topics: polpette (food), modern family life, Marche Region, Ancona's port, a very long bike day; jump to dispatch

BikeAbout Log


Rider Notes: May 9-10, 1998

Food of the Day: polpette

Polpette are like meatballs, but are made with only enough meat to give them flavor. The main ingredients are breadcrumbs, egg, maize, spices, and a little meat. Sometimes they are slow-cooked, but the ones we had for lunch, made by Mario's mother, were fried and put into a light oil sauce with spaghetti. Mmmm!

Person of the Day: Feroce family click to view a photograph, and Gabriele and Lilly - our SERVAS hosts!

Antonia and Mario Feroce were the host mom and dad for Anthony and Corinne this weekend. Already busy with 2-year-old Marcello and 8-month-old Valerio click to view a photograph, their kindness for letting half of the BikeAbout team into their home will not be forgotten. Mario is an architect and Antonia works a great deal with architects. Both are enthusiastic travelers. Or at least they were, until a few years ago when Marcello and Valerio came along...

Meanwhile, Ethan and Padraic enjoyed the generous hospitality of their SERVAS hosts, Lilly and Gabriele. Lilly is the manager of a nearby bookstore, while Gabriele is working on his Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of Urbino. They are both seasoned travelers, the evidence of which is displayed all around their beautiful flat. Besides helping Lilly cook two wonderful dinners for the hungry BkeAbouters, Gabriele also treated them to lunch in a small trattoria just beside the busy ferry port. More, he allowed the boys to connect to the Internet from his computer. And Lilly went out of her way one morning to help Ethan find an optometrist who could fix the other of the earpieces that had recently broken off Ethan's glasses. Both Gabriele and Lilly are fascinating and engaging people who made conversation easy and kept the boys pleasantly distracted. They went so far as to offer to take us out on the town both nights, though only Ethan accepted, and only on the second night. Both Ethan and Padraic were exhausted and behind on their work.

While we may have surprised our hosts by staying indoors so much despite the terrific weather, we certainly appreciate their hospitality and interest in helping BikeAbout with sleeping arrangements in Ancona... especially on such short notice. We cannot thank them enough for giving us first-hand knowledge of life in Ancona, and certainly hope to maintain contact and friendships despite the distance.

Place of the Day: port of Ancona

Ancona is the major port click to view a photograph for the Marche region and much of the east coast of Italy. Although not a major tourist destination, it is a bustling commercial center. click to view a photograph Major trade takes place here, as it has since the days of the Roman Empire. As a port with a great deal of traffic, it was also a major target during both World Wars. Constant bombing prevented both cargo and soldiers from transiting the area.

Ancona climbs the hills right off the water click to view a photograph, making the portside view of the cathedrals click to view a photograph and monuments quite imposing.

Tech Fact of the Day: Modello Marche Regione

Modello Marche Regione is a term that economists use to describe the way industry can function in an entire area, or region. Industry in the Marche Region (where we currently are in Italy) is famous for small family-run firms working together in manufacturing and export. Production here mainly takes place via this process, just as it has for centuries. The term describes not only the nature of the business activity, but also the ideology of the people in the region, who know about working together for success.

Group Dispatch, May 9-10
photograph of Corinne

Getting to know our host families a little on Friday night gave us great deal of security; we saw that we would be more than comfortable enough to get some rest - the first in quite a few days - and, more importantly, get some work done. Ancona on the weekend is much like any Italian town - bustling and brilliant during the active hours and dead quiet during the down time - particularly in the great spring weather we were having. Regardless, the BikeAbouters resisted the sun-driven Italian urge to take the weekend off.

Also, since having entered the Marches region of Italy, we were anxious to learn from our hosts a little more about life here. "Le Marche" (pronounced "le markay") is the narrow area around Ancona that runs from the Adriatic Sea to the lower slopes of the interior Apennine Mountains. Urbino, today a famous university town, is the biggest tourist attraction in the area, although it is too far from the coast for us to pay a visit this time around. The famous artist Raphael was born in Urbino, and many Renaissance architects and painters flocked there to work. The area around it, where the hills are forever green, is bespeckled with castles and monasteries.

We woke up on Saturday morning with the families, ready to get to know them better and then spend some solid computer time during the day. Of course, in the Feroce household, Valerio click to view a photograph woke up Mario and Antonia first, then soon Marcello was up as well. click to view a photograph Anthony was not far behind. (Corinne slept in, having been up late the night before writing.) Once the whole house was up and at it, the family went out for shopping and visits. (Working parents everywhere in the world will agree that weekends are more tiring than weekdays, especially since family time and needs are so much more demanding than the work requirements set by most jobs. Plus, there are only so many errands anyone can squish into two days.)

In the late morning Corinne downloaded and sent email, responding immediately to the urgent ones and finding more host options for future cities (...our never-ending quest for showers and housing). Meanwhile, Anthony met up with Ethan and Padraic who were working from their host home as well and had earlier enjoyed the excellent morning hospitality of Lilly (who had to work) and Gabriele (who had errands to run).

By lunch time, when Ethan and Padraic joined Gabriele for a late meal down by the port click to view a photograph, Anthony had rejoined Corinne at the Feroce's for a home-cooked feast click to view a photograph and was carefully supervising Marcello's "gusto" for pizza. click to view a photograph Antonia also served polpette meatballs, today's Food of the Day.

It was at this meal that we had our first Italian etiquette lesson, learning today's Words of the Day. The correct response to "Bon Appetito" click to hear an audio clip, or "Enjoy your meal," is to respond, "Thanks, the same to you!" or "Grazie, altre l'tante!" click to hear an audio clip

After lunch in the Feroce household, the little ones went down for a nap while the adults drank coffee and talked politics on the sun deck. Antonia and Mario had many questions about our travel in places like Albania and Tunisia. Anthony and Corinne then learned a little more about Ancona itself. The Marches region is known for manufacturing and trade (economists even call the special way that local Marche businesses work together to benefit the area's economy, the "modello Marche regione" - see the Tech Fact of the Day), and Ancona does well as a port so close to the Balkans. Croatians are especially noted for venturing to Ancona by car-ferry for weekend shopping sprees. In fact, the port is so important in Ancona, that it is our Place of the Day.

Afterwards, while the boys worked and napped away from the late afternoon sun, Corinne wandered through the nearly empty streets and hills of Ancona click to view a photograph, taking in the various views of this small city click to view a photograph click to view a photograph and dropping off a few things at the post office - the only thing open during siesta time. click to view a photograph The many architectural styles click to view a photograph and the medieval flare of the town were plenty entertaining. click to view a photograph Just as Corinne was finishing her tour through town, the shops began to re-open, and people once again took to the open squares and piazzas.

When the Feroce family returned from some more of their weekend visits, they brought back a friend named Marina, and Corinne and Anthony went out to eat with the whole bunch. Antonia is actually from Naples - noted for it's fabulous pizza, which we can't wait to try - and so she insisted that we go to the best pizza place in town, even though she said it wouldn't be as good as in Naples. Actually, it was some of the better pizza we have had yet in Italy! A "pizza diavola" (with spicy pepperoni and a sprinkling of peperoncino) for Anthony, an all-veggie "pizza primavera" for Corinne, and the special stracchino cheese pizza with lightly sautéed greens for Antonia certainly kept the meal interesting. Mario was too busy chasing Marcello around the restaurant to eat much of his pizza, and Marina fussed over Valerio -- allowing Antonia to eat. (The visit to the restaurant actually turned into quite an event.)

Meanwhile, Ethan and Padraic enjoyed another Lilly specialty weekend meal - a slow-cooked bean stew followed by delicious blanched spinach omelettes - with Lilly and Gabriele.

After a stop at the loveliest and busiest gelateria in Ancona, the evening for Corinne and Anthony came to an end. Padraic too retired to a longer evening's rest once his meal was over. Only Ethan elected to ponder the stars, joining Lilly and Gabriele for a drive into the hills behind Ancona where an open-air gathering had brought people together. Most of the people had congregated to listen to some live new-age music, but there were also food and drink and people to talk to... all in Italian (an ongoing challenge for Ethan that he is determined to overcome).

Sunday we biked all the way to Pescara - only 157 km (97 mi). After all, Sunday is supposed to be the day of rest, and the boys had pulled such a tough day on Friday that they decided to give themselves a break. :) We convened by the port click to view a photograph relatively early, but got a somewhat later start since we had to work the phones and try to confirm our housing in future cities. Like Naples, only 3 days away.

The initial climb UP click to view a photograph and OVER all of Ancona got us out of town and into the rolling countryside. A coastal scenic route called the "strada panoramica" swept by outstanding views of both hillside bluffs and the sea. Fortunately, after the first grueling ascent and about 20 km (12 mi) of the gorgeous green hills of the Marches, the road dropped into the flats and stayed there for the remainder of the day. The only road to Pescara was the main road, called the SS16 (Strada Statale number 16). It was a little spooky being among the rampant cars and notoriously speedy Italian drivers, especially on the weekend, but at least it wasn't the main HIGHway. We progressed down the coast with a little less fear.

By 3:00 p.m., we had covered nearly 100 kilometers (62 mi); this meant we still had some 50-60 km (31-37 mi) to go. The decision to plow on through to Pescara was made fairly quickly. We didn't know about trains to Salerno (tomorrow's destination located on the other side of Italy and not easily accessible by train... which would be our means of transport across the central mountainous spine of Italy), and knew we had only a few bike days before having to reach Naples, so the sooner we got to Pescara, the better. A stop at café/car wash about 20 km (12 mi) out of town gave Corinne a chance to catch up with the boys, and was a well-deserved and rejuvenating late-afternoon snack. It was quite necessary since we were hungry and dinner can be served quite late in Italy.

Together we biked through the "Sunday at the Seaside" mayhem of coastal traffic. While the beach scene was just winding down after 6:00 p.m., that only meant all the streets were chock-full of cars and people heading home. And, of course, the main route to the city center was right next to the water... the route we had chosen to take.

Making our way through the tangles of cars and directly to the train station click to view a photograph, we checked the schedule for Naples- or Salerno-bound cross-country trains that would take bikes. click to view a photograph As it turned out, the only real option was the first train that would leave the next morning at 5:30 a.m., getting us to Salerno by 1:30 p.m. The pre-dawn start was a little daunting, but an early arrival before a new sea on the other side of Italy sounded great.

It was after 9 p.m. by the time we had our bikes stored at a hotel across from the train station, and by midnight we had eaten at the restaurant 20 paces from the hotel itself. We were exhausted, but looked forward to the four-and-a-half hours of sleep we would get.

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