Le Marche is a beautiful, unspoilt region of Italy consisting of a wonderful mix of long sandy beaches, historic towns and rural, hilly countryside.
There are some wonderful towns and cities across Le Marche, all of which are worth a visit during your stay. Some of the most well known include Ancona, Ascoli Piceno, Urbino, Pesaro, Fano and San Leo.
Urbino is probably Marche’s most well known tourist attraction and is rich in cultural history. It 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 turn is now home to the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche. The latter houses some incredible artworks including works by Piero della Francesca, Titian and Raphael amongst others. The painter, Raphael, is certainly Urbino’s most famous sons. He was born in the town and lived in the Casa Natale di Rafaello. Please note that, to save money, it is possible to buy a combined ticket to enjoy all of Urbino’s museums.
Raphael was by no means the only famous artist born in the region. The coastal town of Pesaro was 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 this life. Every August, the town plays host to the Rossini Opera Festival, a celebration of Rossini’s music. Pesaro itself is an attractive seaside resort, with a popular town centre, some great shopping and good sandy beaches.
Fano is a smaller beach resort and fishing town to the south of Pesaro. There are two good beaches – the smaller sandier Spiaggia Lido and the longer, but more pebbly Spiaggia Sassonia. Due to it bring an important fishing harbour, it’s worth sampling some of the wonderful fish specialities such as the brodetto alla fanese (fish soup) at one of the many excellent restaurants in town.
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.
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.
Ascoli Piceno is a far prettier town than Ancona. Nestled in the hills, the it’s skyline is dominated with 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. It’s worth visiting 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. A grand procession with 1500 participants all dressed in Medieval costume parades through the streets preceeding a jousting tournament. The tournament is an amazing spectacle. 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.
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 visting 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 countryisde of the park to San Leo and San Marino.
Both San Leo and Pietrarubbia are located in the Montefeltro region of Le Marche, a mixed landscape of rocky outcrops, sheer cliffs and rolling hills. Other sights worth visiting within this area include 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, whilst the former is a regional park with an impressive array of wildlife including owls, buzzards, peregrine falcons, porcupines and deer.
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. The capital city is crowded during the Summer months and a visit is arguably more pleasant off season, both in terms of visitor numbers and temperatures. Children might like to visit the Tourist Information Centre in the city where they can get their passport stamped!
There is plenty to see underground as well as above ground in Le Marche too! 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. To give you an idea of it’s size, 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 a fraction of the cave network. The tour that takes approximately an hour and fifteen minutes to cover a distsance of 1500 metres at an almost constant temperature of 14 degrees whatever the time of year you visit. The visitor attraction is open almost all year round, but is closed on 4 and 25 December and between 10 and 30 January inclusive.