The territory is mainly made of hills and mountains and encloses the Adriatic side of the Umbria-Marche Appennine, yet has low and sandy beaches. For example, the long golden and fine sandy beach surrounded by crystal-clear water of Senigallia, which offers lidos and pleasant walks by the shore, especially at sunset.
Some other beautiful sea resorts are Gabicce mare, Pesaro, Fano, Civitanova Marche and San Benedetto del Tronto, the perfect places for those who want to relax and find relief in one of the many lidos that have been fashionable since the nineteenth century for the upper-class. For those who love extreme nature, on the other hand, the Conero riviera offers amazing views and wild strips of land, sometimes reachable only by sea or through narrow paths carved out of the green Mediterranean scrub.
The nature of Marche is protected in the National and regional parks of the area, some WWF reserves; the Monti Sibillini and the Monti della Laga National Parks are a peerless spectacle for trekking enthusiasts. You cannot miss the Frasassi Caves, a destination for tourists coming from all over Europe and a very interesting site for speleologists because of the karst phenomena that originated these splendid caves, some of them occupied by man since prehistory.
The countless orchards and vineyards of the hills of Piceno and of Esino Valley surround ancient and warm farmhouses where you can discover the simple taste of genuine food. Manor houses and old farms are now used as holiday farms and still tell the history of the past.
The provinces of the region are: Ancona (regional capital), Ascoli Piceno, Fermo, Macerata, Pesaro and Urbino.
This region evokes a great past in its cities-of-art, enchanting piazzas and medieval towns where time seems to stand still, among old roads and elegant buildings. Ascoli Piceno is one of the main monumental cities in Italy, with its old medieval town center and Piazza del Popolo, adorned by arched open galleries, and the Palazzo dei Capitani del Popolo, a stately building with an embattled tower. In this town you can visit different workshops, like those of violin-makers, which attest the creativity and craftsmanship of the inhabitants of Ascoli. On the first Sunday of August, the streets of the town act as a background to the memorable "Quintana", a medieval jousting tournament on horseback at the Joust of the Saracen. Ancona, an old port junction known as the "door to the East", guards valuable monuments and a warm beach. The Cathedral of San Ciriaco rises on the area of an ancient Greek acropolis and is considered as one of the most interesting medieval churches in Marche.
The region of Marche, with the old town of Urbino, is among Unesco World Heritage Sites; its Palazzo Ducale represents an interesting architectural and artistic example of the Italian Renaissance.
Another town to visit it Gradara with its fortress, a magnificent example of medieval military architecture and the place where, according to tradition, Paolo and Francesca kissed, as written in the fifth canto of Dante's Inferno.
For religious tourism, the sanctuary of Mariano di Loreto is an important stop, as it is considered one of the major places for pilgrimage in the Catholic world.
For those who love classical music, Pesaro offers two weeks of full immersion into the notes of Gioacchino Rossini, the popular composer of Pesaro; the Rossini Opera Festival has become an unmissable appointment for classical music lovers from all over the world, with the stunning background of a town which does not only offer cultural attractions.
If you love candies and chocolates, the best thing to do is going to Fano during the period of Carnival. The ancient Carnival of Fano has at least three distinguishing features: the throwing of sweets to the crowd from the allegorical cars, the typical "vulon", a mask that caricatures the most well-known personalities of the town, and the "musica Arabica", a music band whose instruments are cans, pots and jugs.
The food in Marche is a blend of the flavors and tastes of the whole region, with their specific features. The typical "roughness" of the hinterland can be tasted with meat dishes like roasted suckling-pig and marinated lamb, and dishes with mushrooms and truffles, like those of Acqualagna and Sant'Agata Feltria. Among the first courses we find tagliatelle, strozzapreti and the traditional vincisgrassi, the first type of lasagna in the whole Italian peninsula.
The fresh and sweet flavor of the sea can be tasted with several fish dishes, first of all the well-known brodetto, a fish soup with more than 14 fish species; this soup is enhanced by tomatoes in the area of Pesaro and Ancona, and by saffron in the area of Ascoli.
The typical dish of Ascoli is "ascolana" mixed fry: stuffed olives, cream, zucchini, artichokes and lamb chops. The most famous desserts are ciambellotto con i funghetti all'anice (a ring-shaped cake with anise), cicerchiata (deep fried dough with honey), and fried ravioli stuffed with chestnuts, cream and ricotta cheese.
Some other noteworthy products are the pecorino of Talamello wrapped in walnut leaves and ripened in tuff caves, ham, sausages made from the loin of pork, and pork-neck salami.
Food is accompanied by the wines of Ascoli Piceno: the white Falerio dei Colli Ascolani, the red Rosso Piceno and Rosso Piceno Superiore, and finally the sweet wine, stored in wooden casks, with a Mediterranean hint of anisette.
The sea and the mountains of this region are a perfect combination for those who love to move freely and plunge into the limpid waters of the sea and into the green vegetation of the parks. These very parks occupy a good part of the regional surface and are considered as protected areas. Marche, with the Monti Sibillini National Park, the Gran Sasso and the Monti della Laga National Parks, regional parks and natural reserves, offers astonishing landscapes with interesting flora and fauna. Here you can enjoy birdwatching to sight golden eagles, peregrine falcons and eagle owls, trekking enthusiasts can take long walks among the woods and forest, but it is also possible to go horse-riding, canoeing and mountain biking. You can also cycle along pleasant routes to discover natural, historical and artistic beauties, as well as the typical food specialties of the region. To those who enjoy skiing, snowboarding and cross-country skiing, the mountains of the Apennine offer more than nine ski resorts, snow parks and cross-country tracks of different length and difficulty; also, the Ice Palace of Ussita ensures amazing experiences to ice-skaters. You cannot miss a trip to the Conero, the wonderful protected promontory in the homonymous regional Park that stretches to the south of the town. The Conero, with Portonovo, Stirolo and Numana, is the riviera of the inhabitants of Ancona; its high and indented coast and its splendid sea make it one of the most charming sea resorts on the Italian coasts. The seabed facing the Conero, rocky with some sandy areas, is rich in animal and vegetable species and is the ideal destination for scuba-divers. Again in Ancona, during the first ten days of May, the whole town celebrates the Fair of St. Ciriaco, the Patron saint of the town. For four days, the town is happily invaded by thousands of stalls, crafts markets, typical food stands, street artists and extemporary "en plein air" painters. Music lovers will enjoy AnconaJazz, the main festival in Marche with International music stars, dedicated to this successful music genre.
The history of Ancona and its district is linked to the sea. It is thought that the city was founded in the 4th century BC by the Greeks of Siracusa, thanks to the elbow shape of the location that was well suited for a harbor. As a matter of fact, the name derives from the word 'ankon', which in Greek means 'elbow'. The port area immediately became a key place for the trade with the East.
The city is composed of two areas: the old town, facing the Guasco hill, and the modern city. The tour can start from the top, where there is San Ciriaco cathedral. On the way toward the harbor, there is Traiano's Triumphal Arch and the remains of the Roman Amphitheater. The Mole Vanvitelliana is a must-see, along with the nearby S. Agostino's church. For those who love art, in Plebiscito square, S. Domenico's church hosts Tiziano's Crucifixion and Guercino's Annunciation; noteworthy are also the Palazzo degli Anziani with the baroque façade, now a university building; Palazzo Ferretti, from the 1500s, now hosting Marche's Archeological Museum.
The Pinacoteca Comunale "Francesco Podesti" and Modern Art Gallery, instead, hosts Tiziano's Virgin with the Baby and Saints, Carlo Crivelli's Madonna with the Baby, work from Lorenzo Lotto, Sebastiano del Piombo and Corrado Cagli.
North of Ancona, Chiaravalle is renown for its abbey located in the large square in the center of the town. More inland there is Jesi, founded by the Umbrians, of great historical interest as it witnessed the passage of Etruscans, Gauls and Romans. Going north, one cannot miss Senigallia's Rocca Roveresca, symbol of the town built upon Roman foundations. On a panoramic location overlooking Cesano and Nevola valleys, there is Corinaldo, home of Saint Maria Goretti and famous pilgrimage destination, and two beautiful villages nearby: Ostra and Ostra Vetere. Close to the boundary with Umbria, Fabriano, set on the mountains, has been known for the art of paper since the 13th century. Driving back to the coast there is Osimo, 18 km south of Ancona, on the hills between Aspio and Musone valleys, with the remnants of the classic period. Finally, just past Castelfidardo, one cannot miss Loreto, the home of Italy's largest St. Mary's sanctuary; it is a typical example of an urban center built around a sanctuary with its Basilica and Santa Casa, which host work of incredible beauty along with the Museo Pinacoteca (gallery) and Palazzo Apostolico.
Buildings, streets and plazas that characterize it tell about its millennial history; from the facades of its medieval buildings to the old maze of streets and trails that compose it, Ascoli Piceno is a town of art, culture, of strong traditions.
Harmony and cohesion are the most unique features of the town. This is thanks to travertine, employed since its foundation for simple buildings all the way to palaces, from the churches to the paving of the plazas. There are two main centers of the old and modern Ascoli: piazza del Popolo (square) and piazza Arringo (square). The former was the home of the old forum, the residence of the People's Captains, and a vibrant commercial center, whereas the latter has been the political heart of the town, with the Cathedral and Palazzo Vescovile. Many of the museums in town are concentrated in Arringo Square, also known as 'Museum Square'; the Pinacoteca Civica (art-gallery), with its many masterpieces from Tiziano, Guido Reni and Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo, the Museo Diocesano and the State Archeological Museum.
The old town is protected by the Tronto River and its affluent, the Castellano River, whereas the modern town spans eastward, following the Tronto to the sea.
The tour of the churches of the town start from S. Tommaso Chruch and end at S. Maria Intervineas, through 14 Romanesque churches and the Battistero, which characterize Ascoli Piceno. This land has an established theater tradition, as witnessed by the many theaters built in the 19th century such as I Filarmonici, the Ventidio Basso, and the S. Francesco di Paola Auditorium.
The strategic geographic location places Ascoli Piceno close to the Sibillini National Park, the Gran Sasso-Laga National Park and the Sibilla Peak. Not far from the town there is Mount Ascensione, destination of pilgrimages during the Middle Ages that, nowadays, retains a sacred atmosphere. Once a year in May, in fact, thousands of people ascend the mountain on Ascension Day, as they take the Madonna da Polesio to the church on the top.
Leaving Ascoli to San Benedetto del Tronto, one drives through towns such as Offida with its 14th century fortress. Glimpses of the Middle Ages can be found in Ripatransone, also known as the "Piceno Belvedere" due to its panoramic location. Among the coastal towns, noteworthy are the narrow streets of Grottammare and the sandy beach of San Benedetto del Tronto.
The beautiful Piazza del Popolo (square), in the town center, offers the visitor a rare display of magnificence with its architectural severity exemplified by the Palazzo dei Priori, built in 1296 and home of the Pinacoteca (art-gallery) and the Archeological Museum, the Palazzo Apostolico from the 1500s and the Loggiato di San Rocco, which hosts the deconsecrated church of San Martino of the same period.
Left of the Palazzo dei Priori there is Palazzo degli Studi, an elegant building from the Renaissance era with a monumental portal that has been hosting the local library since 1688 with its famed Sala del Mappamondo.
A short distance from the square, one can visit the Cisterne Romane (roman cisterns), a monument in perfect conditions. The complex, composed of 30 interconnected halls, was built in the first century AD to collect, purify and distribute rain and spring water throughout the town.
There are several monuments that can be appreciated while walking through the alleys, among which the Teatro dell'Aquila (theatre) is undoubtedly worth a visit, as it is one of the most important theaters of the country.
Finally, there is Piazzale del Girfalco (square), the town panoramic viewpoint with the majestic Chatedral and its spectacular Romanesque-Gothic façade.
It only takes a walk along Corso Matteotti (the main Street) toward Piazza della Libertà (square), with the Palazzo dei Priori and its statues and plaques, to discover the Macerata's 16th century architecture. Here there also are the Palazzo Rinascimentale della Prefettura, S. Paul's church and the Rossi Theater, built in 1700. Other must-see features are the unique Sferisterio, a large space for handball games built around 1820, the 15th century Chatedral, the Loggia dei Mercanti, Palazzo Compagnoni Marefoschi, Palazzo Buonaccorsi, Palazzo Ricci, home of the Contemporary Art Gallery, the Basilica della Madonna della Misericordia and the Torre dell'Orologio (clock tower), with its fantastic view.
For a tour of the province, one can start from Montecassiano, with the Palazzo Comunale and the church of the Assunta and, after few miles, the Romanesque church of S.Claudio al Chienti. The traveler can continue on to Morrovalle and the International Museum of the Nativity, with almost 500 scenes from all over the world. One cannot miss Urbisaglia and its Archeological Park, the medieval village and the Abbazia di Chiaravalle di Fiastra, a peaceful place in a natural reserve.
Pesaro e Urbino:
There are plenty of possible itineraries to enjoy the many aspects of this land. Starting from the main town, one should not miss a visit to the Ceramics Museum, the most important in Italy, where there are items from the best pottery houses of the Renaissance era. Between the 14th and the 17th centuries, a majolica industry of exceptional relevance flourished in Pesaro, with a decoration style inspired by Raffaello during the 16th century. Pesaro offers many sightseeing opportunities, starting from the town streets around Piazza del Popolo (square) and the Palazzo Ducale to the Museo Civico (Civic Museum), which includes the Ceramics Museum, and the Pinacoteca with work from Giovanni Bellini, Vitale da Bologna, Guido Reni. On the opposite side of the Civic Museum there is the Oliverian Archeological Museum, with valuable artwork exhibited in the 16th century halls of Palazzo Americi. Built by Luciano Laurana in 1474-87 for Costanzo Sforza, the Rocca is an example of 15th century architecture with its cylindrical towers. Pesaro is also known for being the birthplace of composer Gioacchino Rossini, whose home/museum is open to visitors. Every year, the conservatory and theater, both named after him, host the 'Rossini Opera Festival' drawing enthusiasts from all over the world.
In the surrounding area, worthy of a visit are two villages built on sea cliffs: Fiorenzuola di Focara, a picturesque medieval village, and Casteldimezzo with its 13th-14th century walls.
Afterwards, one can drive to Gradara, a delightful medieval village that maintains the original enclosure walls composed of towers and battlements, and the square castle that re-creates a pristine medieval environment. Fano is a town by the many historical landmarks such as the Augustus' Arch and the Palazzo Malatesta, home of the Museo Civico and Pinacoteca (civic museum and art-gallery), with collections ranging from the Neolithic to the present time.
Going to Urbino, one should stop by one of the most dramatic places of the area: the Fonte Avellana hermitage and the Romanesque-gothic church. Even Dante mentions it in the 21st Canto of the Paradiso. Once in Urbino, the visitor is amazed by the grandeur of the town, surrounded by 16th century walls built by the Montefeltro family. The Palazzo Ducale, with its winged façade that opens to the city, is the symbol of a new architecture, more humanistic, where the geometric rigor of proportions dominates. Introduced by the 'staircase of honor', decorated by Ambrogio Barocci, to the aristocratic floor of the palace, the visitor enters the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche, a museum with invaluable artwork. In the Duca Federico's apartment, there are two masterpieces by Piero della Francesca, the Flagellation and the Madonna of Senigallia, whereas in the Duchess' apartment are exposed the Mute by Raffaello, the Blessing Christ attributed to Bramantino, the Last Supper and the Resurrection by Tiziano, to name a few. Finally, there are the Cathedral and Museo Diocesano (Diocesan Museum), re-built with a neo-classic style after the 1789 earthquake. From there, the visitor can walk along Via Raffaello to arrive at Raffaello Sanzio's birthplace, which still displays incisions and reproductions of his work.
The uniqueness of the Renaissance art and architecture, which adjust well to the medieval past, has granted Urbino a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation.