Visiting Le Marche and Umbria

Feb 5th, 2018, 11:38 PM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 245
Visiting Le Marche and Umbria

My wife and I will be returning to Italy this May, and spend much of our 2 week holiday in Le Marche and Umbria. We will have a car and base ourselves (1) in/around Urbino (for northern Marche) (2) in/around Macerata and Ascoli Piceno (for southern Marche) and (3) Spello (for Umbria, we have been to Orvieto before). Iíve reviewed all the incredibly helpful posts on the Forum and le-marche.com which have made this trip even possible, given the regular guidebooks donít do these areas justice. I have a few residual questions focused on Le Marche, and would be grateful for any advice / input :

1. Frassasi caves : On the website, I see an online booking mechanism which bundles a hotel stay and cave visit. I only need to arrange a visit without the hotel (the basic Ä18 guided trail, not the adventure trails), so do I merely need to email / call and pre-reserve an (English speaking) slot? It wasn't very clear to me, unfortunately.

2. Wineries : The wine tourism here seems quite understated Ė are there friendly wineries you would recommended for a visit / tastings of local wines ? Locationally speaking, I could squeeze in a visit or two on either of these days (i) after the Frassasi caves, I will be driving through Cupramontana-Cingoli-San Severino towards Macerata or (2) Iíve a free day whilst in Ascoli Piceno (Iíve read about Velenosi, unsure if they welcome visitors). Iím happy to pay a charge for a visit/tour, as purchasing and travelling with bottles gets slightly challenging. Are walk-ins entertained or should I reach out in advance ?

3. Norcia/Castellucio and surrounds : Iím aware this beautiful area is still recovering from earthquake damage and Google maps still suggests road closures (viamichelin.com doesnít oddly), is there a recommended route to access the area either from Ascoli Piceno or Spello? I respect any sensitivities relating to ongoing rehabilitation efforts, please do let me know if anything is or ought to be off-limits as a tourist.

4. Adriatic Coast : Given our preferences, our trip is more heavily weighted towards meandering through the inland villages/towns vs the seaside resorts in Le Marche. However, as we go from Macerata to Ascoli Piceno, would a drive down the coast from Civitanova Marche to San Benedetto del Tronto be an interesting route / change of scene ? Any specific points of interest en route are welcome .

Thank you for your help!
ANUJ is offline  
Feb 6th, 2018, 02:48 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 10,298
If you like beer, this is a microbrewery in northern Le Marche in Appechio - they do lovely beer and also grappa

https://www.collesi.com/?lang=en
jamikins is offline  
Feb 6th, 2018, 11:23 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 8,526
Sounds like a great trip--I did something similar a couple of years ago.

2. I don't know the answer but am curious what you find out. We were based in Spello and then drove to Ascoli, stopping in Norcia and Castelluccio to visit and pick up picnic supplies and then hiked in the Piano Grande (met a shepherd). It was a beautiful, beautiful drive. I thought Castelluccio had been totally destroyed but I don't know about the state of the roads through to Ascoli. If the roads are in shape enough that you can do this drive, I recommend it.

4. I didn't find the coast around Ascoli very attractive. Sometimes our GPS wanted to take us on the coast route, faster/more direct, I suppose.
Leely2 is offline  
Feb 6th, 2018, 11:09 PM
  #5  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 245
jamikins - thanks for your suggestions, and your very helpful past trip reports to the region.

leely2 - thank you for the feedback - will be visiting the local tourism office (ENIT) here and see if they can clarify the Norcia situation. Hopefully some of the forum experts like Bvlenciand otherswho may not have seen this yet, will weigh in on my post as well !
ANUJ is offline  
Feb 16th, 2018, 01:20 PM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 6,633
I'm sorry, I've been very busy the past few weeks and just now have got around to answering this post.

1. Frasassi Caves - You don't need to pay in advance or or even book in advance to visit these caves. In fact I've never booked in advance, just showed up and waited for the next spot. However, the last time I was there, there was a long wait, and if I were to go again on a summer weekend, I would book. In your case, I would suggest emailing them, because there's less of a communication problem. When you arrive, you pick up your reserved ticket at the ticket booth. There is a ticket booth in their parking lot, where you can also catch the shuttle to the caves. You're supposed to arrive half an hour in advance to pick up your reserved ticket.

On your way back, I suggest walking and taking a short detour in the village of San Vittore Terme. This is a thermal spa town, which explains the odor of sulphur in the air. There is a very beautiful little Romanesque church there at the foot of a mountain. The church is now a speleological museum, and your ticket to the caves covers entry to this museum. However, to me the main value of it is the church itself. S. Vittorio also has several restaurants. We ate at a restaurant across from the hotel, but friends of ours say that the best restaurant is on your right as you enter the town.

2.Yes there's not much wine tourism in Le Marche. The areas that have a lot of wine tourism are those with a lot of foreign tourists, because Italians in general aren't much into that. I'm pretty much a non.drinker, but I know something about the wines of our area. According to the Italian Touring Club (TCI), which rates hotels, restaurants, wines, etc., the best wine producers in Le Marche are the following:

https://www.touringclub.it/news/qual...i-delle-marche

It's in Italian, but the list at the bottom is pretty easily deciphered. They mention the exact wine and the vintage, and on the next line they give the name of the cantina. You can enter the name of the particular cantina into Google search, and then the web page of the cantina will often have an English page, and there will usually be contact email and phone number. (Email is in general the most foolproof way to communicate, but some small companies (or vineyards) don't check their email very often.)

One cantina in particular on this list, Vicari, looks very good to me. In addition to the wines that were rated in the top ten, they have several other interesting wines. Lacrima di Morro d'Alba is a very local wine, whose grapes come from a restricted zone near the town of Morro d'Alba. One of my colleagues, who fancies himself a wine expert, told me that the Lacrima I served at lunch was the best red wine he had tasted in his trip, which featured a lot of well-known Tuscan wines. Another red wine they offer is Rosso Piceno, which is highly regarded around here. Rosso Conero is another good red wine, but this cantina doesn't seem to offer it. Here is the list of their wines, in English.

Vicari's wine

Vicari also has a link to a form to book tastings on their main page: Vicari - Vino Lacrima di Morro d’Alba e di Visciola

You could try some of the other cantine on the list.

3. The last I heard, the road to Castelluccio is still closed. I searched on Google and found an announcement from the town saying that the SP 477 would be closed until the end of February. It seems they had opened it for a short time and had to close it again, I think Norcia has always been reachable. If you're thinking of the fioratura of the Piano Grande, May is too early. In the past few years, there hasn't been much of a fioratura anyway, because the flowers you see are partly wildflowers, partly the lentil crop, but also a great deal helped along by seeding, to promote tourism. I heard they were going to resume the seeding this year.

We have a summer home in the area affected by the earthquake, and last summer we drove further south to visit the area around Visso, with the intention of buying some local products to help the small producers most affected by the earthquake. We went looking for a famous salumificio my husband remembered from trips he took years ago. It's called Cappa, located in the Borgo Sant'Antonio, a district of Visso. The salumificio was open, but operating out of a truck, as the building they used to use to sell their products was declared non-habitable. There was a long line of people, some from outside the region, waiting to buy the products, and we got in line, It was well worth our while. We made a big order of salamis, prosciutto, pecorino cheese, and some other local specialties. At that time, Cappa was buy constructing a temporary building behind their shop, because the truck would not be usable during the winter. If you're in the area, a really beautiful area, I recommend a stop in Visso to get some great local products, maybe better than those of Norcia!

By the way, even in the areas most damaged by the earthquake, you don't see a great deal of damage. The scenery is still breathtaking, and the little towns are still there, even if a certain percentage of the buildings are visibly damaged, The area produces some of the best cheeses and salamis in Italy, and the producers are very grateful to those who visit the area and buy their products.

4.From the Autostrada, you don't see much scenery. The sea is visible in the distance. The SS16 hugs the shore, but in some places it's heavily trafficked and lined with local businesses. Still, it's a short drive you're talking about, just around half an hour, and it passes near one of my favorite towns in this area, Torre di Palme. This is a tiny walled town on a cliff overlooking the sea. Lu Focaro' is a good restaurant there.
bvlenci is offline  
Feb 17th, 2018, 12:20 AM
  #7  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 245
bvlenci - thank you for taking the time to provide such a detailed and helpful response.

The Frassasi Caves folks finally did respond to my first email (their international toll number seems to have a problem!) and reiterated what you said - that we can directly show up, and reservations were only needed for large groups. Unfortunately, our schedule may allow us to only join an Italian tour but it appears they may provide English headsets on request. There seems an online link to a 3rd party site to buy tickets Grotte di Frasassi Tickets - TicketOne, but its all Italian so I missed it.

Will go through the exhaustive information about wine and see how things develop post February, with regard to road connectivity to Castelluccio - unless the local office of the Italian Tourist Board (ENIT) can provide more information when I see them.

On the route to Ascoli, maybe the inland route (via Amandola / Infernaccio .... though longer) seems the better bet.
ANUJ is offline  
Feb 18th, 2018, 10:56 AM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 6,633
Some American cousins, on a recent visit to Frasassi, used the English language headsets and were quite satisfied with them.

If I had to choose between Castelluccio and the Gola dell'Infernaccio, I'd choose the Gola, especially in May, when there would be no fioratura in the Piano Grande. The Gola dell'Infernaccio is spectacular, unless it's pouring rain, as it did once when we were there.
bvlenci is offline  
Feb 19th, 2018, 11:11 PM
  #9  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 245
Thank you, bvlenci. I think my driving route is now quite clear.
ANUJ is offline  
Feb 21st, 2018, 10:03 PM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Dec 2013
Posts: 228
As an Italian wine educator, some of my favorite wineries in Le Marche are Pievalta, Santa barbara, Oasi degli angeli, La distesa, Fattoria coroncino, La staffa, Bucci, Fattoria san lorenzo, Colleatefano. These are at all sizes and with a focus leaning towards organic/biodynamic/natural wines - if you care about that, if not, just ignore and know they are good for these wineries, and as a rule of thumb in Italy in general, never walk-in to wineries (inconvenient for both sides), always reach out beforehand, make an appointment, and keep your appointment or at least cancel it as early as possible if for some reason you canít make it. Usually there is no dedicated person nor a generally open tasting room at most wineries and someone that has other duties has to carve out time for a visit. Do not miss the mineral and ageable whites of Le Marche and have fun!
vinoroma is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2018, 03:28 AM
  #11  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 245
vinoroma - thank you very much for your suggestions, will look them up. La distesa in Cupramontana, for one, is conveniently along our driving route after visiting the Frasassi Caves.
ANUJ is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2018, 06:48 AM
  #12  
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 21,809
Are you very interested in restaurants? I ask because we plan to be in this area this spring, and I have found a few promising-sounding places to eat near where you will be; I'd love to learn where you plan to eat, if you do plan this in advance:

Antica Osteria a Bargni di Serrungarina (Cartoceto), vicino Urbino, nelle Marche. Degustazioni di formaggi, salumi e vini tipici del Montefeltro e della Valle del Metauro (this is one of a few that I've found on Italian-language sites; if you are interested I can share others as well)
ekscrunchy is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2018, 10:22 PM
  #13  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 245
ekscrunchy - I have seen your thread, and best wishes for a wonderful trip. I have started some early research and here's what I've "shortlisted" as possible restaurants for my major "bases" in Marche so far, basis menus/reviews : Urbino (Tartufi Antiche Bonta, Del Leone, Langolo Divino, Antica Osteria da la Stella), Macerata (Del Fiori, La Taverna, Verde Caffe, Da Ezio) and Ascoli Piceno (Osteria Nonna Nina, Dicaduca, Pizzeria Pub Da Bruno Restaurant, Meletti). I should mention that my wife and I are vegetarian, so that significantly influences my choices. Happy to hear about your findings.
ANUJ is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2018, 03:26 AM
  #14  
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 21,809
Anuj: It will be good to exchange ideas for restaurants. I will try to put together a list of what I've found so far; your list is very helpful. I don't mind eating vegetarian for some meals and I expect you will not have any problems finding vegetarian dishes, but you know that already! Happy planning!
ekscrunchy is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2018, 04:12 AM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 6,633
If either of you happen to be near Corinaldo, one of the prettier towns in Le Marche, there is an excellent little restaurant in the center of town, right on the famous central staircase, called Nova Taberna. They always have interesting vegetarian choices on the menu, that attract also non-vegetarians.
bvlenci is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2018, 10:53 PM
  #16  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 245
Originally Posted by bvlenci View Post
If either of you happen to be near Corinaldo, one of the prettier towns in Le Marche, there is an excellent little restaurant in the center of town, right on the famous central staircase, called Nova Taberna. They always have interesting vegetarian choices on the menu, that attract also non-vegetarians.
Thank you. We will indeed spend a day driving around Corinaldo, Mondavio and Seingallia, so this is a helpful tip!
ANUJ is offline  
May 20th, 2018, 10:08 PM
  #17  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 245
Just got back this weekend from yet another fabulous vacation in Italy, and want to thank each of you on the forum for your invaluable input that made this trip possible in the first place.

I won’t bore you with a lengthy TR, but here are some highlights of the Le Marche / Umbria portion of our trip, which I hope may help future travelers to this region as well :

We picked up our automatic from Europcar in Bologna Airport, and returned the car in Foligno, before taking train to Rome for our flight back home. I prefer multiple bases (to avoid backtracking) vs “hubbing”, so we went about it like this :

1 night in San Leo (technically Emilia Romagna, stayed at B&B Montefeltro) – a truly charming tiny village after transiting San Marino (way too touristy)

2 nights in Urbino (gorgeous, stayed at B&B Albornoz) –also served as a good base to explore Corinaldo, Mondavio, Senigallia

1 night in Fabriano – this was only to break journey after a day of driving through Furlo, Acqualagna (great truffle tasting and shopping) and Gubbio and get a nights rest before setting out for the Frassasi Caves next morning. We were able to join a 11.30am English tour- the caves are fascinating, as is the Temple of Valadier nearby

1 night in Macerata (charming, stayed at Hotel Lauri)

2 nights in Ascoli Piceno (stayed at Antico Borgo Piceno) –after a day of inland driving through San Ginesio, Amandola and Sarnano. On another day, we visited Offida, Ripatransone and Grottamare. We visited Velenosi and bought a lot of wine.

3 nights in Spello (breathtakingly beautiful, stayed at Terra dei Santi Country House). We drove from Ascoli to Spello via Castelluccio (the views of Piano Grande were gorgeous, only some flowering yet) and Norcia. The roads are open (Castelluccio to Norcia for a limited time between 11-12), its heartbreaking to see the earthquake damage, but the area is outstandingly beautiful and needs the tourist dollar for recovery. Spello was an ideal base to explore Umbria – we visited Perugia, Assisi, Trevi, Montefalco (wine tasting at Cantine Adanti), Bevagna and Spoleto over the course of 2 days.

Overall, we absolutely enjoyed the rustic charm of Le Marche and Umbria – they felt like “real” places where people live, work and go about their daily lives, all amidst gorgeous scenery and great food that we've come to expect of Italy.
ANUJ is offline  
May 21st, 2018, 03:00 AM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 925
Excellent! We’ve stayed in Spello twice now and anticipate going back next year. We agree it makes an excellent base.

We’re you able to find a good source for information concerning Castelluccio and Norcia? We’d like to revisit the area if logistically possible. We last visited in 2015 and would, as you say, like to spend some tourist dollars there, modest though they will be.
indyhiker is online now  
May 21st, 2018, 04:44 AM
  #19  
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 21,809
ANUJ: Really helpful! So glad you had a wonderful adventure! Would you mind telling us where you ate in and around Ascoli, and which towns of those you saw that you would recommend for a daytrip?

We had to cancel our trip this month but have rebooked for October, and will have three nights in Ascoli, following three in Senegalia, so any further info on those towns, and your impressions, would be so welcome. I can always move around my plans if need be.
ekscrunchy is offline  
May 21st, 2018, 07:56 AM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 2,942
ANUJ, so there was some flowering already at Piano Grande? I arrive in Ascoli Piceno Thusday evening, so I may try to drive to the Castellucio area this weekend. Any tips?
yorkshire is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -

FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 06:35 PM.