Located on the border between Marche and Emilia, this charming village is famous for its medieval fortress and castle, which were the background to the love story between Paolo and Francesca.
Gradara has been included in the list of the most beautiful villages in Italy, winning the highest step of the podium in 2018, the year in which it was elected "Borgo dei Borghi". Wandering through its narrow streets and walking along the Sentiero degli Innamorati (Lovers' Path) that surrounds the hill is the best way to savour its magic. When the desire to explore its beauty gives way to the desire to satisfy the taste, Gradara offers as many pleasures. Tourists can find refuge in one of its little restaurants overlooking the castle and order "tagliolini con la bomba".
The name refers to the battles that over the centuries have taken place in Gradara but actually describes a simple and poor dish, cooked by grandmothers from the Marche region for the joy of their grandchildren. It is a rustic recipe, in which the tagliolini are cooked in water and salt and then seasoned with sautéed onion and lard.
The bomb is given by the encounter of hot oil with the drainage water of the pasta, which generates a small cloud of sizzling steam similar to the effect of a firecracker.
Going down the coast the traveller reaches Sirolo, a wonderful labyrinth of alleys within the Conero Regional Park.
From its small square the view sweeps over the most beautiful beaches of the Riviera, dotted with holm oaks and strawberry trees. On clear days you can see the islands of the Croatian coast on the horizon, while the habitat behind it is rich in wild boar, foxes, pheasants and other bird species. In a dreamlike natural environment, the local gastronomy also offers unique emotions: the advice is to end the day in front of the sea, enjoying a good "brodetto all'anconetana".
It is a fish soup, with a dense consistency, ideal as a summer dish: it is served in very deep dishes, accompanied by slices of bread often toasted.
It is said that the chefs of the Riviera jealously preserve the recipe for brodetto, which they sometimes personalize with individual touches, modifying the original version. In general, different varieties of fish (cuttlefish, scampi, mullet, cod, squid) are used to make it, which are then sautéed in a chopped mixture of flavours, vinegar and tomato puree. The cooking is long and the broth thickens, reaching a mellow consistency. At that point the work of art is ready to give the traveller the worthy crowning achievement of his holiday in Sirolo.
The gastronomic tour continues returning to the hills and precisely to Arquata del Tronto, a fortified town between the Gran Sasso and the Laga Mountains.
A typical appetizer here is the "fried sage leaves", to be enjoyed hot and crispy. The preparation is quick and consists in frying the leaves in a batter of oil, flour, beer and egg whites. A packet of fragrant leaves can accompany the tourist in search of the Marsican bear.
Photo by Piattoforte.it
Returning to the coast, visitors cannot miss a stop at Grottammare, a seaside village known as the pearl of the Adriatic. It is a lively town, known for its historic centre clinging to the hill. Its speciality is represented by "cremini all'ascolana", breaded and fried cream morsels, which can be served as an appetizer or at the end of dinner as a dessert.
In both cases the joy of the palate is guaranteed.
The last destination of our tour leads to Fossombrone, a medieval village famous for the remains of the Malatesta Fortress and the beautiful Concordia Bridge. Here the tourist can taste the "cicerchie soup", a typical dish of the local peasant tradition.
It is a poor recipe made with chickling peas, similar to chickpeas but with a more delicate flavour. These legumes are softened, then sautéed and pan-fried together with potatoes and tomato. After a cooking time of about two hours the soup is served on the steaming table, garnished with rosemary and sage.
Photo by Nonnapaperina.it
The most beautiful villages in the Marche region also manage to make you dream through their typical dishes.