Where Is Le Marche?

Where is Le Marche?

Le Marche is a little known region situated in central Italy on the eastern Adriatic coast. It is east of Tuscany and Umbria, south of Emilia-Romagna, and north of Abruzzo.

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In addition to its lengthy coastline featuring the Conero National Park, Marche also benefits from the Sibillini mountains and associated National Park. Coast, mountains and everything in between in one region! Inland there are numerous hilltop towns and villages to be explored. Le Marche is often referred to as “the new Tuscany”. I guess people are referring to Le Marche having the attributes of Tuscany, with fewer tourists and cheaper prices. The Le Marche region is currently (it keeps changing!) split into five provinces, each with their own capital town – Pesaro-Urbino, Ancona, Fermo, and Ascoli Piceno.

Getting to Le Marche

Le Marche’s airport is called Ancona FalconaraRyan Air fly to Ancona direct from London Stansted, Brussels, Dusseldorf, Alghero, Stockholm and Trapani.

You can also fly into nearby airports including Rome, Bologna, Pescara, Rimini or Perugia with a wide range of airlines.

Ancona is also a port with links to Croatia and Greece, and also has a train station (including Castelferretti which is at the airport) which connects it to a variety a major Italian cities.

Car hire is recommended to ensure you can make the most of your time in Le Marche and explore all of the inland hilltop villages.

Lone Rider – An Adventure in Ascoli Piceno


A Trip To Ascoli Piceno

Just when I was feeling that there was no hope for me here, I visited Ascoli Piceno for my birthday. We drove into the city centre and tried to navigate our way to the hotel. Ascoli Piceno is not a very large city, but it is an Italian city with pedestrianised areas and this tourist is totally lacking in spatial awareness and navigational abilities – not an ideal mix. After driving around the one way system a few times without coming across the hotel and trying to use the map on the I-phone, I decided it was now time to admit defeat, and return to the old school method of finding our way. I used my rudimentary Italian to ask a cyclist the way. He began to describe the way to me (in Italian), and seeing the perplexed look of confusion on my face, signalled that we could follow him. Excellent! I reminded him that while he was on a bike, we needed to stick with a car friendly route and off we went. Fifteen minutes later, we arrived outside the hotel and he waved and cycled off. I was acutely aware that he could probably have cycled there in only a few minutes if it wasn’t for the car, and we equally, could have spent several hours getting hot and stressed and more lost without his intervention. I did stop to wonder in what other city in the world someone would have taken that much time and effort to help a complete stranger.

Ascoli Piceno Highlights

We checked in at Palazzo Guiderocchi then spent a very enjoyable Summer’s evening wandering around the antiques market, sipping prosecco at Caffe Meletti in the Piazza del Popolo, and then a delicious and very good value dinner at Il Desco. Even now, I think of that experience as my most memorable of that year. All very simple, but an excellent adventure none the less, and helped along by the anonymous man on the bike.

An Englishwoman in Le Marche

So if you are expecting the fanfares to be out for your arrival in Le Marche you might be disappointed – the shops will probably be shut when you arrive, no one will speak English and it will seem as if there is an absent queuing system (or at least one where you are always the last in line) at the deli counter in the supermarket once it has opened. In fact, on first appearances it seemed to me as if the Marchigiani were totally indifferent to my presence as long as I didn’t hold them up in getting their espresso at the bar any longer than is normal. So fanfares, no, but curiosity, yes. After ten years, we still get lingering looks when we walk into our local  bar, and although my Italian is still not anywhere near where I want it to be, I do understand murmurings about “Inglese”. However, for me, the curiosity is mutual – I am as strange and interesting to the Marchigiani as they are to me.

Initially this is an unusual feeling – we Brits are used to travelling to places where people are only too pleased to see us, speak English and will stay open all night if that might please us. I understand now, that the Marchigiani are also only too pleased to see us, particularly between 8am and 1pm and if we speak Italian. And why shouldn’t it be that way? Don’t we always talk about seeking out a genuine experience of another culture? We don’t often verbalise what we have really become used to expecting – a genuine cultural experience available at our convenience and in English thank you very much.

Le Marche most definitely is a rich cultural experience, but make no mistake, it will be on Marchigiani terms. And isn’t that what we really wanted all along?

The Marchigiani Ways

In my last post I shared and celebrated Duncan’s recent article but also commented that I felt there was so much more! So, what exactly is it that Donald’s excellent article did not discuss, and which, for me is one of the absolute gems of Le Marche that makes me come back time and time again?

The Marchigiani

The people – the Marchigiani are unbelievably stubborn and inflexible in my opinion. Not strikingly positive qualities at first glance you might think? And indeed, perhaps one of the reasons why tourism has been slower to take off in the same way as other areas of Italy.

For example, the Marchigiani still take their three hour lunch break each day. A concept which is absolutely alien to me as I’m doing well if I get time to eat a Pot Noodle at my desk while typing and talking on the phone simultaneously. When we were renovating our house in Marche, I remember flying into Ancona just before lunch and driving south along the A14 to get to the office of our Architetto. I was surprised to be met with the news that he was just going home for lunch for several hours, so perhaps I could wait until he returned. Initially I was surprised, even irritated, but then realised I actually admired this adherence to his values – why would he compromise on his lunch with his kids just because I had flown across Europe to meet with him? There were many times in the early days when we got up late, had a leisurely breakfast and then meandered our way around the mountains to some town or other, only to find that everything would be open for only another half an hour and then it was shutting for lunch. This is just one example of something being the way it has always been, and not showing any signs of changing now, for anyone. Far from finding this problematic or concerning, I am encouraged and admirable of the Marchigiani ability to hold strong to their traditional values.

English in Le Marche

Another example is the absolute disinterest in learning English. I laugh at the times when I tried to order a drink or some food in English, or perhaps trying to speak Italian but not using exactly the correct pronunciation. How many different ways are there to say “due birre” or “té”? The response was often a mix of initial curiosity, amusement and then just giving up. Even now, the simplest of drinks orders can often go so wrong, or be misunderstood because my pronunciation is not quite perfect. That’s completely apart from the endless telephone calls to Enel which (after I have spent twenty minutes navigating the automated system) ends a while later with them putting the phone down on me. It can feel as if the Marchigiani ear has never heard a foreigner struggling to learn Italian before. Well, maybe these ones haven’t, and maybe I really know that I should speak better Italian anyway.

My Thoughts On The Le Marche Guardian Article

Le Marche in The Guardian

I thought that it would be appropriate for my first blog post to share and celebrate some recent UK press coverage that the Marche region received. Donald Strachan wrote an article in The Guardian at the end of March entitled, “how to do Le Marche on a budget”. The article can be seen here.

Tourism Promotion

I am always pleased to see some publicity for the area, as I feel that still the biggest barrier to developing tourism is that people just don’t know about Le Marche. The Marche Region’s previous focus on boosting tourism resulted in this interesting video featuring Dustin Hoffman. In Italian.

I suppose a picture speaks 1000 words! The point is, you have to know what words to type into Google in the first place if you’re going to find something, and in my experience Le Marche just isn’t on people’s radar. I feel pretty sure that if it was, people would like what they found, and perhaps this blog will give some more people the right words to punch in.

Article Highlights

Donald’s article touches on the most affordable delights of Urbino, Ancona, the Adriatic coastline and it’s beaches, the inland towns, and Ascoli Piceno. It’s a solid introduction to the region, but misses out on lots (and quite legitimately, as it does not claim to be a Marche guidebook, but a short feature article in a National newspaper). So, whilst I was pleased to see this article, I was left feeling that it has missed so much of the richness of my experience of Marche. I hope that over time, this blog will be able to fill in some of the gaps and add some colour and detail to the picture. I definitely do not pretend to be an expert on Le Marche, but just wanted to create a place where I can share my experiences of the area and also provide a space for you to share yours.