Empty beaches, closed chalets, deserted promenade. In autumn, the Adriatic Sea is tepid and good-natured, vaguely sad, and only belongs to a few. Above all, to those who live there and can enjoy the last days of sun sitting in the courtyard of a port trattoria at lunch. In Fano, young people love to meet at La Rustita, and so do we. We eat seafood salad, grilled squids, fried fish, mixed salad and white wine of the house between white wood and salty breeze.
La Taverna della Rocca has the fragrance of my childhood Sundays: long tables and meals that resembled a ritual; the smell of dense meat sauce – cooked slowly – and of hand-rolled egg pasta that characterised the holiday; the smell of grilled meat. The only ‘eccentricity’ here are the piade sfogliate grilled and served with wild herbs and local toma cheese (the house women are quite proud of them). An ode to dedication and simplicity.
In Torre di Palme, on New Year’s Day, a kind young man lets us sit in a room with blue walls. Bells have just celebrated noon, a few tourists linger on the sunny lookout, a lady wearing an apron rapidly hangs out clothes in the Adriatic breeze. Our memories of this place will include the alleys we walk to reach it and the glimpses of the sea between century-old houses. As well as the handmade tortellini in an ancient flowered tureen, the white tablecloths on tables slowly animated by regulars, the intimate and discreet welcome, the perfectly salted grilled meat, and the exquisite herbs. At the end of the day, we wish the New Year were exactly like every meal in this inn – cheerful, precious and graceful.
Porto Recanati, Italy
If an authentic and poetic way of showing love of one’s own origins exists, we can learn it from Chiara. Chiara restored her family’s house in the centre of Porto Recanati, where she was born and where she grew up, and made of it a ‘meraviglia’ bed and breakfast facing the sea. An inattentive person may mistake I Cucali for one of the holiday houses on the seafront, its wicket door always open and some chairs outside to chitchat with the neighbours…
We can distinguish the blue among the bushes, fragments of sea framed by the leaves. We walk along a zigzag path that takes us through a Mediterranean forest…
We left our heart in a bungalow in the Big Sur, in an alpage in Megève, in a riad in Morocco and in the rooms of an Art Nouveau palace in Anversa. They’re all unforgettable places we sometimes remember with a bit of nostalgia, as we know we probably won’t be able to go back to. When we find a Meraviglia place close to us, the beauty of it is that we can visit it again. Clandestino is one of them. We know that every summer it’s there, beyond a forest and its scents, between sea, rocks and wind, waiting for us to come back once the season starts. We go there (and go back again) for a “Happy Sandwich” at lunch (a toast with smoked salmon, provolacheese, courgettes and sweet and sour sauce), or for a “Tuna tataki” with conditella (a light tomato, onion and cucumber sauce), colatura d’alici (sardine sauce) and Verdicchio (white wine)in front of a pastel sky at sunset or also for a candlelit dinner of “British susci”. 100% Meraviglia, 0% nostalgia.
Imagination is here, in this small isolated cottage overlooking the Adriatic Sea. All ingredients come from the sea and from the kitchen garden to be plated in harmonious and elaborate combinations. The mantis shrimp becomes a bed for turnip tops and pine nuts. The hamburger is a soft tower holding flavours from the sea. The shrimp spaghetti are like golden threads within a crunchy sculpture. A delicacy to both eyes and palate, this is a meal that will make you smile.
It was by pure chance that Lee Marshal discovered Bagni da Giovanni. He was writing an article about the beach resorts on the stretch of coast near Ancona for the English magazine “The world of interiors”. He loved the place so much that not only he included the restaurant in his article, but also decided to come back on holiday with his family. At the time, Mrs Cori had just finished renovating the resort she’d inherited from her parents. The authentic atmosphere from the old times she so carefully preserved keeps seducing her clients today: the white and blue beams, the wisteria-covered veranda, the ivy and the old fishermen’ nets, the family pictures and the vintage ice-cream ads on the walls. 39 wooden cabins, all numbered, stand opposite the restaurant as if they were defending the tables and the kitchen from the moods of the sea, just like a fortress. Every morning Mrs Cori stretches tagliatelle in a small room that smells of eggs and semolina. Her “padellata” (tagliatelle with shell fish ragout served in a big aluminium pan) is so famous that they come from afar to try it. The magazine with the review is still on the table at the centre of the room. In it, the article entitled “Coast Modernist” by the British journalist narrates of this enchanted place.
There are only two ways of getting here. The first is going up Mount San Bartolo Park and then down through the treacherous descent called “Strada delle Rive del Faro” following a path that is known only by a few. The other is coming from the sea, from one of the nearby harbours and haul into their long and thin wooden dock. Whatever the way, no matter how difficult, this place is well worth a visit. The fish is excellent, the service faultless and the waves are just beyond the veranda.