of Tuscany

hilltop towns of Tuscany, , the cellars of Montepulciano,

Setting out from Arezzo, we travel south to the very famous hilltop town , and one I have always wanted to visit , Montepulciano. we have a a tour of the town lined up before a very special meeting with the Count of Montepulciano in his 1000 year old cellars followed by dinner with his wines matched to each course.
Montepulciano is a medieval and Renaissance hill town and comune in the Italian province of Siena in southern Tuscany. It sits high on a 605-metre (1,985 ft) limestone ridge, 13 kilometres (8 mi) east of Pienza, 70 kilometres (43 mi) southeast of Siena, 124 kilometres (77 mi) southeast of Florence, and 186 kilometres (116 mi) north of Rome by car.

Montepulciano is a major producer of food and drink. Renowned for its pork, cheese, "pici" pasta, lentils, and honey, it is known world-wide for its wine. Connoisseurs consider its Vino Nobile, which should not be confused with varietal wine merely made from the Montepulciano grape, among Italy's best.
i will let the photos tell the story of the beauty of this town but the highlights as promoted in Wikepedia are;
The main street of Montepulciano stretches for 1.5 kilometres (0.9 mi) from the Porta al Prato to the Piazza Grande at the top of the hill. The city is renowned for its walkable, car-free nature. The main landmarks include:
The Palazzo Comunale, designed by Michelozzo in the tradition of the Palazzo della Signoria (Palazzo Vecchio) of Florence.
Palazzo Tarugi, attributed to Antonio da Sangallo the Elder or Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola. It is entirely in travertine, with a portico which was once open to the public.

The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, or the Duomo of Montepulciano, constructed between 1594 and 1680, includes a masterpiece from the Sienese School, a massive Assumption of the Virgin triptych painted by Taddeo di Bartolo in 1401.
The church of Santa Maria delle Grazie (late 16th century). It has a simple Mannerist façade with a three-arcade portico. The interior has a single nave, and houses a precious terracotta altar by Andrea della Robbia.
The Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Biagio is on the road to Chianciano outside the city. It is a typical 16th century Tuscan edifice, designed by Antonio da Sangallo the Elder on a pre-existing Pieve, between 1518 and 1545. It has a circular (central) plan with a large dome over a terrace and a squared tambour. The exterior, with two bell towers, is built in white travertine.
The walls of the city date to around the 14th century.

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Carla, our local guide bids us farewell as the sun sets over the hills of Tuscany and we head across the Grande Piazza not knowing that we would soon be below the Piazza walking through 1000 year old cellars . The Count of Montepulciano, and the head of the Contucci family is our host for the evening.
Firstly, we are shown the castle of the Contucci family, where the family have lived for over 1000 years, grand being the understatement
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then we are heading down under the Piazza and through mazes of tunnels, with stories of how these tunnels actually have paths leading for miles below the city The Contucci family is one of the oldest families in Montepulciano and they have been cultivating grapes since Renaissance times. Of their 170-hectare estate, 21 hectares are vineyards, with 15 hectares dedicated to Vino Nobile. The remaining 6 hectares are used for the Rosso Di Montepulciano, Bianco della Contessa, Il Sansovino, Vin Santo and Bianco della Contessa.

The Palazzo Contucci on Piazza Grande is the residence of the Contucci family as well as the location of their cellar. All the wines produced by the Contucci estate are matured in oak barrels here.The entrance to the cellar is just off the main square and tourists are welcome to just stroll around the cellar to see where their precious wines are cellared. We were quite surprised that no one from Contucci supervised us as we sniffed around the cellar, drooling over the barrels of the noble drop.
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As far back as the Renaissance the Contucci family were cultivating the grape and by 1700 this activity of theirs' was much appreciated. In fact they were one of the "founding fathers" of Vino Nobile, as is documented in 1773; having a major role in making it world famous: "a noble wine destined for the table of gentle folk".
By 1800 the fame of their wine was demonstrated by numerous medals and testimonials, which they had won. The building of the Contucci cellars took place before the mansion of the same name, which was once inhabited by Pope Giulio III and the by the Grand Duke Ferdinand I. The mansion was built by Antonio Sangallo the older and painted internally with affrescoes by Andrea Pozzo. One can therefore say that both house and cellars were built in the XIII century and were part of the old inner walls of Montepulciano.

Alamanno ContucciThe farm estate is 170 ettari in size, of which 21 ettari are vinyards, 15 devoted to Vino Nobile, whilst the others are used for the production of Rosso di Montepulciano, Bianco della Contessa, Il Sansovino and Vin Santo. These vineyards are situated in one of the best zones of production in the area, at a height of between 280 and 450 metres. The soil is mostly pliocenica in origin mixed with some clay and sand. The vines, only local varieties (Prugnolo Gentile, Canaiolo nero, Mammolo, Colorino, Trebbiano Toscano, Malvasìa del Chianti and Grechetto) are raised at Guyot and are planted at a density of about 3.300/4.000 plants per hectares with a limited yield (less than 55 quintals per hectares) which permits the use of the very best quality grapes.

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Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Wine.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is one Italy's classic red wines, and has unquestionably helped Tuscany retain its privileged place on the world wine map. It comes from the vineyards which surround Montepulciano, a picturesque hill town 25 miles (40km) southeast of Siena, southeastern Tuscany. Viticulture here dates back many centuries to Etruscan times. During the 15th century, the local wine was a favorite among the local Sienese aristocracy, and in the 16th century it was revered by Pope Paul III, who spoke of the wine's excellent qualities. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano was written about in the poem "Bacco in Toscana" (Bacchus in Tuscany) by Francesco Redi, who described it as "the king of all wines", and the wine was also mentioned by renowned French writer Voltaire in his book Candide.

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For a short while in the 19th century, the Montepulciano's red wines went through a period of somnolence, and were often labeled as Chianti (this town is located within the Chianti Colli Senesi sub-zone). Fortunately, with the arrival of the DOC regulation in the 1960s, it regained its stature as a fine and noble wine, and received further dues in 1980 when it was awarded the DOCG classification.

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
Early eve
According to DOCG rules, to be labeled as Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, a wine must come from vineyards on the hills which surround Montepulciano. This area is made up of slopes reaching 820–1968ft (250–600m) in altitude, located between two rivers – the Ocria and the Chiana rivers.

The key grape variety grown here Sangiovese (known locally as Prugnolo Gentile), the same variety used to make another of Tuscany's other great red wines, Brunello di Montalcino. Sangiovese grapes must make up at least 60–80 percent of the final wine, and may be complemented by Canaiolo (10–20 percent) and other local varieties permitted in the province of Siena, including the rare, violet-scented Mammolo (Sciacarello).

The aging period for any Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is a minimum of 24 months (36 months for the riserva wines) of which at least 12 months must be spent in oak barrels. Local winemakers long used large Italian botti, rather than the smaller French barriques, as barriques would bring an undesirable level of toasty, vanilla oak flavors to the wine. The larger botti have a lower surface area relative to the volume of wine they contain, meaning less oak flavor in the finished wine. Oak barrels are used here not so much for their flavor as for the slow, controlled maturation they provide. This tradition has now become enshrined in the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOC laws.

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is usually maroon-red in color and takes on a subtle brick-orange tint over time. It is characterized by its dark cherry and rich plum aromas, ripe strawberry and cherry fruit flavors, and a gently tannic 'tea-leaf' finish. It is also known for its medium body, firm tannins, and for the acidity which makes it a particularly age-worthy wine (well-made examples improve gracefully over one or two decades). Some have described the wine as having the perfume of Chianti Classico's with the richness of Brunello di Montalcino's richness.

Montepulciano also produces sweet, white Vin Santo di Montepulciano, and Rosso di Montepulciano – a dry red made in a more modern style, with fewer tradition-bound constraints.

Its time for dinner and we are escorted by the Count to the family owned Trattoria Osteria del Conte, where we have a 6 course dinner matched with 6 of the best wines from Contucci ..

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Antipasto del Conte , followed by a Prima Piatti of Pici al Ragu, and a ravioli pasta melted with Pecorino, then a pork fillet with Tuscan lard, (amazing) then cheese, pecorino of course. I am sure there was more, but it may have been an additional starter. I was concentrating on the wines , all of which were superb. Definitely do the tasting offered at their cellars, they are all outstanding wines

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Posted by Bruco 04:41 Archived in Italy Tagged food of wine tuscany montepulciano italy. Comments (0)

Truffles - Honey - Caves & Oil

traveling from Ascoli Piceno to Monterado

After the incredible day of the Truffle we gather in the main Piazza in Ascoli for dinner at possibly the most famous Cafe Meletti, hosted by the Staffolani family.

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Its another festive night with entertainment provided by local musicians. Just some light platters of delicious food and a selection of local wines including a local Prosecco. Cafe Moletti sits on one corner of the main piazza in the old town,Piazza Del Popolo a beautiful setting, its a bar and cafe downstairs, with a great wine list, all local, some interesting beers, and a very good menu. Definitely worth a visit, day or night, very traditional, great for people watching.
A good walk after dinner as the night cools down. Early night before an early start.

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We are up and away after 30 minutes delay to extricate the cars from a packed car park.We head north down to the coast and back inland to visit the famous caves of Frasassi Le Marche. 30 klms of majestic caves only discovered some 50 years ago.

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After two hours with a guide through the caves we are back on board and heading to meet Giorgio Poeta, at Punto Vendita, who makes honey aged in Barrels.
We are hosted a memorable lunch in his new headquarters which featured dishes finished with honey, cheese with honey meade , both dry & sweet, the ricotta drizzled with honey was amazing .

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Another hour heading north again, this time to our own castle accommodation in Monterado, Castello Monterado.
Located 20 minutes inland from Senigallia the castle dominates the landscape in the hilltop village of Monterado. Outstanding property. It has recently been opened to the public with the main Castle offering about 7 rooms, massive in size, as well as 6 beautiful houses in the town centre right beside the castle
Taken from their website http://www.castellodimonterado.it/ This ancient residence is perched on top of one of the many hills characterizin the Marche, it is surrounded by an Italian-style garden and a vast wood. The views are truly charming, they extend over the Cesano valley, stretching from the Appennines to the Adriatic sea. We are delighted to invite you into our lavish halls and suites, adorned by the exquisite nineteenth century frescoes of Corrado Corradi, one of the most renowned artists of our region.
Here, in this noble castle, Prince Maximilian de Beauharnais, nephew of Napoleon the first, chose to spend his honeymoon after the celebration of his marriage to the daughter of Czar Alexander of Russia.
The inside of the palace was decorated, upon his order, for the important occasion.
The former cellars, built within the bastions of the castle, consisting of spacious galleries with vaulted ceilings, open up to the garden. These refined and impressive surroundings have been restored to bring them back to their ancient beauty.

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We have a couple of hours to explore the village and the Castle its self, not enough time but tonight we will be in the cellars where 20 + local producers are coming in for a Wine & Food festival , held once a year, and guess what , we are invited. Cant wait.

Posted by Bruco 05:26 Archived in Italy Tagged food and of italy marche wine le oil olive monterado Comments (0)

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