Springtime in Italy is a delight as a cosmos of various flowers carpet the thirsty hills at winter’s end. But perhaps nowhere in all of Italy is spring quite as spectacular than in the country’s hidden gem, Le Marche, the eastern region tucked behind the ‘knee’ of the ‘boot’-shaped map of Italy.
In this blog we’ll explore the many charms of this pristine region that’s managed to stay off the tourist track. From the Adriatic coast to the Apennine Mountains, you’ll discover Le Marche’s many treasures, including the timeless hilltowns of Cingolo, and Montegiorgio, Blue Flag beaches as pretty as Sardinia’s, phenomenal cuisine and even great shopping towns.
With the region of Le Marche (pronounced La-Mar-Kay) stretched along a portion of the Adriatic Coast, great beaches are in abundance. There are over 20 Blue Flag beaches beside the balmy Adriatic Sea in Le Marche, and what’s more, they rival even Italy’s most beautiful.
From pebbly to sandy, family-friendly to ideal for romantic couples, there’s a beach for everyone. A must-visit beach on the Palm Riviera is San Benedetto del Tronto, popular with families and outdoor sports enthusiasts. This palm tree-fringed beach stretches far at both ends with plenty of room for privacy.
For unspoiled natural beauty, the secluded paradise of Mezzavalle, the popular Due Sorelle (Two Sisters), San Michele and Sassi Neri beaches are all worth visiting. Or explore the fascinating caves, coves of pebbles and sand along the wild Conero Riviera, also home to the outstanding restaurants along Portonovo Bay.
Storybook Hilltop Towns
Rich in ancient Greek, Roman and medieval history, monuments, fortresses and churches, the hilltop towns of Le Marche are off the mass tourism radar and therefore rarely overcrowded.
Among the many charming hilltop towns is Montegiorgio with its completely walled historic centre, complete with cobbled medieval streets and honey-coloured homes garlanded with flowers. Visit the pretty walled citadel of Cingoli and take in unforgettable views from the belvedere that gives the town its nickname “Balcony of Le Marche.”
Other striking medieval towns are Fermo atop the Sabulo Hill, and Loreto. The latter is home to an exquisite piazza and a house where Virgin Mary reportedly lived, making Loreto a pilgrimage site second only to Lourdes in France.
The Great Outdoors
Called ‘Italy in one region’ Le Marche also showcases countryside to rival that of Tuscany, with numerous crystal-clear lakes to walk around or swim in, fields lined with sunflowers and olive groves.
Explore the National Park of the Sibillini Mountains with its exceptional hiking trails and activities such as horse riding, fishing and mountain biking. The park continues into Umbria and affords magnificent views and teems with fascinating wildlife and flowers of all colours.
For a more challenging but incredibly rewarding hike, Conero Natural Park with its rugged coast will stay forever etched in your memory.
The beauty of Le Marche being the unofficial “most underrated of all” Italy’s regions, is that queuing in traffic or waiting in long lines to get into an attraction, museum or castle, is very rare.
If you’re after quiet, fairy-tale castles in the clouds, you’re in luck. Fans of poetry and the fantasy genre will feel at home in Gradara castle, dramatically perched on a 465ft hilltop. Within the medieval walls of the castle, a tragic love affair that took place is preserved for eternity in Dante’s epic poem, The Divine Comedy.
For a castle beside the sea, Rocca Roveresca is pure charm. Set in the seaside town of Senigallia, the castle has watched over its citizens since medieval times. Fascinating exhibitions and tours of the castle include the headquarters of an important artillery school, a prison, hospital and orphanage.
Phenomenal Food and Wine
The Le Marche cuisine alone is worth visiting this region for, being on par with Emilia Romagna’s or Tuscany’s finest. For an appetizer, bite into crispy olive ascolane (fried pork or beef-stuffed olives) or feast on the classic, lasagne-like vincisgrassi, which uses a sauce recipe dating back to 1784.
Seafood lovers will be in heaven as the region brings fresh catches daily from the Adriatic, with brodetto, a feel-good fish stew with a different twist in every town, a must-try.
For picnics, be sure to pack a Protected Designation of Origin (DOP) Prosciutto of Carpegna, or a ciauscolo, a soft salami that you spread on bread.
To accompany these, Le Marche boasts 12 DOC (Controlled Designation of Origin) and 2 DOCG (the highest standard designation) wines. Of note is the sublime Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, a crisp white, golden coloured wine from the province of Ancona.
Shopping with a View
Being well off the beaten track, Le Marche is a haven for ultra-stylish bargains. In addition to Prada and Tod’s designer factory outlets, high quality leather goods can be discovered, especially in the towns of Macerata and Ascoli Piceno.
Ascoli Piceno is a shopper’s dream with the breathtaking Piazza del Popolo made entirely of travertine stone. Enjoy a meal at Caffè Meletti, a Michelin-starred restaurant in the historic, Art Deco-fused classic Italian-styled cafe overlooking the piazza.
For an entirely different shopping trip, head to the Fossombrone Bianchetto Truffle Market in the middle Metauro Valley. In 2023, the famous truffle market will run from the 18th of March to the 26th and the streets of the ancient Roman town will fill with stalls and restaurants featuring local dishes and drinks using bianchetti truffles as their star ingredient.
Being so spacious and undeveloped, the Le Marche region offers the very best value for farmhouses that would rival those of the Tuscan Valley. VCMS XP Holidays has sourced three immaculate farmhouses, complete with sparkling pools and huge terraces looking out on hilltop towns such as Montegiorgio and Alteta.
One of the farmhouses even comes with complimentary handmade tagliatelle and ragu every day, thanks to a friendly local woman who, like most Marchigani, happens to be a master cook. With Urbisaglia, Loro Piceno, San Ginesio and Ascoli Piceno also nearby these farmhouses, a springtime break to Le Marche will open your eyes to an Italy few know about, and even less get to gaze in wonder at.
To find out more, or to make a booking, contact one of the VCMS XP team members today.