Le Marche, or maybe it’s just ‘Marche’, opinions differ

But however you choose to describe it, chances are, you won’t have heard of it and almost certainly won’t have visited – unless you’re very lucky. For those who live here, we know it’s one of the most beautiful regions Italy has to offer. In many cases, we have cities, beaches and mountains to rival any of those in the better-explored parts of Italy.

Bounded by the Apennine mountain range in the west and the Adriatic sea in the east

From sandy beaches lapped by the Adriatic in the south of the region to white pebble bays sheltered by stark, slate cliffs in the middle and back to sand again in the north, (just before we meet the border with Emilia Romagna), Marche is full of charming hillside towns and villages. Bounded by the Apennine mountain range in the west and the Adriatic sea in the east, most people will agree that Marche is almost certainly Italy’s best-kept secret.

There’s a huge amount to explore in the region, far too much to go into in detail here….but here are a few facts to help you prepare for your visit. First of all, the Region is Split into Five Provinces – Ascoli Piceno, Macerata, (where Casa Lucia is based in the hilltop town of Loro Piceno), Fermo, Ancona and Pesaro/Urbino. Ancona is where the airport is and is the capital of the region.

Le Marche is Home to 28 Blue Flag Beaches

Le Marche covers an area of 9,694 square kilometres and borders the Adriatic Coast. Two-thirds of the region are covered by rolling hills, while 173km of coastline runs along the eastern border. This coast provides a plethora of white pebble beaches sheltered by cliffs for spectacular scenery, making the coastal towns and villages a popular option for holidaymakers. Le Marche is Home to 28 Blue Flag Beaches which means beach-goers are assured that the sea is clean and safe for swimming.

Some of the best beaches are at Gabicce, Fano, Pesaro, Porto Recanati and Porto Potenza Picena. The coastal conditions are also perfect for yachting, and there are several marinas offering everything from day boat trips to longer hires, along with the crew.

Walking, Trekking and even Skiing

When it comes to our mountains, the Highest Peak in Le Marche is Monte Vettore, which is 2,476m. There are spectacular views to be had, safe, (and more challenging) walking and trekking and even skiing in the winter. The mountains in Le Marche are mostly limestone and are renowned for dark, bare peaks, lots of caves, rushing rivers and waterfalls and dramatic river gorges. The most famous gorges are at Furlo, the Rossa and the Frasassi. There is also a stunning man-made lake at Fiastra, with access to part of the Sibillini mountain ring path which provides well-marked walks populated by ‘rifugio’ (refuges) which may be simple huts or more sophisticated establishments with restaurants, rooms to stay overnight and a warm welcome.

The best-known caves are 40km west of Ancona, known as the Grotte di Frassasi. The Frasassi are one of the most extensive cave systems in Europe, featuring underground lakes, stalagmites, stalactites and crystal formations. The caves are 18km in length, but a 1.5km trail has been carved out for you to explore the highlights of the chambers. Within the Grotte di Frassasi, the Ancona Abyss is almost 200 metres high, 180 metres wide and 120 metres long, and could easily fit Milan’s cathedral inside.

Le Marche Wines

Another of Marche’s secrets is the fabulous wines, made from vines that dot the landscape across all 5 regions. There is a higher number of native grape varieties in Marche than in any other Italian region. Our wine producers keep their growing local and have four wines that have achieved DOCG status, which means Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita and guarantees the wine’s origin. They are Castelli di Jesi Verdicchio Reserva, Conero Reserva, Verdicchio Matelica Reserva and Vernaccia di Serrapetrona.

Within the Macerata region, there are several local vineyards, including Saputi and Murola, both of which supply wines to Casa Lucia Bistro. A wine tasting is included as part of our residential cookery breaks and of course, you can always sample a glass or two at the bistro.

Le Marche Wines

Ascolana Olives

Another permanent feature of the Casa Lucia menu is a local delicacy, Ascolana Olives. If you have never tried these, they are a fabulous accompaniment to a glass of dry white wine. They are known as a delicacy all over Marche. The Ascolana olives are a large, green variety, native to the Ascoli Piceno region. The olives are pitted, filled with ground & seasoned pork sausage meat and then coated with breadcrumbs before being fried. Often served with a deep-fried ‘custard’ alongside, they are a strangely addictive snack.

As well as amazing food, Marche is the home of the Italian shoe and hat-making industries.

Hand-made Italian Shoes

Italian shoes are famous worldwide, but not many people know that Marche is the birthplace of this age-old craft. Many shoes and boots are still finished by hand, alongside a more mechanised production in the area known as ‘shoe valley’. The southern area of the region, (around the area of the Valle dell Aso) accounts for around 30% of the total shoe production across Italy and is the perfect place to pick up some local, authentic handmade leather shoes. The shoe manufacturing activity started at the end of the 1800s and is still going strong.

Millinery, Magical Coasts and much more…

There’s so much more to Marche – Hat making in Montappone for example, or the stunning city of Urbino and its history of rival tribes, Dukes and religious strife. Along the coast, there are ancient towns like Pesaro and Ancona, with its stunning cathedral, situated high on the cliffs above the sea. There are the glorious beaches of Numana and Sirolo and some amazing restaurants featuring locally caught fish close by. If nature is your thing, then the Monti Sibillini national park could offer you a different walk for every day of the year, with areas of stunning foliage and wildlife.

Ascoli Piceno has far more to offer than olives, with a beautiful stone piazza, ancient Meletti, (a local aniseed liqueur) bar and restaurant and in the summer months, outdoor concerts and music. Macerata is a university town and boasts a large number of art galleries and museums to occupy you, whatever your tastes – modern or classical art, sculpture or music.

“We’ll be happy to suggest where to go in the region we love and call home if you let us know what your particular interests are.”