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La Marche

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Has anyone been to the La Marche region of Italy? Info? Advice?
We have been to Italy few times and loved Umbria, Tuscany, etc.
We like small cities or large towns. Bologna was perfect.
How does it compare to those?

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    Le Marche is a fabulous Italian destination (I've been), but there is no two ways about it that you would need a car to get very far in touring it. Although it looks small on a map, le Marche is a mountainous area with few autostrade, so unless you have two weeks, it is really hard to see the whole region in one trip. Most of the time people skip the coast, which has been heavily developed (and suffered greatly from bombing in WW2). In winter, you need to be careful choosing your driving routes away from the coast, because some areas of le Marche get significant ice and snow.

    The cultural crown jewel of le Marche is lovely Urbino, with many simply marvelous small towns close by. In the southern half of le Marche, Ascoli Piceno may be the one Italian small town that charms simply everybody. Part of the Sibillini mountain range is in le Marche, and offers spectacular scenic sights. The national park of the Sibilini includes the Piano Grande

    Le Marche Voyager is produced by the region's tourist office and is one of the best interactive online guides for all of Italy.

    If you like to make great eating part of your discovery of new Italian regions, you can find some good advice about staying at agriturismi on the Chowhound message board for Italy. If you head near Urbino, I can recommend Hotel Nene, with a terrific restaurant on site. Read Fred Plotkin's Italy For the Gourmet Traveler for its marvelous section on the food specialties of le Marche.

    Be aware that while Urbino is a university town like Bologna, it is a very steep hill-city (more like Perugia, but nowhere near as busy . Apart from a few coastal towns, almost all other towns in le Marche are small gems (closer in size to Ferrara or Parma). There are almost no places in le Marche that offer the lavishly decorated church interiors of some place like Assisi or Florence. I've never been to the huge shrine to the cult of Santa Maria (in Loreto), but it is huge cultural attraction as well as a pilgrim's destination.

    Just as an aside, if you love Bologna, there are cities of similar size in the Veneto that you also might enjoy (Verona, Padova, Mantova) and in Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, the small city of Udine is a delicious place you might very much enjoy. (Food and wine tops Bologna.)

    If you have yet to go to Arezzo in Tuscany, that might be another destination for you.

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    To add to Zeppele's useful information, we found Urbino delightful. Non-touristy, beautiful city, great sights (I wanted primarily to see the Duke of Montefeltro's studiolo). I prefer Bologna over Urbino, but that's not a fair comparison, as Bologna is one of my favorite cities in Italy.

    The biggest difference, IMHO, between Umbria and Tuscany and Le Marche is that the places that you might want to visit are further from each other, and mostly accessable via narrow secondary roads. Driving is really the only option, and you'll be doing quite a bit of it, albeit through lovely scenery. Also, Le Marche is a bit more difficult to get to than Tuscany and Umbria. One of our goals in visiting the area was to see and tour a number of castles. Le Marche has more castles (or seemed to, to me) than many other areas of Italy, and we enjoyed visiting them.

    Our trip was focused more on the north parts of Le Marche. We began with a night in San Marino (which is not Italy at all!), then three nights in Urbino, followed by three nights in Macerata. We preferred Urbino over Macerata, though our day trips from each were probably equivalent in beauty and interest.

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