After collecting our final Greek passenger, Niko, Animalcouriers headed to Igoumenitsa port to make the crossing to Italy. It’s always a nail-biting time, checking in with the port authorities, but it all went off politely and we were nodded through to the port.

Our ferry was due to leave at 23.30. It eventually turned up at 05.00, and we were finally moving by 05.45. It’s a long crossing to Italy, so the engineers put up with courier J’s demands to see the dogs and cats, so she could check they were cool and keep them fed and watered. There’s a new airflow system in our van that works off an ancillary battery which lasts 26 hours, which is the length of the crossing.

When we reached Ancona, we headed to one of our favourite hotels,Β A3PAssi,Β owned by Antonella and her father Antonio. It’s an agricultural hotel (agriturismo) with private parking, endless olive groves, and lovely lanes for dog-walking.

We arrived so late the restaurant and hotel were shut, but a tray of bread and cold cuts, yogurt, apricot tart, and a bottle of house wine had been left out for us. What’s more, the car park and lane lights were on, there was water in the standpipe, and a key in the door. An amazing welcome despite no-one being around!

From over 11,000 olive trees of different varieties, the family produces a range of award-winning oils. Antonio maintains that the quality of the oil is down to the processes they use from the growing, to the picking, pressing and processing, through to bottling.

Their restaurant, La Tavola, offers traditional local cuisine made from fresh, top quality, organic ingredients, cooked with a lot of passion and a pinch of creativity.

We sampled (and bought) bottles of Antonio’s World No 1 Ascolana oil, a rare and valuable oil that has a strong fruity flavour with a hint of tomato leaves. Antonio gave us instructions on how to gently heat and consume this wonderful elixir.

A crate of A3Passi's award-winning olives

A crate of A3Passi’s award-winning olives

A closer look at the fruit

Olives waiting in line for the extraction process

Olives waiting in line for the extraction process

Organic produce from the farm, just crying out to be sampled

Organic produce from the farm, just crying out to be sampled

 As we went back and forth with the dogs, our paths crossed with farm trailers coming and going at what is a very busy harvest time

As we went back and forth with the dogs, our paths crossed with farm trailers coming and going at what is a very busy harvest time

Some olives are left to ripen further, and will be bottled with garlic and herbs

Some olives are left to ripen further, and will be bottled with garlic and herbs

Banks of bright chrysanthemums are interspersed with the crops

Banks of bright chrysanthemums are interspersed with the crops

Antonio always comes over to say hello β€” here he is checking that we'd enjoyed last night's picnic supper

Antonio always comes over to say hello β€” here he is checking that we’d enjoyed last night’s picnic supper

The lanes around the farm and the lush grassy slopes around the olive trees are a perfect environment for excellent dog walks.

Diego

Diego

Souki

Souki

Niko

Niko

Berti

Berti

Maya

Maya

Lucy

Lucy

Sugar

Sugar

Jacq

Jacq

Dexter

Dexter

Phantom, so-called because of her masked face

Phantom, so-called because of her masked face

Arizona, who's always ready to play

Arizona, who’s always ready to play

Lily enjoying watching all the comings and goings

Lily enjoying watching all the comings and goings

Gismo looking very demure

Gismo looking very demure

Two pups

Two pups

Two more pups

Two more pups

The puppies are travelling in pairs, in side-by-side compartments. They need cleaning out at least twice a day, so we pop all four in together while we do one compartment, then repeat the process for the second compartment. Here they are all having a big drink together.

The puppies are travelling in pairs, in side-by-side compartments. They need cleaning out at least twice a day, so we pop all four in together while we do one compartment, then repeat the process for the second compartment. Here they are all having a big drink together.