Le Marche is one of Italy’s most authentic regions. Frequently compared to Tuscany, it’s one of our new favourite regions – untapped by tourism, with a fantastic coastline (and beaches) and some of the most spectacular scenery we’ve ever seen (read about our recent trip there). At the moment it’s a bit of a hidden gem, so we asked Marche afficionado Domiziana for her suggestions for the top 10 things to do in Le Marche – here’s her advice:
For your holiday in Le Marche you should head North, towards the border to Emilia Romagna. Here you’ll find the charming village of Gradara, one of the most well-preserved medieval villages in Italy. From the 300-metre-long ramparts walk you will enjoy a breathtaking view over the region’s gentle hills on one side and the blue Adriatic Sea on the other side, while its castle will take you back in time and make you discover the tragic fate of Paolo and Francesca, the two lovers immortalised by Dante. But if you want to truly experience this amazing place and its history, visit Gradara in the summer: do not miss the chance to take a plunge back in time and live the long siege of the castle of 1446, re-enacted in the historic show Assedio al Castello (on in July), or let your inner Peter Pan come out and immerse yourself in the magic atmosphere made of fairies, witches and dragons of Gradara’s Magic Castle (in August).
Eat at Ristorante Uliassi
If your destination in Le Marche is the seaside town of Senigallia you will have not only the chance to visit one of the region’s most charming towns and summer resorts – with its famous velvet beach and the internationally-renowned Summer Jamboree – but also the incredible opportunity to experience one of Italy’s most praised cuisines. On the Banchina di Levante, between Senigallia’s port and its fine-sand beaches is Ristorante Uliassi, which has recently gained its third Michelin star for the innovative recipes of its chef Mauro Uliassi. Here you will experience Le Marche’s culinary tradition brought to a new level but with all the ingredients that have always been part of it.
Experience truffle hunting in Acqualagna
It is called “the earth’s gold” and it is one of the region’s hidden treasures: truffle is one of the main ingredients of Le Marche’s inland and if you want to have a real taste of this authentic part of Italy, you must try one of the dishes al tartufo. However, if you are looking for a more active way to enjoy this earthy treasure, why not going truffle hunting in Acqualagna, the region’s truffle capital? Local hunters will take you to the mountains behind the small town, a real paradise for all truffle lovers since different varieties can be found in these woods and trails, before sampling the truffles you found in a delicious dinner at the end of the day.
Admire Virgin Mary’s house in Loreto
No, we have made no mistakes. According to an ancient tradition and the Catholic Church, Virgin Mary’s birthhouse is not in Nazareth… well, not anymore! The legend tells that after the spread of the Muslim religion in Palestine a group of angels took the holy house and brought it to different places before leaving it on these quiet hills of Le Marche in the night of 10th December. Today the small town of Loreto is one of the world’s most famous places of pilgrimage and in its Sanctuary visitors can see and enter the house of Virgin Mary. According to more recent studies and historic researches, it does seem to be a real house coming from ancient Palestine.
Immerse yourself in the Christmas atmosphere with the live nativity of Genga
Not too far away from Loreto is the majestic Natural Park Gola della Rossa e di Frasassi, famous for its high mountains, trekking trails and the amazing Frasassi Caves. However, while driving through the gorge that gives its name to the park, you will probably notice a small church dug inside a cave on one side of the mountain. The Tempietto del Valadier is for sure one of Le Marche’s most charming places, but its charm is even greater during Christmas time, when this incredible little gem hosts the region’s most famous live nativity. The rocky sides of the cave, the little temple with the scene of the nativity and the breathtaking view will surely reward you after the walk to reach it.
Have a taste of top-quality wines
You cannot say to have truly experienced Le Marche without tasting its wines; the region boasts a great variety of both white as well as red wines, most of which have also gained the European quality label. From Verdicchio, which you can taste in the central provinces of Ancona and Macerata, to Offida Pecorino, which is typical of the southern part of the region, Rosso Conero and Lacrima di Morro d’Alba… you have plenty of choice! Do not miss the chance to taste them in one of the many wine cellars and vineyards, most of which overlook the coastline – perfect at sunset.
What about a bike tour?
One of the best ways to explore this region and its hidden treasures is by bike: both the hilly inland and the long coastline are perfect for all bike lovers, with a great variety of trails and bike lanes with various levels of difficulty. If you are looking for a relaxing ride, Pesaro is the right place for you: in the “most bike-friendly town in Italy” you can reach every corner by bike and the long bike lane connecting the city with the town of Fano boasts some great views over the beaches and the Adriatic Sea. On the contrary, if you want to discover the most authentic and rural part of the region and do not mind some effort, we suggest you the numerous trails in the region’s natural parks like Monte Conero and Gola della Rossa e di Frasassi.
A night at the Opera!
In “the region with 100 theatres” and with two internationally-renowned opera festivals you need to spare some time to have an authentic experience of Italy’s most famous music genre! Every year Pesaro hosts the Rossini Opera Festival to celebrate the town’s most icon son, while the Macerata Opera Festival gives you the chance to live opera in the incredible setting of Sferisterio, an open arena surrounded by a long colonnade and with a perfect acoustic… watching “Carmen” or “The Barber of Seville” in this neoclassic theatre is an experience you will never forget!
Luxury shopping, low prices
A holiday in Le Marche is also the chance to discover an ancient tradition of arts and crafts, part of which gave origin to a successful fashion industry. Cesare Paciotti, Diego Della Valle (owner of the brands Hogan, Tod’s and Fay), Piero Guidi… they are all marchigiani. So why not taking the chance to visit the fashion districts of the region and do some shopping in the famous outlets of Civitanova, Urbino and Casette D’Este? You’ll find the best of Italy’s shoes and leather manufacturing at incredibly low prices!
A region of villages
Last but not least, as a top thing to do in Le Marche we suggest you rent a car and simply enjoy the region’s inland areas. With its numerous and incredibly well-preserved medieval villages, the hundreds of typical festivals and historic re-enactments, where you can taste the local products of excellence and go back in time with knights, ladies and flag wavers, the charming countryside surrounding them and the little gems it hides, here you will discover Le Marche region at its very best.
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