Birdsong and the distant sound of waves below; it's seriously serene here. Visiting somewhere like this out of season comes with its benefits and challenges. Pro, we're currently the only ones sitting out in the sun on the hotel's terrace. Con, the pool has no water in it even though an evening like this would be perfect for a toe dip. Pro, yesterday we had a beach entirely all to ourselves. Con, the beach shuttle doesn't run until June so we had a 40 minute hike down and then back up the mountain from said beach through forest in the pitch black (and yes, it transpires there are bears and wolves in Italy). Nevertheless, throughout our stay the pros have more than outweighed the cons.
Today we visited Ancona itself in all its earthquake, bomb and great fire damaged glory. Aside from it being a grey day with dusty winds along the port front, far too many hilly, windy roads to climb and a general sense of sadness at the town's desperate need of some TLC, we did admire some lovely buildings, panoramic views, seriously thick hot chocolate and the cheap European supermarket experience (local red wine for less than €2. Bliss). The sun even decided to make an appearance as we came to the end of our exploration.
Now back at the hotel we have succeeded in opening our first bottle of corked wine (definitely didn't think about that in all the excitement caused by how cheap it was) which we are enjoying drinking out of plastic cups from the bathroom (totally civilised, darling) while we read, write and generally soak in the sights and sounds of evenings in Italy.
Yesterday, after a hearty Italian breakfast of eggs, meats and cheeses (with a pot or two of Earl Grey, of course) we spent our first day here exploring Portonovo. Having walked the epic distance downhill to get there, we treated ourselves to lunch with a view of the sea; pasta, wine and selection of tasty breads. Energy levels restored we took to the beach for a wander. Not usually one for pebbled beaches, I was quite taken by the brilliant whites and pastel pinks, greys and greens of these pebbles, so much so that a few particularly pretty and smooth ones have made it into my pocket. The rest of the day was spent walking with intermittent rest stops and a brief paddle until it was time for dinner when we returned to the same restaurant to sample pizza from their extensive menu.
Tomorrow we plan to take a picnic (courtesy of the cheap European supermarket) to another beach nearby. Here's hoping for more sunshine!
Ok so thanks to a lot more sunshine, we are now, in true British style, as pink as proscuttio, cake in after sun and cooling down inside with no intention of venturing back into the sun today. It really wasn't even that hot which is the most embarrassing thing. Not hot to the point where we were getting lots of odd looks from locals wrapped up in coats and scarves warm inside their cars as we bravely made our way to Mezzavalle to sit beside the sea armed with beach towels and sunglasses.
Today's walk was equally as treacherous as the first; a solid 30 minutes of attempted downhill balancing to avoid the inevitable slipping and sliding followed by uphill trauma (I literally thought I was going to die as we heaved our way up the final stretch; wheezing, huffing and puffing all the way). Treacherous as it was, the walk did come with some seriously stunning views of turquoise sea through the pine trees which was why, when we finally came out onto the sand we were shocked at the masses of flotsam washed up and strewn along the shoreline. Eyes closed, laid down in one of the few clear patches of sand, we were soon able to indulge in a few hours of relaxation with a short interlude for focaccia.
Tonight there was more focaccia, hummus (very Italian), crisps and another bottle of red in actual glasses because the waiter couldn't bear seeing us drink another from plastic cups. We enjoyed our little picnic overlooking sea, sky and a glorious sunset. It was agreed that in many ways, Ancona has been exactly what we needed and expected, yet at the same time there have been many unexpected twists, turns and surprises. Either way, we leave a little more well rested, well fed, 'sun-kissed', tipsy and cultured than we were before.