Le Marche is a glorious and unspoilt region of Italy, full of beautiful countryside, lovely beaches and a plethora of places of interest – from historical sites such as Loreto, to the stunning
caves of Frasassi. The fact that it is still relatively unknown in comparison to Tuscany and Umbria is a significant part of its charm, with few souvenir shops, no crowds and yet so much to see and do – and all in a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere.
The region has a rich and varied history, and is crammed with buildings of interest. No historical tour of Le Marche would be complete without a visit to the striking hill town of Loreto, which lies just inland from the Adriatic Sea and is one of the world’s most important shrines to the cult of the Virgin Mary, visited each year by thousands of pilgrims who travel here from around the world. The wonderful Basilica, which in itself is full of interest, houses the rustic cottage or “holy house” said to have come from Nazareth and to be the site of the Annunciation and the childhood of Jesus.
Although not a town of great beauty itself, Ancona is home to the Trajan’s Arch – the finest Roman monument in Le Marche, which was erected at the beginning of the 2nd Century AD in honour of Emperor Trajan. Also of historical interest are The Gilded Bronzes of Pergola – a magnificent group of equestrian sculptures, dating back to the Roman period, which were unearthed in a field near Pergola in 1946.
Many of the lovely small walled hill towns are well worth a visit, and if you love visiting old churches you will not be disappointed. With several churches dating back to the 11th century, and others from more recent times resplendent with stunning frescoes, each town hides hidden gems within its walls.
The Le Marche region is rich in art history, and there are many places of interest to visit. Some of the more important sites to visit might include: Tolentino – the wonderful Basilica is the home to Giottoesque frescoes in the Gothic Cappellone di San Nicola – these vivid masterpieces date from the 14th century; Urbino – The spectacular Palazzo Ducale houses some world class Italian renaissance art, including a gorgeous portrait by Raphael, and also houses a fascinating archaeological collection of Roman tablets; Fabriano – Museo della Carta – museum of paper – Fabriano is world famous for its paper and this modern museum offers demonstrations of hand-made papermaking, explains the art of the watermark, and for children it is even possible to arrange for them to make their own paper; Ascoli Piceno – A rich collection of art mainly by painters who lived and worked in this part of Le Marche but also works byTitian, Tintoretto, Guido Reni and Guercino
And there are some excellent lesser known galleries around the region, displaying work from regional artists, with other galleries displaying work by Titian, Tintoretto and Raphael. Visit the gallery in San Severino, housed in the 15th century Plazzo Manuzzini where works of art by local artists are arranged in chronological order from the first quarter of the 13th century, depicting the history of the town and the course of local events.
Each year, the town of Macerata hosts a celebrated opera festival towards the end of July and early August. The operas all take place within the magnificent outdoor Sferisterio, and attract an international crowd. The whole region is alive with festivals throughout the summer, and the beautiful tiny walled hill town of Treia is home to the famous Disfida del Bracciale – a unique ball game played against the walls of the old town.
If you have young children, there are plenty of places to visit. The water park at Verde Azzurro is packed with exciting water slides and pools, and the beaches along the Adriatic coast are very safe for swimming, with lovely surrounding countryside. Or you might want to take the children to the caves at Frassasi, where they can see some of the most amazing stalagmites and stalactites.
If you love shopping, there are of course some wonderful shops for clothes and food, but more important to most visitors is the opportunity to visit the incredible designer outlets. Some are simply small rooms tacked onto one of the thousands of shoe and handbag manufacturers, and others are amazing purpose built stores. With an Armani factory shop in the region as well, it really is a shopper’s paradise.
And last, but not least, Le Marche is becoming increasingly famous for its wonderful food. Whether you are looking for a gastronomic feast in a Michelin starred restaurant, or some delicious home-made pasta, you are unlikely to be disappointed.
And all of this is situated in stunning scenery – from the lovely Adriatic coast to the glorious Sibillini mountains. And best of all, very few tourists, and a friendly welcome wherever you go.
Whatever your preference, visit Le Marche and discover this hidden and surprising region of Italy.
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