Recently, large publications that send writers out to a particular foreign destination for a week every year or two have taken to the practice of calling Le Marche "the next Tuscany." It is hard to tell what they mean. It's not crowded with English speakers, the landscape is very different, the shutters are mostly brown instead of green. The food, the pasta shapes--all different. Even the sea is different.
If you like smaller towns and the slow rhythms of the rural life: Le Marche offers much to experience. The northern Marche can be "done" by a trip down the Metauro River Valley, passing towns like Mercatello, Urbino, and heading out to the Roman town of Fano on the Adriatic coast. You might do it in a week. You won't be bored if you take two or three.
Did you know? Le Marche was recently chosen by AARP as one of the world’s top destinations to retire to.
Le Marche is broken up into four provinces, named after the primary cities within them. In the north, the first province is called Pesaro and Urbino, Provincia di Pesaro e Urbino in Italian, which borders the state of San Marino. This is where the Metauro valley is.
The next province to the south is Ancona, then Macerata, then Ascoli Piceno. Each of these provincial capitals is marked with a black circle within a white one. If you click any of these 5 markers, a funny thing should happen. A series of concentric circles, each representing about 10 km of distance, appears centered on the town marker. The scale should give you a reasonable indication of how far that capital is from the other cities and towns. Click one and see. It's a small world, a small region. You won't have high gasoline (benzina in Italian) bills to see lots.
Museum Art, history, territory -- Fiumi Sermattei Palace, Genga, Le Marche
Mountain Landscape near the Frasassi Caves
Ah, the slow life in Le Marche!
If you haven't been to Le Marche before, you might want to check out our video introduction to the region: Introducing Le Marche
Grottammare is located on a stretch of the Adriatic Coast called the Riviera delle Palme, the Palm Riviera. But it's not just beach. The town has a fortress overlooking the sea. Delicious Italy has a good overview of Grottammare.
Le Marche is notable for its monasteries. Some are not open to visitors, but the best one to visit is Fonte Avellana Monastery founded in 980, one of the few with a scriptorium--a room where manuscripts were copied. You can eat in the restaurant, a very popular thing to do for the locals on Sunday.
If you are in Italy in October, and think you are going to miss all the truffle fairs, usually held in November when the celebrated winter white truffle is available, be aware that little Sant' Angelo in Vado has one of the earliest truffle fairs in Italy.
Do you get the best prosciutto in Parma? Lots of Italians prefer the product in the little Marche village of Carpegna, where you can find Prosciutto di Carpegna San Leo DOP.
Urbino is the Renaissance gem of this region. Want to see one of the most important collections of Renaissance paintings in Italy? Try the Ducal Palace of Urbino. Between Urbino, Faro and Guadara lies the little village of Carceto, known for its fabulous cheese and olive oil, as well as the friendly folks in the villages impressive piazza.
Urbania has been a center for handmade ceramics since the 15th century, and you can take a class or just buy a load of it to weigh down your suitcase. You can visit and sometimes see a performance in the cute Bramante Theater, built between 1857 to 1864--one of those old, intriguing, small-town theaters that gave small-town folks pleasure in the "olden" days.
Macerata is a medieval hill town with a university. Fred Plotkin, author of Italy for the Gourmet Traveler writes, "Macerata is now the place when people who have never been to Italy call me up and say, 'Fred, we want to go to a place where we will discover as much as we can of Italy in one town,' I send them there." He recommends the local vincigrassi, a lasagna made with chicken livers and other offal.
Sassoferrato, population 8000, is about one of the most interesting towns of that size you'll ever visit. There is a very important Roman town excavated on Sassoferrato's outskirts, there are 12 churches and a castle, a tiny prison that you have to see to believe and more. Read about Sassoferrato: Finding the Hidden Italy in Sassoferrato. Sassoferrato's most interesting lodging option is the Agriturismo Antico Muro that sits right atop the site of the important Battle of Sentinum won by the Romans and leading to their consolidation of central Italy. While there, be sure to try the region's celebrated Sourdough Pasta: Le Pincinelle Marchigiane. Head to the south on a short day trip to see the Museum of Roman Gilded Bronzes in Pergola.
Fabriano is another town just south of Sassoferrato you might consider visiting. See the Paper and Watermark Museum of Fabriano and the the Antica Farmacia Mazzolini Giuseppucci. If you have more time and like historic bicycles, see the Museo dei Mestieri Bicicletta. Wine lovers, especially those who'd like to taste some hand crafted sparkling wines with a history might like to visit Sbaffi.
Offida, a little town you've never heard of, has some of the most interesting sites and museums you wouldn't expect in such a small town. Click the link to learn about its secrets, which include lacemaking. Offida is only a short distance from Ascoli Piceno (see below), so it can be done as a long day trip from that beautiful city.
Tolentino - "If the draw of flying saints, Bonaparte and chronological puzzles are not enough, Tolentino boasts The International Museum of Caricature and Humour in Art in its new home, Palazzo Sangallo. Here you can see some 3,000 works by artists from across the world. The city also hosts the Biennial International Festival of Hunour in Art, one of the most prestigious events of its kind." ~ Guide to Tolentino.
Ascoli Piceno has some of the most beautiful piazze in Italy. For its size, it's one of the great bargains in great food and comfortable lodging. We stayed at the Antica Borgo Piceno just outside the gates of town; a fabulous, quite space, great breakfast, and a reasonable amount of parking. Ascoli's Piazza Del Popolo is shown below.
Our latest find was the coompact little gem of a town called Mondavio. It has a great view of its castle from the little piazza that is the core of village life. The Pizzeria has a great view of towns on the hill and is the place to go at sunset--and we found bargain lodging there. See Martha's Mondavio Travel Guide.
For more on the weather near the sea in the northern Marche, see our Fano Weather and Historic Climate page.
If you like to stay in a rural farm or bed and breakfast, Le Marche offers a unique opportunity. Marche Owners Direct can advise you of places to stay--Check out their facebook page.
We've also reviewed:
Agriturismo Pieve del Colle, for searchers of the Balconies of Renaissance painter Piero della Francesca.
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