Not as widely known as Tuscany, Sardinia, Sicily or Veneto, Marche is a hidden gem just waiting to be explored. Here are ten reasons why we love it.
180km of coastline ensures an abundance of beaches (17 of them blue flag) that cater to all types of visitor. Try San Elpidio and Civitanova Marche for windsurfing and sailing, San Benedetto Del Tronto or Grottammare for family friendly bathing (shallow waters and a sea barrier), or visit Portonovo for complete tranquility.
Escape the crowds.
The region is popular with Italian vacationers (always a good sign) but has only a smattering of tourists from Britain, Germany and Holland, ensuring that there will be no stag and hen parties, or 18-30’s type crowds (phew!) There are rarely queues or long waits for anything, and it’s always easy to get a table in our favourite seafood restaurant, which leads us to point three!
One of the perks of staying in a coastline region is the huge variety of fresh seafood dishes, a firm favourite of mine being Brodetto all’Anconetana. Stop at any restaurant along Le Marche’s coast and you’re bound to find a version of this fish soup. Traditionally made with 13 different types of fish and shellfish (one for each person at the Last Supper). The tomato-based soup, rich with the flavour of fresh seafood, evolved from the local fishers’ dilemma around how to use up by-catch.
Rolling hills, vineyards and olive groves are in abundance in Marche, so if you love to be at one with nature, there are plenty of places to walk, hike or picnic against the backdrop of mountains, the sea, or miles of green and pleasant land.
A favourite way to travel through Le Marche is by bike. There are plenty of cycle routes to enjoy, both inland and coastal. For the more leisurely cyclist (like me!) a personal favourite is a sundown cycle along the beachside track from San Benedetto del Tronto to Cupra Marittima. It is beachside all the way, and what better way to see the sunset beneath a pink sky over the sea, at a cooler time of day. A short break for Calamari and a glass of local wine in one of the restaurants that line the shore is a must.
Culture vultures will love the fact that English is rarely heard in Marche, so if improving your Italian linguistic skills is an essential part of a trip to Italy for you, there is no better place to practice. Marchigiani (local people) will appreciate you trying just a few words, and before you know it you will be chatting away about food, weather and politics! Or perhaps just your favourite pizza toppings and ice cream flavours (or is that just me?)
Speaking of Marchigiani, the local people are renowned all over the country for their hospitality and friendliness. People smile a lot here. There is either something in the water or these are some of the happiest people we have ever met.
Thanks to fresh ingredients from the mountains, farmland and sea, Le Marche produces a varied, seasonal cuisine and truly distinctive wines. Olive Ascolane, a speciality of Le Marche’s capital, Ascoli Piceno, are fried stoned olives stuffed with pork, beef, chicken, eggs and Parmesan cheese and offer a delicious local treat.
Ciauscolo is a soft smoked-pork sausage, flavoured with fennel, garlic and vino cotto, a local non-alcoholic ‘cooked wine’ made from grapes and offers a unique sweet-and-sour flavour.
Le Marche’s own version of Lasagne is Vincisgrassi, a rich, baked pasta dish of mighty proportions – 12 layers of soft, slippery pasta sheets that are interspersed with veal ragu, chicken liver or lamb sweetbreads, truffles or wild mushrooms, and béchamel sauce. Delicious and indulgent!
Virtually everywhere you look in Le Marche you will encounter either rustic charm or grand oppulence. The Piazza del Popolo in Ascoli Piceno is a breathtaking Renaissance square with the domed Basilica di San Francesco at one end, and the art-deco Caffè Meletti at the other, lined with arched walkways and cobbled paving stones in between. Tiny hilltop Medieval towns are in abundance, each with its own city wall and rustic stone brick houses with colourful window shutters and terracotta roofs.
The Sferisterio di Macerata is a grand amphitheatre and home to an opera festival each summer, while theatres and museums house grand rooms with beautifully painted ceiling frescoes.
During the summer months there are plenty of local festa (festivals) that include live music, local cuisine, performance arts and usually culminate in an enormous fireworks display.
READ MORE: ABOUT LE MARCHE