Mountain Towns and Dancing Shoes

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I love the mountains. Love looking at them, and even more being out in them. So one of the things on my tick list while in Italy was to get to the mountains. Most people know about the Italian Alps, in the northwest. A few more know about the Dolomites, in the northeast. I was not familiar with the Sibillinis, which actually run pretty much down the spine of “the boot” of Italy.

They’re at their highest and most beautiful in Le Marche, where the Parco Nazionale dei Monti Sibillini is located. http://www.sibillini.net/en/index.htmlImage

So we drove first to Sarnano and then to Amandola, about 30-45 minutes south of us. Both are picturesque walled towns in the mountains. Both are fascinating to wander through. They’re both built at the top of a rise at the foot of higher mountains. So the streets circle the hill, dividing it into level or layers. It sounds orderly—sort of. But walking around these narrow vias and vicolos, you could easily get lost. And that’s part of the fun of it—at least to me. It’s also a great way to get to the top of a very steep hill—traversing back and forth past storybook castle-like homes that have been occupied for the better part of a millennium.

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The snow that affected us affected these mountain towns even more. Our puny 20 cm of snow paled in comparison to their meter of snow. We had a couple of warmer, sunny days, and thanks to their experience and preparedness, the streets were completely clear. Heading up the mountain toward the rifugio (mountain retreat), we wondered what the mountain road would be like. Let me just say it got worse the higher we went. But the snowplows had been there, God bless’em. We stopped before they did. We could have gone farther, but we didn’t have snow tires or chains. Still, the views were worth it. Saw a pack of wild boar on the way down—probably 12-15 of the hairy beasts. Tried to get a pic, but they were too skittish.

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I don’t have a shoe fetish, but I do have a pair of Italian shoe that I got 20+ years ago that make me very happy. I call them my dancing shoes. Low-cut loafer in an oxblood color I’ve never seen anywhere else. Leather sole so you can slide on the dance floor. I’ve had them resoled 6-8 times over their lifespan, I love them that much. Another item on my Italy tick list was finding a pair of Italian shoes to replace them (well, supplement them, at least). Success! Le Marche happens to be home to several nice Italian shoe makers, and they have “venditta diretta” stores (outlets, basically) where they sell direct for cheap.

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We visited a couple of shops in Monegranaro and got a tour of the last one, Piampiani, in Civitanova. Its not Prada or Bruno Magli, but they had some gorgeous shoes, and they’re made by actual people (who use machines—but still – very high-touch). When you think of “Italian shoes” and you think of Gepetto in a little shop with a hammer and some thread, you’re not alone. You’re wrong, but not alone. They DO make prototypes very much by hand, with hand stitching and the little cobbler’s lasts, etc. But when it comes to manufacturing shoes, they… manufacture.

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But again, it’s very high touch and there are real people touching the work and making sure it is high quality. The women’s boots… que bella. So, yes, I got a new pair of dancing shoes.

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Now, to hit the dance floor. Ladies…?

 

I can see clearly now

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Friday dawned gloriously clear. So what did we do?

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(The Sibillini Mountains from my bedroom this morning)

Went to Ikea, in Ancona (about an hour’s drive). I can’t say that I’ve “shopped” in an Ikea before. I had lunch in one, but that doesn’t really count. Now I can say that I have done my time. And this time, I accompanied a woman on a mission. We spent close to six hours there. Dear sweet baby Jesus, pray for me. At one point I went out to the parking lot to measure the car for a large piece of furniture we were contemplating. The shopper experience is so well designed, it took me 30 minutes to get out of the store (“you can check in any time you like, but you can never leave”). I felt like Walter in “On Golden Pond.” There’s an up escalator, but no down. I could see the entrance we used from the floor above, but could not get there. Crazy making. I had to make the entire 3-floor odyssey all the way down through the warehouse and final checkout to finally exit the building. A nightmare.

But some cool sh@t, for sure.

I was so exhausted last night, I didn’t post this. Incidentally, last night was the first night since I’ve been here that I went to bed before midnight. It finally caught up with me. So pardon the delay.

We tried desperately to find the LSU-Arkansas game (a family tradition) online last night, but no luck (web’s still weirding out on us). But I deduce that the Tigers won. Geaux Tigers!

Today is another beautiful day, so we’re going to go to Tolentino and see the Basilica of St. Nicholas.

Ciao.