The Marches

October 24, 2007

  (September 25-29) img_0741-400x533.jpg                  We left Nice for the Villa Giulia in Fano (www.relaisvillagiulia.com), on the Adriatic coast in the Marches region, where we planned to spend four nights touring the northern Marches and then ferry over to Croatia for a leisurely drive north into Italy.

The first part worked out perfectly. We spent our days driving around with our GPS programmed for villages we particularly wanted to see. With that operating we were directed to back roads, many of which had no name or number and where intersections were not marked. This was quite a treat because we drove through hills and valleys of pastoral beauty with an astonishing number of elegant villas tucked into the hills which we assume would have sea views from both sides of their house.

 In this manner we visited Urbino img_0747-300x400.jpgand its fabulous ducal palace, noteworthy for its use of running water and heat back in the 15th century. Because this area has gentle, rolling hills which do not provide any semblance of security, the old towns have very impressive walls, many of which are extant as in Ostra and Corinaldo as well as Urbino and Jesí.

San Leo is a medieval town and formidable fortress that seems to create its own weather. img_5509-250x390.jpgThe temperature before the climb to the town was 21C but in town was 11C! Gradara is a gem of walled town, built in the 11th century. There were many other towns to see but these are the highlights. Half the fun was the drive to them.

We stayed at the Relais Villa Guilia all four nights in an apartment in one of the dependencies of this old estate, built as a hunting lodge for Napoleon’s brother. The church took it over and then later transferred it to the family of the current owners, who used it as a summer retreat from Venice up until three years ago. img_0766-400x300.jpgOur apartment was two bedrooms and two baths separated by a living room with dining area and what we would call a Pullman kitchen. It was furnished comfortably, but eccentrically.

Countess Anna Passi, the hostess and inheritor along with her brother of the property has quite an eye for décor.

The shower/tub in one bathroom, for instance, was an old wooden wine vat, for stomping grapes, we guess. img_0734-500x375.jpgThe shower curtain hung on the copper water pipes that fed the shower head. Instead of faucet for the tub, water poured from an old milk pail.

As it turns out it was fortuitous that Anna had made our ferry reservations to Croatia. The day before we were to leave from Ancona, the ferry company called her and said they had cancelled the ferry. This marked the end of the season for the high speed ferry.
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At this point we reverted to Plan B and drove up north into Italy with the Po Delta our first stop (see Italy/Venetia and Northeast). Before we left, however, we grabbed a brochure of Anna’s other place, a floor in her family’s Venetian palazzo that she has converted into a two bedroom apartment right on the Grand Canal at the San Tomá-Frari boat stop. It looks like a great place to stay the next time we are in Venice but we must book early (www.tiepoletto.com).

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