Ciao! I’m Marica, a native of Le Marche, Italy. My region is one of incredible beauty, tranquility, delicious food, and outdoor activities.
When considering a holiday in Italy, many people – Italians included – don’t even consider coming to Le Marche. Travelers looking for a beach vacation choose Puglia, those interested in visiting small towns and artistic cities prefer Tuscany, and those who want to relax in the countryside go to Umbria.
But trust me – Le Marche has it all:
- Stunning beaches along the Conero Riviera
- National Parks of Mount Conero and the Sibillini Mountains
- Numerous medieval villages
- Hilltop towns where some of the most important poets and painters were born
- Excellent regional cuisine
All of these will make your holiday in Le Marche memorable — guaranteed by a marchigiana!
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Where is Le Marche?
The Le Marche region is in Central Italy, between Tuscany and Umbria to the west, San Marino and Emilia-Romagna to the north, and Lazio and Abruzzo to the south.
Le Marche is divided into five provinces, each with different characteristics regarding landscape, history, and local traditions — food included! These are, from north to south: Pesaro-Urbino, Macerata, Ancona (the regional capital city), Fermo, and Ascoli Piceno.
Map of Le Marche
When to Visit Le Marche
The best months to visit Le Marche are April, May, June, September, and October. Late spring and early fall are then the best seasons to visit Le Marche: the sun shines, it’s not too warm, and the days are still long so you can enjoy all the activities and sightseeing that the region has to offer, both on the coast and the hinterland.
July and August are not ideal months to visit Le Marche. During these two months, the coastal towns and the beaches are packed with people for the summer holidays. Moreover, the climate on the Adriatic coast is quite humid, and you might experience heat waves.
Similarly, humidity makes the temperature unpleasant during late fall and winter.
Best Places to Visit in Le Marche, Italy
The Conero Riviera is the most gorgeous area in Le Marche. I might be biased here, given that I was born and raised in the Conero Riviera. But imagine this: more than 20 kilometers of coastline meet the crystal waters of the Adriatic Sea at the promontory of Mount Conero. To complete this picture, the Riviera offers numerous towns rich in history and traditions. Doesn’t it sound magical?
What you should not miss on a visit to the Conero Riviera:
- Mezzavalle Beach and the Beach of the Two Sisters (Spiaggia delle Due Sorelle). Set at the base of Mount Conero, Mezzavalle is a small bay immersed in the Mediterranean maquis. The color of the sea is unforgettable, and from Mezzavalle, you can reach the so-called Two Sisters, two large rock stacks immersed in the middle of the sea.
- Sirolo. This incredible medieval village overlooking the sea is the perfect place to admire Mount Conero and the coastline! The charming view, fantastic restaurants that serve fresh seafood, and the only area of Le Marche rich in archaeological excavations make Sirolo a treasure of Le Marche!
- Ancona. This city has many things to see: the Cathedral of Saint Ciriaco, the 16th-century Fortress of the Citadel, the Cardeto Park (with its gorgeous view of the city and the port), the ruins of the Roman amphitheater, and the unique Museo Omero, the only example of a tactile museum (for people who can’t see) in Europe.
- Passo del Lupo. Located in the Conero National Park, this easy-to-hike trail leads you to the side of the mountain, where you’re rewarded with a breathtaking view of the Beach of the Two Sisters, and the beaches of Sirolo and Numana right below you.
- Fiera di San Ciriaco (June 1st – 4th). This not-to-miss annual festival is dedicated to the Ancona’s patron saint. During the celebration, Le Marche’s capital city is animated with music, street food, stalls from all over Italy selling different products, and — of course — all the Anconetani (the inhabitants of Ancona).
- Moscioli. These wild mussels (exclusively found in a specific area of the Conero) are the one food item that is synonymous with the Conero Riviera. There are several ways to taste moscioli: simple with lemon, pepper, and the mussels’ cooking water, or as I prefer: with a rich tomato sauce that is a match made in heaven with spaghetti!
This ancient town is the birthplace of one of Italy’s greatest poets, Giacomo Leopardi. Everywhere there are symbols and places that inspired Leopardi’s poetry. In Recanati, you can breathe an aura of culture and art. But Recanati offers a lot in terms of eno-gastronomy as well: the local dishes are rich in flavors and follow the tradition of peasant cuisine.
These are my personal go-tos if you are visiting Recanati:
- Casa Leopardi. Also known as Palazzo Leopardi, this is the home of Leopardi’s family, and the poet’s birthplace. The building looks sober from the outside, but on the inside, the magic happens. The best part? The famous Monaldo Library, with over 20,000 volumes. The library is the result of the work of Count Monaldo, Leopardi’s father, who was a philosopher and politician.
- Colle dell’Infinito. This is a lookout point on the top of Mount Tabor, where Leopardi created one of his best verses. You can reach it by walking along a path inside the park.
- Museums. Recanati is small but has a few museums that are worth a visit: The Museo Civico, located inside the majestic Villa Colloredo Mels. The Pinacoteca, with its Medieval and Renaissance sections. And don’t miss the Museo dell’Emigrazione Marchigiana, dedicated to the people from the region who emigrated in search of a better future. This museum is truly emotional!
- Vincisgrassi. This typical Recanati food you should taste is a delicious baked pasta (similar to lasagna) made of several layers seasoned with grated Parmesan cheese and a special sauce made with different types of meat.
The hilltop village of Urbino is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most important Renaissance sites in Italy. Magnificent views and artwork, delicious food, and a lively atmosphere (thanks to the university students’ presence) make Urbino one of my favorite places in Le Marche.
Wondering what the best things to do in Urbino are? Here’s my list:
- Palazzo Ducale. Built in the 15th century under the request of the Duke of Urbino, Federico da Montefeltro, it is one of the most impressive examples of Italian Renaissance architecture.
- Raphael’s House. Did you know that the painter Raffaello Sanzio (aka Raphael) was born in Urbino? Today, a visit to Raffello’s family home is a first-class cultural experience.
- Galleria Nazionale delle Marche. The museum is inside the Palazzo Ducale and exhibits some of the most important Renaissance masterpieces. An astonishing painting? “The Ideal City” — don’t miss it!
- Crescia. While visiting Urbino, this is one food you must try. It’s similar to the piadina, but it tastes so much better if you ask me! Try a crescia with sautéed seasonal veggies and local cheese.
- Aperitivo. Finally, for an authentic Urbino experience, enjoy aperitivo in one of the bars in the town and immerse yourself in the student culture — yes, whatever age you are… students will welcome you!
Read more about Aperitivo in Italy!
The Sibillini Mountains are the fourth highest massif of the Apennines (which run almost the entire length of Italy!) and are located between Le Marche and Umbria. Besides the fascinating landscape, the area offers many sports and nature activities, unspoiled nature, gorgeous tiny villages, and tasty food.
- Lago di Fiastra. This manmade lake is a popular weekend getaway for Marchigiani. There are plenty of activities you can do: swimming and fishing, horseback riding, trekking in the area around the lake, and even skiing in the winter months!
- Lame Rosse. This is hands down one of my favorite places in Le Marche! Close to the Lago di Fiastra, the Lame Rosse is a 7-kilometer-long canyon that you can explore on foot. The scenery reminds me of landscapes in the American West!
- Mistrà. If you are in the Monti Sibillini, don’t miss the chance to try this typical alcoholic beverage. Mistrà is a distillate of wine with the addition of anise, fruit, and herbs.
Loreto is one of the most important Catholic pilgrimage sites in Italy (and the world!). It can be overwhelming, with its busloads of visitors coming to visit:
- The Holy House. This is said to be the house where Mary was conceived, where she grew up, and where Archangel Gabriel told her she would be the mother of God. There are differing opinions on how it arrived in Loreto from Nazareth.
- Basilica of the Holy House. The Basilica houses the Holy House and is the site of processions, Mass, and blessings.
The travertine town of Ascoli Piceno is well worth a stop while visiting Le Marche. While wandering town, be sure to check out:
- Piazza del Popolo. This is one of Italy’s most beautiful piazzas. Admire the variety of architectural styles in one piazza – Baroque, Renaissance, and Medieval, to name a few! It’s especially magical in the evening.
Good To Know: Have a coffee or aperitivo at the historic Caffè Meletti on the square.
- Piazza Arringo. Admire the fountains in the square (and take a drink!) and the Cathedral of Sant’Emidio. Be sure to walk inside the cathedral and visit the crypt if it’s open.
- Olive all’Ascolana. Whole green olives filled with meat, and then fried to perfection, this dish is synonymous with special occasions. The work to make these olives is insane which is why you won’t find them in many restaurants outside the city of Ascoli Piceno. Believe me: the Olive all’Ascolana makes a trip to Ascoli worth it!
- Anisetta Meletti. This is an anise-flavored liqueur typically served as a digestivo after your meal.
Read more about Digestivo and Italian After-Dinner Drinks!
The walled medieval town of Gradara is perfect for an afternoon visit. You can explore the castle, wander the streets, and enjoy the atmosphere of Italy’s Most Beautiful Village (2018).
- Gradara Castle. This is the one thing you must do if you decide to visit Gradara. Explore the rooms and the views of the town and the surrounding countryside.
- Gradara Underground. Visit a part of Gradara’s underground cave and tunnel network carved into the tufa stone. You’ll enjoy this if you’ve liked the underground caves and tunnels in Orvieto or Montepulciano.
- Falconry Center. You can visit the professional falconry center, the Teatro dell’Aria, to see shows or observe the birds. It’s an excellent experience for all ages.
When you think of truffles (tartufi) in Italy, you may think of the cities of Alba, San Miniato, or San Giovanni d’Asso. But, Le Marche’s Acqualagna is one of the most important areas for truffles in Europe. The city has three(!) truffle festivals and exports the tuber to countries in Europe and around the world.
Read more about Truffles (Tartufi) in Italy!
- National White Truffle Fair (Fiera Nazionale del Tartufo Bianco). Celebrated in late October and early November, this is Acqualagna’s largest and most popular truffle festival, celebrating the white tuber magnatum pico.
- Furlo Gorge (Gola del Furlo). This protected nature reserve near Acqualagna boasts a narrow gorge with ‘gorge-ous’ emerald green water and high rock walls. There are numerous hiking trails for all activity levels.
Frasassi Caves (Grotte di Frasassi)
Discovered in 1971, this gorgeous karst cave system is one of the most amazing ones in Europe. And, because it’s so incredible, it gets very crowded! It’s best to arrive early and don’t forget to bring a sweater or light jacket – it’s chilly in the caves!
Good To Know: You can’t book an English tour in advance.
Good To Know: Visit the nearby Temple of Valadier, an octagonal church built in a cave. Each holiday season, the Temple is also the site of a popular presepe vivente, or live nativity scene.
Read more about the Presepe – Italy’s Nativity Scene!
Typical Le Marche Food to Try
There are plenty of food and drinks you must try during your stay in Le Marche. Some dishes are so local that you will find them only in small areas of the region.
I have already mentioned moscioli, vincisgrassi, crescia, mistrà, and olive all’ascolana, but the list of delicious food in Le Marche is much longer:
- Crema fritta or cremini. This classic fried dish served during the aperitivo is typical of Ascoli Piceno. This dish is more than simple fried cream: an aniseed-flavored custard is coated with breadcrumbs and deep-fried. The mix of salty and sweet of the cremini is divine!
- Ciauscolo. This super tender salame is usually eaten by spreading it on a slice of bread. This pork sausage (bacon, shoulder, loin, ham) flavored with garlic, white wine, and pepper is an IGP product typical of the provinces of Macerata, Ancona, and Ascoli Piceno.
Good To Know: IGP stands for indicazione geografica protetta, or ‘indication of geographic protection.’ It’s a classification in Italy that links the quality of a food product to the area it’s grown, processed, or prepared in. So, in the case of ciauscolo above, you want to buy the IGP ciauscolo from those areas, not a non-IGP ciasculo from elsewhere (like Puglia or Rome).
- Maccheroncini di Campofilone. This is an egg pasta with the IGP mark from the town of Campofilone. This specific type of macaroni was born as a method of preservation of fresh eggs by drying and then slicing the dough in a shape similar to angel hair. Try the maccheroncini with a ragù marchigiano, which combines beef, pork, and chicken in a rich tomato sauce with lots of pecorino cheese.
- Stoccafisso all’Anconetana. Many Italian regions have their recipe for cooking cod, and Le Marche is no different. The marchigiana way of preparing cod is a specialty of Ancona. The original recipe involves cooking the cod with potatoes, chopped tomatoes, taggiasca olives, rosemary, and lots of white wine (ideally Verdicchio, the typical white wine from Le Marche).
- Lonzino di Fico. It looks like a salame, but it’s made with figs! This dessert is a unique recipe you won’t find anywhere outside Le Marche. It consists of a compact dough made from figs, almonds, walnuts, and anise seeds wrapped in large fig leaves.
How to Get to Le Marche
Le Marche by Car
The Le Marche region is easily accessible thanks to the A14 Autostrada (aka European Route E55). If you’re planning on driving, remember that the smaller roads will take longer due to curves and occasional traffic (slow vehicles, farm equipment, etc).
If you’re planning on driving in Italy, check out our posts on:
Renting a Car in Italy
Italian Gas Stations and Getting Gas in Italy
Important Italian Road Signs
Driving in Italy
International Driving Permit for Italy
Renting a Car in Italy with a US Driver’s License
Le Marche by Plane
The region has only a small airport located in Ancona (Ancona Falconara / Raffaello Sanzio, airport code AOI), which is nicely connected to the major European cities. The closest international airports are Bologna (BLQ) or Rome (FCO), about 2 hours away from Le Marche by car or train.
Le Marche by Train
Depending on which city or area you’d like to visit, you can either take a high-speed train (the Frecciarossa or Frecciabianca, operated by Trenitalia), or slower and cheaper trains, such as Intercity or Regionale. The region is very well connected with other Italian areas, and it’s easy to arrive in Le Marche by train from Milan and Rome.
Le Marche by Bus
Several bus companies are available in the main airports and cities that travel to Le Marche. The most popular is the Flixbus, which offers inexpensive fares from many Italian destinations.
Le Marche by Ferry
The port of Ancona is a central hub for domestic and international ferries and boat cruises, thus you can easily arrive in Le Marche by sea.
I hope you enjoy your visit to my region!