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Top 5 Things to Do in Le Marche

The Duke of Montefeltro, a symbol of Le Marche

The Duke of Montefeltro, a symbol of Le Marche

Le Marche (known as “The Marches” in English) is one of the least known regions in central Italy, but that fact is quickly changing. Bordering Umbria, Emilia-Romagna, a sliver of northeastern Tuscany, and Abruzzo, Le Marche is gaining ground as a tourist favorite as more travelers venture out by road and rail to find the “real” Italy.

The Le Marche tourism board likes to bill itself as “Italy in one region.” This is not far off the mark. The region has mountains (the Apennines, made up of several chains, including Mt. Sibillini) and a long coastline separated by rolling green and gold plains. It has craggy, medieval hill towns, Renaissance gems, most notably at Urbino, and remnants from ancient cultures, including the Romans and the Piceni. Indeed, there are thousands of things to do in Le Marche. But here are 5 to get you started:

1) Revisit the Renaissance in Urbino
Located in the northern Marches, Urbino is the birthplace of master artist Raphael and the site of a major university. But the city’s main claim to fame is its Renaissance splendor. The Duke of Montefeltro (see the iconic image of him, above) rebuilt this city in the mid-15C and oversaw the construction of the Palazzo Ducale, one of the era’s first palaces built not as a fortress but as an inviting residence. The palace’s architectural symmetry, open courtyard, twin turrets, and fanciful features are as winsome as any found in Florence. Today, the National Gallery of Le Marche and the region’s Archeological Museum are housed in the Palazzo Ducale. The former has works from Raphael, Piero della Francesca, and others.

2) Attend the Opera in Macerata
Macerata, a provincial capital in Le Marche’s south-central, is site of the Sferisterio, a grand neoclassical arena that hosts an opera festival each summer. The Sferisterio Opera Festival takes place each July/August, and each performance has room for 3,000-4,500 spectators. The 2010 festival, whose theme will be “A Maggior Gloria di Dio” (To the Greater Glory of God) will take place between July 29 and August 10, 2010.

3) Eat, Eat, Eat!
Every region in Italy has its culinary specialty. In Le Marche, the edible bounty ranges from earthy – truffles, game – to the marine – fish stew, known in the capital Ancona as stoccafisso. Throughout the year, towns in Le Marche host numerous sagre, or food festivals, usually based around one product. There are feasts for snails, frogs, rabbits, veal, cheese, and pasta. The most important sagre are in mid-autumn and are devoted to the world’s most prized fungus: the truffle. Late October and early November see truffle fairs in Sant’Agata Feltria, Sant’Angelo in Vado, and Acqualagna. While “the best food is still to be had in Marche homes rather than in restaurants” (according to the tourism board), Le Marche also has some incredible restaurants, including the Michelin-starred restaurants Madonnina del Pescatore in Senigallia and Le Busche in Montecarotto.

4) Drink, Drink, Drink!
The Marches also has its share of fine wines, both reds and whites. The central part of the region, ranging from Ancona inland, has some of the best known vineyards and vintages. Verdicchio Classico is produced around Jesi and Matelica; Vernaccia at Serrapetrona (southwest of Tolentino), and Rosso Conero, a red made from Montepulciano grapes, is produced in a coastal zone between the Apennines and the Adriatic. You can even follow the Rosso Conero wine route within Ancona province’s Parco del Conero. Other wine zones in Le Marche can be found in the Colli Pesaresi (hills of Pesaro, near Urbino) and in the southern province of Ascoli-Piceno, where the main vintage is the Rosso Piceno.

5) Penetrate the Impenetrable: Walled Cities
The Marches is full of walled cities. During the time of the papal states, the region was considered virtually ungovernable because of the difficult terrain, the incalcitrant citizens, and those inpenetrable walled cities. The north and central sections of the region have several medieval cities housed within imposing stone walls. Of note are Corinaldo in Ancona province and Gradara and San Leo in the province of Pesaro-Urbino. The latter is said to resemble a miniature Republic of San Marino, a small sovereign state surrounded by Le Marche and Emilia-Romagna.

Catchall Catch-Up Post: More Articles About Italy

Here are just a few notable articles on Italy that I’ve come across in the past month or so. I need to get them off my plate, as it were, so I can move on to more tips, hotels, and news that has come my way…

One Fish, Two Fish – This article my Mimi Sheraton in the New Yorker looks at the origins of brodetto, a fish soup that is most prized in Abruzzo and Le Marche. This link is to an abstract, but if you have a New Yorker subscription you can plug in your account info and read it online (if you haven’t already).

Italy Against Itself – Another abstract, this article by regular Italy columnist Alexander Stille looks at recent politics in the country.

An Italy Variety Plate from Gourmet.com – Last month, the food magazine had articles on Christmas pandoro from Verona and Chicken Liver Crostini from Central Italy. This month is Gourmet’s Italian-American issue, which explores recipes inspiration from Lucca to Lecce. Also, it seems that gourmet.com has a more searchable archive now. So, just go to their search engine, type in “Italy,” and you can find articles going all the way back to 1954!

2008 Year-End Article Round Up

I am still trying to figure out how to manage a toddler and a newborn and find time to keep this blog up-to-date. But I have been keeping track of the numerous articles about Italy that have come out in the past couple of months. So, enjoy the following links and have a Felice Anno Nuovo!!

Boston Globe
Eating Up Miles, Drinking Up Scenery, Motoring From Nice to Tuscany
(road tripping between France and Italy)

L.A. Times
American Military Cemeteries in Europe Honor Heroes in Both World Wars
(profiles Sicily-Rome Cemetery)

The Globe and Mail (Canada)
Roman Holiday, Reconsidered
Your Palazzo in Florence Awaits
Escape From San Domino

The Independent (U.K.)
Madama Butterfly, Floria Tosca – They All Came From Lucca
Puglia Is a Food Lover’s Paradise

The Guardian (U.K.)
Flying Visit to Florence
Flood-Hit Hoteliers Offer Packages With Free Wellies (Venice)
Go With the Flow (Skiing on Mt. Etna)
A Taste of Italy at Harvest Time (Le Marche)
Turin On A Plate
On the Trail of the Leopard (Sicily)

New York Times
Florence, Then and Now
Venice: In Laguna Da Toni
Savoring Italy One Beer at a Time

The Telegraph (U.K.)
Mesmerizing Relics of Byzantine Brilliance (Ravenna)

Wall Street Journal
Starling Stalkers Try to Scare the Birds out of Rome

October 2008 Article Round-Up

Sometimes I’m not always sure if anyone is actually reading Italofile. As I’ve said, it is a true labor of love. Still I like to imagine that there are regular readers out there who enjoy discovering with me the destinations, hotels, art, schools, churches, etc., that make traveling in Italy so rewarding.

Lo and behold, this weekend I found that I have at least one reader! Maribel wrote in to tell me that last year I missed a New York Times article on “Tortellini Lessons at the Source” in Bologna. Thanks, Maribel! And, with that, I thought I’d provide another round-up of recent articles, from the NYT and elsewhere:

New York Times
In Turin, the Olympic Glow Hasn’t Yet Faded
Monastic Doors Open For Travelers
Milan: Princi (a must-visit bakery)

The Washington Post
2,000 Years After Vesuvius (Stabiae)
In the Eternal City, Walk in a Roman’s Sandals
Rome On Two Gelatos A Day
Good Libations: Bassano del Grappa, Still the One (Veneto)

Los Angeles Times
Art Springs to Life in Gardens Near Rome
Planning Your Trip to Rome’s Gardens
Planning Your Trip to San Marino
Planning Your Trip to Vatican City

Wall Street Journal
Venice Crossings: A Traghetto Tour
In Italy, A Monastery Getaway (Umbria)

The Independent (UK)
City Slicker: A Guide to Genoa
The Hip Hop Guide to Tuscany’s Treasures

The Guardian (UK)
The Insider’s Guide to Cortina d’Ampezzo
Instant Weekend: Florence
Flying Visit: Le Marche Is Olive-Town
Letting Catania Out of the Bag
Going Solo: Venice
Flying Visit to Lake Garda

Sydney Morning Herald
Dining in the Sky the New Way to See Milan
See Ya Later, Gladiator
Floating Through a Dream (Venice)

The Telegraph (UK)
Rome: Eternal Love
Palladio: 500 Years of Architectural Wonders
Sicily: Golf in the Shadow of Mt. Etna
Michael Howard’s Venice

Yes, this is an exhaustive list. But I’m sure I didn’t find everything. So, I’m depending on all you Maribel’s out there to help me out by sending me links to articles and other tips you think would be worthy of posting on Italofile. Thanks again!

What’s On in Italy: October 2008

Lots of art exhibitions going on in Italy this fall, especially this month. So, let’s get started:

Bellini in Rome. The works of Venetian Renaissance master Giovanni Bellini will be on display in Rome’s Scuderiere del Quirinale through January 11, 2009. According to ansa.it, the exhibition – one of the largest ever featuring Bellini’s works – “is showcasing most of Bellini’s best-loved works, including a number of his stunning altarpieces, such as the Baptism of Christ from Vicenza and the famed Pesaro sequence.”

Palladio in Vicenza. Vicenza, long synonymous with the great architect Andrea Palladio, is celebrating the 500th year since the artist’s birth with a grand exhibition at the Palazzo Barbaran da Porto, itself one of many Palladio-designed building in Vicenza, the artist’s hometown. The exhibition showcases almost 80 of Palladio’s original drawings and tells the life story, through paintings by Canalettoand El Greco, among others, and scale models, of the influential architect. The exhibition will run through January 6 in Vicenza and then move on to London for the spring. Take a look at the link for the exhibit, as you can take a virtual tour – awesome.

Correggio in Parma. Sixteenth century artist Antonio Allegri, also known as Correggio after the small town in which he was born, is getting his due in a large exhibit in Parma through January 25, 2009. Some of the works in the show are in situ in Parma, where many of Correggio’s works were created and are still housed, while the rest (about 80 pieces) come from museums throughout Italy and Europe. You can preview the exhibit and pre-order tickets online at the Mostra Correggio Parma website.

National Truffle Fair. With fall comes white truffle season, which is celebrated with the Fiera Nazionale del Tartufo in Acqualagna in Le Marche. Several comuni in the region, including Sant’Angelo in Vado and Sant’Agata Feltria, will hold fairs on the weekend throughout the month of October and beginning of November. The National Fair is held the last weekend in October and the first two weekends in November.

Eurochocolate Time! More feasting will occur in Le Marche’s regional neighbor Umbria as Perugia hosts the annual Eurochocolate Festival. Eurochocolate 2008, which will run from October 18-26, will feature tons of tasting opportunities. And, if you want to get a jumpstart on the celebrations, National Choco Day, a holiday since 2005, takes place on October 12.

Venice Marathon. Just thinking about the truffles and chocolate give you the urge to burn calories? Then you can enter the Venice Marathon, which takes place on October 26. The race starts east of Padova, travels around and over canals, and ends at the Riva dei Sette Martiri in the city. If you’re not up for that much running, there’s a 3K Fun Run and great people watching from the bridges.

For more October events in Italy, check out italiantourism.com and the events site whatsonwhen.com.

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