Delicate colors combined with soft leathers—a recipe for making your foot happy.

Fermo is a province in the Marche region of central Italy. The province stretches from the Sibillini Mountains to the Adriatic Sea and its main geographic features are the valley of the River Tenna and the River Aso that form the southern border of the province. The coastline consists of beach areas interlaced with shady pine trees that offer visitors a perfect combination of natural landscapes.

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The town of Fermo, the capital of the province, is an old town perched on a hill. It has a historic center, a large piazza and a cathedral with a Gothic facade dating from 1227. There are also traces of a Roman amphitheatre nearby. Underneath the town is an intricate system of well-preserved Roman cisterns dating back to around 40 AD. They were built to conserve and purify the water for the people of the town and are considered to be one of the finest examples of their kind in Italy.

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An 1861 report by Minister Minghetti justified merging the small and fragmented provinces of southern Marche into a single large province, a move to remove the historical border between the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and the Papal States. The residents of Abruzzo were opposed to this. Despite the opposition, 58% of the population of Fermo voted in favor of merging some smaller provinces. In 2000, supporters of forming a new province of Fermo were able to pass a law changing the boundaries and the province of Fermo was re-established in 2004.

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Shoe Industry

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Footwear and leather goods produced in the area, are a specialty of the region. The production of women’s shoes is a tedious, time-consuming craft. After the initial stages of leather cutting, stitching and fitting the body of the shoe, the next steps vary according to the shoe style. Each artisan is trained to specialize in one task. The leather must be stretched taut over the toe of every shoe. Another craftsman delicately brushes special glue onto the bottom of the shoe structure, allowing it to dry completely before heating it up again and applying the sole by hand, lining it up exactly and using a special machine to press it tight. At the end of the assembly line, another craftsman places each stiletto heel in just the right spot before securing it with a press machine and sending it on for the finishing touches. Then the shoes are polished, buffed, boxed and shipped. It’s an example of the care and handcrafting that give Italian shoes their reputation for durability and quality. With over 54 components needed for every pair of women’s shoes, shoemaking can be laborious work.

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Dino Bigioni manufactures 700 pairs of shoes a day. All employees come from shoemaking families that have educated their children in the craft. While many of the younger generation attend an area trade school to learn the craft, family tradition is the preferred training method. This factory is just one of hundreds of small yet established family shoe businesses in this area. The families say they are friends rather than foes and that they help one another in times of hardship. The Italian shoe industry is not just about footwear – it’s about preserving a tradition, a culture and a family name. Each family specializes in one part of the shoe – one family may make only stiletto heels; others only the soles for men’s loafers. With the exception of the leather (which comes from Tuscany and the Veneto), all shoe components are produced locally.

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The province’s main agricultural products are cereals, vegetables, grapes, olives and livestock. The pecorino grape takes its name from the sheep (pecore) who originated in the area. It is an early ripening variety and produces fine white wine. The red wine Offida Rosso DOCG and the white wine Offida Bianco DOCG are also produced in this province as well.

Cereals, olives and mustard are grown and produced and the fish and seafood along the coast of this province are excellent. Maccheroncini di Campofilone, a variety of pasta that has received the PGI, is made exclusively here. The pasta is very thin and only fresh eggs and flour are allowed to be used. No other liquid can be added to make this pasta dough.

Roveja Soup

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The Roveja bean is an ancient legume also known as a wild pea. Flour is made from the bean and used to prepare a kind of porridge, called “Farecchiata”. The bean grows wild in the area of Sibillini. The Greeks, Romans, shepherds and farmers considered it a delicious legume. Today, it is produced in small quantities in Umbria and in the Sibillini mountains. The roveja bean is the size of a pea and varies in color from orange to brown. The flavor is similar to chickpeas and lentils.

Ingredients for 4 people:

  • 250 g of dry roveja beans
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 onion
  • 1 large potato
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 celery
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 3 leaves of sage
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt, pepper and extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

After soaking the roveja beans in water to cover for 10-12 hours, boil them for about an hour until soft.

Heat a little olive oil in a large saucepan and saute the garlic, onion, celery, carrot and potato Add the roveja beans with its cooking water.

Season with salt and pepper, add the rosemary, sage and bay leaf and simmer until thick and creamy.

Maccheroncini di Campofilone al ragù

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di La Cucina Italiana

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • ½ pound maccheroncini (very thin egg pasta)
  • ¼ pound beef stew bones (optional)
  • ¼ pound chopped veal
  • ½ pound chopped sirloin
  • ¼ pound chicken giblets (optional)
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 onion
  • ½ cup of white wine
  • 2 cups peeled tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for the pan
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 tablespoons grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese
  • 3 sprigs of fresh basil

Directions

Salt and pepper all the meat. Heat a large sauce pan and add enough oil to lightly cover the bottom. Add the stew bones and brown them; then add the veal and sirloin and saute until brown.

Remove the bones and chopped meat to a plate and place to the side. Lower the heat and place the giblets in the saucepan with the diced celery, onion and carrots and allow them to gently cook.

After the vegetables soften, add the wine to deglaze pan, stirring to bring the juices from the bottom of the pan into the mixture.

Return the meat and bones to the mixture and add the tomatoes and olive oil and cover the pot. Simmer over very low heat for two hours, stirring often.

Boil maccheroncini in a generous amount of salted water for 1-2 minutes (pasta should be firm to the bite) and drain. Place in a serving bowl and add a large spoonful of sauce.

Garnish with cheese and fresh basil leaf and serve.

Peposo (Peppered Lamb Stew)

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From La Tavola Marche Cooking School

Ingredients

  • 2 kg/4.5 lb leg of lamb, cut into thick steaks with bone-in
  • 20 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 heaping tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
  • Sea salt
  • 5 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 1 bottle of red wine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3-4 juniper berries, crushed
  • Drizzle of olive oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 225 F/105 C  degrees.

In a heavy pot (just big enough to hold all the ingredients), drizzle with olive oil and place a layer of the sliced meat at the bottom of the pan.

Cover with a few cloves of garlic, sprinkle with pepper, salt and rosemary. Repeat, starting with the meat, and keep layering until all the ingredients are used and the pot is almost full.

Pour the wine over the top and add the bay leaves and juniper berries. Add water, if necessary, so that all the ingredients are covered with liquid.

Slowly bring to a boil, cover tightly with a lid and place in the preheated oven for about 8 hours or until tender and falling apart.

([If you want to cook the stew faster, raise the temp to about 300 degrees and cook for 4-6 hours. However it will be richer, the slower you cook it.)

Once the stew is done, skim off the fat from the surface and remove the bones, the bay leaves and rosemary twigs.  The meat should be very soft and juicy with a rich flavor.

Taste and adjust the seasoning. Break up the pieces of meat. Serve a ladle of stew on toasted bruschetta with a drizzle of olive oil or serve with polenta or mashed potatoes.

Rustic Tart with Strawberries (Crostata di Fragole)

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From La Tavola Marche Cooking School

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cups, 250g butter
  • 4 cups, 500 g of flour
  • 1 1/4 cups + extra for dusting, 250g  sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon, 5g baking powder
  • 2 full eggs + 3 yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon grappa, rum or brandy
  • 1 pint of fresh strawberries per tart, sliced

Directions

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then add the vanilla and  liqueur and beat until combined.

Sift together all the dry ingredients.

Incorporate the dry ingredients into the butter and egg mixture with a few strokes of a wooden spoon to form a dough.

Roll 2/3 of the dough out slightly larger than your tart pan. Crimp the edges of the dough to create the crust.

Arrange the strawberries slightly overlapping to cover the pastry. Sprinkle a little sugar over the strawberries.

To make the latticework top:

Pull off a pinch of dough and roll into a long snake. If it breaks, just pinch it back together. This is a rustic tart. Moist hands will help if the dough is sticky.

Continue until you have enough strips to make a lattice top.

Bake in a preheated 350 F/175 C degree oven for about an hour or until the top is brown and the bottom is cooked. The dough should shrink away from the pan a bit. Cool.

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