The Marche Region is one of the 20 regions of Italy, located in the central area of the country.It’s bordered by Emilia-Romagna to the north, Tuscany and Umbria to the west, Lazio and Abruzzo to the south while the entire eastern boundary being formed by the Adriatic Sea. 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. The hilly area covers two-thirds of the region and is interrupted by wide gullies with numerous short rivers, rushing torrents and by alluvial plains. The parallel mountain chains contain deep river gorges, the best known being those of the ‘Furlo’, the ‘Rossa’ and the ‘Frasassi’. In contrast, the areas nearer the coastal plain are celebrated for their fertile rounded hills topped by ancient fortified towns.
The coastal area is 173 kilometres 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
Prior to the 1980s, Marche was considered a rather poor region, although economically stable in some sectors, thanks particularly to its agricultural output and to the contribution of traditional crafts.The main products are cereals, vegetables, animal products and grapes. Olives are also produced and managed by various harvesters. The sea has always furnished a plentiful supply of fish. Since the 1980s the economy of the region has been radically transformed, without however repudiating its rural past. Many of the small craft workshops scattered throughout the rural settlements have modernised and become small businesses, some of which have become major brands known all over the world. The region continues to draw tourists, whose increasing numbers have been attracted by the rich and broadly distributed heritage of history and monuments, as well as by the traditional seaside resorts.
Wherever you may find yourself in the Marche, the Apennine mountains are never far away. They form the region’s western border and offer some of its finest scenery as well as providing a home for some of Italy’s most fascinating wildlife. Large areas have now been designated natural parks.
The Natural Park of Monti Sibillini, in the southwest corner, is the region’s largest park, spreading over 40 km of mountain peaks and continuing westwards into Umbria; Monte Vettore (2476 mts), at the centre of the park, is the highest mountain in the Region. The most unusual feature of the area, however, is the vast area of upland plain called the ‘Piano Grande‘ to the west, and mostly in neighbouring Umbria. In May and June, this huge expanse of treeless plateau, 1250 mts above sea level, eight kilometres long and five wide, is transformed into a carpet of wild flowers. Among the poppies you’ll find wild tulips and exotic alpine flowers. The park is also rich in bird life – buzzards, kestrels, sparrow hawks as well as rare sightings of golden eagle, peregrine falcon, rock partridge, eagle owl and chough. Monte Conero, just south of Ancona provides the only really rugged coastline in the Marche, rising spectacularly out of the sea to a height of just over 500 metres. It’s position half way up the Italian peninsula has made it an important meeting point for many species of northern and southern European maritime flora,
The ‘Gola della Rossa-Frasassi‘ regional park, in the area of Genga, is a series of towering limestone gorges which provide the rocky habitat for several golden eagles as well as peregrine falcons and eagle owls. The ‘Frasassi Caves’, in the heart of the area, are the longest and among the most interesting in Italy with a 240m. high central chamber which is large enough to comfortably hold Milan cathedral.
Below the peaks of Monte Catria and Nerone, the ‘Bosco Tecchie’ woodland park near Cantiano protects many species of mountain wildlife, including deer, wild boar, porcupine, wolf, buzzard, woodpecker and honey buzzard.
The sheer limestone crags of the Furlo Gorge, to the East, are home for a family of golden eagles.
The ‘Colle San Bartolo‘ Regional Park, near Pesaro on the Northern Marche coast, offers guided tours of areas of marshland which are the winter habitat of the herring gull, the Mediterranean gull and the cormorant.
While it can be hot between mid-July to mid-August, it is rarely overcrowded and up in the mountains the breezes are cooling. May, June and September are the ideal months to tour Le Marche if you can’t take the heat; the landscape is clothed in spring green or the first tints of autumn, any rain tends towards brief showers rather than endless drizzle, and it’s usually possible to find a bed without booking. Whether you want to admire masterpieces of Renaissance art and architecture, trek across wild uncharted mountains or hunt out the best of the catch in a Mediterranean fishing port, Le Marche has enough to keep you busy for years; you will rarely have to jostle with hordes of other foreign tourists.
Many visitors who come to Le Marche are looking for a taste of the “real” Italy, unsullied by mass tourism, yet welcoming to foreigners.
Of the region’s principal towns, Urbino is our favourite. This jewel of a renaissance city remains little changed from the days when Duke Federico of Montefeltro set up his celebrated court here in the second half of the 15th Century.
The provincial capital of Ascoli Piceno lies at the southern end of Le Marche. This beguiling old town is well worth at least an overnight stay. Its travertine-paved main square is one of the most beautiful in Italy.
The administrative capital of Le Marche is Ancona, a city with less obvious attractions for the tourist. Give it time, however, and you may find you enjoy the salty charm of this bustling sea port. It’s also one of Italy’s principal ferry ports with boats to Croatia, Greece and Turkey.
Another of the region’s provincial capitals, Pesaro is both an appealing seaside resort and a thriving commercial town. Good shops, fine beaches and great fish.
Another of the region’s main centres is Macerata, a dignified town, famous for its annual outdoor Opera Festival and capital of the province of Macerata.
The alluring hilltown of Fermo is the capital of the recently-created province of Fermo and boasts a fine historic centre and outstanding main square.
However, the real pearls of the Region are all the small towns and villages where you can rest sorrounded by a untouched nature and where you’ll finally understand that Le Marche are the ideal place for a better life.