Le Marche, Italy

Old Jun 25th, 2016, 04:57 AM
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Le Marche, Italy

I am new to this forum and would really appreciate any advice you can offer.

My family (myself, my husband and our two teenage children) will be in the region of Le Marche, Italy in early August for 8 nights. We would like to split the time in two separate places from which to base ourselves (maybe northern and southern Le Marche) but we cannot decide what those two places should be.

We want to relax, visit small hill towns, see interesting sites and spend time at a beach. We also love walking in medieval villages at night. We have been told that Urbino and Ascoli Piceno are must sees but as we research this area. there are so many other gorgeous places to visit (would they make good day trips?).

The beaches at the Conero Riviera look gorgeous and there are small villages not far from there that we can consider staying at.

Any advice would be so helpful.

Thank you very much.

Lara
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Old Jun 26th, 2016, 02:53 PM
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I'm responding rather late, but it took me a long time to finish this, working on it in bits and pieces. If there are typos, repetitions, or other errors, I apologize, but I just want to finish it and not reread it any more.

I live in north central Le Marche, in the hinterland of Senigallia, and have lived here for almost 18 years. I love this region, which I think is as beautiful as Tuscany. The cuisine of Le Marche is well known and appreciated among Italians. There is little foreign tourism, but it's a popular destination for Italians.

August is the prime season for the beach in Italy, especially on the weekend. Just last weekend the local papers were full of photos of traffic jams on the Riviera del Conero, and complaints about lack of parking. The best time to go is on a weekday, either very early or in the late afternoon (shortly before sunset). If you stay in a hotel that's walking distance from a beach, the parking is not a problem.

Another thing you should be aware of is that many of the beaches on the Riviera del Conero are very narrow, and pebbly rather than sandy. This is to be expected when you have beaches at the base of cliffs or mountains.

I'm not much of a beach person, myself. My husband and I enjoy walking on the beach in the early morning, but we rarely bring our umbrella and chairs to the beach to spend time there. My favorite beach town is Senigallia, but that is more for the town itself, which has a lively historic center, great restaurants, and nice shops. The beach is very wide, with fine sand; it doesn't have the scenery of the Riviera del Conero, although to me it has a certain charm.

Other nice beach towns are Fano, which also has a nice historic center; and Recanati, which is not terribly near its beach at Porto Recanati; and Porto San Giorgio. San Benedetto del Tronto is popular, but the town itself doesn't appeal to me. Torre di Palme is a very attractive little walled town on a cliff overlooking the sea, just south of Fermo. Of course, it has no beach, but it's near Porto San Giorgio.

The immediate interior of the Le Marche in most places is full of lovely little towns. You have an embarrassment of the choice.

Urbino is a very nice town, set in beautiful countryside, and with one of the best-preserved ducal palaces in Italy. I won't go into great detail, as it's one of the few towns in Le Marche that you can easily find in guide books. It's about a 45-minute drive from Fano, which has a decent beach.

Further inland, the area near where Le Marche, Emilia Romagna, and Tuscany meet, near the town of Pennabilli, is one of the prettiest in central Italy. This is the region that was called in medieval times Montefeltro. Until recently, it was all in Le Marche, but recently a good part of Montefeltro seceded and joined Emilia Romagna. I was sorry to see it go, but it's still very beautiful. The town of San Leo is one of the most beautiful in the area, with a very impressive castle on the top of a cliff. Not far from San Leo, and visible from its walls, is the similar castle town of San Marino, which is an independent state totally inside Italy. San Marino is very crowded with tourists and the center of town is rather tacky, but you can take a very nice walk between its three towers, and pretty much get away from the crowd.

The area between Mondavio and Urbino is also very nice, and almost totally untouched by tourism, although Mondavio itself has a medieval fortress that attracts some tourists, mostly Italian.

Near Urbino, the beautiful river gorge, Gola del Furlo, is worth a visit. On recent visits, we haven't been able to drive through it, because of flood damage to the road. You have to park your car and walk in. I think they may have decided to keep it that way, and it may actually be better, because you appreciate the scenery better when walking. There is a tunnel there carved in the rock face by the Romans in the 1st century BC.

A little further down the road, in the direction of Acqualagna, there is a 9th century church that you can go into, although there is no custodian. It's in a little park that also has some ancient Roman flood control works. (Given the recent flood damage, one wonders if the Romans weren't better at this sort of thing than we are.)

Acqualagna itself is a truffle capital, with a truffle fair in October and November. In August, there are not any prized varieties of truffles in season, but you can find truffle products in the shops, and the summer truffle isn't bad, either, although it doesn't come near the quality of the prized white truffle.

A little further south, the hinterland of Senigallia includes the lovely town of Corinaldo, with a medieval wall with intact gates. It's become a popular town for people in the general vicinity to visit, with several good places to eat.

Another pretty town in the area is Serra de'Conti, where there is an ex-convent with a museum of the monastic arts, which features exhibits of the life of the cloistered nuns who once lived there. It's hours have been reduced recently due to budget cuts, but the town is nice even if you can't see the museum.

Both Corinaldo and Serra de'Conti are about half an hour from the beach at Senigallia, which is one of the nicest beaches in the area, although, as I said above, it doesn't have the scenery of the Riviera del Conero. Senigallia has some excellent restaurants, including two (Uliassi and Madonnina del Pescatore) which have two Michelin stars. Of the two, I prefer Uliassi. Raggiazzurro is an excellent restaurant with more down-to-earth prices.

Pergola and Arcevia are other nice towns, further inland, in this area. There is a municipal museum in Pergola which has a very rare ancient Roman gilded bronze equestrian statue group, dug up in a field not far away.

There is an 8th century hermitage at Fonte Avellana which you can visit. They have tours in Italian, but they can give you a script in English.

http://www.fonteavellana.it/index.php

(You won't hear such nice chanting at the monastery, though!)

Fonte Avellana is on the slopes of Mount Catria, and there are nice hiking trails in the area. The nearby upper town of Frontone has a beautiful small castle, privately owned and rarely open for visits.

Continuing south, Recanati is an attractive town which is an easy commute to the Riviera del Conero, but also to the beach at Porto Recanati, which is less scenic but also less crowded. There are some good, unpretentious, seafood restaurants there, where you can sample brodetto, the typical fish soup of Le Marche.

Farther inland, Fabriano is a favorite town of mine. It has a nice, but small, old center and a very interesting museum of the paper making industry in one of the old paper mills. This was one of the earliest centers of paper making in Europe, and they still have the medieval machinery, with which they demonstrate the old process. They also have a fascinating display of artistic watermarks, which are all made by a single family who have passed the art down for generations. They can give guided tours in English.

http://www.museodellacarta.com/default.asp

(If it comes up in Italian, click on EN at the upper right.)

Near Fabriano, the Caverns of Frasassi are some of the largest in Europe, and, although I haven't see all the caverns in the world, I find them exceptionally beautiful. They can be very crowded on weekends, so I would go on a weekday, as early as possible. They have tours in English, but if you can't make one of those, they'll give you an audio headset that describes what you're seeing at each of the stops.

http://www.frasassi.com/Home.aspx?L=EN

Just a short walk from the caverns, the tiny town of S. Vittore Terme exists for its thermal springs (which explain the odour of sulphur in the air). There is a spa there, very unpretentious, mid 20th century, and a few restaurants. One is supposed to be very good, but I can't remember the name. I can find out if you end up going there. The main reason to walk into S. Vittore Terme is to see the beautiful small Romanesque church, with a tall cliff behind it. The church now holds a speleological museum, and you can enter it with your ticket to the caverns.

Another favorite town of mine is Matelica, which I feel is the iconic Italian provincial town. It has a very good civic museum, with carriages and a pre-Roman astrolabe found in the town, and calibrated to the latitude and longitude of Matelica, but made in Greece. It proves that there was civilized life there, and maybe even Amazon, before the Romans took over.

San Severino Marche has an upper and lower town, with a very beautiful piazza in the lower town and a beautiful cathedral in the upper town.

Now we come to my favorite spot in the world, where we spend a good part of every summer: the Upper Potenza valley. I don't want to oversell it, but to me it has the perfect of combination of rural life, nice scenery, old towns, castles, and the remains of a traditional way of life. Many Italians, especially Romans, have summer homes in the area, and the population more than doubles in August.

One of my favorite towns in the area is Pioraco, the ancient Roman Prolaqueum (at the water), at the junction of three rivers, surrounded by cliffs. In August, there is an antiques-cum-fleamarket every Monday evening. (Actually, many towns in the area have something similar on different nights.) Near Pioracco, the hill town of Camerino has great views, a ducal palace, nice shops, and good restaurants. There are numerous castles in the area, mostly privately owned and not open for visits. The Lanciano castle is open on weekends and is worth a visit if you're in the area, but I wouldn't make a long detour. In August, taking advantage of the visitors, there are many food festivals, markets, and sagre.

In the next valley to the south, Urbisaglia has the remains of a Roman city. Nearby, in Caldarola, you can visit the Pallotta castle, one of the nicest and most accessible privately-owned castles around. Also nearby is the Fiastra Abbey, a beautiful medieval abbey set in a natural reserve, and with several museums on the premises. There is also a shop where you can buy various things produced by the monastic order.

http://www.abbadiafiastra.net/en/

Just as bit further south is Ascoli Piceno, which has one of Italy's most beautiful piazzas, and several medieval towers, like those in San Gimignano. You can also find information about Ascoli in guide books, so I'll skip over that.

The nearest good beach to Ascoli Piceno is San Benedetto del Tronto, famous for its palm-lined waterfront. Near Ascoli, and closer to the sea, the town of Offida is lovely, with its fortified church of Santa Maria della Rocca (St. Maria of the Fortress) built in a fortified position on a spur of the hill on which Offida is built. Offida has an active lace-making tradition, and you can usually see women demonstrating their skill in some of the shops, and in a museum of lace-making. There is also a beautiful 18th century theatre that you can visit. (There are many such theatres in Le Marche, and some more beautiful than the one in Offida, but few of them can be visited unless there's a performance.)

West of Ascoli Piceno, the Sibilline Mountains are the highest in Le Marche. There is a large national park that's partly in the adjacent regions of Abruzzo and Lazio. If you'd like an easy hike, the very beautiful Gola del Infernaccio, near the town of Amanadola, is ideal, with butterflies, little waterfalls, bubbling brooks, and mountain scenery.

Finally, here is a website in English that may have some useful information for you, especially about events.

http://en.turismo.marche.it/
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Old Jun 26th, 2016, 04:32 PM
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What a wonderful and helpful post. thank you.
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Old Jun 26th, 2016, 04:38 PM
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...terrific overview - worth its weight in truffles!
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Old Jun 26th, 2016, 05:16 PM
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Wow, wow, wow...

Fantastic and detailed information. Our family cannot thank you enough for the time you put into writing the post.

We will begin researching all the places you mentioned tonight and I hope it is not too much of an imposition if I ask you further questions.

Thank you again so much.

Lara
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Old Jun 26th, 2016, 05:51 PM
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Great information. Thank you for sharing!
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Old Jun 26th, 2016, 06:51 PM
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Great post bvlenci! You make want to go there now! Damn work.
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Old Jun 26th, 2016, 08:26 PM
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Bvlenci, Wow! You deserve some kind of award for such a fabulous post. Makes me want to go too.
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Old Jun 27th, 2016, 06:33 AM
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I'll gladly answer any questions, at least if I know the answers!

I'm not great on hotels, because, living here, I don't often need one. Also, we don't research restaurants, counting on the fact that there are very few bad restaurants around here. I know some good restaurants near where I live, and where we go for the summer, and I've saved some cards from places where we had a good meal.
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Old Jul 4th, 2016, 12:52 PM
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Hi everyone,

Here is our trip in a nutshell:

- Landing in Rome in mid-morning, taking train to Florence (arriving at 3 pm)
2 nights in Florence (visiting with friends)
- Renting car in the morning and driving to a beautiful B&B in the Province of
Urbino and Pesaro (slightly inland, about 20 km from Fano and 12 km from
Senigallia), for 5 nights
- Driving in the morning to Ascoli Piceno (staying in the old town) for 3 nights
- Driving to Rome for 2 nights, then flying home

We think this will give us time to visit interesting villages, see important sites and spend some time at the beach relaxing.

What do you all think?

Thanks for all of your help.

Lara
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Old Jul 4th, 2016, 01:14 PM
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bvlenci

What a complete and forthright terrific answer. Thanks.
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Old Jul 4th, 2016, 01:15 PM
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We thoroughly enjoyed a trip about 5 years ago to Le Marche and look forward to going back, now even more with the great information posted by bvlenci...thanks so much for taking the time!

I'm a little curious that you made no mention of Macerata, a town we really enjoyed. I realize you can't discuss every single place.
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Old Jul 4th, 2016, 01:21 PM
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bmk for a future trip [I hope!]

thanks for sharing your knowledge with us, bvl - that was clearly a labour of love.
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Old Jul 4th, 2016, 02:02 PM
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Just spent three nights in Ascoli and loved it. We visited Offida, mentioned by bvlenci above, and also Civitella del Tronto (in Abruzzo), both were small, beautiful, interesting places. We then drove to Naples, stopping overnight in San Stefano di Sessanio, and we were very fortunate to spend time in Amatrice on our way, along with other stops in the National Park in Abruzzo. The Gran Sasso is exquisitely beautiful.

I think your itinerary looks great. Next time I'd like to spend time in northern Le Marche as well as southern and definitely more time in Abruzzo.

As an aside, these are ideal areas for practicing one's Italian, no matter how rudimentary. Everyone but everyone responded to my sub-toddler Italian at full velocity in their native tongue.

Food is terrific, too.

Enjoy!
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Old Jul 4th, 2016, 02:25 PM
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Saving for the future. Ojala!
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Old Jul 4th, 2016, 02:34 PM
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In a nutshell, your plan looks good to me.

Could you tell the name of the B&B? It sounds as though it might be near where I live.

Dudeness, I had thought of including Macerata in my list of suggestions, but, as you say, I couldn't mention every town, and it's been quite a while since I've been in Macerata, apart from going to the opera festival. There are several other towns in the area that I like but didn't mention: Tolentino and Fermo, to name a few.
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Old Jul 4th, 2016, 02:37 PM
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Hi bvlenci,

The Castelo di Monterado. Seems like a very nice place to stay.

And thanks again for all of your advice.

Lara
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Old Jul 4th, 2016, 02:39 PM
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Oh, we stayed at Albergo Sant'Emidio in Ascoli Piceno. We all liked it (I had booked a superior double, I think--can check when I return home, in Florence now).
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Old Jul 4th, 2016, 03:41 PM
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In Ascoli, we are reserved at the Hotel 100 Torri Ricevimento.
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Old Jul 4th, 2016, 11:20 PM
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We walked by the 100 Torri a dozen times and noticed it because we had considered booking there. Looks great. Have fun!
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