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Argo (Ben Affleck, 2012) review

Argo represents an excellent thriller and historical document from 32 years ago. After the Shah of Iran was deposed the decision by the US to offer him sanctuary infuriated Islamic fundamentalists and they stormed the embassy in Tehran. Hostages were taken but 6 escape to the temporary sanctuary of the Canadian embassy. It’s only a matter of time that shredded documents, including their photographs, are pieced back together (if you can believe that one) and the Iranian authorities know they don’t have all of the staff in captivity. They are angrier than an aggrieved clan of Albanians that you’ll find in Taken 2….
The CIA have no viable plan to spring the 6 out, let alone recapture their own embassy. The impressive Affleck, playing Tony Mendez, comes up with the best bad idea…to create a film project and pretend the 6 belong to a Canadian production team working on the fictitious sci-fi flick, Argo. Mendez enlists the help of the superb John Goodman (as Academy costume design winner, John Chambers) and Hollywood producer Lester Siegel ( Alan Arkin) to set up the production.
Giving away nothing, the climax of the film is every bit as tense as The Last King of Scotland (Macdonald, 2006) and the explanation of why the film is called Argo is one of the most memorable in modern day cinema! A fine film, enjoy!Image


Travels in Le Marche

Travels in Le Marche.

Travels in Le Marche

Monte Vettore

This trip, taken in July/August 2012, was our first real opportunity to explore Le Marche. We had been to Visso and Ancona previously, when based in Umbria. In 2011 we visited some of the beautiful Sibillini, including Castelluccio and the areas around Norcia and Cascia . This time we flew from London to Bologna and hired a car to take us first to Urbino. Here we stayed at a wonderful B&B, Cal Torello ( 4.5 km from the medieval centre of Urbino.

Urbino, A sensational city

If you are in that part of Le Marche, don’t miss this gem of a city. It’s a lively university city, dominated by the impressive Palazzo Ducale. It’s the birthplace of Raphael and there’s plenty to see that reflects his life and work as well as many other cultural attractions. We particularly enjoyed the Saturday market and a good meal at Il Girarrosto, Piazza San Francesco though not everyone seems to have appreciated it as much as I did!

Heading south down the Adriatic coast, past San Marino and Ancona, we drove inland from Pedaso to Sant’Elpidio Morico to stay at Via Indaco, 71 which is near Monsampietro Morico in the province of Fermo. We rented a cottage from a very hospitable English couple and I have to say it was a wonderful place to be for two weeks We stayed in Casa Cappella and it was perfect for two of us. We would love to return with friends and stay in the larger Casa Ciliega sometime soon.

71 Via Inadco towards Monterinaldo – wonderful!

 I am grateful to for recommending visits to Fermo (where the Roman cistern is certainly worth visiting) and Ascoli Piceno, which is a must. Both were amazingly uncrowded and we ran into very few tourists anywhere. We came across even less traffic (except on the A14 to and from Bologna), despite the fact we were visiting in high season. In addition, July and August host food, wine and beer festivals, as well as more cultural ones everywhere! Loredana recommended Amandola as the gateway to the Sibillini and we liked it there. It is worth walking up to the Hotel Paradiso at the top of the town to get good views of the region. I also strongly recommended stopping off at Force if you are based north of Ascoli Piceno and go to the bar at the summit of the village. From there you get a fantastic view of Monte Vettore and the Sibillini. A beer doesn’t cost much either and with it will come some complimentary pizza, courtesy of the very sociable bar owner. In fact you get a great view of the Sibillini from almost anywhere in the region and we loved what we could see from Petritoli, Monterubbiano, Montottone, Monsampietro Morico, MV Combatte, Monte Giberto, Monterinaldo and the village just above us, Sant’Elpidio Morico.

I’d particularly recommend Ortezzano. Mama Rosa’s, in the lower part of the village, boasts the title of serving ‘The World’s Best Pizza’. Marcello, the chef, won the award in May and he does make an extremely good pizza! Il Piceni, up in the medieval part, offers splendid views of the Aso Valley and the Adriatic. The food is wonderful! La Rosa Del Vento is good too – we were there during a festival devoted to barbecued lamb and the climax of a very athletic road race where runners passed on the meat but won punnets of local fruit!

The restaurant with the finest view, particularly at sunset, was Il Torre at Monteleone di Fermo. We had the terrace to ourselves because locals don’t seem to eat till after dark. The food was incredible, inexpensive and our host was particularly generous with portions and additional courses which were on the house. If I could dine there every night, I would!

Fantastic views from Il Torre, Monteleone di Fermo

I loved Sant’ Vittoria in Matenona – a lovely village, great views and I’m going back for some porchetta next time! To the south of the Aso Valley Ripatransone is worth a visit particularly if you approach it from the coast at Grottammare. The views of the Adriatic, the Sibillini and the impressive Gran Sasso d’Italia make it well worth a visit. Don’t miss the narrowest street in Italy there or the acoustics in the basilica – astonishing! From there we went to Offida and, for 3 euro got a tour of the beautiful teatro. Well worth it and even better if you can see a performance there. Again the views from Offida are breathtaking and I’d love to be there when there’s snow on the mountains because I recognise that the views of the Gran Sasso and Sibillini would be enhanced against a clear blue sky.

We didn’t spend much time at the coast. There’s a good fish restaurant on a sandy beach front at Pedaso. From there we go the train to Porto Sant’Elpidio which I liked less than Porto San Giorgio which has a better beach and an interesting market on a Saturday night.

We will go back. There’s much left to see, not least Macerata, Moresco and the Black Madonna at Loreto. I’d happily get a train down to Pesaro. I’m told that Sarnano is worth a visit on the way to Lago di Fiastra. Without a doubt I would recommend going to the other side of Monte Vettore to see Castelluccio and Norcia. We like Visso very much too.

Bar Meletti, Ascoli Piceno

I will end this by saying that a gelato in Servigliano is worth seeking out as is one you get in Piazza della Repubblica, Urbino, especially where mascarpone is involved. Enjoy!

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