Le Marche is one of Italy’s best kept secrets. Prior to the unification of Italy, Le Marche was one of the Papal States governed directly by the Pope, “the Marches” meaning a border province of the Holy Roman Empire. The inland area is almost tourist-free and the local people tend to be kind and helpful to strangers.
On Italy’s East coast, between the Adriatic and Apennines, the Marches are relatively undiscovered, yet surprisingly accessible. A mosaic of ancient cities, rolling hills, dramatic mountains, hidden valleys and long, sandy beaches, Le Marche is an outstanding holiday destination. For a detailed map of the area please follow this link.
The landscape of Le Marche ranges from undulating agricultural fields and vine clad slopes to snow-capped mountains and dramatic gorges. Il Vigneto is situated in an area of natural beauty, close to the majestic Sibillini mountain range and the Sibillini National Park which provides the most breathtaking scenery in central Italy. The mountains are calcareous in origin, producing the magnificent Frassasi limestone caves. There are 20 peaks over 2000m and several ski resorts in the area. The whole area is a walker’s paradise with many mountain paths, guided walks if you require, and a stunning array of wild flowers to be seen. Le Marche is rich in historical-artistic and cultural heritage which has been preserved and unlike its neighbours Umbria and Tuscany, is relatively undiscovered and still unspoiled by tourism. Little English is spoken but the local Italians are very friendly and helpful, especially if you try to speak a few words of Italian.
Every small hilltop village in this region has a beautiful church and a welcoming bar, but more than that, throughout summer and autumn each village has its local festa or sagra. This is a time to celebrate the year’s hard work and is usually based on produce from mushrooms, sausages, fruit, wine or chestnuts depending on the season. It is a time for eating and drinking, processions, music and dancing.
The nearest village is Gualdo, 3km from Il Vigneto. It is, like many of its neighbours, perched on a hill top, at 652m. It is a small picturesque village which has a café, restaurant, bank (with ATM) and good basic shopping facilities. The parish church has some early paintings. There is a tennis club and the local restaurants are very good value.
Sarnano is the nearest town, 10km away. The medieval town centre is well preserved and has steep narrow alleys. It is a spa resort, a winter skiing resort and a good base for hiking in summer. There are many good restaurants in the area. There is a public painting gallery.
In the provincial capital and university city of Macerata an annual international opera festival takes place during July and August in the purpose built Sferesterio. Contact us if you are interested in obtaining tickets.
Photo of Urbino is copyright Il conte di Luna, 2007, released under Creative Commons license
For those who want to make a serious excursion, the drive to Urbino is about two hours and worth it for the Palazzo Ducale with treasures amassed by the Duke of Montefeltro including works by Piero della Francesca. You can also visit the National Gallery of Le Marche and Raphael’s house. You may wish to make a pilgrimage to Loreto, specifically the Sanctuary of the Madonna di Loreto.
Skiing in Le Marche is as unsophisticated as it is delightfully uncrowded. At Sassotetto and Bolognola, near Sarnano, you will not have to queue and the drive to the piste is spectacular.