Via Raffaello is a relentlessly steep street in this hillside city named for the famed Renaissance artist who called it home as a child. Today a different artist resides here. Leonardo Cartolari doesn’t work with paint. Sugar and flour are his medium, his hands are his brush, and an oven is his canvas. With passion and a love for his craft, Cartolari rises before the sun to create his art.
Part costume designer, part promoter, part hostess, and all storyteller, Cristina Ortolani stages events and recruits participants throughout the Marche to share the memories, traditions, and characters of the region with its inhabitants and, with the help of the internet, beyond.
In the hustle and bustle of this tourist-filled beach town lies two wooden doors framed by marble. A copper plaque with the words “Le Nuvole,” or clouds, hangs next to them. Walking through the busy alleyways, passersby might think this is just another entrance to a house.
Eighteen pairs of mummified eye sockets stare through the glass enclosures. The bodies, fragile and red, are perfectly preserved—every bone distinct, every cause of death evident. They stand as though still alive. It's eerie in the Chiesa dei Morti, also known as the “Church of the Dead.” But Giovanni Maestrini, caretaker and tour guide, is not fazed.
Swirling the sparkling glass of wine ever so delicately, Martina Brescini treats this classic Italian beverage as if it were her child. Breathing in the strong aroma, Brescini’s face glows as she begins to explain the composition of the wine in detail. This is just another workday for the 29-year-old sommelier.