La Dolce Diary: Tales from a hilltop town

la dolce diary blog

La Dolce Diary: Tales from a hilltop town

We moved into a new apartment this week.  This is our third apartment in the last few weeks… our house is being fixed after the 2016 earthquakes and since then we’ve been back and forth to England and Italy, working in both countries while checking on progress in Italy, just like a pair of nomads! As we usually stay in costly summer rentals when in Italy, and now need somewhere to store our furniture, we took out a lease on a cute little apartment that overlooks the valley in our adopted hometown, Force (pronounced For-cheh). We moved some of the furniture from our house to our new apartment and will eventually make it look cosy, until the day when we return to our own casa and continue to renovate it. Although after the repairs have been done, there shouldn’t be too much work left to do. God willing.

Its so much easier to buy than to rent in Italy, our purchase was pretty straight forward. But renting is a different ball game. There seems to be more red tape when you rent and even more waiting around.

When we arrived, the landlord told us that the gas had been disconnected after the previous owner did not pay the bill. The gas company would send a representative out to meet us and re-sign with them, under our names. What a personal service! Fabrizio arrived and he and David filled out numerous forms, set up a direct debit and agreed to pay a deposit (what that covers we don’t exactly know – it’s not as if we are into stealing gas meters but maybe some people do!) Then he told us that the engineer would fit the new meter hopefully before the end of the week… which would be great as even in 30+ degree heat we still enjoy warm showers.

On Monday morning David checked the gas supply and to his delight discovered that the meter had been re-installed. He hastily opened the gas taps and I excitedly ran the hot tap, looking forward to my first warm shower in almost a week. The water ran cold… we waited for it to warm up. We wondered why the boiler wasn’t making any noise. We waited some more, and waited.

Cold water.

Calling Fabrizio at the gas company, David was given clear instructions. As the meter had been removed, our system had probably filled with air, so to rectify this we must turn all of the knobs on our cooker, and stand there pressing them in to let the air out of the gas pipes, listening to the constant clicking as all of the hob rings tried to ignite. Fabrizio told us that we should be able to hear the air spilling out of the hob, and to try this interesting technique for at least 20 – 30 minutes.

So how would we be able to tell when the system was clear of air?

That was easy – once we smelled gas, or passed out from the fumes, whichever happened first.

After 20 minutes and a strong smell of gas, bingo! Our hob rings fired up, the water ran warm, the boiler made a funny noise, and we were able to enjoy warm showers again.

Just don’t light a match in our kitchen for a while.



risorgi marche

‘More than just a festival’ – Risorgi Marche


Since 2017, Le marche has held the Risorgi Marche festival – which literally means ‘Marche rises’. These series of music concerts are the brainchild of actor and singer Neri Marcorè, who planned a festival that brought local people together in solidarity after the earthquakes of 2016.

As stated by the organisers – these free concerts offer more than just a festival experience. They keep the spotlight of the media and the public on the real focus at hand: rebuilding communities affected by the earthquakes and ensuring that these areas become vibrant, tourist rich, and economical once again. Attendees are encouraged to arrive early to spend time in these old towns, to shop locally and support local businesses, and to car-pool or cycle to the event.

An afternoon of solidarity – Risorgi Marche

Held in countryside locations that can only be reached by foot, the concerts begin at 16.30 and are held in the countryside, from anywhere between 3 – 6 kilometres out of town.  This encourages visitors to take advantage of the stunning landscapes, hiking trails and wilderness that surrounds them, and to feel connected with these smaller communities whose lives were disrupted back in 2016. Carefully thought out, parking areas in the nearest towns are set up, and mountain guides from the Collegio delle Marche meet all visitors on arrival and tell you where to park your car, before beginning the hike.

We walked through stunning scenery during our 40 minute walk, where signposts and a trail had been laid out for visitors who came in their droves, carrying backpacks, water and sticks to navigate the sometimes rocky paths. It was an amazing experience for us to be amongst local people, each of them here to support a great cause and feel a part of a community once again.

Italian singer Andrea Miro performed for us with her band, in the middle of a valley surrounded by mountains and beautiful Le Marche landscape. Sellers had set up little market stalls, charities collected to support the local area, and the few thousand-strong crowd danced, sang and celebrated this beautiful region. Despite the land sometimes shaking, the Risorgi Marche is a prime example of the resilient spirit of the Marchigiani (local people). After each event, all visitors are invited to a dopo festa (after party) and so we gathered in Force’s park to eat, listen to more live music, drink and dance. All vendors at these parties are local businesses, and visitors seem to come from all over Italy to support their fellow citizens, and have a great time in the process.

In other towns, Italian artists such as Luca Barbarossa and Jovanotti will be performing in what has become (and probably will continue to be) one of the highlights of the festival season.



Speaking of festivals, Macerata hosts its annual Opera Festival at this time of year in the grand Sferisterio open-air amphitheatre. Built during the 1820’s, this grand building houses two rows of arched boxes in which to view the stage, while a large seated area in the middle faces it. This years theme is Verde Speranza, which means “Green Hope”, promoting the virtues of a clean environment and sustainability, combined with planting the seeds of a better future through the art of hope.

Macerata opera festival

Macerata’s Sfesterio Amphitheatre

Running from 20th July to 12th August, this years main opera’s are Flauto Magico, Elisir d’Amore and the historic Traviata, all reimagined to recall the four natural elements: water, air, earth and fire.

We saw a fantastic performance by actress and author Lella Costa, who brought her take on Traviata, interspersing classic opera with her monologue. Check out a snippet below.

The acoustics at the Sferisterio are out of this world – despite the fact that it’s in the heart of a busy town, you cannot hear a thing on the street outside. When we saw Lella Costa’s show, there was a live event taking place right outside, which consisted of a live DJ, a marching band, a man singing opera while attached to the front of a tractor, being raised above the crowd (I kid you not), and a live band singing Beatles numbers. But, once inside the Sferisterio, we could only hear what was going on on stage (thankfully!)

I recommend a visit to the Sferisterio – tour it during the day with a guide from the tourist information centre next door, or if you’re not there during opera season, you may still get to see a show. In July, Simple Minds played there, while in August there’s a lavish production of Jesus Christ Superstar, Ben Harper, and Italian chart-toppers Max Gazze and Fabrizio Moro.

Here’s something you don’t see everyday



Each week we post a favourite word or phrase that cannot be matched in the English language. This week’s is one that, in light of buying and restoring our own Italian casa, only for it to be cracked by an earthquake three months later, we find ourselves using quite often!

Non tutte le ciambelle riescono col buco, meaning “Not all doughnuts come out with a hole”, is a quirky, catchy phrase that you will find yourself using when things don’t go quite as planned. Try using it the next time you’re held up and late for an appointment, or better still, a job interview. You’ll get the job based purely on your wit and ability to throw in a helpful Italian phrase.

Well, we’d give anyone a job who can make everyday issues about doughnuts.



a prima vista

For anyone who has ever dreamed of buying property in Italy but do not know where to start, our book, “A Prima Vista – Our Journey to Buying & Restoring an Italian Home” is out now.



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