The region of Le Marche
The Comune di San Leo describes their town as 'a sharp pinnacle surrounded by overhanging cliffs in a countryside sloping from the Appennines to the sea, with houses clustered between a magnificent fortress and a prominent bell tower'. It looks even more spectacular in real life.
San Leo is a real hill top town. It came under control of the Montefeltro family from the 14th century. They also ruled Urbino and they commissioned Francesco di Giorgio Martini, architect of the Dukes of Urbino, to enlarge and enrich the fortifications.
This rugged yet beautiful mountain chain of the Monti Sibillini reaches its peak at Mt. Vettore, 2,476 metres above sea level in the heart of Le Marche region. It is a territory of sublime nature, history and ancient culture.
The park stretches over 70,000 hectares and is regarded as a 'park for everybody', not least for the wolves, golden eagles, peregrine falcons who live comfortably with hikers, visitors and those still making a living from the mountain.
The abbeys, medieval historical centers and open tracts were all once the mythical Kingdom of Sibilla, and something still hangs in the air if you let your imagination wander.
Does the word 'ostracized' have any link to the town of Ostra in Le Marche? We don't know, but we do know that this small city of approx. 6000 people has always enjoyed the protection of the burghers of the port of Ancona, which is itself 35km away.
The tradition of hat making in this hill top town grew out of a local legend passed on from generation to generation. It evolved out of the story of a young peasant who wanted to marry the daughter of the local king.
Only possessing the grain in his field he was initially rebuffed. Yet, inspired by the criss cross flying of three birds as the sun set, he set about making a hat weaving the stems of his crop. Impressed by his dexterity the King accepted the proposal on condition he could wear the hat at his daughter's wedding.
Needless to say the straw hat became a popular local symbol of good fortune and eventual prosperity.
The famous 'formaggio di fossa' cheese of Le Marche is produced in S. Agata Feltria and Talamello along the Valmarecchia. Known as 'ambra' in the latter locality, both are pecorino cheeses aged in pits which were once use for food conservation. This process has rendered formaggio di fossa famous across the world.
The Offida Carnival is very ancient and still follows the same calendar as its origin. Its official opening is on 17 January, St. Anthony's Day.
The last two Sundays are devoted to friends and relatives, while Saturdays are animaded by joyful night - long parties held within Serpente Aureo Theatre.
Among the events not to be missed there is "Bov Fint" (the fake ox corrida) and the extraordinary parade of "Vlurd" which, taking place the last day, represents the end of Carnival. Local people and worldwide visitors come to Offida.