Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Uncultured and Outta Luck

In celebration of our one-year-in-Italy anniversary we thought we’d celebrate by hitting the road and seeing some sights in Marche we had not yet explored. The mountainous region has so much to offer and we’ve seen only a small portion of it. Some places require circuitous drives up and around the mountains – much like many places in New Mexico – and are too long a drive for a day trip. We spread out the map, opened the Blue Guide Marche, and searched for something of significance (not hard to find). It also happened to be La Settimana della Cultura (Culture Week) when many sights not normally open throw wide the doors, when special exhibits are on offer, and when the State-run museums and archeological ruins are free. A great time to get out and explore!

So we thought.

We honed in on two archeological parks not far apart that promised a pretty drive along relatively easy roads. First up, Faleria. According to the book the remains of the once-bustling Roman city contains a theatre, an amphitheatre, a bath complex, villas, and “imposing tombs”. Right up our alley! As we neared the locale we saw a large sign announcing our arrival at Falerone and proclaiming all the archeological wonders contained therein. We followed a marker in the direction of “Teatro Romano” The Roman Theatre. That road lead us down to a larger cross-street with a sign directing us to the teatro…back down the road we’d just traveled. We debated how we’d missed something as obvious as a pile of stones loaded up to form a Roman theatre, but turned around and retraced our route. We drove all the way back to the original starting point. Without finding the theatre. We tried again with the same result. Defeated, we decided the best course of action would be to drive into the centro storico to find the tourist office as well as the archeological museum.

Arriving in the compact and cute centro we found a huddle of houses all well-kept, lining the steep, stone streets…and not a soul to be found afoot, not a single open store, and – most amazingly in Italy – no bar. The tourist office was (predictably) closed, but we headed off in the narrow foot-alley following the sign toward the Museo Archeologico. Tucked back next to a school, the doors were locked. Apparently the memo announcing La Settimana della Cultura didn’t reach the desks of the good folks in Falerone.

We departed -what else could we do?-and headed back determined to find the elusive Teatro. We again followed a sign along a meandering road lined with trees skirting along cultivated hills, but this time noticed a pole that looked as if it had once held a directional sign. We turned down a dirt track that appeared to be someone’s driveway running alongside their olive grove, and lo, there at the end was the well-hidden ruins. Locked, of course, and left forlorn. We peered in through the gate but weren’t able to see much.

There are many joys to living in a part of the country not well-known to tourists; this ain’t one of them! We laughed it off, figuring the summer season will bring regular hours and we’d return another time, though we found it odd that something important like Culture Week wouldn’t have pried open the doors for a few days.

We jumbled back into the car for a scenic trip through wheat fields and olive groves to find the ancient Roman city of Urbs Salvia. We had passed by it once before and knew it covered a large area. We also knew it had been open during the middle of the weekday as we’d seen crowds of people walking among the ruins when we had whizzed by on our way to a get-together.

You know what’s coming, don’t you? Of course you do. Culture Week or not, the place was chiuso. At that point we just burst into laughter while shaking our heads. “They don’t want us to be cultured,” Bryan said. The park sprawls out and only the ruins are gated, so we walked along the trails huffing our way uphill to gaze at the theatre from behind the fence-line, tried to get a gander at the large anfiteatro (too obscured), and enjoyed the songbirds and perfumed spring air. Gotta take what we can get when we’re defeated in our main quest, you know.

Everywhere else around the country was open wide -and free of charge! We’d even experienced it during some of our previous trips to Italy before moving here, so we know that in other regions Culture Week was a pretty big deal. We reasoned that if they opened them up and made these locations accessible, citizens from around the region would come to see them. I mean, we did, after all. And while we were at Urbs Salvia six other cars pulled in with the same idea, so the idea isn't too far-fetched. Maybe Marche has too many important sites to staff them all?

We did discover, however, that the historical town of Urbisaglia, uphill from the ancient city, is a charming place with a well-preserved fortress complete with solid towers (closed, naturally), tidy streets, pretty houses, an inviting Bed and Breakfast with a delectable-looking restaurant attached, and an archeological museum containing all the artifacts collected from the nearby ancient city (open only in the mornings, while we arrived in the afternoon). We didn’t get to impart ourselves with culture, but discovering a cute little town like this at least meant that all was not lost.

Maybe next year.

2007 Valerie Schneider


KC said...

That's too bad about those sites being closed. Urbs Salvia sounds like a site I'd like to see. There are so many great things down here in Campania here that are also always closed (and neglected) Settimana della cultura or not.

chris & erin said...

hehe! I know, it is funny that we both wrote about missing sites on the same day! At least we're of the persuasion that places to see aren't "once in a lifetime" kind of trips...all is possible and I know we'll be back!

Shirley said...

Hi Valeria thanks for stopping by my blog last week,its nice to hear from people who live in Le Marche.
We are moving very near to Falerone next month, so will at some stage try and see the Teatro.
It is quite strange how some of the villages are so quiet, we sometimes wonder if anybody actually live in them!
Happy 1st Anniversary too, you seem to have adapted well to your first year.


Valerie said...

KC - I agree that Campania has some wonderful treasures. Our first experience with Culture Week was on a visit to that region and we wandered around the huge coloseum of Santa Maria Vetere where we were the only ones there! It was amazing. Urs Salvia is a huge park and we'll definitely return sometime when they are open (calling first to make sure! :)

Erin - you're so right...that's one of the great joys of living here; we don't have to feel rushed or crushed if we don't succeed the first time around!

Shirley - When you get settled in let us know and we can get together, neighbor!