Provinces: Ancona, Ascoli Piceno, Macerata, Pesaro, Urbino
An essentially mountainous and hilly region, facing the Adriatic Sea. The mountain area is rugged, with narrow valleys, deep gorges and numerous rushing, sometimes inaccessible streams. The coastline presents rolling hills as well as flat plains crossed by rivers.
It’s not unusual to see comments along the lines of ‘Oh yes, Le Marche – like Tuscany was twenty or thirty years ago’ and suchlike. The region of Le Marche – The Marches – is indeed a fascinating one, rich with glorious countryside and splendid architecture, and yet it does remain very much undiscovered in terms of tourism.
No bad thing, of course – emptier roads and beaches, quieter countryside and less packed restaurants, and prices that compare extremely well with other and better-known regions.
There are numerous seaside resorts, some truly monumental castles, dozens of fascinating hilltop towns and villages, skiing and health spas and some beautiful natural scenery.
Urbino, Italy – Travel and Tourism
A renaissance town, the birthplace of Raphael. Several of his works may be viewed in the art gallery at the Palazzo Ducale, along with works by Piero della Francesca and Titian. Raphael’s childhood home is also open for viewing; You will find it in Via Raffaello that runs up from Piazza della Repubblica.
The hub of the town is this animated Piazza, ideal to start your visit. In the Palazzo Ducale, among the several paintings, the Duke’s Studiolo is the most unusual room in the palace. His tiny study is entirely decorated in exquisite trompe l’oeil inlaid woodwork panels, some based on designs by Botticelli.
You may also visit the vast warren of cellars, kitchens, laundry rooms, stables and even an ice store in the sotterranei or basements. Oratorio di S. Giovanni Battista in Via Barocci to see a small church entirely decorated in 1416 with wall-to-ceiling frescoes by the Marchegiani painters Jacopo and Lorenzo Salimbeni. A rarely visited but nevertheless delightful stop is the Orto Botanico. This small, walled botanic garden is full of rare plants.
Pesaro, Italy – Travel and Tourism
Attractive seaside resort, a thriving fishing port, and an important manufacturing center. At the heart of the city lies the wide main square, Piazza del Popolo with the clean-lined Renaissance Palazzo Ducale. Along Via Rossini you’ll find on your right the modest house where Italy’s great opera composer Gioachino Rossini was born in 1792. Step inside the towns’ Cattedrale to see the remarkable mosaic floor uncovered in 2000. The beautiful early Christian work dates from the 6th Century and can be admired through glass panels set in the suspended modern floor.
The city was once noted for its ceramic workshops that turned out the brightly painted earthenware known as majolica. In the Musei Civici (Civic Museums) in Piazza Toschi Mosca you can browse through one of Italy’s finest collections of Renaissance and Baroque pottery. You may view Giovanni Bellini’s masterpiece, the Coronation of the Virgin in the adjoining Pinacoteca. On the sea-front, you’ll notice one of the city’s most flamboyant buildings, the Villino Ruggeri. This heavily stuccoed confection is one of the finest examples of the Italian Liberty style.
Ancona, Italy – Travel and Tourism
The town’s landmark is the Medieval Cathedral of San Ciriaco, a mix of Romanesque and Gothic. On Corso Mazzini see the 16th century Fontana del Calamo, a regimented row of 13 masked spouts. Get a bird’s eye views of the port from Piazza Stracca. A few steps further is Palazzo Ferretti, home of the Museo Archeologico delle Marche, an outstanding collection of antique nick-nacks – black and red Attic vases, Etruscan bronzes, Iron Age jewelry. Take Via Pizzecolli to get in the heart of the oldest part of the city. Palazzo Bosdari hosts Ancona’s Pinacoteca; paintings to look for here are Crivelli’s chilly Madonna and Child, Titian’s Virgin with Child and Saints, and Lorenzo Lotto’s Sacra Conversazione.
Loreto, Italy – Travel and Tourism
Another town is said to be the site of the house of the Virgin Mary and attracts many pilgrims from around the world. According to legend, the house was carried here from Nazareth by Angels and is now enclosed in the elaborate Gothic Santuario della Santa Casa. In RECANATI, the birthplace of Giacomo Leopardi. Palazzo Leopardi at the southern edge of town, where he was born and brought up, holds memorabilia, manuscripts and a library. The new museum in Villa Colloredo-Mels, a splendid 18th-century villa on the edge of town, holds Recanati’s greatest art treasure, a room with four of Lorenzo Lotto’s finest pictures.
Senigallia: Has been one of the most popular seaside resorts on the Adriatic Coast with its thirteen kilometers of golden sands, the famous Velvet Beach.
Mondavio : Medieval hill town with an imposing fortress, built by Francesco di Giorgio Martini, one of Italy’s most celebrated Renaissance military architects. It now houses an entertaining ‘living museum’ (actually dead wax dummies) portraying life in the16th century and a torture chamber.
Fano : The Arco di Augusto, a splendid Roman triumphal arch, provides a fitting gateway to the town. Among the fine buildings flanking the main square stands the Palazzo Malatesta with a remarkable courtyard and loggia known as the Corte Malatestiana. The palace holds the town’s Museo Civico and Pinacoteca.
Serra San Quirico : A town apparently so short of building space within its medieval walls that its early inhabitants built out over the streets, creating picturesque covered roads or “copertelle”.
Camerino : This small but impressive hill town has a charming old town; from Piazza Cavour, around which stand the Cathedral, the Archbishop’s Palace and the Ducal Palace, now the University. The porticoe courtyard of the Ducal Palace is partly attributed to the great 15thC architect Baccio Pontelli. From it leads a splendid balcony with great views of the Sibillini Mountains.
Tolentino : in the heartland of the southern-central Marche is a thriving medieval town set in rolling hills. Pilgrims come from across Italy to visit the shrine of St Nicholas of Tolentino in the handsome Basilica. It hosts Giottoesque frescoes in the Gothic Cappellone di San Nicola and a Romanesque cloister.
Osimo : The mosaic pavement of the Duomo is a fine relic of Medieval times; the church, originally built in the 13th century in Romanesque-Gothic style, also has a magnificently atmospheric crypt and an outstanding bronze baptismal font from the early 17th century. The old Romanesque church of San Francesco has been redone inside and out in High Baroque to celebrate its later reincarnation as the Sanctuary dedicated to San Giuseppe da Copertino (1603-1663). It is now an important centre of pilgrimage. His remains are kept in a crystal urn in the modern crypt. You can also see the rooms, known as the camere di San Giuseppe.
Macerata : The best of the city’s palaces line Corso Matteotti, the road that leaves the square at the side of the Loggia dei Mercanti on central Piazza della Liberta'( the most striking piece of architecture), while Corso della Repubblica will take you to Piazza Vittorio Veneto and the civic gallery and museum.
Ascoli Piceno : Start your visit with Piazza del Popolo, the travertine-paved main square. To one side of the square stands the Palazzo del Popolo, a splendid 13thC building guarded over by a monumental statue of Pope Paul III. Look inside to see the arcaded Renaissance courtyard. The other main square, Piazza Arringo, is almost as impressive as its big sister and is flanked by the Duomo, or Cathedral, and the town hall, or palazzo Comunale. Inside here you will find the Pinacoteca Civica, Ascoli’s art gallery. Wander around the old quarter of the town that stretches from the banks of the Tronto river to the city’s main street, Corso Mazzini – best streets are via Soderini and via di Solestà.
If you’re going on holiday in Marche you need to get the pronunciation sorted out first. Le Marche is pronounced ‘lay markay’. It translates into English as ‘the Marches’ and that’s how many of us know it.
The Marches (or ‘the Italian Marches’) is the lesser-known of the triumvirate of regions that comprise central Italy. The other two, Tuscany and Umbria, require no introduction (though we’ve helpfully compiled introductions for you elsewhere of course) but Marche is more of a mystery to foreign visitors. You may know the Adriatic coastline, stretching from Pesaro in the north to San Benedetto in the south, with some superb beaches in between, but fewer visitors penetrate the hinterland of Marche … they don’t know what they’re missing.