Sunday, April 18, 2010

Il palio della rana: of men, frogs and wheelbarrows

Take a man, a frog and a wheelbarrow and imagine a race... yes, you chose the right option: the man pushes the wheelbarrow with the frog on it.. it sounds funny enough, no need to imagine other possibilities!

Of course the frog will not specially like the idea of standing still on the bumping vehicle and will jump off, the man drops the wheelbarrow and catches the frog and off he starts pushing and running again.

Take the 7 contrade of Fermignano: Cà L’Agostina, Calpino, La Pieve, La Torre, San Lazzaro, San Silvestro and Santa Barbara, each one wearing different colours, all running for the Palio, take drums, beautiful Renaissance dresses, falconers, lots of people and fried frog-legs, this is what you can see if you visit Fermignano during the weekend following Easter Sunday (this year they had to move the celebration due to the bad weather).

By the way, this is a very serious issue and there's a veterinary who checks that the frogs are sound and fit before and after the race, and apparently the Guardia di Finanza (financial police) is also somehow involved in the inspection!

Friday, April 16, 2010

The biggest calf ever

I rarely talk about my cattle here, but today I started the day helping a cow calving and a massive, enormous, gorgeous calf was born, so they deserve an entry of their own!
The calf is really huge, it took 3 of us pulling like crazy while my neighbour Giovanni supervised and directed.
When a cow has so many problems calving we always fear that she might refuse the calf, or at least be too stressed to take care of it properly, in this case we had no problem: the cow "gli vuole bene" (lit. she loves him) as the farmers in the area put it (sweet, isn't it?).
The only problem is that the calf is so big and he was pulled so strongly (weakening his front limbs) that he has problems standing up, he's lively and strong so he can stand for a while, but at the moment not enough to get near his mother and suckle so today we're all collaborating to feed him (it's very important that he takes the colostrum, the first milk that contains antibodies and gives nutrients in a very concentrated low-volume form. 
Well, I will not bother you with more technical issues and will leave you to the pictures of the event!

My neighbour Giovanni watching the cow and the calf for signs of any problem.

Curious calf taking a sneak peek of the newly born (almost twice as big as he is!)

Trying to stand up!

The proud daddy! :)

Monday, April 12, 2010


A truffle (tartufo) is a type of chocolate confectionery, traditionally made with a chocolate ganache center coated in chocolate or cocoa powder... no, no, no... this is not the kind of truffle I want to talk about!

Truffles are delicious fungi with a pungent smell that grow underground.
Pigs or dogs are used to find them since there's nothing over the surface that indicate their presence.
Acqualagna, just 5 minutes drive from Valle Nuova, is the biggest trading market in Italy for truffles even if Alba, in Southern Piedmont, is much better known.
There are many different species of truffle and Northern Le Marche, specially the area around Acqualagna, is the only area in Italy where truffles can be found and collected year-round.
The species that can be collected in Acqualagna area are the following (along with collecting seasons). They are listed from the best "Tuber Magnatum Pico" down to the "Scorzone" that in my opinion should be avoided since you risk being charged a lot of money and being served Scorzone (that is hard and pretty tasteless) + artificial aroma.
Tartufo bianco (Tuber Magnatum Pico from October 1st to December 31st)
Tartufo nero pregiato (Tuber Melanosporum from December 1st to March 15th)
Tartufo bianchetto o ‘marzuolo’ (Tuber Borchii Vitt or Tuber Albidum Pico from January 15th to April 30th)
Tartufo nero estivo o ‘scorzone’ (Tuber Aestivum Vitt. from May 1st to December 31st)

I don't like scorzoni but they are surely BIG! This one was found in our woods.

There are three truffle fairs in Acqualagna:
Tartufo nero pregiato fair: Sunday before the last of February
Tartufo Scorzone: First weekend of August
Fiera Nazionale del Tartufo Bianco: 3 weekends between the end of October and the beginning of November.
During the month of October, every weekend, Sant'Angelo in Vado hosts a white truffle fair and an expo and market of truffle hunting dogs.

In October we organize truffle hunting walks with our neighbour Giovanni and his dogs, we'll also be glad to suggest the best place to buy some truffle to bring home and to buy some fresh truffle and prepare it for you!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Valle Nuova through your eyes: Laura

During Easter holidays some friends from Spain came stay at my place. We walked and chatted, ate and drank, played cards and "mended the world" a few times talking over and over again about this and that.
We also took quite a few photos, specially Laura, she always had her super camera with her and the click accompained us everywhere.
She showed me some of her shots and it was so interesting to see the very well known landscapes, trees, cows and cats through her eyes that I decided to ask her some of her shots for this blog and start a series of "Valle Nuova through your eyes" photos. I'll ask more friends and guests to participate and if you think you have something interesting to show here please contact me!

So, these are some (just a few) of Laura's photos, taken during Easter 2010 near Locanda della Valle Nuova. Thank you Laura!!!