Mercatello sul Metauro is a medieval village in the Marche region of Italy, nestled in an idyllic valley of sunflower fields at the foot of the Apennine mountains. It seems a place where time has stood still. At night the lighted bell towers of the Collegiate Parish Church and the Palazzo Gasparini can be seen from afar and guide you to the heart of Mercatello – the Piazza Garibaldi – where the Italian life of years ago is still vibrant and welcoming today.
Hearing our musical artists honing their craft while singing arias that waft from the windows of the Palazzo Gasparini is a special delight enjoyed throughout the day and transforms the piazza into an artistic ambience. The townspeople appreciate the music-making that changes the color of their daily rituals and will welcome you to participate in the life and fabric of their community. Mercatello sul Metauro is a magical place drawing families from the past to return each year for the summer holidays, and it will draw you too in enjoying this very special spot in Italy.
The most exciting and fun summer event in Mercatello is the two-week preparation and ensuing festivities of the Palio del Somaro based on the famous Palio of Siena – a horse race within the grand piazza of Siena. Somari (donkeys) are beribboned with the colors of their respective neighborhood cantons and the townspeople follow suit wearing colored shirts and draping colored flags from their windows. The Palio begins with a Mass in the piazza where each bedecked and beribboned donkey receives a blessing and follows with competitions of log sawing, pole climbing and so forth. The most coveted competition is the taglietelle contest where each contestant, rolling pin in hand, is given eggs and flour to make a pasta dough. The winner is the one who can roll out the largest diameter of pasta dough without any holes – it is a very tense contest! The most exciting event of course is the Palio race itself with the donkeys and their festooned riders racing around the cobblestone streets to the finish line. The weekend culminates with a joyous celebratory dance in the piazza with the winners dancing in a snake line through the town streets.
A gourmet highlight of the Mercatello region is dinner at one of many agriturismos in the area. Each has its own character and style of cuisine, and all are memorable with more courses of food than you thought imaginable! Most are located in idyllic and unusually beautiful settings with thoughtful and welcoming hosts.
The countryside with its lightly traveled roads and pathways offer hikes and mountain biking through the woods, fields of grain and picnic spots by slow moving streams. And all of this only a few minutes from the piazza!
Urbino, a renaissance city with an impressive Ducal palace and museum, and Urbania and St. Angelo in Vado, with their museums and ancient buildings and monuments, are within easy reach by bus. Within two hours by car, there are many interesting towns to explore such as Arezzo, Gubbio, Assisi, San Sepulchro and Perugia. A bit farther you will find Siena, Montepulciano, Todi, Spoleto….the list goes on!
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