I know, I know. It’s been too long. But I promised.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007. Urbino to Cupramontana . . . we awoke to a bit of rain over the Marche countryside, but still, we were in Italy, so any day is a glorious day!
Packed up our overnight bags and checked out of the little hotel, Albergo San Giovanni, walked up the narrow cobblestone street into the piazza and got our cappuccino, croissant, and cheese for breakfast. Finding our way back to the elevator in the mountain that takes one down the hill, through the mountain rock to the parking agent, we opened our maps and headed out, not sure where the next adventure would lead us.
We had spoken to a real estate agent and his wife, Peter and Peony, transplants ten years ago from Munich, and they recommended two B & Bs farther south on the path we had chosen through The Marches. I had contacted both of them this morning: one man apologetically said he and his wife were taking their first vacation in three years, so their rooms were closed for three weeks. The other, Girandola, owned by a Belgian woman I think, had no room for us, but gave us another contact in Cupramontana, , the town in which the real estate couple live.
I called. Got a grandmother who spoke no English, and her Italian was in a LeMarche dialect. I asked whether she had a room, and she said yes. That was the end of our mutual understanding of one another’s Italian. I then called Girandola back, and the Belgian owner offered to be the intermediary for us. By the time she was through helping us, we had a reservation for the Cupramontana B & B. The grandmother and mother spoke no English, but the daughter/granddaughter would be there to greet us in the evening.
So off we went from Urbino toward Gubbio, just over the border from LeMarche to Umbria), one of the names I recognized from all the reading I had done before we began our trip. We headed toward the “centro”, always a good bet, parked in the first spot we found, and began to – yes, trudge up another picturesque cobblestone street to the top of the village.
As we came to a corner, we heard raised voices (Italian raised voices, so “raised” is putting it mildly!) and saw two women and a man walking. The dark-haired young couple with a dog were arguing with a blond woman. We could only imagine the topic – and imagine we did . . . a jilted blondie confronting the “new woman”? or perhaps blondie had been a dalliance for the man and now he severed his illicit ties with her . . . who knows? But we could hear their “raised voices” even after we turned the NEXT corner.
And at the top we discovered, to our delight, a lovely enoteca which also served a very light and delicious selection of lunch plates. (As soon as I find the business card, I’ll come back to this entry and add the exact name of the place and the owner). The owner, a handsome young man, had worked for GE for five years so his English was excellent. So was his taste in the wine in his shop, as well as his personal collection of some very exquisite bottles of Italy’s best – displayed in the shop as well with signs which said “Private Collection” on them. Of course he and Neil had a lot to talk about while I munched happily and slowly on the variety of cheeses and other antipasti sitting on our table. We tasted a wine of the region, Sagramontina, I think, and spent much of the afternoon in this lovely little place.
After our long lunch, we began to walk DOWN and DOWN in another direction, just realizing that we had come into the town not in the center, but at the very top. The “centro” had a lovely park (and lots of tour buses) but we stopped at the Information office and got a map of the village so we could find our way back to our car! Then it was time for us to drive back toward our B & B and take a rest.
When we arrived in the town of Cupramontana, it took three passes down the main road and back again . . . and again . . . before we spotted the sign for Cerubini on a corner. Parked the car and tentatively entered what looked to be a little vendor for wine and a few other strange goodies (a roll of something (figs, it turned out) wrapped in a grape leaf . . . ). Cristina, the granddaughter, greeted us warmly and showed us to a lovely, spacious room on the third floor with our own gleaming, spotless bathroom. The price was 30 Euro per night per person including breakfast. A great relief after our expensive Venice stay. We decided to stay two nights instead of one, and Cristina beamed. Turns out this B & B idea was hers, and the two immaculate rooms and bathrooms on our level of the building had just recently been completed, so she was excited with her new venture.
We followed her back down to the “shop”, where the village men began appearing, in and out without interruption. It was the end of the day and they had come to buy the wine made by the three generations of women. Cristina’s a young exuberant girl/woman in sweat pants and t-shirt. She and her mother run the wine shop, where they sell Verdicchio (a white wine), Anastasia (a red named for a little niece), and olive oil from their farm. Her father and brother are out in the countryside harvesting grapes, and the grandmother sits grinning at the table in the tasting room. We settled ourselves at a little tasting table with grandmother (my phone partner earlier in the day), the mother, smiling but no English, and Cristina, whose English, coupled with my Italian, resulted in a similar conversation to the one I had the evening before in the Urbino restaurant. Delightful, hilarious, and heart-warming. God, I love this country!