Italian Regional Guide: Le Marche

Le Marche is on the eastern side of Italy, east of Umbria, between the statuesque mountains and the inviting sea…

Panoramic view from Arcevia

The region is split into five provinces: Pesaro-Urbino, Ancona, Macerata and Ascoli Piceno, and the very recently instituted Fermo. It is easy to get to both the mountains and the sea, which is very appealing to prospective homebuyers. The Adriatic coastline stretches some 180km and includes some of the best Italian Blue Flag beaches, while the steep eastern slopes of Italy’s mountainous backbone, the Apennines, includes the stunning Monti Sibillini in the south. The main autostrada A14 and the state highway SS16 run swiftly along the coast, but further inland they are slower as they weave up and down the hills between towns. The regular intercity train connections at Ancona link with Bologna and Rome. It is also the site of Le Marche’s international airport at Falconara and is well served by the budget airlines.

Le Marche boasts at least ten protected areas, forests and nature reserves – including the majestic Monti Sibillini – and the National Park at Monte Cònero on the coast near Ancona. Historically, Le Marche has a remarkable historic heritage too, with its medieval hilltop towns and villages and over 30 significant archaeological sites and 200 Romanesque churches, as well as beautiful Renaissance Urbino.

LeMarcheHouse©iStockTHE COAST The coast of Le Marche stretches around 180km from Pesaro to San Benedetto del Tronto, past stretches of sandy beach and clean blue water and numerous small seaside towns and villages. The region can boast one of the highest number of Blue Flag beaches of any region in Italy. Ancona sits almost half way down the coast and is the administrative capital, and a busy port. With its Greek heritage there are many interesting styles of architectures. A lot of the coastal resorts are relatively small and retain a certain old-fashioned charm. The largest seaside resort is Pesaro in the north with good shops and restaurants. Famous for being the birthplace of Rossini, the town has an annual Opera Festival. Senigallia, a little further south, is known as the ‘Velvet Beach’ with its 13km of soft golden sand. The Conero Riviera offers the jewel of Portonovo with its Napoleonic fort, idyllic Sirolo and its spectacular golf course, and the Liberty-style architecture of Porto San Giorgio. Continue down the coast for Pedaso, which has a famous mussel festival, Cupra Marittima and its imposing castle and Grottamare with its medieval old town. Finally you come to San Benedetto del Tronto, the second largest resort to Pesaro, with its coveted Blue Flag. The fishing port is very busy in the summer with its pretty promenades and vibrant nightlife. The coast might be expensive for property, but it’s easy to get there from inland towns, so you won’t miss out if you can’t afford a home in a coastal resort.

walking among vineyardINLAND Move inland from the coast and you will find the rolling hills and open fields of farming country, a peaceful landscape punctuated by pretty hilltop towns and gentle valleys. The quieter environment and slower pace of life make this a popular area for British buyers. One of the region’s most eminent cities is Urbino. It rivals Florence for cultural significance and the more compact, bustling city has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Further south, the hill town of Macerata boasts one of Europe’s most outstanding outdoor theatres, the Arena Sferisterio, built in the 19th century to resemble an ancient Roman arena. The Stagione Lirica musical festival is held here every summer.

Close to the border with Abruzzo, the ancient town of Ascoli Piceno takes its name from the Piceni tribe who were conquered by the Romans in 89 BC. The city was once a stop on the via salaria (the salt route) from Rome, but now enjoys a quieter existence. With one of the most beautiful marble- paved piazze in Italy, and a wealth of medieval architecture, there’s plenty to enjoy. Many other villages dot the landscape, including Arcevia (west of Ancona) perched on the foothills and surrounded by historic castles; Offida in the south with its unusual triangular piazza and memorable Vin Santo; and medieval Jesi, near Ancona, with its castle, cobbled streets and famous Verdicchio wines.

LandscapeTHE MOUNTAINS The Monti Sibillini National Park was created in 1993 when 700 square kilometres of mountainous wilderness was set aside as a site of outstanding natural beauty. Rising to more than 2,000km, this is a popular destination for naturalists, skiers in winter and walkers in the summer. The mountains form the border with Umbria to the west and the highest peak is Mount Vettore, which reaches 2,476m. The area is dotted with medieval towns and criss-crossed with walking trails. There is shelter at the network of rifugi (mountain huts) across the range and all the maps and guides you need to plan your routes can be found at the Casa del Parco visitor centres. Popular nearby towns include Amandola with stunning views of the mountains, and Force, famed for its artisans and wrought iron work.