10/17/2003 Italy in Fall 2003 Day 10 - Pesaro
Jim and Diana write:

The sea looks rough this morning and the sky is gray....not a promising sign. The Hotel Vittoria doesn't include breakfast in the room rate and we don't feel like paying $15.00 for their spread, no matter how good it might be. So we head out to town to find a bar where we can get our cappuccino, tea and sweet rolls. We actually end up sampling two bars (for future reference) and they are both fine.

We are hoping that the sky will clear some by the time we finish, but it stays windy and raw. As we walk back along the water, we decide that it is not a good day for walking around town, so we get in the car and head north along the panoramic road that follows the ridge line--overlooking the water on one side and the countryside on the other. Panoramas are limited by the weather and the foliage but there are some sporadic nice views over the Adriatic as well as some picturesque villages and castles. However, we are not tempted to get out and look around too much.

Enroute we call a restaurant in the next town down the coast (Fano)--Da Maria--which our friend Maureen recommended that we try. Unfortunately, when the weather is bad, they can't go out and fish. And if they can't go out and fish, they can't open that night. Diana has a nice conversation with the lady on the other end of the phone (in Italian) who suggests that we call back the next day to check on the fish situation.

We drive through a beach town--Gabicce Mare, right on the border of Le Marche and Emilia-Romagna; it is quite deserted on this weekday in October and there is nothing to tempt us to stay there. But there is a celebrated castle-fortress not far from here in the town of Gradara and we head there looking for a place to eat and then to reassess the weather situation.

Gradara is one of those storybook medieval towns....somewhat by design, as they are trying to attract summer visitors from the beach towns in the area. The "centro storico" under the castello is lined with gift shops and places to eat....and a few of them are open. We pick one at random--La Botte--and walk in. There is only one other table occupied but, after the short climb from the parking lot, we are ready to be inside.

La Botte turns to be a wonderful place to eat...we have one of our better meals of the trip, enhanced by the fact that it was unplanned and unexpected. Diana and I share a large of plate of assorted crostini....most of them delicious...toasted bread topped with oil and garlic, tomatoes, artichoke cream, cheese, etc. I have one of the best bowls of soup on the trip....a rich broth with beans with cotiche (softened pig have to try it) and Diana has a cheese plate with jams. Dessert is very good also--panna cotta for me and a chocolate cake for Diana. We decide to skip wine in order to keep our options open for some sightseeing after lunch.

We also liked the olive oil that they served, called Agape, from a town called Sassocovaro in the hills beyond Urbino. I write down the name of the producer and we will try and find some to bring home.

After lunch, we continue our climb up to the hilltop castle. The weather is not improving at all, so we decide we are better off inside than outside. There is a story attached to the castle...the love affair between Paolo and Francesca, which was the basis of the opera, Francesca di Rimini. We walk through the requisite dungeons and kitchens before we reach the living quarters. They are decorated in period pieces and there are some nice pieces of art work and frescoes still remaining. A guide takes us (and the five or six other people in the castle) through the family's lodgings and explains (in Italian) some of the history and legend. There is a trap door in the beautiful princess' bedroom where the son-in-law of her husband used to come for assignations. Unfortunately for them, they were found out and executed. There was also a room where three magistrates made decisions about life and death cases. If the defendant was found guilty, he was thrown into an empty air shaft, where at the bottom (according to the guide) "he was cut like a salami."

Before we leave the castle, we look at an exhibit on the subject on the similarity between certain symbols/women's clothing/decorations etc. in Christian, Jewish and Islamic traditions. It is a little hard for us to make sense of the Italian explanation, but it is a very handsomely mounted show with beautiful illustrations.

We leave Gradara and head back up to Pesaro on the highway.....unfortunately when we get back to the hotel, the weather is still cold and nasty, so we head up to the room to rest for a while. But it does get a little nicer, so we go into Pesaro to do some exploring. We walk through the shopping area and stop in an art show being held in a desconsecrated church. We sit in the main piazza for a few minutes but as it is getting close to dinner time, we head back.

Dinner is somewhat problematical....we are really not all that hungry for a full meal and we don't really want to drive anywhere or walk back into town. So we decide on a pizzeria-ristorante which is right on the waterfront, about five minutes from the hotel; we had actually had a cappuccino there earlier in the day.

Il Molletto turns out to be a perfect choice. Sometimes you are just not up for a big dinner. The pizzeria is lively, the people are nice, and it is very informal. Diana orders a pizza with salami and olives and I have a plate of pasta with chickpeas and clams; Diana likes her pizza although the crust is more like the local piadina than what we think of as pizza back home and I think my pasta dish is terrific. We have a half-liter of red wine and Diana has some delicious pineapple for dessert. Very satisfying and definitely the right decision.

We take a short stroll along the water, looking for signs of clear weather for our drive up to Urbino tomorrow.