Scene from Mercatello
Mercatello, nestled in an idyllic valley of sunflower fields at the foot of the Apennine mountains, 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.
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, you can explore interesting towns, such as Arezzo, Gubbio, Assisi, San Sepulchro and Perugia. A bit farther, you will find Siena, Montepulciano, Todi, Spoleto…the list goes on!
Palio del Somaro (Donkey Race)
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 and each bedecked and beribboned donkey receives a blessing, no matter how incalcitrant! The featured events fall on the final weekend with timed 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 the 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!
Rolling out the dough for the Taglietelle
The most exciting event of course is the Palio race with the donkeys and their festooned riders racing around the cobblestone streets to the finish line. The weekend culminates with a joyous celebration dance in the piazza with the winners dancing in a snake line through the town streets. (See the Gallery for more photos).
At an agriturismo
A highlight of each workshop week are the optional agriturismi dinners at one of many agriturismos (farm-hosted tourism, or “farm stays”) 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!
Scene from an agriturismo
The townspeople enjoy hearing our musical artists singing arias outside the windows of the Palazzo Gasparini 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. You, too, will be drawn in to enjoy this very special spot in Italy.
For family and friends accompanying participants, or for an extended stay, other diversionary activities are plentiful, such as a complete spa menu at Grotto dei Folletti, horseback riding, wine tours, and guided tours of the historical sites.
For more information about Mercatello visit: www.lifeinitaly.com