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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.
The food of Le Marche is influenced by both its coastal and rural areas. Platters of meat, grilled on embers, are served in the hinterland whilst dishes of freshly caught seafood are the choice in any seaside restaurant. Truffles are also found on the menu - the town of Acqualagna is one of the most important centres in Italy for truffles. Wine lovers will enjoy discovering the Rosso Conero wines produced on slopes looking over the Adriatic.
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.
Le Marche plays host to a number of summer festivals, many of which focus on music. Two notable events are the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, held every August, and the internationally renowned open air Opera festival which takes place in Macerata in July and August.
Spring is a wonderful time to explore: wildflowers carpet the meadows, the air is fresh and the temperatures perfect for days out sightseeing. Summer is hot and dry, with temperatures often exceeding 30°C. This warm weather often extends into September, prolonging the summer. Towards the end of the month and into October, the air becomes crisper, heralding the onset of autumn in all its glory.
The region has one airport, at Ancona, which is served by Ryanair with a daily flight from Stansted and by Easyjet with a twice weekly flight from Gatwick. Alternative airports to consider are Rimini, Perugia and Pescara, all of which are approx 2 hours drive from our houses. The Rome airports are further away, approx 3-4 hours drive but offer a variety of flights by scheduled and 'no frills' airlines.