Le Marche Overview
- Snow-topped mountains, flower-filled fields
- Country life
- Masters of millinery, capable cobblers
When it comes to geography, Le Marche has a split personality: sprawling fields and farms, green valleys, snow-scattered peaks, the glittering Adriatic coast, and flourishing olive groves. It’s a pocket Italy, with all the country’s finer characteristics distilled into its rural patchwork: mediaeval art and architecture in gorgeous Urbino, ravishing beaches at the seaside resort of Pesaro, memorable food and wine throughout. At first glance, local life seems languid: grey-haired gentlemen frowning over chessboards in the piazzas; linen-clad ladies leaving for church, or sizing up rainbow-coloured produce in the local market – with only the chirp of crickets or the yap of dogs to break the peace. Underneath the sleepy surface, though, there’s a lot going on here. Le Marche has long been famed for its meticulous milliners and artisan cobblers, but way before that, it nurtured Renaissance talent – Raphael was born here.
Literally Le MarcheDon’t be deceived by the verdant sprawl of unspoiled farmland – this fashion-forward region makes more than its fair share (70 per cent) of Italy’s shoes and hats. The towns of Montegranaro (shoe-central) and Montappone (hat heaven) are two of the proudest producers, but outlet stores with eye-popping goods (and prices) can be found throughout the area: Tod’s, Prada, Furla, and the ilk…
- Hard to come by – and they won’t stop at the sight of a hopefully-raised hand. Some train stations advertise a taxi firm number, but you’d be forgiven for feeling like just one poor driver serves the whole of Le Marche. Come in your own car – if that’s not possible, ask your hotel to help arrange transfers.
- Tipping culture
- Most restaurants include service now, but if in doubt, add on a few extra euros.
- Siesta and fiesta
- Shops tend to shut between 12pm and 4pm during the week, and all of Sunday (though, in some areas, boutiques stay open for the passeggiata). The towns get busy after 6pm, when people congregate for after-work aperitivo, but the bars and nightclubs stay relatively quiet until around 10.30pm.
- Packing tips
- A book of Giacomo Leopardi’s poems – the writer, philosopher and philologist first opened eyes in Le Marche (the famously artistic town of Recanati, to be precise). Save space in your case for all the hats, handbags and shoes you’ll be unable to leave behind. Bring a sunflower-yellow frock or shirt, to match the fields in blossom.
- Recommended reads
- If you like solving (fictional) crimes, bring The Marcheshire Mysteries by David Sheppard. Valentino Rossi is one of the Grand Prix’s best-loved (and best-looking) poster boys; read about his childhood in Urbino, and his thrill-seeking, petrol-stained later years in his autobiography, What If I Had Never Tried It?
- Lasagne is given a Le Marche twist: vincigrassi is a rich ragu of chopped kidney and liver. Save room for coniglio porchetta (rabbit cooked with fennel), paired with a glass of the local nectars: bianchello del Maturao (from the north) or verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi (from the town of Jesi) for fans of white wine; a glass of lacrima di Morro d’Alba/rosso Conero if you favour red grapes.
- Regional specialities
- The best local dessert is lonza di Fico (or salami di Fico), a sausage-shaped confection of dried figs flavoured with anisette, rum, and traditional sapa (grape syrup). Eat yours with freshly churned ewe’s milk pecorino and a tot of sweet dessert wine.
- Time zone
- Dialling codes
- +39 for Italy; 07 for Le Marche.
- Do go/don't go
- October onwards is chilly, and prone to the occasional travel-impeding snowstorm. May–October is the best time of year, with summer especially notable for the reliable sunshine and the village festi.
Don't go home without...
snacking on deep fried olives, one of the locals’ favourite indulgences. Olive all’ascolana (veal-stuffed and fried) are particularly delicious, but there are scrummy variants across the region. (Be warned, though: good ones are really good, bad ones are pretty bad.)