Quaint old towns, lovely vineyards and rugged beaches were plentiful along our route, but it was the people we met that left the most lasting memories.
The ladies of Ristorante Squadrani
We started off from Bologna, stopping at Comacchio and Ravenna en route to Rimini. It was late when we got there. We were tired and hungry. The guy at the hotel said: The best food in Rimini is outside Rimini.
He recommended a place called Squadrani. It's where he often went for dinner, our guy said. He forgot to mention that nobody at the restaurant spoke much English.
This was not a problem, as we were armed with an assortment of Italian phrase apps. They weren't much good at getting us understood, but were great for making us look like we were trying very hard to speak the local language.
The food was excellent, and Valentina, our host, was perfect, producing a trio of liqueurs at the end of our meal... before inviting us to the kitchen to join the cooks in making capellini pasta!
Everyone was very friendly and showed genuine pleasure in having us around. The ladies who ran the kitchen were constantly poking fun at Rosa, saying she wants to get on Facebook to find a boyfriend.
Surgeon turned winemaker
Rimini had a reputation as a party town but our primary goal there was to visit San Marino, the world's oldest republic. We then headed to Senigallia where B, who was unable to go to Bologna with us, would join us for the rest of our trip.
From there, we made trips to Urbino and the Conero Peninsula beaches such as Sirolo, before moving on to more peaceful surroundings in the Ascoli Piceno province.
By this time we had become more confident in our broken Italian - even if 99 per cent of the time we were limited to just two phrases, 'aceto balsamico' and 'pepperoncino' - so when we found out that our host for the next few days was American, I didn't know what to think.
Dwight turned out to be a really nice guy with an understated sense of humour. He had given up his job as a surgeon in order to grow grapes and make wine in Italy. He could talk about good wine and 'slow food' all day. He knew the local area well and gave us very good restaurant recommendations.
Before leaving Nascondiglio di Bacco, we had a little tour of his lovely vineyard and sampled various wines from the distillery. They were good - and Dwight thinks they'll get better.
Fair weather local
Next stop, Peschici! We arrived at B&B Borgo del Nespolo Peschici late, and in the rain. Gianni and Zdenka got us hot drinks immediately and chatted with us while we dried out. Clearly a man who knows exactly what he wants, Gianni spends half the year skiing in Austria and the other half enjoying the sunshine in Peschici.
Throughout our stay, the pair were always available when we needed help or travel tips, and Gianni never failed to make us laugh! On their recommendation, we visited the surreal Foresta Umbra and charming town of Mont Sant'Angelo.
There's a nice story behind the B&B's name too. Gianni named the place after the nespolo, a citrus fruit, as it reminded him of his grandfather, who used to grow the trees.
Other notable stops
- Bari (where you can buy super fresh sea urchins)