Le Marche, Italy
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.
When to 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 <i>festi</i>.
PlanesRyanair (www.ryanair.com) and EasyJet (www.easyjet.com) both fly from London Stansted to Ancona, the area’s main airport. Ryanair also flies to Pescara and Rome; EasyJet serves Rome, Bologna, and Venice.
TrainsTravelling by train in Le Marche comes as a pleasant surprise: trains are reliable and frequent, and there’s a handy Milan–Ancano service (www.trenitalia.com).
AutomobilesWheels are essential – you need a car to access the region’s hills, hamlets and hidden riches.
TaxisHard 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.