Cathedrals, castles and ancient fortresses, bustling cities and idyllic resorts provide the perfect complement to a landscape bursting with flora and fauna, rugged gorges, underground caverns, serene mountain lanes and, of course, picturesque views of the shimmering sea. Yet, for all its allure Le Marche remains largely undiscovered, and unspoiled, by international tourism. For the traveller in search of an authentic flavor of Italy, Le Marche offers an increasingly rare treat.
Located just 12 kilometers (9 miles) south of Le Marche’s energetic capital city of Ancona, Portonovo might as well be in another world. This charming seaside village on Italy’s Conero Riviera rests on one of the many secluded inlets, some reachable only by boat, where the limestone cliffs of Monte Conero plunge into the sea.
A Flavor of Your Accomodation
Portonovo di Ancona is home to an elegant four-star ocean-front hotel which dates back to 1811 when Napoleon Bonaparte ordered construction of an impressive fort to enable him to track the movement of ships in the Adriatic). Designs by Leonardo da Vinci and Francesco de Giorgio Martini, along with classic French military designs, were adapted to the site. Stones from the venerable Santa Maria di Portonovo Monastery enhanced the fort’s stately presence.
Today, the “invasion” comes in the form of nature lovers, history buffs and luxury seekers. Since 1969, when the fort was converted into a hotel, guests have enjoyed the splendor of the well-appointed rooms and the gorgeous grounds.
Le Marche’s sublime cuisine features recipes that have been handed down for generations – and adapted by today’s finest chefs. Brodetto all’Anconetana, a rich stew from Ancona that traditionally features 13, or more, different varieties of local fish, is one such recipe. Cioncioni, a hearty pasta of wheat and fava-bean flours served with a delectable white fish sauce, and Olive Ascolane, the divine stuffed olives from Ascoli Piceno, also imbue the flavor of the coast.
Seasonal gastronomical tours will include several of the following:
A visit to the town of Acqualagna where you will observe specially trained hunting dogs as they search for the region’s much-prized White Truffle. Of course, you’ll get to taste this rare delicacy.
A winery tour where you’ll sample some of the finest wines made in Italy today, including the Rosso Conero and the pride of Le Marche, the white Verdicchio, made with the grape of the same name.
Tours to the region’s well-known producers of olive oil, lavender jams and cured meats.
A visit to Talemmo, a small town in the Val Marecchia, where Formaggio di Fossa is produced. This strong-bodied cheese is aged in limestone caves for months to achieve its unusual flavor.
Day 1: Group transfer from Ancona to Portonovo. Welcome dinner at our resort. Chef will outline the culinary program he has designed for you this week.
Day 2: Your culinary adventure begins this morning with an introduction to pasta. You’ll learn to prepare first-course pasta dishes such as Vincigrassi, Le Marche’s own version of homemade lasagna.
After lunch, a bus will be available to take you into the historic center of Ancona. You may wish to visit the Palazzo degli Anziani, built in 1270; the Anfiteatro Romano, which dates from the first century; or numerous historic churches, including San Francesco alle Scale.
Day 3: We’ll start off by checking out the catch of the day in Ancona’s fish market. You’ll shop for all the ingredients necessary to make one of the region’s most famous, and flavorful, culinary specialties: Brodetto all’Anconetana. Chef will teach you how to make his own delectable version of this popular fish stew. This afternoon you might want to take a leisurely walk to visit the early Romanesque Church of Santa Maria di Portonovo, which dates to the year 1034. The de Bosis Tower is also well worth a visit. You might prefer instead to relax by the pool or walk along our lovely beach.
Day 4: You’ll be swept up in Italy’s true Dolce Vita today, as your morning cooking class centers on the art of dessert. You might learn to make Salamino di Ficchi, a delicious fig torte, or Frustingo, one of those true Italian treats whose ingredients and name can vary, depending on who is doing the cooking. Chef, of course, has created his own version.
After lunch, we’ll set out for a nearby vineyard and winery. You’ll see where the award-winning Verdicchio wine is produced, and sample this glorious nectar, a perfect accompaniment to the regional fish recipes. You may just be tempted to buy some wine to share with your friends back home.
Day 5: Today you will concentrate on the main course. You might prepare Stoccafisso all’Anconetana, another of Ancona’s fish delicacies, or Quaglie al Cognac, quails in cognac sauce. Perhaps the chef will want you to experiment with one of his recipes for pork, such as roasted suckling pig marinated in a delicate blend of wild herbs.
The afternoon’s highlight is a gourmet outing to a local producer of olive oil or formaggio di fossa cheese, depending on the season of your visit.
Day 6: For a change of pace, this morning we will visit the town of Montegranaro in the heart of Italy’s largest shoe-manufacturing paradise. You’ll have time to shop for the most fashionable “Made in Italy” leather shoes and boots. Later, we’ll stop for lunch in a local restaurant, and sample more of Le Marche’s singular gastronomical specialties.
This afternoon your last cooking class will focus on the essential beginning to any complete Italian meal:
Antipasti. You’ll learn how to prepare an assortment of Portonovo’s delectable seafood appetizers, such as raguse (snails cooked in a wild fennel and tomato sauce), crocetti, bombetti, moscioli (sea mussels), clams and even wild oysters!
Day 7: Following a leisurely breakfast in the hotel, the group will transfer to the Ancona train station.
Your Food Holiday in Marche also includes:
›› half-day outing to Ancona with lunch
›› round-trip transport to Portonovo from Ancona train station
›› half-day outing to Montegranaro shoe outlets with lunch
During the week we will visit a local wine producer for a wine tasting, we’ll visit the fish and vegetable markets in a neighboring Adriatic coastal town and visit a cheese producer in the hills surrounding Atri.
One evening we will dine in a fabulous trattoria in the historic center of Atri. This charming restaurant location was originally a convent and dates back to the 14th century.
Round-trip transport to Portonovo from Ancona train station
5 cooking classes, 2 gastronomical tours
Hotel meals: 7 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 2 dinners & 6 nights double-room accommodation
4 lunches, 2 dinners
Course certificate, recipe booklet & commemorative hand-painted Vietri ceramic plate
Prices start at €3600, per week.