Travel tips

Hills of Le Marche

Stretching for around 161 kilometer (100 miles) along the Adriatic coast, with hill-towns to rival those of Tuscany and Umbria, Le Marche is a gorgeous and affordable region to explore. Wedged between the verdant Apennines and a turquoise Adriatic, Le Marche is a varied region, and one you could enjoy weeks of slow travel exploring. Sparsely populated inland areas are unspoilt and entrusted, particularly in the Southwest, where stone hill-villages make atmospheric bases for hikes into the spectacular Monti Sibillini range. Le Marche is one of Italy's little-known treasures.

Le Marche is broken up into five administrative provinces Ancona, Pesaro and Urbino, Macerata, Fermo and Ascoli Piceno. There are around 1,5 inhabitants together in these five areas. Ancona, the region’s capital, is a gritty but engaging port town which gives way heading southwards to the dramatic Conero Riviera, with its natural white-pebble beaches backed by milky Dover- esque cliffs. In contrast north and south of the Ancona area the coastline is hemmed with boxy new-build resorts and mechanically pruned beaches of coarse sand.

Apart from good food and culture the area is great for those with a number of interests including: beach holidays, castles and medieval villages, art history, boating, nature and archaeological sites, beautiful villages, biking holidays, spiritual trips, etc. Some of the most popular towns include Pesaro the largest, with a Renaissance centre maintaining its dignity behind the package-tour seafront, while lesser-known Fano a short distance away to the South offers a similar experience. Away from the scorching seaside fun, most appealing – and best known – of Le Marche’s sights are the small hilltop town of Urbino, with its spectacular Renaissance palace, and the dramatic fortress of San Leo, just across the border from San Marino. Further south, the engaging town of Ascoli Piceno is a worthy stop-off on the way into Abruzzo. Loreto just south of Ancona is one of Italy’s top pilgrimage sites.

The easiest way to travel around Le Marche and explore the undulating hills of its interior and the rich farming terrain, and only sparsely peppered with market towns and one-street villages is by car. During september the average temperature in the area is up to 20 degrees and the sunsets are even more beautiful compered to early summer time.

1. caves & undergrounds

Basically, there are lots of caves and undergrounds all over Le Marche. As long as you’re not scared of enclosed spaces, there are some great spots to check out. These are a must-visit spot if you’re in Le Marche!

The claim to fame here is that the initial chamber of the Frasassi Caves is so large that the Duomo di Milano, Milan’s Cathedral, could fit completely inside. The cave system is the largets in Europe. While you’re there, it’s a short car ride or a reasonable stroll from the entrance to the Frassasi caves to the parking lot where a leisurely path starts up the mountain and brings you to the Temple of Valadier, a church inside of a cave!

2. Walled cities

A function of the rolling hills of Le Marche, the region is dotted with walled cities who built the structures as a means of defense. Today they are picturesque spots to visit, usually with an Old Town of centuries-old buildings and cobblestone streets inside. These cities are Urbino, Gradara and Corinaldo.

Urbino is the most famous town in Marche and featured in any guidebook to Italy. The elegant university hill town was the birthplace of painter Raphael; you can visit his childhood home and eat in a tavern where both he and Piero Della Francesca are said to have frequented. The most famous attraction in Urbino, however, is the Ducal Palace. Crammed with some of the most incredible works of the Renaissance, it’s a Marche must-visit.

3. Acqualagna Truffle Festival

The Alba Truffle Festival in Piedmont in northern Italy may be more famous, but Le Marche’s own fall Truffle Festival in Acqualagna has the same renowned white truffles and is definitely less crowded and easier to explore. There are outdoor stands with various vendors of truffle products and whole white truffles for sale. There is also a large indoor area, selling nearly everything under the sun.

Since it’s the season of truffle during October/November, whatever restaurants you visit in the area you will have plenty of dishes with white truffle shaved over top. No Italian event centered around food would be complete without wine as an accompaniment, so the festival also has wineries represented in various booths, and a whole stand just for wine tasting, with bottles from around the region.