Welcome to Le Marche
Welcome to Le Marche
Juliana De Brito
Photo: Marian Luzi
Friday 22 September 2023
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Welcome to Le Marche, one of the most fascinating Italian destinations off the beaten path. Nestled along the Adriatic Sea, adorned with awe-inspiring landscapes and charming hilltop towns, this region offers a picturesque setting to savour some of Italy’s finest wines and immerse yourself in the flavours of local culinary traditions.
Rolling hills adorned in various shades of green, some of the most beautiful villages of Italy, impressive medieval towns and art cities, stunning beaches and boundless stretches of vineyards, olive groves and sunflower fields—all complemented by delightful local dishes and exceptional wines. Attempting to encapsulate the entirety of what Marche offers could be a daunting task.
The fact it sometimes loses out to better-known destinations such as Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna means that much of the region remains refreshingly untouched by the tourist masses, especially further inland. Here, an authentic and unfiltered ambiance reigns supreme: traditions, food, wine, panoramas, nature, and people. In each hamlet, the essence of the local community, its heritage and flavours envelop you.
A new landscape around every corner
Let’s begin by noting that this region bears its name in the plural, perhaps reflecting the fact that you can transition from an altitude of about 2000 meters to sea level in just over an hour. Marche is a region that embodies a captivating diversity across every facet, from its natural landscapes to the rich tapestry of cultures and traditions that have thrived for centuries.
This variety isn’t confined to Marche’s geography; it’s reflected in the people and their passion for preserving age-old, hyper-local customs. Nowhere is this more obvious than in food and wine, with each locality boasting its own distinctive culinary treasures. Palates here indulge in a large range of flavours, from succulent seafood dishes along the Adriatic coastline to hearty mountain fare. This harmonious blend of cultural, geographical, natural, and culinary diversity culminates in an unforgettable experience.
From rolling hill to medieval village
Each province within Marche boasts its own unique charm and attractions. Urbino for example is renowned for its UNESCO-listed historic center and the impressive Palazzo Ducale, a Renaissance masterpiece. Along the Conero Riviera, visitors can bask in the beauty of white pebble beaches, framed by rugged cliffs and transparent waters. Ascoli Piceno captivates with its Piazza del Popolo, one of Italy’s most beautiful squares, adorned with impressive architecture.
The city centre of Fermo beckons with its ancient history, along with the fascinating Roman cisterns that lie beneath. Grotte di Frasassi showcases the stunning underground world of stalactites and stalagmites, offering an awe-inspiring adventure.
For those seeking the allure of picturesque villages, the region is dotted with many hamlets that have earned the distinction of being among “The Most Beautiful Villages of Italy”. The city of Macerata, known for its vibrant cultural scene, hosts the Macerata Opera Festival in a remarkable setting that adds to the allure.
The region offers many stunning natural parks too, including the many trails of Monti Sibillini, which can be explored by foot, bike or horse. The park covers a large, mountainous area with beautiful valleys crossed by forests, rivers, and scenic gorges.
A paradise of food and wine
From the renowned Verdicchio, the most famous white wine of the area, to the exquisite Vernaccia di Serrapetrona, a rare DOCG local sparkling red wine known for its intricate three-step fermentation process, the wines here are as diverse as the landscapes that birth them. The region also boasts a vibrant array of other famous wines, such as the aromatic Lacrima di Morro d’Alba, the intense Rosso Conero, the well-balanced Rosso Piceno, and the elegant Offida, and many others. With a large selection that spans unique red, white, and sparkling wines, it’s a delightful challenge to pick a favourite from this diverse array of offerings.
When it comes to the gastronomic scene, Marche doesn’t hold back either. The dishes are a testament to the region’s authentic flavours.
Delving into the depths of the sea, one can savour spaghetti con i moscioli, a dish featuring wild mussels sourced from the Portonovo bay, which adds a touch of coastal magic to the cuisine. Experiencing the bold flavours of olive all’ascolana, where plump local olives are stuffed with savoury meat, coated in breadcrumbs, and fried to crispy perfection, is a culinary delight. Additionally, ciauscolo is a famous spreadable salami that is not to be missed, while the renowned vincisgrassi is a sumptuous layered pasta dish reminiscent of lasagne in appearance but with a unique flavour.
Local culture, intact and unspoiled
Le Marche is one of the best regions for travelers seeking a more authentic experience in Italy. In Marche, it is still possible to find the heritage of ancient crafts transmitted over time and which are at risk of fading away.
This includes everything from paper-making traditions dating to the 12th century, to artisans who make shoes by hand. These talented craftspeople can be found in the south of Marche, where some of Italy’s most renowned shoe factories are also located. The artistry of Majoliche in Urbania, once a very important ceramic hub during the Renaissance, continues to pay homage to the rich heritage of the past.
Back on the wine front, you’ll find the timeless Sagra dell’Uva di Cupramontana, a local event that commemorates the conclusion of the grape harvest. A particular standout on the calendar is the enchanting “Appassimenti Aperti” festival held in the tiny village of Serrapetrona, in the middle of November. Set in the picturesque main square and within local wineries, this event invites visitors to experience days filled with wine tastings. What sets this festival apart is its focus on the drying process of the grapes, where you can witness grapes suspended in cords, inside vast rooms, or wooden boxes. The spectacle is truly astonishing.
Truffle lovers can’t miss the National Truffle Fair of Acqualagna, celebrating the prized truffle in all its glory, showcasing the region’s rich gastronomic heritage. Visitors can indulge in truffle-focused culinary delights and experience the essence of this exquisite delicacy with numerous activities.
Marche’s vibrant tapestry of events extends beyond the world of gastronomy, encompassing an eclectic array of cultural happenings. The Macerata Opera Festival and Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro are famous events for opera lovers, bringing together world-class music and wider cultural heritage. Fermo hosts the impressive historical re-enactment of the Cavalcata dell’Assunta, a grand event that takes visitors on a journey through the past. The Medieval Games during Fermo’s Palio combine traditions and interesting popular stories.
Beyond the exquisite food, wine and splendid landscapes, Marche’s tapestry is woven with these threads of time-honoured traditions, artistry, and vibrant local events, encapsulating the essence of a region deeply rooted in its cultural heritage. Authentic, full of character, and incredibly beautiful, this is Marche.
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