Local Customs

The marchigiani possess the best of North and South – you will rarely meet extravagant displays of Neapolitan emotion nor the cool indifference of Milan.

Try speaking a few words of Italian and your welcome will be that much warmer. If you can only master one line, at least try asking in Italian if people speak English – Parla inglese?

Remember that outside the main tourist spots, you will not necessarily find people who can speak English. French is a common second language and German is catching on.

The key to Italian social behaviour is often to be found in the idea of bella figura, or cutting a good figure. This is not just a matter of dressing smartly, though that is included. It ranges from such things as using the right mode of formal address to staying relaxed while waiting, from not getting aggressively drunk to negotiating fly-curtains.

Dirt in all its forms cuts a decidedly brutta figura. Italians, incidentally, spend more than any other nation in the world on household cleaning materials and personal toileteries.

Non-smokers will notice – contrary to the received opinion that all Italians smoke – the rules of bella figura now cover smoking in restaurants and bars; anti-smoking laws now forbid smoking in restaurants, bars and all other buildings used by the public unless there are specially-equipped smoking areas or outdoor terraces – these laws are being applied with enthusiasm.

The Italian working day begins early and if you are arriving by car you will often find it hard to park between 9am and noon. Lunch is the main meal of the day, followed in the Marche in the summer by a short siesta. Between 2pm and 4pm town centres are deserted – except for heat-befuddled foreign tourists.

Things get going again in the late afternoon, climaxing in the early evening with the passeggiata, or promenade, up and down the main street or square. It fulfills many purposes: gossip, matchmaking, showing off new clothes, business dealing. Not until 8pm do the restaurants start filling up. Theatres and cinemas begin around 9pm and go on until midnight.

Despite the lowest birthrate in Europe, Italy is still a country that dotes on children, and parents will find their offspring fussed over in even the smartest restaurants and hotels.

Tipping in Italy is nowhere as common as it once was. Most restaurants now include a service charge and you should only leave a few notes if service was outstanding. In the city, customers often leave their loose change in smarter bars, particularly for table service. In the country, tipping in bars and restaurants is the exception rather than the norm. Hotel porters and taxi drivers should be tipped.

The people of the Marche have long been known for their honesty. In the days of the Papal States tax inspectors were almost always marchigiani – hence the Italian saying “better a corpse in the house than a marchigiano at the door”.

Maccheroncini with Chickpeas sauce

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Ingredients for four people

  • 360gr Maccheroncini Pasta
  • 400 boiled chickpeas
  • 50gr lard
  • 50 gr butter
  • 5 spoonful of grinded pecorino cheese
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 spoonful of chopped parsley
  • Vegetables broth
  • Salt
  • Pepper

In a large pot, put butter and lard and make them melt, then add chopped garlic and onion and when they become a bit brown add the chickpeas and chopped parsley.

Cook for about 10 min adding broth if necessary (if they become too dry). Add salt and pepper to your personal taste.

Boil some water, add salt and then put the maccheroncini; once they’re cooked add them into the pot and mix them with the sauce.

Add pecorino cheese and seve

Suggested wine match: Rosso Conero DOC

Regional Parks

Beside the two National Park, the National Park of Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga and the National Park of Sibillini Mountains, there are 4 Regional parks, nature reserves, flower areas and state forests. Today we want you to know better.

The first one is the Regional Park of “Monte San Bartolo”, a beautiful place full of nature and landscapes situated in Pesaro, the city where we live. The Park covers an area of 1600 hectares of protected land and was established in 1994; the towns included in the park are Pesaro and Gabicce Mare. It has very striking landscapes: the cliffs, narrow pebbled beaches and coves and large agricultural areas. The vegetation of Mount San Bartolo is varied: there are oaks, hornbeams and rare species such as the flax sea, the reed and the bright brooms. The park is also rich in bird life – the peregrine falcon, the honey buzzards, the seabirds, the cormorants , the heron, the mute swan live there, but other types of animals can be found : the deer, the fox, the badger, the porcupine and the weasel. Walking tours and cycling routes all around the protected area are fully available. Must see attractions are the ancient villages of Gabicce Monte, Casteldimezzo Fiorenzuola, Santa Marina Alta and the amazing Baia Vallugola. Cultural interesting sites are: Villa Imperiale, Villa Caprile and the archeological area near Colombarone, boasting a villa built in the III century AD.

In the area of the Park there are many farm holydays and producers of Marche’s typical products such as wines, cheeses, olive oil, all to know and savor.

Another beautiful and spectacular Regional Park, is the Natural Regional Park of Sasso Simone and Simoncello, located at the border of the Province of Pesaro and Urbino. It covers an area of 4847 hectares of protected land and was established in 1996; the towns included in the park are: Carpegna, Montecopiolo, Pietrarubbia, Frontino, Piandimeleto. The surrounding landscape is hilly and mountainous; there are the Sasso Simone and Simoncello Mountains, Mount Canale and Mount Palazzolo. Mount Carpegna, reaching 1415 metres, is the highest Mount in the park and the watershed between the Foglia valley and the Marecchia Valley. The most typical trees in the park are: the beech, the fir tree , the maples , the ash, the holly and the turkey oak. A wide range of animals can be found: the bear , the lynx, the golden eagle, the roe deer, the porcupine, the badge, the hare and the fox. There are numerous viewpoints and scenic spots in the park. One of the most amazing site is Monteboaggine with its twelfth century watchtower overlooking the extensive fields of Monte Carpegna, Foglia and Conca valleys and Sassi Simone and Simoncello. In spring and autumn the whole area is a perfect destination for mushrooms hunters.

Not to be absolutely missed is the Natural Regional Park of Gola della Rossa and Frasassi that covers an area of 10.026 hectares of protected land in the Ancona Province. It was established in 1997 and the towns included in the park are: Arcevia, Cerreto d’Esi, Fabriano, Genga and Serra San Quirico. The Frasassi Caves, in the heart of the area, are the longest and among the most interesting in Italy with a 240 m high central chamber which is large enough to comfortably hold Milan cathedral. The protected area is a series of towering limestone gorges which provide the rocky habitat for several golden eagles as well as the peregrine falcons and the eagle owls. There are also other types of animals living in the park: the wild cat, the wolf, the porcupine and dozens of different species of bats. Among the cave-dweller species, we must mention an amphibious called “geotritone” . In the rocky parts of the gorges there are many species of flora, like the rare Moheringia papulosa; the limestone areas of the park are full of hornbeams; oaks and turkey oaks can be found in the sandstone substratum . In the southern part of the park Mediterranean vegetation is widespread. You can make interesting excursions and enjoy the typical flora and fauna of the pre-Apennines. Worth visiting are also many castles and monasteries in the nearby area.

The last Park we want to introduce you, is the The Regional Park of Conero Mountain that covers an area of about 6000 hectares of protected land in the Ancona province. It was established in 1997 and the towns included in the park are: Ancona, Camerano, Numana and Sirolo. Mount 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.; is boasts over a thousand species of wild plants, as well as a rich bird life, and several mammals suck as the badger, the fox, the weasel, the skunk and the hedgehog . There are with places of great charm: the bay of Portonovo, the riviera’s two chief resorts , Sirolo and Numana, the northern view-point, Pian Grande, Pian dei Raggetti, 18 hiking routes developing among strawberry trees, brooms, chestnut trees, oaks, olive trees, vineyards, maples and junipers in the magic Mediterranean maquis. There are different landscapes and environments in the protected area: the steep limestone cliffs, the hills, the agricultural areas, the valley floors, the wet lands, the coastal dunes, and the salt lakes in Portonovo bay. The park is a paradise for bird watchers; the many paths meet the requirements of those who love mountain biking, hiking and horseback riding. The cliffs are ideal for free climbing, the coastal water if perfect for diving, sailing, water skiing, windsurfing and kite surfing. The park also boasts remarkable geological, historic and artistic attractions: the rock carvings, the Roman caves, the Camerano caves , the Benedictine and Franciscan Monastery of San Pietro al Conero, the ruins of the hermitage of Saint Benedict, the beautiful Romanesque church of Santa Maria di Portonovo, the area archaeological site of the necropolis picena in Sirolo, the Fortino Napoleonico in Portonovo bay, a squat, blank-eyed fort built in 1808 by Napoleon’s Italian Viceroy to fight off English ships. The most typical products are: Rosso Conero, the outstanding red wine from the vineyards around Monte Conero, the mussels of Portonovo, honey and oil.

Marche’s Orange Flag

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.

Website: www.comuneacquavivapicena.it

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.

Website: http://www.sibillini.net/en/index.html

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.

Website: www.corinaldo.it

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.itwww.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.itwww.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).

Website: www.comune.mercatellosulmetauro.pu.it

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.

Website: www.mondavioturismo.it

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).

Website: www.comune.montecassiano.mc.it

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.

Website: www.comune.montelupone.mc.it

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.

Website: www.marcafermana.com

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.

Website: www.comune.offagna.an.it

Ostra: Situated on a hill with a fascinating view towards Misa valley, Ostra belongs to the NationalAssociation 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.

Website: www.marcaanconetana.it

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.

Website: www.comune.pievebovigliana.mc.it

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.

Website: www.comune.ripatransone.ap.it

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).

Website: www.sibillini.net

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.

Website: www.comune.sarnano.mc.it

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.

Website: www.comune.staffolo.an.it

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.

Website: www.abbadiafiastra.net

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.

Website: www.comune.visso.mc.it

Urbino Travel Tips

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(Urbino Ducal Palace)

There are many beautiful places in Marche and, for sure, Urbino is one of the first places to visit if you travel to our region.

The walled city of Urbino is a world heritage site, world-wide known as a cradle of Renaissance culture.

Urbino is about 30km far from “Pesaro-Urbino” motorway exit and from Pesaro railway station: it can be easily reached from Pesaro by car or bus in about 30 minutes.

If you go to Urbino form Pesaro by car, we suggest to leave the faster road after “Morciola” and take the old road passing through Colbordolo and Montefabbri: it will take a bit more but road and landscapes are terrific!

One of the most amusing activities you can do in Urbino is looking for the best views of the historic centre from the hills surrounding the city!

Urbino still have much of its medieval aspect: it is a pleasure to walk in streets and sidestreets with eyes geared up toward houses, palaces and churches.

The principal tourist sight today is the Ducal Palace, undoubtedly a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture, absolutely worth a visit.

The Ducal Palace was built by Federico di Montefeltro, the most famous member of Montefeltro family, who made Urbino an important centre of humanity and art during his time as regent between 1444 and 1482. Thanks to his efforts, in that “golden age”, Urbino became one of most important centers of Renaissance attracting some of most famous scholars and artists.

Magnificent rooms and courtyard with unmistakable towers form one of best examples of the Renaissance architecture. “Federicus Urbini Dux” appears everywhere in the Palace: you can see it in fireplaces, window frames and many walls. One of the most interesting rooms is ”alcove” with a wonderful example of fifteenth century bed and the “private study” (known as “studiolo”) with inlaid wooden engravings in perspective. They are an indication of the splendour which the entire ducal court enjoyed in that period.

Today the palace also houses the Marche region National Gallery with precious paintings by Luciano Laurana, Guercino, Piero della Francesca and others remarkable painters.

Another interesting museum is Raffaello Sanzio’s House: Raphael’s father, Giovanni Santi, was one of the painter at Duke Federico’s court. Raphael was born in this house and some minor artworks are exposed there together with copies of some of the most famous paintings.

The oratory of San Giovanni is a church hosting charming fresco cycle painted by Jacopo and Lorenzo Salimbeni in 1416 illustrating the life of John the Baptist.

The oratory of San Giuseppe is another church housing a beautiful “Presepio”: a nativity scene with life-size statues of the sixteen century.

Parco della Resistenza, alongside the interesting Albornoz Fortress, is a fine place to have a rest eating a snack admiring the views over Urbino and surroundings hills.

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(Landscape from the park on the top of Urbino City Centre)

Tourists planning a cultural tour of Italy should not miss Urbino: one full day permits to have a look to main monuments but a couple of days would be necessary to explore the small historic center which still entirely preserves its Renaissance appearance.

As usual in Italy, visitors will also have the possibility to try local food delights in one of the restaurants of Urbino or in the surrounding towns and villages.