It’s odd. Every time we come to little Sassoferrato we find something new. It’s not like the whole tourism world revolves around the little Le Marche gem. Few know of it.
And now it has a Museum of arts and popular traditions set inside the 13th century Palazzo Montanari.
I’ve been to a million of these or so. It must be a popular pastime in Italy. You know, “why don’t you guys go to the houses of toothless old people and have them each find a pile of stuff that the flowering youth of our fair village cannot identify and we’ll put them in a big place nobody is occupying and then we’ll have the nucleus of a tourist destination.”
Then, of course, you have to find a fairly young person to describe all this gathered stuff, because it’s the young who remember the English they learned in school and can explain everything to folks who’ve had a flat tire and had to find something to do until the tire shop was open. Of course, these youth need to be trained because they have no idea of what they’ve collected…
In any case, Sassoferrato isn’t like this at all. They really do have so many things to see and do your head will spin. There’s a Roman battle site and you can have a gourmet lunch on top of it. You can find the hidden Italy of your dreams right here. And no matter how many of these things you see, there’s gonna be something that just knocks you out with its cleverness. In this case I was knocked out several times. It was amazing I could still walk.
For example, you can scratch your head all you want but you’ll never guess in a zillion years what this object is, I’ll bet:
Give up? No, it’s not a ruined and or half-finished hat of a country bumpkin. It’s a chicken skirt.
You see, the person given over to looking after the egg layers would put this contraption over a mama chicken, thrusting her head through that hole in the middle, and then put this whole package, chicken and skirt, on the ground. So then she’d just lift that little skirt and shoo the baby chicks under and let it fall. The whole deal was designed with great precision, although it might not look like it. The chicken, by virtue of this precise design, could walk and cluck proudly and the skirt would, um, skirt the ground precisely, with little drag at all and the chicks would be protected from being eaten by all manner of animal, including, they tell me, foxes and wolves. Sometimes a cage is a prison and sometimes it’s protection.
All this got explained to us by Marco Caverni, who you see in the picture below, explaining more farm stuff to us.
Marco, it turns out, lives on a farm. It’s a very nice farm because they don’t use chemicals and they don’t beat the animals or anything. So, given that his work involves showing hungry people farm implements and chicken skirts, he’s decided to extend his services.
He makes a mighty fine salame. It’s officially called Salame delle Terre Sentinati which recalls the ancient Roman town Sassoferrato sits upon, Sentinum. I can tell you, happy pigs living in a good environment make some mighty fine sausages. The one he gave us to try was still soft the way I like it, but came with the harness so you could hang it and get it as hard and dry as you like.
Marco is part of a very interesting group that invokes the mountains that embrace the happy humans and animals in their skirts. It’s called the Happennines. You get the connection, right? They have a facebook page which brings you into this happy little corner of Le Marche and offers events that show you the joys of the rural life. So imagine yourself slicing up Marco’s salame and looking over the wildflowers while Marco explains how you can eat most of them. Romantic? You betcha.
A couple of other things in the museum that surprised me
Ok, here’s a nice, evocative picture—but of what?
Beehives. Not those boxes like they have today, but sturdy hives. Well, unless you drop them.
And then there are the painted carts. One stood out.
Who’s the guy in the field wearing a suit? Well, that’s a bundle in his hands, a fascia, perhaps of wheat, which could be part of the war on wheat. So it must be…Mussolini. But why is he in a suit? Well, the guy commemorating the moment decided that it might be disrespectful to show him as a mere contadino so he overpainted the suit.
The world is a great and sometimes funny place. Don’t let the wolves or the politics get you down. Have some of Marco’s salami and note the wonder of it all.