10/16/2003 Italy in Fall 2003 Day 9 - Macerata - Pesaro
Jim and Diana write:
The weather is better this morning.....the fog is lifting and you can see a number of ridges from our balcony. We plan to spend the last morning in Macerata, visiting the Duomo, the Arena and other places in town we had not yet visited, as well as going back to the Department of Labor mobile job fair in the piazza at the bottom of town.

The town takes on a better aspect with the sun shining and more people in the streets; we buy some postcards and just stroll for a while. The Duomo has been redesigned several times so little if any of the original is left, but it is a big, bright church and we walk around inside just to get a sense of the place, without trying to identify each specific feature. We head to the Arena Sferisterio, the major landmark of Macerata, and confirm that the tour will take place at 12 noon.

Before the tour we walk over to the Department of Labor's travelling show which takes place in the same piazza. I introduce myself to one of the young staff, telling her that I do the same kind of work in the United States. She seems surprised and immediately tries to find someone who speaks English. We are introduced to a young woman who is working at the job fair but who had spent three years in England. She explains the purpose of the travelling they teach people how to assess themselves to pick the right career, explain the job market, and help them develop effective resumes. She also tells us that they don't deal with specific jobs, which is the province of another agency--one that is more conservative and unwilling to adopt new techniques. She also lets on that she felt that these activities are more public relations gambits by the government, rather than a real effort to provide concrete help to job seekers. We see a class being led through the process of self-assessment while we were talking; I am now figuring out (half-seriously) how I can contract my services to the Italian government to help them with their workforce program. We had noted how prosperous the area seemed; she says the unemployment rate was 2%! (In the Naples area it is 22%.) I pick up some literature and will try to struggle through the Italian to see how their programs compare to our workforce programs.

There are only two other people on the arena Italian couple from Rome, also staying at our hotel- and a young woman from the Tourist Office takes us around. The arena is now the location of the opera festival each summer, but it was originally built in the early 19th century as a stadium where the local ballgame--pallone al bracciale--was played. Since it was designed for the ball game, one long wall is straight and tall and the rest of the stadium has a spherical shape. Apparently the acoustics are excellent; they don't play ball there anymore but operas have taken center stage since 1921. (I actually sent a client of mine to Macerata for the opera festival three years ago.) It is quite a distinctive looking structure and we walk around and try to imagine it with Pavarotti on the stage and 7,000 spectators in the audience.

We stop for sandwiches on the way back to the hotel.....actually a piadina and crescione....two variations on a tortilla that are filled with ham, cheese, greens and the like. We eat in one on the piazzas, as the last bit of sun dips behing the buildings.

We really liked the hotel room at the is large and comfortable and has the wonderful balcony and a spacious bathroom and shower. The only drawback is somewhat dim lighting. Even the telephone connection for the Internet was as fast as could be expected from a dial up....all in all, a very nice hotel.

En route to Pesaro, a beach resort on the Adriatic about an hour from Macerata, we make a quick stop at the pilgrimage town of Loreto. Supposedly, the second most popular shrine in Europe (behind Lourdes), the main attraction is the Santa Casa (the holy house--the house where Mary lived in Nazareth which had been tranported by angels to central Italy). The Santa Casa has been a pilgrimage spot since the 14th century and now is the centerpiece of the large basilica in Loreto. The brick house has been enrobed with a spectacular marble wrapping of sculpture designed by Bramante and containing carvings depicting the house flying through the air with Mary and her family on the roof, as well as other scenes from Mary's life and sculptures of the prophets. We had not been familiar with the story before, but our friend Monsignor Patrick Kilgariff had told us about it in Rome so we decided to make it part of our trip.

There is some archaelogical evidence cited in the literature that the type of bricks in the house can be traced back to the Nazareth area at the time of Christ; it is said that there are no similar brick structures in the Loreto area. There is also other speculation that one of the crusaders had brought some bricks from the Holy Land back to Italy after one of the crusades, which also could explain its provenance. In any case, it is interesting to see how revered the shrine is; while we are there, we see pilgrim groups from the United States, India and Costa Rica.

On to Pesaro.....a large beach town just south of the regional border with Emilia-Romagna. It is a long ride in from the autostrada exit to the beachfront where our hotel is located, through a very dense commerical strip lined with shopping centers. Our hotel, the Vittoria, is in a 19th century mansion, just off the water; they had a better view before a 10 story modern hotel was built between the hotel and the sea. Our room is called a "executive" room....the sleeping area and the sitting area are separated by a luxurious bathroom. It is probably the most luxurious room we have ever stayed at....antiques, a large bed with draperies coming down from the ceiling, lots of storage space, comfortable chairs to sit in. There is a three-quarter view of the Adriatic and the waterfront park. The public areas of the hotel are also quite luxurious.

I go out to scout the town before dinner.....It is about a 5 minute walk from the hotel to the "centro storico"; the main street is quite fashionable and the main square is nicely proportioned. I do some window shopping and also find the Pesaro synagogue, but the sign says it is only open on Thursdays during the summer, which is confirmed when I ask at the tourist office. It seems like a pleasant town.

We decide to have dinner in town at an old fashioned osteria that was written up nicely in the Slow Food guide--the Antica Osteria La Guercia. We are lucky that we get the last available table; all the other tables are full or reserved and the proprietor turns away a couple that arrives after us.

The food is very good, but I am very tired so I don't appreciate it as much as I might have. Diana has a risotto-like dish made with farro (a barley-like grain) and a tomato sauce which is very good and a roast pork cooked in the style of porchetta--both very good; I have a piadina stuffed with ham and cheese to start and an excellent dish of delicious chickpea and clam soup. But I can't wait for them to bring the is a variation of the disappearing Italian waiter. Diana swears that when she asks for the check, the waitress replies "No." She is convinced that Italian waiters find it unseemly to bring a check in a hurry, even if the customer has asked for it.

I can't wait; I have to go outside and get some fresh air. Diana deals with the check and we head back to the hotel quickly I am asleep in no time.