The Touring Club Italiano has now awarded 19 of its prestigious “Orange Flag” awards to Marche towns ( Acquaviva Picena, Camerino, Corinaldo, Genga, Gradara, Mercatello sul Metauro, Mondavio, Montecassiano, Montelupone, Monterubbiano, Offagna, Ostra, Pievebovigliana, Ripatransone, San Ginesio, Sarnano, Staffolo, Urbisaglia, Visso). The “Orange Flag” is a recognition of quality awarded by the Touring Club Italiano to small towns (population 15,000 or less) in Italy for excellency in tourism, hospitality and the environment.
Acquaviva Picena: small town located in the hinterland of San Benedetto del Tronto, Acquaviva Picena stands on a hill from which you can enjoy a breathtaking view up to the mountains of the Apennines: the Vettore, the Gran Sasso and the Maiella.The village features the fortress, a real masterpiece of Renaissance military architecture, whose first construction dates back to the fourteenth century by Acquaviva family nobles. At the foot of the fortress is the square of the Fort, which gives it a theatrical parterre with low buildings arranged in a semicircle. Outside the old town, the Church of San Francesco with the adjoining convent is the oldest Franciscan foundation of the whole region, established by the same S. Francesco d’ Assisi upon invitation of the Acquaviva family.The traditional activity of the village is the production of straw baskets, carried out according to a method handed down from generation to generation.
Camerino: located on a ridge between the Chienti and Potenza river valleys, Camerino boasts a well preserved medieval historic centre, that has little changed over the last few centuries.Most part of Camerino was built during the enlightened rule of the Da Varano family between the 14th and 16th centuries when its court drew artists and scholars from across Italy. In central Piazza Cavour, stand several important buildings: the Cathedral with a 15th century wooden Merciful Madonna, popularly called “the nice Madonna”, the Archbishop’s Palace houses a Diocesan Museum; the Ducal Palace, which houses the ancient and well known University. At the bottom of the Ducal Palace stands the Botanic Garden with a 19th century plan. About 3 km far from the town centre, in the hamlet Renecavata, stands the Convent of the Capuchins, mother house of the Order , dating back to 1528. In the church there’s a wonderful glazed majolica attributed to Mattia della Robbia.
The most typical Camerino’s food specialties are: the ciauscolo, a kind of spreadable salami, the nougat and the walnut bread.
Corinaldo: Corinaldo is a village belonging to the “Most beautiful villages in Italy” (The most most beautiful viallage in Italy in 2007). It also joins the National Association of Oil and Honey Cities. It is a lovely fortified hill town, that boasts the best-preserved 15th century defensive walls in the Marche. In its medieval centre stands one of the most typical sites, the so called “Piaggia”, the one hundred Steps, leading upward to Piazza del Terreno.
Genga: Genga is in the heart of the regional “Park of Gola della Rossa and Frasassi” . The most remarkable nearby tourist attraction is the complex of Frasassi Caves, one of Italy’s largest and most famous complex of caves. you can’t miss the Speleological Museum, housing a ichthyosaur fossil, a kind or rare marine reptile. The Frasassi Gorge is a charming place, surrounded by woods and caves. In the regional park you can go hiking, enjoy mountain biking, canoeing and horse riding.
Website: www.comunedigenga.it – www.frasassi.com
Gradara: A few miles from the Adriatic beach resorts, Gradara is one of the most popular Marche’s tourist destinations. Gradara boasts the Orange Flag award and joins the National Association of Wine Cities. The imposing 14th century walls surrounding the town are some of the best preserved in the Marche. The single main street leads up through the city gates to the fortress at the higher end of the town. The squared fortress dominates the town: it was here, according to tradition, that the murder of Francesca da Rimini and her lover Paolo, the lovers immortalized by Dante in his Divina Commedia, took place in 1289. Pieces of 15th century furniture, valuable frescoes and altarpieces can be admired inside.
The most typical dish is the “bigol,” a kind of homemade spaghetti seasoned with mushroom
Website: www.comune.gradara.pu.it – www.turismo.pesarourbino.it
Mercatello sul Metauro: its walls are protected by the groove of two rivers. The area of Mercatello sul Metauro is well known for its truffles, both black and white. The most remarkable events taking place in Mercatello Metauro are: the Fair of St. Veronica (the first week of July) and the Palio of the Donkey (early July), the tournament between the four districts of the country including games, food tasting and a special festival dedicated to the much appreciated “tagliatella” (noodle).
Mondavio: Mondavio is a beautifully preserved, red-brick medieval hill town. It belongs to the association of “The most beautiful villages in Italy” and boasts the Orange Flag. It is surrounded by walls. The imposing fortress that stands out from afar was built by Francesco di Giorgio Martini, one of Italy’s most celebrated Renaissance military architects; it now houses an entertaining ‘living museum’ portraying life when the fortress was built at the close of the 15th century for Giovanni della Rovere, son-in-law of Duke Federico da Montefeltro. Every year on mid-August it is held the “Caccia al Cinghiale” (Hunt to the Wild Boar); the festival commemorates the arrival of Giovanni della Rovere in Mondavio. The re-enactment begins on 13th August with a sumptuous banquet and finishes on 15th August with parades, games, renaissance life experiences and fireworks from the Roveresca Fortress.
Montecassiano: Montecassiano belongs to the association of “The most beautiful villages in Italy” and boasts the Orange Flag. It’s a pretty hill town, just north of Macerata, surrounded by medieval walls and has a particularly attractive small square. Here stood the castle of Santa Maria in Cassiano, attested as early as 1151.
The most typical specialty is “sughitti”, a kind of pudding made with the grape must.
Among the main events, the historical re-enactment “Palio dei Terzieri” (in July) and the festival of “Sughitti” (in October).
Montelupone: Nestling between Macerata and the sea , it’s one of the little town in the Marche that has preserved its original shape: its walls retain the earliest four doorways and the roads feature the ancient stone paving. Montelupone belongs to the association of “The most beautiful villages in Italy” and boasts the Orange Flag.
Montelupone boasts a rural and agricultural tradition; the most typical products are the artichokes. “Sagra del carciofo” , the festival centred around the local artichokes, take places in early May.
Monterubbiano: The origin of Monterubbiano dates back to the year 1000; it has lost most of the fortifications, except from the Cassero ( bridge house) and some parts of the walls, but has retained its medieval centre. Each year the event “ Sciò la Pica” commemorates the ancient colonization by the Piceni tribes, who came to the Marche, led by a woodpecker.
The most typical dish is the “fried noodle”, whose recipe is kept strictly secret.
Offagna: A few miles from Ancona and Mount Conero, Offagna is a typical medieval village dominated by its squared fortress, built in the middle of the fifteenth century on the ruins of an old castle; it is one of the most beautiful and impressive fortresses in the region. The village belongs to the association “The most beautiful villages in Italy” and boasts the Orange Flag. It still retains the massive tower, that now houses a museum of ancient weapons. The village is pretty small, but full of remarkable tourist attractions.
The typical specialty of the village is “crescia”, a kind of flat bread cooked on the grill and served with a variety of herbs. Rosso Conero is the local outstanding red wine.
Ostra: Situated on a hill with a fascinating view towards Misa valley, Ostra belongs to the National “Association of Wine Cities”, the “National Association Cities of Honey” and boasts the Orange Flag. According to tradition the town was founded by the refugees from the Roman town of Ostra destroyed by the Goti. It is surrounded by medieval walls featuring nine towers.
The most typical products are: Lacrima di Morro d’Alba, the local red wine, and the extra virgin olive oil obtained from “Raggia” olive, one of Marche’s finest olive variety.
Pievebovigliana: Pievebovigliana enjoys a brilliant “middle” position: on one side there are the fertile valleys of the Marche countryside, on the other side there are the mountain pastures in the Sibillini Mountains area; part of its territory is actually included in the “National Park of Sibillini Mountains”.
The most popular craft is weaving; there you can taste delicious meat, cheese, organic lamb, truffles, honey, brown trout and chestnuts. Mistrà is the most typical product: it is an aniseed flavored liqueur; it is most appreciated both as a “digestivo” after meal and as an added dash of liquor to coffee.
Ripatransone: High on a ridge above the northern slopes of the attractive valley of the Tesino river stands the small hill town of Ripatransone. Here you can enjoy stunning views of the surrounding countryside . It belongs to the National Association of “Cities of Oil” and “Cities of Honey” and boasts the Orange Flag. Its historic centre boasts buildings dating back to Middle Ages, Renaissance and Baroque time.
In Ripatransone’s neighborhood there’s a good production of extra virgin olive oil and top quality wine.
San Ginesio: San Ginesio, where the Orange Flag flies, is a delightful small town with a strong medieval stamp; it is surrounded by walls featuring sentry’s walkways, embrasures and towers. The village belongs to the association “The Most Beautiful Villages in Italy” and is included in the “National Park of the Sibillini Mountains”.
The most typical dish in town is “polenta”, obtained with a variety of local corn and a sauce made of different types of meat. Among the most important events in San Ginesio: the International Folklore Festival “The Balcony of the Sibillini” (July / August) and the historical re-enactment “Medievalia, Palio of San Ginesio and the Battle of the Fornarina” (August).
Sarnano: Sarnano, where flies the Orange Flag, is situated in the middle of a beautiful valley at the foot of the Sibillini Mountains. It belongs to the association “The most beautiful villages in Italy”. Its historic centre retains the medieval origin; the beguiling little square, Piazza Alta, is flanked by the church of Santa Maria Assunta and the town’s medieval municipal buildings.
Sarnano is a spa town: its waters are claimed to be beneficial for a whole gamut of complaints, including gout, arthritis and liver complaints. For ski lovers the nearby Sassotetto, one of the Marche’s ski resorts, offers reasonably well equipped ski lifts and accommodation.
Staffolo: This sturdy fortified medieval town, where flies the Orange Flag, stands among olive groves and vineyards where you can enjoy lovely views out over the hills and mountains of the central Marche. Its walls retain the original shape; parts of them now house the museum of wine and peasant culture; next to it is the wine bar where you can taste the best wines made in the area. The most typical one is the Verdicchio, the Marche’s most famous white wine. During the second week of August the town gives itself over to the Festa del Verdicchio, a colourful festival dedicated to the local incarnation of Bacchus.
Urbisaglia: Urbisaglia, where flies the Orange Flag, was a large and important town in the Piceno area; it later became a Roman colony. Near to this small town lie the remains of the Roman Urbs Salvia, with the amphitheatre built in the 2nd century AD and the theatre , one of the region’s most conspicuous Roman ruins, that still retains earliest decoration.
Not far from the town, stands the Abbey of Chiaravalle di Fiastra, with the church in Cistercian style, the Cistercian monastery and the palace.
The whole area is a Nature Reserve, an idyllic spot for country rambles covering 1825 hectares of protected land.
Visso: Visso, where flies the Orange Flag, is a delightful small town situated in the National Park of the Sibillini Mountains. It belongs to the association of the “Most beautiful villages in Italy”; it can boast impressive walls, medieval buildings, Renaissance noble palaces , carved stone doorways with coats of arms and Latin mottoes.
Visso’s specialty is “ciauscolo”, a soft spreadable pork salame.