We took a road trip recently to the Adriatic coast. We’ve decided that now that things are somewhat settled for us, we should take an overnight trip about once a month. We’d like to go to places we’ve never been, but since we’ve been traveling here for over 20 years, that might prove difficult. We’ve been to the Adriatic before, but never really spent a lot of time there. It’s an easy drive from here, so we packed up Millie and set out.
We spent two nights in Gradara, a medieval village near the coast, but enough inland that it sits high up on a hilltop. The views are fantastic from there. You can see the mountains and countryside when you look to the west and the beautiful Adriatic coast when you look to the east. It was hazy and overcast while we were there so the views weren’t crystal clear, but still great.
Gradara dates back to the 12th century and is one of the most perfectly preserved medieval towns in Italy. It has been damaged and rebuilt over the years, but it looks very much like it did in the 1100s. You can walk on top of the old city walls and pretend you’re a soldier standing guard on the lookout for marauders. Its strategic location, up on hilltop with views of both land and sea, gave it an advantage when it came to protecting its resources. Hard for anyone to sneak up on them. The castle, complete with drawbridge, is very well restored thanks to the investment of Italian engineer Umberto Zanvettori in the 1920s. He bought the castle and undertook a massive restoration. He lived there until his death, when it became property of the state. Now it’s open to the public and it truly is an amazing place. It’s complete with a torture chamber, soldier’s barracks, and an ill-fated love story that has been immortalized by the likes of Dante.
Francesca was the wife of Giovanni Malatesta, a not so nice guy who also had some kind of physical handicap. We know this because his nickname was Gianciotto, which means something like cripple. This was an arranged marriage, of course, and Francesca had little to do with the arrangements. She did, however, fall in love with Paolo, Giovanni’s handsome brother. Paolo was also married, but you can’t stop the power of true love. A gossipy servant alerted Giovanni to a tryst the lovers were having in her bedroom and he burst in on them and killed them both on the spot. In Dante’s Inferno, Paolo and Francesca are in the special circle of hell reserved for the lustful. At least they got to spend eternity together. The room where they were murdered is right there in the castle and the spot where the killing took place is marked by two chairs and a book stand. One story tells that they were reading to each other about Lancelot and Guinevere when killed. I find it hard to believe that Giovanni would have killed them for reading to each other, but the middle ages was a tough time.
La Botte, Gradara
We had a great experience there, with wonderful food and the nicest waiter ever. I tried to “eat light” and just ordered an antipasta and a salad. Steve had a mixed plate of bruschette and a pasta with pancetta and cheese.
sapore di mare, pesaro
Wonderful lunch in this place that the fishmonger recommended to us. No English spoken and we had no idea what we ordered. Food just came to us and we ate it every bit.
osteria dei mure, cattolica
This was our last dinner and it was exceptional. I found this in my Slow Foods app, which never disappoints. The waiter/owner took us under his wing and asked if we wanted him to order for us. Of course we did and he brought out the most wonderful dishes. Fantastic place right on the marina. It would be worth a drive back just to eat there again. Well, it’s only two hours away, so we could do it!
We stayed at the cutest little bed and breakfast called La Pulcia. It’s not a place that I would ever pick out from the looks of it on the outside. Old towns in Italy have a “new” section ringing around them. These are usually 60s and 70s buildings that have no aesthetic appeal whatsoever. That’s what this place was like. But inside it was adorable and the owners were the nicest people on the planet. We had a little balcony and they served our breakfast out there each morning. They asked what time we wanted it and like little elves, they came and set everything out at the appointed hour. We opened the door to this spread served on a mixture of vintage dishes and new. It was very nice and we felt quite pampered.
I love road trips. I love seeing new places and learning new legends and climbing new hill towns. I love seeing the variety that the world has to offer – beach, sand, trees, mountains. And I love coming back home to start planning the next trip.