Guest blog written by Clive Elderkin
As you get older it’s very easy to become what’s known as a ‘Creature of Habit’ – which can have either positive or negative connotations. My wife Gill and I have been visiting Caserma Carina every year since 2007 – so it’s a label which I suppose could be applied to us – and indeed many people do ask what draws us back year after year.
I suppose our Italian adventures began over 15 years ago when we booked a short-notice blind package deal and ended up in a typical tourist hotel on Lake Como for our first experience. We were immediately hooked and for a few years after that did the fairly predictable holidays in the Italian Lakes, Tuscany, Umbria, Rome etc.
In 2007 we fancied seeing something more of real Italy than just the usual tourist destinations with flocks of guided tours so we did a bit more research and came across an article in one of the Italian travel magazines which featured Caserma Carina and Lesley and Dean’s efforts and vision to renovate the old dilapidated property into a really different sort of holiday destination. We also did some research into Le Marche region and what really appealed was the description as ‘’like Tuscany but without the tourists”. Gill was convinced and immediately rang Lesley to book our first one week stay in Papavero !
The most memorable moment on the Saturday we arrived was coming down the drive and seeing Caserma Carina for the first time – the gardens and pool were immaculate (and have just got better since then) – and of course Dean was out there cutting the grass as usual! The welcome from Dean and Lesley was so warm and helpful – we soon found out that we had a common background in the insurance industry – and we spent so long chatting around the pool that we got sun-burnt before we had even unpacked!
….and that set the scene for one of the most relaxing and enjoyable holidays we had ever had. We explored Mogliano and the surrounding villages such as Loro Piceno and found some fantastic local places to eat at incredibly good prices – more of that later!
We were lucky enough to be in Mogliano for the annual 1744 Festival – an event which gave us a great insight into how friendly the local people are and how welcoming to foreign visitors. Strangely we also witnessed a brass band concert / competition one evening in Loro Piceno – which made a Yorkshireman feel really at home.
We set out with great intentions of exploring the whole of Le Marche on our first visit but inevitably succumbed to the appeal of the pool – such a great spot to relax and soak up the sunshine , have an informal lunch and to chat with the other guests…..which of course meant by the end of the holiday we felt we still had loads to see and do in le Marche…so we booked to come back again in September that year.
And so began our relationship with Caserma Carina and the McMorrans.
We came back the year after in 2008 for a longer 2 week break and this time managed to explore quite a bit more of what Le Marche has to offer – the incredible Frasassi Caves, the beaches at Porto San Giorgio and for the first time the amazing wild flowers on the Piano Grande along with Castellucio and the Sibillini Mountains. But we still had more to see – so guess what…we booked again!
Since then we have been back to Caserma Carina every year to date with some particularly memorable events:
In 2009: we had our honeymoon in Italy split between Caserma Carina and Sardinia. Dean, Lesley and of course their daughter Grace went to great lengths to help us celebrate our marriage in style.
In 2011: we visited twice – once for Gill’s 50th Birthday celebrations in May – along with Dean, Lesley and friends from both UK and locally in Mogliano – and later for our ‘’usual” holiday break.
So what really compels us to come back year after year? I guess it’s a combination of those key elements which contribute to a great holiday.
First of all the accommodation has to be right – the apartments (and we’ve tried all but the Girasole 2 bedroomed one) at Caserma Carina are so well maintained and clean that we have never been disappointed. The fact that they are all air-conditioned is a tremendous benefit – it can get quite hot in the height of summer in Mogliano!
The surrounding gardens and pool are superb for relaxing and incredibly well maintained. It’s so easy to decide not to go exploring but just relax around the pool with a few drinks (Dean now has wine and beer / soft drinks available on site) a bit of alfresco dining and chatting to fellow guests – many of whom are also ‘repeat offenders’.
Some have certainly become firm friends and over the years we have had many enjoyable nights out with them at local restaurants and events, festivals etc. Caserma Carina has really become a great place to meet interesting people and an ideal way of keeping in touch. Over time we’ve met people not just from UK but also Singapore, Ireland, Finland, Netherlands, USA and Belgium. Beyond that we have also got to know people locally in Mogliano – not just UK expats but also locals who remember us from year to year.
I suppose all these are part and parcel of the hospitality aspect of any holiday – and this is where Dean, Lesley and Grace excel – they are always on hand to help sort problems and help with advice on shopping, eating out and ensuring guests are comfortable and enjoying their time with them. They are especially well versed in travel advice – where to go and what to see…and there is plenty in Le Marche and Caserma Carina is ideally situated as a base.
We have still not seen everything we want to in Le Marche – but we have seen wonderful countryside and natural phenomena (Sibillini mountains and Frasassi Caves), great beaches and seaside resorts, picturesque villages and elegant historical owns such as Macerata, Ascoli Piceno (must visit Caffé Meletti) and Urbino. We’ve seen the world’s best hand-made watercolour paper produced in Fabriano and we’ve seen local festivals in Mogliano and Loro Piceno – but we still want to see the Easter festivities and Halloween celebrations.
Food and drink is always important and Mogliano and Le Marche do not disappoint. We’ve enjoyed excellent quality local food at extremely reasonable cost at many local restaurants – Da Marina and La Perla (Francesco always makes us welcome) in Mogliano are regular haunts, as is Girrarosta in Loro Piceno (where you’re likely to be invited to inspect the kitchens and wine cellar) – and just a short drive away from Caserma Carina we’ve found gourmet standard food to compete with the best – but again at very sensible prices – at a number of town and countryside restaurants.
So – will we go back again? Of course – but this year we’ve booked a bit later in October. There’s more to see and do – more towns and villages to explore and more great food to eat. Can’t think of a better base to do it from (although might not be spending as much time in the pool).