Top 5 Things to Do in Le Marche

The Duke of Montefeltro, a symbol of Le Marche
The Duke of Montefeltro, a symbol of Le Marche

Le Marche (known as “The Marches” in English) is one of the least known regions in central Italy, but that fact is quickly changing. Bordering Umbria, Emilia-Romagna, a sliver of northeastern Tuscany, and Abruzzo, Le Marche is gaining ground as a tourist favorite as more travelers venture out by road and rail to find the “real” Italy.

The Le Marche tourism board likes to bill itself as “Italy in one region.” This is not far off the mark. The region has mountains (the Apennines, made up of several chains, including Mt. Sibillini) and a long coastline separated by rolling green and gold plains. It has craggy, medieval hill towns, Renaissance gems, most notably at Urbino, and remnants from ancient cultures, including the Romans and the Piceni. Indeed, there are thousands of things to do in Le Marche. But here are 5 to get you started:

1) Revisit the Renaissance in Urbino
Located in the northern Marches, Urbino is the birthplace of master artist Raphael and the site of a major university. But the city’s main claim to fame is its Renaissance splendor. The Duke of Montefeltro (see the iconic image of him, above) rebuilt this city in the mid-15C and oversaw the construction of the Palazzo Ducale, one of the era’s first palaces built not as a fortress but as an inviting residence. The palace’s architectural symmetry, open courtyard, twin turrets, and fanciful features are as winsome as any found in Florence. Today, the National Gallery of Le Marche and the region’s Archeological Museum are housed in the Palazzo Ducale. The former has works from Raphael, Piero della Francesca, and others.

2) Attend the Opera in Macerata
Macerata, a provincial capital in Le Marche’s south-central, is site of the Sferisterio, a grand neoclassical arena that hosts an opera festival each summer. The Sferisterio Opera Festival takes place each July/August, and each performance has room for 3,000-4,500 spectators. The 2010 festival, whose theme will be “A Maggior Gloria di Dio” (To the Greater Glory of God) will take place between July 29 and August 10, 2010.

3) Eat, Eat, Eat!
Every region in Italy has its culinary specialty. In Le Marche, the edible bounty ranges from earthy – truffles, game – to the marine – fish stew, known in the capital Ancona as stoccafisso. Throughout the year, towns in Le Marche host numerous sagre, or food festivals, usually based around one product. There are feasts for snails, frogs, rabbits, veal, cheese, and pasta. The most important sagre are in mid-autumn and are devoted to the world’s most prized fungus: the truffle. Late October and early November see truffle fairs in Sant’Agata Feltria, Sant’Angelo in Vado, and Acqualagna. While “the best food is still to be had in Marche homes rather than in restaurants” (according to the tourism board), Le Marche also has some incredible restaurants, including the Michelin-starred restaurants Madonnina del Pescatore in Senigallia and Le Busche in Montecarotto.

4) Drink, Drink, Drink!
The Marches also has its share of fine wines, both reds and whites. The central part of the region, ranging from Ancona inland, has some of the best known vineyards and vintages. Verdicchio Classico is produced around Jesi and Matelica; Vernaccia at Serrapetrona (southwest of Tolentino), and Rosso Conero, a red made from Montepulciano grapes, is produced in a coastal zone between the Apennines and the Adriatic. You can even follow the Rosso Conero wine route within Ancona province’s Parco del Conero. Other wine zones in Le Marche can be found in the Colli Pesaresi (hills of Pesaro, near Urbino) and in the southern province of Ascoli-Piceno, where the main vintage is the Rosso Piceno.

5) Penetrate the Impenetrable: Walled Cities
The Marches is full of walled cities. During the time of the papal states, the region was considered virtually ungovernable because of the difficult terrain, the incalcitrant citizens, and those inpenetrable walled cities. The north and central sections of the region have several medieval cities housed within imposing stone walls. Of note are Corinaldo in Ancona province and Gradara and San Leo in the province of Pesaro-Urbino. The latter is said to resemble a miniature Republic of San Marino, a small sovereign state surrounded by Le Marche and Emilia-Romagna.

Catchall Catch-Up Post: More Articles About Italy

Here are just a few notable articles on Italy that I’ve come across in the past month or so. I need to get them off my plate, as it were, so I can move on to more tips, hotels, and news that has come my way…

One Fish, Two Fish – This article my Mimi Sheraton in the New Yorker looks at the origins of brodetto, a fish soup that is most prized in Abruzzo and Le Marche. This link is to an abstract, but if you have a New Yorker subscription you can plug in your account info and read it online (if you haven’t already).

Italy Against Itself – Another abstract, this article by regular Italy columnist Alexander Stille looks at recent politics in the country.

An Italy Variety Plate from Gourmet.com – Last month, the food magazine had articles on Christmas pandoro from Verona and Chicken Liver Crostini from Central Italy. This month is Gourmet’s Italian-American issue, which explores recipes inspiration from Lucca to Lecce. Also, it seems that gourmet.com has a more searchable archive now. So, just go to their search engine, type in “Italy,” and you can find articles going all the way back to 1954!

2008 Year-End Article Round Up

I am still trying to figure out how to manage a toddler and a newborn and find time to keep this blog up-to-date. But I have been keeping track of the numerous articles about Italy that have come out in the past couple of months. So, enjoy the following links and have a Felice Anno Nuovo!!

Boston Globe
Eating Up Miles, Drinking Up Scenery, Motoring From Nice to Tuscany
(road tripping between France and Italy)

L.A. Times
American Military Cemeteries in Europe Honor Heroes in Both World Wars
(profiles Sicily-Rome Cemetery)

The Globe and Mail (Canada)
Roman Holiday, Reconsidered
Your Palazzo in Florence Awaits
Escape From San Domino

The Independent (U.K.)
Madama Butterfly, Floria Tosca – They All Came From Lucca
Puglia Is a Food Lover’s Paradise

The Guardian (U.K.)
Flying Visit to Florence
Flood-Hit Hoteliers Offer Packages With Free Wellies (Venice)
Go With the Flow (Skiing on Mt. Etna)
A Taste of Italy at Harvest Time (Le Marche)
Turin On A Plate
On the Trail of the Leopard (Sicily)

New York Times
Florence, Then and Now
Venice: In Laguna Da Toni
Savoring Italy One Beer at a Time

The Telegraph (U.K.)
Mesmerizing Relics of Byzantine Brilliance (Ravenna)

Wall Street Journal
Starling Stalkers Try to Scare the Birds out of Rome

October 2008 Article Round-Up

Sometimes I’m not always sure if anyone is actually reading Italofile. As I’ve said, it is a true labor of love. Still I like to imagine that there are regular readers out there who enjoy discovering with me the destinations, hotels, art, schools, churches, etc., that make traveling in Italy so rewarding.

Lo and behold, this weekend I found that I have at least one reader! Maribel wrote in to tell me that last year I missed a New York Times article on “Tortellini Lessons at the Source” in Bologna. Thanks, Maribel! And, with that, I thought I’d provide another round-up of recent articles, from the NYT and elsewhere:

New York Times
In Turin, the Olympic Glow Hasn’t Yet Faded
Monastic Doors Open For Travelers
Milan: Princi (a must-visit bakery)

The Washington Post
2,000 Years After Vesuvius (Stabiae)
In the Eternal City, Walk in a Roman’s Sandals
Rome On Two Gelatos A Day
Good Libations: Bassano del Grappa, Still the One (Veneto)

Los Angeles Times
Art Springs to Life in Gardens Near Rome
Planning Your Trip to Rome’s Gardens
Planning Your Trip to San Marino
Planning Your Trip to Vatican City

Wall Street Journal
Venice Crossings: A Traghetto Tour
In Italy, A Monastery Getaway (Umbria)

The Independent (UK)
City Slicker: A Guide to Genoa
The Hip Hop Guide to Tuscany’s Treasures

The Guardian (UK)
The Insider’s Guide to Cortina d’Ampezzo
Instant Weekend: Florence
Flying Visit: Le Marche Is Olive-Town
Letting Catania Out of the Bag
Going Solo: Venice
Flying Visit to Lake Garda

Sydney Morning Herald
Dining in the Sky the New Way to See Milan
See Ya Later, Gladiator
Floating Through a Dream (Venice)

The Telegraph (UK)
Rome: Eternal Love
Palladio: 500 Years of Architectural Wonders
Sicily: Golf in the Shadow of Mt. Etna
Michael Howard’s Venice

Yes, this is an exhaustive list. But I’m sure I didn’t find everything. So, I’m depending on all you Maribel’s out there to help me out by sending me links to articles and other tips you think would be worthy of posting on Italofile. Thanks again!

Italy Summer Article Round-Up 2008

Lots of Italy-related articles this time of year. So, here goes:

New York Times
Wandering Beyond Classic Rome (The Frugal Traveler Does Europe on a Budget)
On Venice’s Grand Canal in a Kayak
Prescription Med (Ischia)

Los Angeles Times
Exploring Rome’s Famous Seven Hills
Budget Travel in Rome
10 Books and Movies to Prep for a Trip to Rome
Italy: At Home in Rome

National Geographic Traveler
Rome Photo Gallery (Part of NGT’s Authentic Rome feature for the July/August 2008 issue)
Shopping: Roman Gold

The Washington Post
Smart Mouth: His Palermo Restaurant Is Popular, But It’s No Mob Scene
My Verona

Reuters
Travel Postcard: 48 Hours in Ferrara, Italy

Naples (FL) Daily News
From the Ground Up: Part-Time Naples Couple Found Their Italian Villa a Full-Time Restoration Job Over Two Years (Brindisi, Puglia)

The Guardian (UK)
The Amalfi Coast On a Budget
Caught in the Spell of San Pietro (Sardinia)
Hidden Gems (Sibillini Mountains, Le Marche)
Little Po Peep (Emilia-Romagna)
Flying Visit: Venice
A Greener Way to Umbria’s Capital

Sydney Morning Herald
How to Shop Up an Appetite (Milan)
Night in Italian Prison Promises Gourmet Fare (Tuscany)
Master of the House (Palladio in Venice)
Holiday in Harmony with Gregorian Monks (Tuscany)
A Bloodbath, Italian Style (Florence)

Eating Your Way Through Le Marche

Ladies and Gentlemen – start your appetites! Chowhound.com has begun a year-long series titled “Eating Your Way Through Le Marche,” starting with an entry about food festivals in the region during June 2008. If you’re in the area during June, vist Cartoceto’s Sagra dei Vincigrassi, a festival celebrating a marchigiana-style lasagna on the first Sunday of the month; Monte Porzio’s Sausage Festival on the third Sunday (and proceeding Saturday); or any one of the summer-long fairs in cities like Gradara, Gabicce Mare, and Sant’Angelo in Vado.

To learn about and discuss the food in Le Marche or other regions in Italy, see the Chowhound Italy boards. And stay tuned for more installments on Eating Your Way Through Le Marche.

Unofficial Guide to Central Italy, 4th Ed., is Here!

UG Central Italy, 4th edition

We are pleased to announce that the 4th edition of The Unofficial Guide to Central Italy: Florence, Rome, Tuscany & Umbria arrives in stores – and is available for shipment from Amazon – today! Like previous editions, this UGCI has the best information about travel in Tuscany, Lazio, Umbria, and the Marches (Le Marche). But it also has updates on restaurants, hotels, planning your trip, and more. We hope that you will consider buying this guide for your next trip to Italy. And, of course, keep coming back to Italofile.com for the latest Italy travel tips.

20 Things We Love About Italy – Part 1

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a favorite shopping spot in Milan

In honor of Valentine’s Day, we here at Italofile wanted to share with you some of our favorite foods, fashions, architecture, and other random things that make Italy our favorite destination. Yes, just about every one of our posts highlights the things we love about Italy. But this is our chance to feature some things that just don’t make it into every day posts.

And, why 20 things, you ask? Italy has 20 regions and we’ve selected a favorite thing from each of them. Keep in mind, this is hardly an exhaustive list: it was hard to pick just one thing from each region. Also note that this list is in no particular order (except alphabetically by region).

What kinds of things have made you fall in love with Italy? Please be so kind to share them by commenting below or contacting us on Twitter @italofileblog. If you want to know more about each of the 20 regions of Italy, click on the “By Area” categories to the right or visit our Tourism Boards page.

Today, we’ll tackle the first 10 – Abruzzo through Lombardy:

1) Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Abruzzo. We love our Chiantis and Barolos, for sure. But we often find that when it comes to buying a good, everyday table wine for under $15, we return time and time again to Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. There are many good brands of Montepulciano out there. However, Wine Spectator recently featured Valle Reale as one of its daily wine picks. To learn more about this vintage, visit Winebow.com.

2) I Sassi of Matera, Basilicata. These cave houses, which are a lot like those of Cappadocia in Turkey, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The eerie dwellings were mentioned in Carlo Levi’s Christ Stopped at Eboli and the Matera landscape was used as a stand-in for Jerusalem in Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ.

3) Sopressata and Caciocavallo, Calabria. Many an Italian-American household would be at a loss on what to serve for antipasti were it not for these delicious sausage and cheese items from Calabria. I’ve yet to try these foods in their native place. Though, we once shared some Arthur Avenue sopressata (sausage) with a visiting Italian friend and he said it was some of the best he’d ever tasted.

4) Mt. Vesuvius, Campania. From the ruins at Herculaneum and Pompeii to the jawdropping landscape of Naples – even to the rock formations on the island of Capri – Vesuvius was involved. This still-active volcano is a sight to see, which makes this trip seem pretty cool.

5) Byzantine Mosaics of Ravenna, Emilia Romagna. Yet another World Heritage Site, Ravenna is often overshadowed by other Emilian cities like Parma and the capital Bologna. But Ravenna shines because of its stunning, well-preserved, early Christian mosaics, particularly in the Basilica of San Vitale. If you’ve got an Italy “bucket list,” seeing Ravenna’s mosaics should be on it.

6) Gorizia, Friuli-Venezia Giulia. There are little pockets on the peninsula that defy Italian stereotypes. Gorizia, which lies on the border with Slovenia (Nova Gorica), is one of those places. Here is where central and Slavic Europe meets Italy in a melting pot of dialects, architecture, attitudes, and more.

Civita di Bagnoregio, a magical little village in Lazio

7) Civita di Bagnoregio, Lazio. Beyond the attractions of Rome, one of the most charming places in all of Central Italy is the tiny, hilltop town of Civita di Bagnoregio. Built by the Etruscans on soft tufa rock, the village is slowly but surely giving way to the ravages of time and gravity. So you may want to pay your respects before its too late.

8) Olive Ascolane, Le Marche. The earthy cuisine of the Marches (Le Marche) is finally getting its due thanks to the fantastic cookbook Cucina of Le Marche by Fabio Trabocchi. Certainly no book on the cucina marchigiana would be complete without a recipe for Olive Ascolane – fried, stuffed olives. Yum!

9) Portofino, Liguria. Liguria, the eyebrow shaped region of Italy, is very eye-catching indeed, what with its picturesque fishing villages, particularly those pastel painted cities of the Cinque Terre. Portofino, in the Genoa province, is a huge tourist magnet. But one glance at its tidy cityscape and port and you’ll understand why those big-time hotel developers have tried their damnedest to recreate the place.

10) Milan Fashion Week, Lombardy. Twice a year in Milan, we have the opportunity to see what Italy’s creative fashion minds have come up with for the catwalk. In my humble opinion, the Italian designers have always been on the cutting edge with sexy, yet wearable clothing. Think Valentino, Versace, Gucci, Prada, and Dolce & Gabbana, and you’ll see what I mean. Of course, Milan is Italy’s fashion capital year-round which is in evidence when you walk the city’s bustling streets, stroll through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, and window-shop the chic shops on Via Montenapoleone.

Tomorrow…our favorites from Molise through the Veneto!

Photo © Traveler100, Alessio Damato