Top 5 Things to Do in Le Marche

Palazzo Ducale in Urbino, 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 five to get you started:

Top 5 Things To Do in Le Marche

Revisit the Renaissance in Urbino

Palazzo Ducale in Urbino, Le Marche
Palazzo Ducale in Urbino, Le Marche / Photo © Melanie Renzulli

Located in the northern Marches, Urbino is the birthplace of the 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.

Attend the Opera

The Sferisterio arena in Macerata / Photo via Marche Tourism

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 summer also sees the gathering of opera fans for the annual Rossini Opera Festival. The festival honors Italian composer Giachino Rossini who was born in the town of Pesaro.

Eat, Eat, Eat!

A basket of olive ascolane (olive all’ascolana) and other fried goodies from Siamo Fritti in Ascoli-Piceno. / Photo © Melanie Renzulli

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. Le Marche is also known throughout Italy for its a fried snack, olive ascolane, which are olives stuffed with meat, breaded, and deep-fried.

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” (quoting 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.

Drink, Drink, Drink!

Grapes from the Riviera del Conero in the Ancona province / Photo via Rivera del Conero

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.

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 recalcitrant citizens, and those impenetrable 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 Montefabbri in the province of Pesaro-Urbino.

Another beautiful walled city in this area is San Leo, which used to be part of the province of Pesaro-Urbino until the citizenry voted to be incorporated into wealthier Emilia-Romagna. San Leo resembles a miniature Republic of San Marino, a small sovereign state that makes a fun and easy side trip from the towns of Le Marche.

About Author

Melanie Renzulli has been writing about travel to Italy for more than 20 years.


  • Mariano Pallottini
    24 October 2009 at 5:47 am

    I come from le Marche and these are my “top 5 things” for winter:
    1. Help friends to harvest grapes and olives, participate in the production of wine, vino cotto, Mistrà, olive oil. All interspersed with lavish meals based on Vincisgrassi, roasted chicken etc.
    2.Helping friends in Salata, the killing of the pig for the production of ham, salami, lonza, ciavuscolo etc. and then eat traditional meals based on blood, sangunaccio (pork blood), roasted fresh sausages and chops.
    3. Go to the Chestnut Festival of Smerillo and in a beautiful mountain scenery of charming beauty in a convivial and informal tuck in roasted chestnuts and taste the Vino Novello.
    4. go to midnight mass at the shrine of Ambro, get confessed by a monk and do the communion between simple and devout people, rediscovering the social value of faith in a land humble but never humiliated.
    5.go to last year mass to the hermitage of San Leonardo Sibillini, through the snowy Infernaccio gorges in the night by the light of an oil lamp. Back down and go back home by addressing all the changes requires that the new year with a smile

  • Maria
    15 March 2012 at 2:55 pm

    I love your suggestions Mariano (especially the Chestnut Festival), you are always a wealth of knowledge! Glad I read this post!


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