Searching for Italy’s next Tuscany? Look no further! Hailed as all-of-Italy-wrapped up into one region, Le Marche is the perfect once-in-a-lifetime, bucket-list Italian destination for those of you that don’t want to spend all your time in the overcrowded touristy areas of Rome, Florence, Amalfi, Venice, Cinque Terre or Sicily. Drawing similarities to its neighboring regions, the Le Marche region is home to many of Italy’s Most Beautiful medieval villages, pristine coastline, award-winning wineries, making it hands-down Italy’s best-kept secret.
Just a few hours from Rome by car, Le Marche has been able to maintain its hidden gem status due to it’s geographic location. Situated just over the Apennines Mountain range, this natural barrier doesn’t lend it to be easily accessed by train from Rome which is a major hub for international arrivals coming to Italy. If you’re arriving from the coast and already in Italy, you can easily reach Le Marche by train from Bologna or by directly flying into the regional Ancona airport. Whether it’s your first trip to Italy or one of many, there’s no better time than now to discover Italy’s Best Kept Secret and finally visit a region that more than lives up to its up and coming status as Italy’s Next Tuscany!
Introduction to the Le Marche region of Italy
Nestled between the Apennine mountains and Italy’s eastern Adriatic coast, the picturesque region of Le Marche offers beautiful, rolling hills and sun-kissed sandy beaches. As one of Italy’s twenty captivating regions, Le Marche offers a unique blend of natural beauty, historical charm and fabulous cuisine that draws travelers to Italy year after year. Its central location makes it a gateway to other Italian destinations, with Le Marche offering a more low-key and serene vibe than its tourist-filled counterparts, which sets the scene for experiencing Italy like a local.
Marche is composed of five provinces: Ascoli Piceno, Macerata, Fermo, Ancona, and Pesaro-Urbino. Each province boasts its own unique, vibrant culture and rich history. The Marchigiani, the gracious inhabitants of Marche, are renowned for their warm hospitality and genuine kindness. Hospitality that you’ll experience when you’re welcomed into the homes of local chefs and farmers that you’ll meet when you join us on tour.
When it comes to exploring Le Marche, the region is best accessed by car. Its small villages tucked between rolling hills and expansive vineyards lack the infrastructure for large-scale bus tourism, and most of Le Marche’s medieval towns included in the “Most beautiful Villages of Italy” circuit are not accessible by train. Relying solely on buses and trains during your vacation to Italy, you’ll mainly be confined to the coastal areas, leaving you missing out on the cultural and culinary gems that make Le Marche one-of-a-kind, which is why our small group tours use private vehicles (8 to 9 seater vans, not buses) to reach some of Le Marche’s must-do experiences, like Truffle-hunting and visiting organic family-run farms and award-winning wineries.
The province of Ascoli Piceno is home to the capital city of the same name. Known as the City of One Hundred Towers and Travertine, Ascoli Piceno exudes an ageless charm that predates even Rome itself. Steeped in rich tradition, it hosts remarkable events like La Quintana, the second-largest medieval reenactment in Italy, held in July and August every year. The city celebrates its culinary heritage with two festivals dedicated to Olive all’ascolana, a delicious appetizer of lightly fried olives stuffed with a safe-guarded mixture of meat that you’ll learn to make when you join us on select tours! Dating back to the 1800’s, this dish not only beloved by locals is a DOP (as in a protected national culinary treasure), making it the perfect addition to your aperitivo time (cocktail hour).
When you embark on our Italy’s Epicurean Journey and Italy Undiscovered tours, you’ll get a front row seat to all that this captivating city has to offer. Ascoli Piceno is a treasure trove of authentic Italian cuisine. From tagliatelle with truffles to ending your meal with locally handcrafted liqueurs, Ascoli Offers an abundance of delectable food and drink. One of these places you can enjoy both at is Caffe Meletti. One of Italy’s 150 historic cafes famed for its signature anise liquor known as Anisetta Meletti. It was a favorite haunt of renowned author Ernest Hemingway and still remains a popular meeting point of the locals for soaking up the glow of Piazza del Popolo at golden hour. Most recently, Ascoli has become a haven for Pizza lovers in Le Marche, boasting the highest number of Gambero Rosso award-winning pizzerias in the entire region, which you can read more about here.
Venture further Northeast of the city of Ascoli Piceno, and you’ll encounter the charming medieval village of Offida, hailed as one of Italy’s most beautiful villages and famous for being the home of Tombolo lace makers. Encapsulated by vineyards and olive groves, the best way to explore this town and its surrounding Piceno wine country is by car (and on tour of course!).
A true paradise for wine lovers and sommeliers, you’ll world-class wines, including DOC and DOCG designation of Pecorino, Rosso Piceno, Passerina, and Offida Rosso when you grab your spot on select tours for a tasting menu prepared by a private chef – just for The Italian On Tour® guests! Ensuring you get a backstage pass to experiencing the best the Piceno wine region has to offer.
The gorgeous hills of the province of Macerata are the perfect place to take in some fresh air and enjoy the views of the picturesque valley of the Esino River which boasts lush green rolling hills adorned with vineyards and estates. A scene you’ll wake-up to every day when you grab your seat on Italy Uncorked. This area is currently awaiting UNESCO approval, a testament to its exceptional beauty, and up and coming status that makes it a place you’ll want to check off your bucket-list before it gains mass notoriety.
East of the Esino Valley, you’ll discover the renowned city of Recanati, the birthplace of Giacomo Leopardi, esteemed poet of “The Infinite Hills”. A poem inspired from the views you’ll experience on the Italy Uncorked tour. Views that extend all the way from Le Marche’s interior known for its thriving truffle industry to Le Marche’s Best Beaches on the Coast of Conero.
Macerata is celebrated for its wine production and unique libations like Amaro Sibilla. This herbal liqueur, crafted with a secret recipe dating back to 1868, combines honey, herbs, and roots from the Sibillini Mountains. The result is a dark, aromatic, and subtly bitter liqueur that acts as a good digestif after a hearty meal of truffle tagliatelle or Vincisgrassi.
Vincisgrassi is a traditional pasta dish that combines layers of thin hand-rolled pasta enveloped in béchamel and savory meat sauce. It’s a classic Sunday meal, made by local Marchigiani nonnas and dates back to somewhere at the end of the 18th century between the province of Ancona and Macerata. A classic that has been coming back in vogue, depending on the time of year, you might even get to taste Vincigrassi on your small group tour with us!
Macerata is also the origin of Ciauscolo. This smoked and dry-cured sausage is made from pork meat and fat cut from the shoulder and belly. It’s usually spiced with black pepper and garlic and served with white wine, but because its popularity has spread throughout the entire region, you’ll find local variations as you travel through Le Marche.
The province of Fermo boasts Italy’s largest Roman cisterns and One of the World’s Most Beautiful libraries – according to National Geographic. When you join us on select tours, you’ll get the opportunity to explore these remarkable historical sites firsthand!
In addition to its rich history, Fermo is renowned for its shoemaking heritage, serving as the home to prestigious luxury Italian brands like Tod’s and Hogans. A popular place that attracts shoppers often spending a whole day at the outlets, only to leave empty handed because there’s an overwhelming amount of selections and the outlets are scattered throughout the area and change their hours of operation often. How do we know? Because we’ve been there! That’s why when you join us on tour, we’ll take you to the best outlet in town which has a boutique select of items ranging from 30 to 70% off! Including Tods & Hogans.
In Fermo, the Roman influence extends beyond architecture and fashion to winemaking practices. Inspired by the Romans, a few local winemakers have embraced the tradition of crafting wines in amphorae, paying homage to ancient techniques and innovating on past practices to produce a variety of IGT wines that you can savor on select tours.In addition to IGT wines, Fermo is also known for ;ocal DOC wine of Falerio Pecorino, but also Vino Cotto, Sapa, a syrup-like sweetening agent reminiscent of Balsamic Vinegar made from cooked grape musts, and Campofilone pasta, a delicate egg pasta celebrated for its exceptional quality. Maccheroncini di Campofilone is one of the many delicious types of pasta you can savor on your visit to the Le Marche region.
Ancona, the capital city of the Ancona province, which is also the capital of the Le Marche region, is a magnetic blend of urban charm and historical significance. Ancona took a more urban shape by Greek settlers from Syracuse in about 387 BC, who named it based on the Greek word Ἀγκών (Ankṓn), meaning “elbow”, reminiscent of the harbor’s unique shape resembling an elbow.
The Conero Mountain is also found in the province of Ancona. One of the few mountains that rises from the water on Italy’s Adriatic Coast. The national park of Conero also boasts some of Italy’s most breathtaking beaches, such as Due Sorelle. The Coast of Conero is truly one of Italy’s hidden gems, and the perfect place to visit for travelers who prefer to avoid the crowds and venture off the beaten path to secluded beaches that can only be reached by boat or hiking the local trails. Ancona is not only a hotspot for beach lovers but it is also revered for the pilgrimage site of Loreto, which houses the holy home known as the “Santa Casa ” that is encased in an ornate structure of gold and marble. With over a million annual pilgrims, Loreto holds significant spiritual and cultural importance, a special place you’ll want to visit even if it is just to see the colorful Duomo and spectacular display of Renaissance art contained within the Basilica’s walls.
As a bustling port city, Ancona offers ferry connections to Croatia and Greece, various train connections, and is home to the Le Marche region’s main airport, making it a convenient hub for those coming down from Milan, Venice or Bologna or those of you traveling to destinations across Europe and beyond.
Another notable destination is Fabriano, recognized as One of Italy’s UNESCO Creative Cities due to its over 750 year old tradition of handmade paper production. But Fabriano isn’t just known for its creative arts and tradition of papal papermaking; it’s also known for its top quality local honey production and is the home of the regional specialty of Salame di Fabriano. Made with pork thigh and shoulder, it is produced from late September to early May and must age for at least 60 days, resulting in a salami so delicious that it was even mentioned in an 1877 letter signed by the famous Italian general Giuseppe Garibaldi!
Head North of Fabriano you’ll be met by one of Le Marche’s most notable natural wonders: the Frasassi Caves, Italy’s largest underground karst cave system. Exploring the Frasassi Caves is like stepping into a magical underground realm, where stunning stalactites and stalagmites create a mesmerizing subterranean spectacle. You’ll experience the awe-inspiring natural beauty of these caves firsthand when you grab your spot on Italy Uncorked.
Wine enthusiasts will be delighted by Ancona’s exceptional wine production, including the world-class Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, which is recognized as the finest white wine globally by numerous international wine critics, such as the Wine Spectator. A favorite of seafood lovers, Verdichhio dei Castelli di Jesi is often showcased on some of the tasting menus on your tour with The Italian On Tour. You’ll also have the opportunity to try the renowned Rosso Conero, a DOCG wine from the Conero area, and Lacrima, another beloved red wine from the province of Ancona that pairs well with many of the traditional meat dishes found in Le Marche’s interior.
Pesaro – Urbino
Pesaro-Urbino is a province is steeped in Renaissance history. With the city of Urbino, home to Palazzo Ducale, one of the most well-preserved Renaissance palaces in Italy being a must see when you visit this province. The Palazzo Ducale is so well-preserved, that in 1998 it was recognized as part of the world UNESCO heritage site of Urbino’s historic center. But even this UNESCO status can’t overshadow its Most Famous Resident: Raphael, the Renaissance artist that is revered across the world as one of the great painters and architects of his time. Want to learn more about the city of Urbino? Click here!
Although not globally known, the province is also famous for Casciotta di Urbino, a unique regional cheese recognized by the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin). This delectable caciotta cheese, crafted from a blend of sheep’s and cow’s milk, has a soft texture and delightful milky flavor which pairs well with the local white wine variety called Bianchiello del Metauro.
Truffle lovers will delight with a trip to Acqualagna, the host of one of Italy’s largest truffle trade shows and auctions where truffle hunters from across the region gather to showcase and sell their prized truffles every November. With the only drawback being that the weather is capricious in November in the interior of Le Marche. A small sacrifice if your heart is set eating the prized nero pregato (prestigious black) and white truffles!
Pesaro, known as the city of culture, stands as the second most populous city in Le Marche after Ancona. It is the birthplace of renowned composer Gioacchino Rossini, adding a touch of musical heritage to its vibrant cultural scene and which includes a variety of musical events throughout the year.
When you visit the province of Pesaro-Urbino, you’ll also want to taste the Prosciutto di Carpegna. Named after the town where it is crafted, this succulent prosciutto is exclusively made from pigs born, raised, and slaughtered in the regions of Marche, Lombardy, and Emilia-Romagna. With such a long-standing tradition of pig farming and meat curing in the wider Carpegna area dating back to the 15th century, Prosciutto di Carpegna is known to be one of the most prized products of the Marche region, which is why you’ll often find it showcased on charcuterie boards and at wine-tastings throughout your trip with us.
Whether you’re a culture seeker or food & wine lover, a trip to the province of Pesaro-Urbino is a great way to extend your time in Italy when you join us on select tours. With many of its treasures best reached by car, it presents an excellent opportunity for those wanting to explore even more of the Le Marche region.
Le Marche is Calling Your Name
Italy is a treat for the senses and the region Le Marche is no exception. With cuisine that tells you a story of a great culinary and cultural past the extends from Roman times, the Renaissance’s Raphael to Le Marche’s up and coming chefs innovating on and respecting past traditions, it’s no wonder that the allure of Le Marche has landed this beautiful region on your bucket list.
Bordered by the regions of Tuscany, Lazio, Abruzzo, Umbria and Emilia-Romagna, while drawing similarities from its neighbors, Le Marche’s picturesque landscapes, deep history, and cuisine give it a unique identity of its own, One that sets the scene for an authentic Italian experience that goes beyond the typical tourist destinations, where welcoming locals, that you’ll meet on your small group Italy tour with us, treat you like family, leaving you forever touched by the territory we call home.
When you join one of our select small group Italy tours, you’ll explore places not found in guidebooks, be treated like family he homes of locals you meet on your trip with us, immerse yourself in the rich, Italian culture, and savor the flavors of traditional cuisine. Say goodbye to overcrowded tourist traps and get ready to experience the real Italy when you tour one of Italy’s best-kept secrets with us!
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