Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel
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

I scanned the equipment on the table in front of me with more than a little trepidation. Slicers, dicers, chef’s knives, and immersion blenders waited patiently to be placed in the hands of the talented cooks who had gathered at Palazzo Donati to learn about vegan cooking. Anyone who knows me will shake their head in disbelief that I would attend a cooking workshop by choice. Simply put, I do not cook. I’m lucky if I can prepare an omelette without scorching it. With no home (and thus no kitchen) since 2009, any culinary ability I may have had as a younger woman has evaporated.

Jenny Sugar teaches our group of journalists about vegan cooking

Jenny Sugar teaches our group of journalists about vegan cooking

The only thing keeping me somewhat calm was that our teacher, Jenny Sugar, looked as nervous as I felt. Like me, Jenny’s path to joy has been a circuitous one. Originally from Venezuela, she lived for many years in the U.S., Europe, and Israel, until a fateful vacation to Italy. “I knew instantly that I had to move here,” she said. It took three attempts, but she finally settled in Milan, where she opened a gourmet pasty shop. Read More

Every lane offers postcard perfect views in the tiny village of Mercatello sul Metauro, located in the eastern province of Le Marche

Every lane offers postcard perfect views in the tiny village of Mercatello sul Metauro, Italy, located in the northeastern province of Le Marche. As I wandered the main piazza of Mercatello sul Metauro or the back lanes, I was constantly amazed by the saturated palette of colors found in this little-known region. It didn’t seem to matter what time of day, every scene took on the golden hue of sunrise and sunset. Read More

Residents gather every evening in the main piazza of Mercatello sul Metauro, Italy

The owners of Palazzo Donati recently invited me to stay at their restored Italian palace in the village of Mercatello sul Metauro, Italy. The tiny commune is located in Le Marche, a lesser-known region in the northeast of Italy. The province has not yet been discovered by tourists, thus residents are absolutely delighted when visitors arrive.

One of our hosted group of travel writers experienced this delight in a most amusing way. Annette White, who writes the popular travel blog Bucket List Journey, was trying to capture a photo of herself perched in front the town’s tiny bar on the main piazza of Merctello sul Metauro. But every time she hopped up on a bar stool, older gentlemen rushed out of the bar and surrounded her. They showered her with welcoming words, kissed her on the cheek, or stroked her hair. She never did manage to take that selfie. Read More

The deep-throated cooing of pigeons in the rafters roused me from a delicious sleep. I stretched and yawned before climbing out of bed to watch the sunrise. As the sky blushed deep orange, lights winked on across the valley, marking tiny hilltop towns that are invisible during daylight hours. I glanced at the clock and groaned. 5:30 a.m. Too early for me to be up. I crawled back into bed and drifted off for another hour – until the donkey started braying. Rather than fight it, I reset my internal clock and headed out to take photos of this working farm in the heart of Tuscany, Italy.

At sunset, the spice and vegetable garden at Montestigliano catches the last golden rays

At sunset, the spice and vegetable garden at Montestigliano catches the last golden rays

Montestigliano was established at the end of the 18th century by the aristocratic De Vecchi family from Siena. They built the first part of what is today the central property. It changed hands twice more through the centuries, with each owner expanding the property until it included several palazzos for the owners, a small chapel, a granary, and houses for the farm manager and workers. Its fourth owner, Luigi Donati, acquired it in 1953, but by then the once prosperous property was in a run-down state. Read More

A Piero della Francesca painting is being restored in Sansepolcro, Italy, the home town of the famous Renaissance artist

One the many joys of wandering around the Tuscan countryside is discovering astonishing artwork found in every village, no matter how tiny. During my stay at the luxury Tuscan farmhouse of Montestigliano, I visited the tiny town of Sansepolcro, Italy, the very last town on the eastern border of Tuscany prior to crossing into the Le Marche region. At first glance, it seemed like just another cute Italian village. However, I soon learned that it had much more to offer than its weekly market. Read More