Le Marche is one of Italy's top regions where you can still experience the "real" and genuine Italy: its gastronomy, exquisite Adriatic coastline and mountainous areas filled with monasteries, caves and artisans at work making hand-crafted shoes, pillow lace and other local crafts.
In today’s podcast episode James Martin and I chat about the Le Marche region and the many unusual things to do in this often overlooked, exquisite region.
Where is Le Marche?
The Le Marche region is in central Italy running along the Adriatic coast and bordered by Emelia-Romagna to the north, Tuscany to the west, Umbria to the Southwest and then Abruzzo and Lazio to the south. Here's an introductory video of the region.
How can I reach Le Marche?
You can fly into the region and it's also easy to reach the Le Marche region by either car or train. You can make an easy overnight trip to the region by car from Rome and it takes just over three hours to reach Ancona. If you prefer to travel by train they are available from Rome, Milan or Bologna as well as a few other cities. There’s even a wonderful train that runs from Bologna to Brindisi along the entire coast of the Le Marche Region.
Le Marche and the Adriatic Coastline
The coast of the Le Marche region is magnificent and well worth visiting. The best known area full of fabulous seaside towns and villages is known as the Conero Riviera. It’s full of breathtaking beaches, fabulous restaurants and bountiful nature with rocky mountains that spill down to the sea. Portonovo, Numana bassa and alta, the Spiaggia delle Due Sorelle and San Michele are just a few of the exquisite seaside locations along the Conero Riviera.
Special Places to visit in Le Marche
Urbino is a fabulous walled city, a World Heritage site, full of Renaissance culture. The University of Urbino was founded in 1506 and hosts a study abroad program each year. Absolutely worth visiting is the Palazzo Ducale and within the Palazzo the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche where you can find one of the world's best collections of Renaissance paintings.
Ascoli Piceno is located in the southernmost part of the region and it’s probably best known for its signature dish, olive ascolane: meat-stuffed olives, breaded and deep-fried. These are popular throughout the region but are especially tasty here.
Also in the city are numerous beautiful churches well worth visiting.
Just 7 miles north of Ascoli Piceno is Offida where you’ll find the magnificent Santa Maria della Rocca, considered one of the main architectural sites in all of the Le Marche region.
Santa Maria della Rocca Church
It’s built in a Romanesque Gothic style and designed by Albertino in 1330. The façade faces the countryside and the central apse is a Gothic portal that leads to the crypt. Some of the frescoes in the church are positively magnificent, especially the Giottoesque frescoes attributable to the Master of Offida.
Offida Pillow Lace
Also in this town you’ll find women busy making gorgeous pillow lace so if you’re looking for something special to purchase this lace is a perfect choice. It’s a fabulous craft to watch and the speed at which these women create these works of art is unbelievable.
Fabriano and Paper-making
As you head north within the Le Marche region you come to the town of Fabriano founded in the early middle ages. Beginning in the 13th century this town became one of the earliest centers in Europe for the production of high quality watermarked paper, and also currency.
There’s a paper and watermark museum in Fabriano and plans are for it to re-open on June 2 2021.
The Frasassi Caves
Not far from Fabriano you can visit the Frasassi Caves, spectacular limestone caves with stalactites and stalagmites, lakes and alabaster.
Sassoferrato is full of all kinds of unique things to see and James has written an article about this town. There’s a fascinating archaeological site along the Via Flaminia road system called Sentinum. Here you can book a room and enjoy a wonderful meal at the Agriculturismo Antico Muro, built right atop the archaeological site and as you eat you can look down through the plexiglass onto the archaeological ruins. The town also has a dozen churches, a castle and unique little cultural oddities like its tiny one-room jail.
The Museo delle Arti e Tradizioni Popolari
The Museo delle Arti e Tradizioni Popolari is full of all kinds of cultural jewels and oddities from the past like a chicken skirt which was used to protect a chicken and her baby chicks from foxes.
Carpegna is a town in Le Marche you won’t want to miss. First off it’s here where one of the most delicious prosciuttos in all of Italy is made, Prosciutto di Carpegna DOP.
The Antica Stamperia Carpegna
You should also make a point of visiting the Antica Stamperia Carpegna. Here a mixture of wine vinegar, rust and wheat flour is mixed to make an ink that is used to print patterns on linen using ancient hand-carved wooden stencils. ¾ of a century ago there were many such shops but now this sixth generational shop is the only one remaining. When you visit you’ll be able to take a look at a gorgeous yellow cloth that was made by the current owner's grandfather in the 1940s. Emanuele has found all of the antique family stamps which he still has and uses. You can also ask Emanuele to make something custom-made using your own design and you can order from them online.
San Mauro Pascoli and Hand-crafted Shoes
There’s a strong culture of artisanal handmade shoemaking within the Le Marche region. Most of the factories are small family run businesses and the factories have a tradition of passing shoe making skills from one generation to the next. One town you might want to visit in the region that is famous for high end women’s shoe manufacturing as far back as the 1830s is San Mauro Pascoli.
Shoe-making and design is an important trade and industry in Italy. Be sure to listen to Podcast Episode 32, an interview with luxury Italian shoe designer Alessio Spinelli.
There are all kinds of funny and quirky towns in the region like Piobbico which is the host town for the annual Festival of the Ugly, organised each year by the World Association of Ugly People held the first Sunday in September.
Food & Wine in Le Marche
This region is full of fabulous food and wine and we talk all about it and share some wonderful traditional recipes in next week's podcast episode 51.
Visit Le Marche Region with me
Are you tantalised by Le Marche? Then come along with me to experience this fascinating region! You can join in my weeklong tour or I can take you to Le Marche for a private weekend trip from Rome. For details reach out to me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I make a small commission on purchases made through links on my website. Prices are identical for you, but purchasing through my links helps support my work to bring you great recipes, podcast episodes, culinary and travel information.