As one out of the twenty administrative districts and found on the eastern regions in Italy, Le Marche sits between the Apennine Mountains and the Adriatic Sea and is alongside Tuscany and Umbria, that makes up central Italy. It is pronounced “lay markay”, is plural (Le Marche) and is sometimes translated into English as “The Marches”. Its capital is Ancona.The name of the region derives from the plural name of “marca”, originally referring to the medieval March of Ancona and nearby marches of Camerino and Fermo.
Most of the region is mountainous or hilly, the main features being the Apennine chain along the internal boundary and an extensive system of hills descending towards the Adriatic. It is filled with a variety of historical relics, a wonderful history and a lure that pulls many. For those who come to Le Marche and are searching for the authenticity of “real” Italy and all it encompasses, a place untainted by mass tourism or man, yet welcoming to persons from abroad – if that is what you wish for, trust me when I say you won’t be disappointed. From sunny hills, to the tranquillity of an untouched landscape and the warmth of its people there is much to see and much to offer in Le Marche.
General Information on Le Marche
As stated above, Le March is one out of the twenty administrative districts in Italy with the regions and extends over an area of 9,694 square kilometers (3,743 sq mi) of the central Adriatic slope between Emilia-Romagna to the north, Tuscany and Umbria to the west, Lazio and Abruzzo to the south. The region is mainly mountainous or hilly in which the hills cover about two-thirds of the region and is interrupted by wide gullies with numerous rivers and by alluvial plains perpendicular to the Apennine chain.
The parallel mountain chains Monte Vettore contain deep river gorges, the best known being those of the Furlo, the Rossa and the Frasassi. The coastal area is 173 kilometers (107 mi) long and is relatively flat and straight except for the hilly area between Gabicce and Pesaro in the north, and the eastern slopes of Monte Conero near Ancona. While the coastal areas are fairly heavily populated, the beautiful inland countryside is sparsely inhabited.
The total population of the region is around 1.5 million with an average density of less than 150 inhabitants per square kilometer. Climate is categorized as Mediterranean with the weather in this region of Italy having hot summers and cool winters.
The region is divided into 5 provinces namely, Ancona, Ascoli Piceno, Fermo, Macerata and Pesaro-Urbino respectively, and there are two hundred and forty-six (246) towns in Le Marche.People from Le Marche are called marchigiani (male. pl.). Other variations are: marchigiano (male. sing.), marchigiana (female. sing.), and marchigiane (female. pl.).
History of Le Marche
One thinks of Italy and almost immediately the Roman Empire comes to mind.(All Hail the mighty Caesar!) Le March had been fought over for many years and had been known in ancient times as Picenum territory.
It was inhabited by a tribe of the Gauls; called the Senones in the fourth century BC. It was fought over in 295 BC in the battle of Sentinum, after which the Romans founded many colonies connecting them to Rome by the Via Flaminia and the Via Salaria. Soon after the fall of the Western Roman Empire it was invaded by the Goths. After the Gothic war, it was it was part of the Byzantine Exarchate of Ravenna. After the fall of the Exarchate, it was briefly held by the Lombards. See the pattern here? Many people have traversed and dwelled in Le Marche which makes it so historically rich!
Much to See and Do in Le March
One can never get bored in Le Marche as it has so much to offer. Nature alone presents a vast variety of activities! Listed below are some of the to do things while in Le March
Parks and Nature Reserves
For those who love the outdoors, the National Park of the Sibillini Mountains (thirty kilometers of mountains with more than twenty summits at an altitude of over two thousands meters, which continues into Umbria) boasts incredible views as well as fascinating wildlife. In addition to the different hiking trails in the National Park, activities such as horse riding and mountain biking are also possible.
Also worth visiting is the Conero Natural Park with its rugged coast. Although the hike is challenging, you will be rewarded with stunningly breathtaking views! There are many other parks and reserves like Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park in the Ascoli Piceno, Providence or the Abbadia of Fiastra and Torricchio Reserve in the Province of Macerata or even the Gola del Furo Reserve in the province of Pesaro-Urbino.
Caves and Gorges
The Frasassi Caves are known worldwide and are marked by the many sculptures, stalactites and stalagmites, they may be reached through another natural wonder, the Gola della Rossa.The cave as well as many others, hides many interesting legends and is a shoe in for anyone who loves story telling and folklore.Near the entrance to the caves are two sanctuary-chapels: one is the 1029 Santuario di Santa Maria infra Saxa (Sanctuary of Holy Mary under the Rock) and the second is an 1828 Neoclassical architecture formal temple, known as Tempietto del Valadier. There are many other caves including the Cave of Nero, and the Cave of the Five Lakes, both situated under the Mount Nerone, close to Piobbico, as well as the caves of Monte Cucco, close to the border with the Umbria region.
With more than 20 of its beaches being recognized as blue flag beaches indicating that they have met standards established by the Foundation for Environmental Education including cleanliness and safety, it’s safe to say that some fun in the sun and surf never gets old. San Benedetto, Rimini, Numana, Sirolo, Mezzavalle, Sassi Neri and Portonovo are just a few to mention. From sandy to pebble stoned, from secluded to open area it goes without say that there is a beach for everyone!
Fortresses, Castles & Churches
Anyone with a love of architecture will fall in love with the many structural beauties found all over. One of the most outstanding castles is the Gradara castle which is perched on a hilltop at 465 feet high. It was built between the 11th and 14th century, and had seen many a feuds between various families, but it is known as a symbol for lovers thanks to the poet Dante. Castles such as Rocca Roveresca and Castle of Offida are also worth mentioning. Churches like the Romanesque, The Gothic and the Baroque are also worth the visit.
Hosting over 70 up and running historic venues as well as many more scheduled to be reopened after their restoration is completed, Le Marche can be considered a land of theatres. The buildings range from massive open-air arenas such as the Macerata Sferisterio, to the tiny theatres found in just about every small town.
Le Marche has two world-class attractions for opera lovers – the Rossini Opera Festival at Pesaro and the open-air Opera Festival at Macerata. Both draw performers and audiences from across the world and, along with Verona, are the most important events in the Italian summer opera calendar.The Rossini Opera has an auditorium designed in the classic horseshoe shape with four tiers of boxes plus gallery and seats up to 860 persons.Ascoli Piceno’s Teatro Ventidio Basso,Fermo’s Teatro dell’Aquila, Fano’s Teatro della Fortuna, Jesi’s Teatro Pergolesi are just a few others that are worth mentioning not forgetting Ancona’s plaza-like Teatro delle Muse which has a beautiful modern interior design, cutting-edge technology, and an artistically significant fireproof curtain by the renowned artist Valeriano Trubbiani.
Food & Drink
Le Marche is well known for its wine as each district has its own special kinds and distinct tastes. The Conero red wine, Rosso Conero, is made with the Montepulciano grape which must comprise 85% of the wine. If another grape is used, it is commonly Sangiovese. It is a full-bodied wine that is well suited to robust dishes such as game stews. It is typically matured for longer than two years and has to have a minimum alcohol level of 12.5% to be labelled as Rosso Conero Riserva.
Colli Maceratesi and Vernaccia di Serrapetrona are wines from the Macerata area.Like many wines of the Marche, Colli Maceratesi uses an obscure local Italian grape in its blend: Maceratino. This rare grape must comprise at least 80% of the blend. It comes in both red and white wines. Vernaccia di Serrapetrona is a wine produced from a local grape variety, Vernaccia Nera, which can be found only in the Serrapetrona area.It’s a rare sparkling red wine and is generally made as a sweet or semi-sweet dessert wine, but can also be made in a secco style.
From the Fermo area, we have the Falerio or Falerio dei Colli Ascolani, a white wine made with rare local Italian varietals that are seldom found anywhere else ,the Passerina and Pecorino grape.The wines of the Pesaro area are the Bianchello del Metauro and Colli Pesaresi.Bianchello del Metauro is a white wine made almost completely with the Bianchello (also known as Biancame or Biancuccio) grape. According to the regulations for the DOC, Bianchello must consist of at least 95% of the blend. Colli Pesaresi is also a white wine made from the Trebbiano Toscano grape. And also has a Colli Pesarei Rosso a red wine made from the Sangiovese grape. The is also the Rosso Piceno in Ancona , a red wine wine made withSangiovese and Montepulciano.Rosso Piceno wines must be between 30% and 60% Sangiovese and between 35% and 70% Montepulciano.
Le Marche is especially known for its many unique sausages and hams which are prepared in the region in traditional methods even today. The Ciauscolo sausage is made from pork belly and is seasoned with orange peel, fennel, pepper and salt, dried and cured. Other unique sausages in the region are coppa, salame lardellato, prosciutto di Montefeltro, salame di Montefeltro, salame di Fabriano, fegatino, soppressata di Fabriano and mazzafegato di Fabriano.
One type of cheese made all over Le Marche is the classical Pecorino cheese which is made with sheep’s milk. Other variety of cheeses include Formaggio di Fossa, Casècc, Casciotta d’Urbino, Formaggio ubriaco al Vino rosso, Raviggiolo, Slattato and Caprino di Urbino. There are festivals that happen from June-November in various towns to highlight and enhance the features of the aforementioned cheeses.
There are many traditional and tasty dishes in Le Marche worth trying. Listed below are a few:
- Brodetto – A fish stew made with at least 13 types of fish
- Vincisgrassi – A type of lasagna made with coarsely chopped meat and uses a white sauce instead of the normal tomato sauce.
- Coniglio in porchetta – Roast rabbit with fennel
- Passatelli – Strands of pasta made from breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, and egg cooked in broth.
Are you an expert at haggling? Do you love a good flea market? Look no further! There are plenty of flea markets and outdoor markets in all the cities, towns and even in many smaller villages of the region. Typically they are the best places to shop, since they allow visitors to purchase good quality locally made handicrafts at relatively lower prices than in the stores.
Famous Folk from Le Marche
Famous persons from the Le Marche include Renaissance painter Raphael, composer Gioachino Rossini, opera singer Beniamino Gigli, motorcycling champion Valentino Rossi, and educator Maria Montessori.
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