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Soaring mountains, undulating countryside, turquoise waters and sandy beaches, Le Marche offers all these things in abundance yet remains relatively unknown. Medieval hilltop towns, untouched by time, contrast with bustling coastal resorts where palm trees line the promenades.
The Renaissance jewels of Urbino and Ascoli Piceno are situated at opposite ends of the region and are great places to spend a day. The red brick Palazzo Ducale dominates Urbino whilst the Piazza del Popolo in Ascoli Piceno is often described as one of the most beautiful squares in the whole of Italy. Between the two are numerous delightful towns to discover, set against the verdant backdrop of the Monti Sibillini.
Le Marche boasts around 180km of coastline with some of the best beaches on mainland Italy, a number of which are Blue Flag designated. Senigállia has 13km of fine white sand, known as the Velvet beach. In contrast, the Conero peninsula is more rugged and wild, where tree covered slopes plunge down to the sea, creating small coves and beaches.
Another spectacular find can be seen in the 'Gola di Rossi e di Frasassi' reserve. Underneath the forests, streams and hills of the park lies an amazing 26km network of underground caverns, lakes and crystal formations, discovered in 1971. It includes one of the largest caves in the world, the Grotta del Vento, which is truly colossal.
Macerata is a town already known to enthusiasts for its annual world famous opera Festival, which takes place in the 'Sferisterio', an ancient, semi elliptical arena with perfect acoustics. Macerata also boasts one of Italy's oldest universities and, with its web of narrow streets surrounded by 16th Century walls, is a fascinating place to visit.
Due west is Tolentino, sitting on the banks of the River Chienti. A typical Marchigiano town, it is the gateway to the Monti Sibillini. This glorious mountain range, often snow capped, is a stunning backdrop to the undulating landscape. Country roads guide you past hilltop villages and the clear waters of Lake Fiastra, to this natural paradise where outdoor activities, such as rambling, hiking, mountain biking and bird watching abound.
Further south, Porto Recanti has a long promenade lined with seafood restaurants and pizzerias, whilst Grottammare and San Benedetto del Tronto form the 'Riviera delle Palme', fashionable, bustling places with sandy beaches fringed with palm trees. The Conero peninsula offers an alternative picture.
Le Marche produces its own dry white wine known as 'Verdicchio'. For those who prefer red, the ones to note are the Rosso Conero wines from around the Conero area on the coast.