Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel
Rimini, Italy, perhaps best known for its beaches on the Adriatic, is also rife with history. This ancient Montanara Gate in Rimini city center marked one end of the street leading to what was the town's Roman Forum

The city of Rimini, Italy is perhaps best known for its shallow beaches on the Adriatic. I found the beach strip to be a nightmare of lounge chairs and shade umbrellas by day, and crowded bars by night, so as usual, I chose the path less taken. I turned my back on the shore and focused on the city center, which is rife with history and ancient Roman ruins. Read More

There is a place in Italy where things are still done the old way. Where value is measured by the preservation of ancient traditions. Where life is often difficult, but luxuriously slow and overflowing with simple joys. That place is the region of Le Marche.

My first inkling that Le Marche would offer a different kind of Italian experience came at Ristorante da Uto, located in the ancient market town of Mercatello sul Metauro. With a flourish, owner Umberto Sacchi set bowls of Passatelli with black truffle Alfredo sauce in front of us. Like any self-respecting American, I am intimately familiar with spaghetti, linguini, lasagna, cannoli, ravioli, and tortellini. Having recently visited Bologna, where the exact dimensions for Tagliatelle are guarded in the Town Hall, I even knew about this ribbon pasta. But Passatelli was new to those of us sitting around the table. The fat noodles were more reminiscent of German Spaetzle than Italian pasta.

Passatelli with black truffle Alfredo sauce at Ristorante da Uto

Passatelli with black truffle Alfredo sauce at Ristorante da Uto

Umberto was delighted. He rushed off and in a flash returned with two kitchen instruments. The first, a traditional potato ricer, he pronounced as adequate for making Passatelli. “But the ferro per passatelli is much better,” he insisted, holding up a slightly curved, perforated steel disc with wooden handles on each end. He mimicked pressing down on a ball of dough, forcing the noodles up through the holes. “Of course, you know all about truffles from Le Marche?” he asked. We admitted to having only passing knowledge about truffles and the pigs that hunt them. Read More

The main Piazza of Mercatello sul Metauro, Italy, where I spent an idyllic holiday at the 16th century Palazzo Donati

The main Piazza of Mercatello sul Metauro, in the Le Marche region of Italy. I spent an idyllic few days here, wandering the commune and meeting the locals who gathered every evening on the Piazza. But the best view of the Piazza of Mercatello sul Metauro was from the third floor window of the 16th century Palazzo Donati, where I had come to enjoy cooking classes and visits to the rich artisan traditions still practiced in the relatively undiscovered part of Italy. Read More

Ancient stone buildings mingle with brightly painted facades in the village of Mercatello sul Metauro in the Le Marche province of Italy

Ancient stone buildings mingle with brightly painted facades in the village of Mercatello sul Metauro in the Le Marche province of Italy. Located about 62 miles west of Ancona, the tiny village is home to only 1,300 residents. Some of the homes were built of stone without the use of mortar. Those that remain are becoming harder to maintain, as very few craftsmen remain who are capable of building in this manner.

In addition to offering visitors glimpses down charming old streets like this one, the commune is home to the 13th century Gothic church of St. Francis, which houses Read More

Beautiful countryside of the Metauro River Valley in the virtually unknown Le Marche region of Italy

The virtually unknown Le Marche region of Italy offers splendid scenery that rivals anything found in the more popular province of Tuscany. I found this picture-postcard view in the Metauro River Valley. The river carved this landscape over the centuries as it wound down from the Apennine Mountains to the Adriatic Sea. The result is a gently rolling terrain that is perfect for vineyards and a multitude of other crops. The Metauro River punctuates these pastoral scenes with mini waterfalls and still pools that are perfect for cooling dips on sultry summer days. Read More

My Italian experience in Le Marche, Italy, included lessons on how to make Tagliatelle pasta from scratch at the magnificent 16th century Palazzo Donati

One of the highlights of my Italian holiday in Le Marche, Italy included lessons on how to make Tagliatelle pasta from scratch. The demonstration took place in Palazzo Donati, the magnificent 16th century restored palace where I was staying. Lina often prepares meals for groups staying at the palace. She made the whole process look easy, but it was obvious that there was a lot of work involved. Just kneading the dough was a workout, and rolling it out on the marble table until it was razor thin, took true talent. But as you can see, Lina loves what she does. Her joy absolutely bubbled over as she showed us the tricks of her trade. Read More

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