Travellers looking for the best that Italy has to offer are increasingly looking towards the region of Le Marche for their holidays however it remains very much an unknown quantity. Without doubt, with it’s stunning natural beauty, it gives holidaymakers a taste of the ‘real’ Italy, unspoilt by mass tourism. It’s natural parks are ideal walking territory whilst there are numerous towns and villages to explore too. With some great beach resorts on the Eastern coast, it also offers visitors the chance to have fun beside the seaside! Here at Bookings For You, we’ve put together a list of the top places to visit in Le Marche to make the most of your stay here.
1. Urbino is arguably Marche’s most well known city and is rich in cultural history. The walled city is home to Italy’s most beautiful Renaissance palace – the Palazzo Ducale – built for Duke Federico da Montefeltro, ruler of Urbino in the 15th century. This is now home to the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche. The latter houses some incredible artworks including works by artists such as Piero della Francesca, Titian and Raphael amongst others. The painter, Raphael, is certainly Urbino’s most famous son. He was born in the town and lived in the Casa Natale di Rafaello.
2. The next town on our list of places to visit – the coastal town of Pesaro – also has it’s own claim to fame. Pesaro was the birthplace of the famous composer, Rossini. Opera lovers can visit the house where he was born at 34, Via Rossini, now home to a museum with various memorabilia of his life. Every August, the town plays host to the Rossini Opera Festival, a celebration of Rossini’s music and a must-see for any opera lover. For those travelling outside August, Pesaro itself is an attractive seaside resort, with a popular town centre, some great shopping and good sandy beaches.
3. Fano is a smaller beach resort and fishing town to the south of Pesaro but still worth visiting. Due to it being an important fishing harbour, it’s worth sampling some of the wonderful fish specialities in some of the many excellent restaurants in the town, such as the brodetto alla fanese (fish soup).
4. Ancona is the capital of Le Marche and it’s largest port. Unfortunately much of the capital’s Medieval town was destroyed during bombing in the Second World War. However, there are still some notable buildings to visit, including the white stone Duomo, the Archeological Museum and Roman Arch of Trajan. It’s easy to get put off visiting Ancona, as the approach to the city certainly isn’t attractive and it’s sometimes hard to find the hidden gems within Ancona but do persevere.
5. Just south of Ancona is the Conero Peninsula. The Parco del Conero is a stunning section of semi-wild coastline, coves, beaches and small resorts. The best of these include Portonuovo, Sirolo and Numana. Take a stroll through the woods to wonderfully quite secluded beaches and enjoy a day at the seaside without the crowds of the busier coastal resorts nearby.
6. Ascoli Piceno is a pretty town, nestled in the hills with a skyline dominated by towers and spires. With a stunning piazza as it’s focal point, it also boasts two excellent art galleries – the Pinacoteca and the Galleria d’Arte Contemporanea – as well as several museums, churches and concert halls. It has some great shops too. If you can, it’s worth visiting Ascoli Piceno in July and August just to see the Quintana, a Medieval jousting tournament held annually on the second Saturday in July and the first Sunday in August. The amazing spectacle features a grand procession with 1500 participants all dressed in Medieval costume parading through the streets preceding a jousting tournament. Packed stands of spectators will cheer on their favourite champion, each representing their specific neighbourhood and the celebrations then carry on into the night, as the proud winner of the joust is paraded through the night time streets. Shops open late, there is lots of eating in the main piazza and plenty of music…. a truly Italian celebration.
7. San Leo is not to be missed during your stay. Towered over by its rather dramatic fortress, the village has a charm all of its own. The fort of San Leo (also known as the Rocca) is a stunning piece of architecture often thought to be one of the most beautiful castles in Italy. But whilst visiting the village, you must also pay a visit to the cobbled village square with it’s octagonal fountain and village church, dating back to the 9th century as well as the Romanesque Duomo that lies just behind it. If you’d like to view San Leo from afar, it’s worth heading half an hour away to Pietrarubbia to see some of the most impressive views in Italy, across the rolling countryside of the park to San Leo and San Marino.
8. Also located in the Montefeltro region of Le Marche, a mixed landscape of rocky outcrops, sheer cliffs and rolling hills, are the Parco Naturale Sasso Simone e Simoncello and the Garden of Forgotten Fruits (L’Orto dei Frutti Dimenticati). The latter is one of seven open air museums around Pennabilli and attempts to preserve ancient species of fruit trees but also includes a sculpture garden with wonderful views. The Parco Naturale Sasso Simone e Simoncello is a regional park with an impressive array of wildlife including owls, buzzards, peregrine falcons, porcupines and deer.
9. During a stay in Le Marche, it’s worth heading to San Marino too. San Marino is Europe’s oldest republic. It’s a tiny country measuring just 24 square miles. Whilst it can’t claim to be the smallest nation in the world (Monaco and the Vatican are both smaller), it does claim to be the world’s oldest surviving sovereign state and constitutional republic. It also boasts its own mint, stamps, football team and army. The capital city of San Marino is situated on top of Mount Titano with the rest of the mountain and it’s surrounding slopes making up the Republic. Those with children should visit the Tourist Information Centre in the city where they can get their passport stamped… it’s a great one for ‘show and tell’ in school at the start of the new term!
8. There is plenty to see underground as well as above ground in Le Marche! The huge cave network at Frasissi (Grotte di Frasassi) is well worth a visit and is one of the most spectacular cave systems in the world. The vast network of caves extends to approximately 11 miles in total and one section – the colossal Grotta del Vento – is large enough to comfortably house Milan Cathedral! Visitors can enjoy a tour of just a fraction of the cave network. The tour takes approximately an hour and fifteen minutes to cover a distance of 1500 metres at an almost constant temperature of 14 degrees whatever the time of year you visit.
9. Macerata is another of the Marche regions main towns and, like Pesaro, also has its own opera festival across July and August. The Sferisterio Opera Festival is an outdoor festival, held in the huge neo-classical arena. In fact so wide is the orchestra pit here that musicians sat at each end can not hear each other! Again though, there is much to see outside the peak Summer months…. The town boasts several spectacular palazzi, the Loggia dei Mercanti in the central Piazza della Liberta, a cathedral and a number of excellent museums too.
10. Fermo is an alluring hilltown, boasting a wondeful historic centre and stunning main square. Sitting 319 metres above sea level, it’s also a great location from which to enjoy views of the stunning landscape that surrounds it.
11. Monte Sibillini National Park is a paradise for nature lovers. The scenery is simply breathtaking in places, with snow capped peaks throughout much of the year. With numerous walking trails, it’s the perfect destination for keen hikers.
12. The Furlo Gorge is a dramatic natural pass through the mountains, with limestone cliffs rising dramatically from the Candigliano River. Unfortunately the gorge is currently completely closed to cars. A section is also closed to pedestrians due to a rock collapse but don’t be put off visiting. You will still be able to walk along the length of most of it and the views are spectacular. You’ll also get the chance to glimpse some of the wildlife that make the gorge their home including golden eagles, peregrine falcons and sparrow hawks.
Wherever you end up visiting, probably some of the best advice we could give would also be to not only visit some of these more well known locations, but also take the time to head off the beaten track. Find those even more ‘authentic’ places that other tourists haven’t found yet. The Le Marche countryside is truly spectacular and it really is a pleasure to simply drive through the rolling hills enjoying the incredible scenery. For a great selection of villas in Le Marche please take a look at the Bookings For You site. Bookings For You launched a collection of Le Marche villa rentals in 2016 and have a great selection of both villas and apartments if you wish to visit this stunning region of Italy.