Verucchio — even the name evokes thoughts of medieval villages. Before I visited, I pictured great old walls, buildings marked by the centuries, cobblestone streets and a charming piazza. Arriving there during our trip in June, I happily found all of those things to be true plus a lot more — a thriving community of friendly people with successful businesses and pride in their heritage. It’s a small city with a big heart, infectious community spirit, and abounding history. Although Verucchio is not as well-known as its neighbor, the Republic of San Marino (the oldest republic in the world) which is visible from many vantage points in the town, it has much of its own to offer.
Part of Verucchio’s charm is that it isn’t touristy; however, there are very impressive sites to be seen there, not surprising since Verucchio’s history goes as far back as the 12th century BC when it was a settlement of the Etruscans. In future posts we’ll be covering some of the historic sites of Verucchio and the surrounding area (such as the Municipal Archaeological Museum, Malatesta Fortress and other noteworthy places) telling of the many activities and events that characterized our trip, seeing a different side of Emilia-Romagna — meeting locals and experiencing cultural and historical sites. But for now, hopefully this post will provide our introduction to Verucchio and the place that felt like our home away from home for several days.
The town center and imposing Malatesta Fortress are perched on a rocky hilltop above the Marecchio Valley, the Adriatic Sea to the east and the Apennines to the west. Its geographic location was strategic for defense and trade, making it a critically important fortress for the Malatesta family who ruled the area for centuries. Mastin Vecchio, head of the original ruling family, was born in Verucchio (although there is some debate) and the family’s reign of power began here, which is why it is known as the “cradle of the Malatesta”.
If you look almost directly in the center of the photo above, you’ll see a yellow building with a reddish-brown roof. We stayed in one of the buildings to the right of it. The reverse photo below was taken from our room at Le Case Antiche, looking up to Malatesta Fortress past that yellow building in the valley.
The view from home
Of course, it wasn’t our own home, but during our stay in Verucchio on our blog tour of Emilia-Romagna it felt just as comfortable. Each morning and evening, before and after our visits throughout the region, we enjoyed this wonderful view.
Our blogger group (consisting of Alessandra Catania, Teresa Keane, Mr. TWS and me) had come to Verucchio from our stay at Al Vecchio Convento in Portico di Romagna where we had felt part of the Cameli family and the village itself. As our host there, Marisa Cameli, said — we would find friendly people throughout the Emilia-Romagna region. And she was right!
Our hostess and owner of Le Case Antiche was Silvia Santolini, who was warm and welcoming, a delight to get to know. Le Case Antiche is made up of three properties owned by Silvia — Il Casale dell’Arte, the renovated farm house located in the valley where we stayed, and two apartments in the city center. Le Case Antiche is an albergo diffuso. Alberghi diffusi (plural form) are accommodations distributed in different buildings, all located in the same village with one owner, essentially creating the literal translation of the term: “scattered lodgings”. The alberghi diffusi concept also emphasizes opportunities for visitors to become immersed in the local culture, enjoy regional food and wine, learn traditional crafts and other activities of significant importance to the area.
Inside the two-story building are upscale decor and amenities, comfortable furnishings and lovely touches such as the art throughout by several local artists that provide an elegant flair. Mr. TWS and I stayed in the “Blue Room”, a suite with a terrace that has the view of the fortress and homes on the hillside as in the photo above. The suite also includes another large bedroom and a loft bedroom with a bathroom. There are three other large bedrooms in the house.
We enjoyed the quiet nights with the windows open to warm breezes, and sunny mornings with the birds singing. Each morning, Silvia and her staff prepared a wonderful buffet breakfast with fresh pastries, hot egg and meat dishes, fruit and other choices ready for us to enjoy on the front patio or back terrace.
Silvia also showed us her two alberghi diffusi accommodations a short walk up one of the stone streets from Piazza Malatesta — “The House Behind the Theatre” and “The House on San Francesco Street”. Both were as peaceful at this time of night as our “home” in the valley, but with a slightly different ambiance — that of living among the locals. One of these had been her grandmother’s house. Although in the ancient surroundings of Verucchio in centuries-old buildings, the apartments didn’t lack any modern comforts. They had upscale décor and were filled with character. I particularly liked the way the old thick (more than a foot) walls and unusual wood ceilings had been skillfully restored and the updated décor blended perfectly
New friends and local flavors
Another blogger, Susie White, also joined us in Verucchio. Together we enjoyed a hearty lunch at Ristorante La Rocca, next to the fortress at the top of the rock.
The regional food specialties, such as the grilled vegetables above, linguine, and a large, juicy T-Bone steak, were excellent as were the views of the countryside with Rimini and the Adriatic Sea in the distance. That’s Susie’s dog in the photo above, apparently a bit camera shy. La Rocca is a family restaurant that began with the owners’ grandmother, Margherita, for whom they named their own special liquer, Infuso di Margherita (something like limoncello). Today, her grandchildren, Michele and Marta, run the restaurant, carrying on the traditions begun over 50 years ago.
After lunch and a tour of the fortress (which we’ll write about soon), we made our way down the steep, winding cobblestone streets to the ancient Verucchio neighborhood, Borgo Sant’Antonio, for La Festa del Borgo di Sant’Antonio (Feast of the village of St. Anthony). The event was also a fundraiser for continuing restorations of the old church, Chiesa del Borgo Sant’Antonio.
As we carefully made our way down the hill and got nearer Borgo Sant’Antonio, we could hear the inviting music and laughter of the festival.
Verucchio’s town band, comprised of residents, was entertaining festival-goers with traditional music as well as contemporary popular tunes. It was only for special occasions that they performed, and we were told that decision was made because we would be attending.
Apparently, the townspeople had known that international bloggers were coming to Verucchio and they were excited about our visit — almost as much as we were! We felt so honored that the people of Verucchio had been expecting us and treated us like a part of the festivities.
The woman in the photo above at her crafts booth presented us with commemorative aprons, while another encouraged us to partake of the diverse pastries and foods contributed by townspeople to the festival.
In particular, I remember Maria Rosa of il Bello e il Buono da Verucchio, a local entrepreneur with a very engaging personality and warm smile. While we sampled her delicious offerings, she talked about the olive oil, honey, jams and other products that she makes from local produce and sells in the village. But the conversation quickly flowed to talk about Verucchio and her husband, who was playing the trumpet in the band.
We were somehow swept with a group into an open house in a private home where pasta and salads were being made. Two of our group, Alessandra and Susie, spoke Italian so we were brought into various conversations throughout the house.
On this first evening in Verucchio, Silvia and her family accompanied us to a venue in the city center, Tipicità Italiane, for “apericena” — food, wine, music and conversation. In her shop, owner Mariapia Bartolucci, professional sommelier, offers varied selections of specialty food products and wine. In the evenings, guests can enjoy music in the room adjacent to the shop as Mariapia pairs wines with delectable pastas, cheese, and rice dishes. On this evening, a jazz trio provided live music while we enjoyed the wine and foods that Mariapia had chosen for us.
Although we had met only briefly at her shop, when we ran into Mariapia on the street on our last day in Verucchio, it was the most natural thing in the world to give her a hug as we said “Arrivederci”.
On our last evening in Verucchio, four days later, with a gorgeous view as our backdrop, we were served regional cheese, meat, vegetable and pasta dishes on the patio at Al Mastin Vecchio. We also got to explore the restaurant’s cave wine cellar dating back to 1300. The restaurant is located on the west side of the ancient city walls, which can still be walked in many places.
Silvia introduced us to the mayor of Verucchio who was walking by the restaurant. It was another meeting-the-locals opportunity that you don’t often find when traveling.
Al Mastin Vecchio was also a perfect spot to catch the sunset over the Apennines while we enjoyed our food and wine.
Then a walk through the piazza and our last night in Emilia-Romagna was coming to a close.
Now that I’ve had a chance to learn a bit first-hand, I can recommend Verucchio (and Le Case Antiche) for local activities and as great base location — a place to call home when touring through areas of Emilia-Romagna. It was perfectly located for our day trips to San Leo, Sant’Agata Feltria, Santarcangelo, and Ferrara for other cultural experiences and the hospitality of Emilia-Romagna. When we returned to Le Case Antiche each evening, we felt as though we were coming home, and then enjoyed a glass of wine on the front patio looking up at the lights of Verucchio and the Malatesta Castle.
Verucchio is a town with interesting history, excellent dining options, artisan shops and views to remember. I also remember a lot of smiling faces, kind words, hearty handshakes, and hugs.
On the morning we left, we found out it was Silvia’s birthday. It seemed just right to sing our unique birthday song reserved for close family and friends. When we left, we were leaving new friends who I’m confident we will find a way to see again.
We plan to follow this introduction with more posts about our trip, including accommodations, activities, meals, and the people we met in Emilia-Romagna. Stay tuned!