Last summer was to me the occasion to travel in my own country, to discover its most unspoiled treasures and to appreciate even more my Italian roots. And this happened to be a proof that our Country is beautiful in all its shades and corners.
The more I experience off the beaten paths destinations, the more I fall in love with Italy, because even the smallest Borgo has its own special story capable of fascinating every curios eye. There’s a unique historical and artistic heritage, a delicious gastronomy and a warm human touch without equal. Marche, this region in Central Italy, was a special surprise. A region enriched by its unique culture, by the incredible diversity of natural landscapes - from the crystal-clear waters along the Adriatic Riviera to the Monti Sibillini Natural Park - and also by the quality of the typical products and the local varieties of wine.
Let me introduce you to this amazing region!
Day 1 - Urbino, the Renaissance pearl
Our first step is Urbino, a city that will certainly fascinate you thanks to its unique Renaissance character that allowed its historic center to be listed as UNESCO World Heritage in 1998. This Renaissance pearl is located right up on a hill and surrounded by defensive walls. Its fame started in the XV century when artists and scholars from all over Italy gathered in Urbino making it a cultural pole. In the famous painting ''La Città ideale'' (The ideal city) located in Marche National Gallery, Urbino is represented as the perfect city.
The city is linked to a main figure, Duke Federico da Montefeltro, considered as a humanist patron of the arts. While walking in Urbino's street, you'll immediately notice that the city has a very homogeneous style, both in terms of materials, colours and shapes.
The main attractions that can't missed? Palazzo Ducale, the house of the artist Raffaello which is now a small museum, San Domenico Church and Parco della Resistenza, a small park where to admire the wonderful landscapes around Urbino.
Day 2 - Relax in Del Frate beach and magic sunset in Loreto
Time for a relaxing day enjoying the enchanting beaches along the Adriatic Coast. We left our car in a parking next to Numana's pier and we started a 20-minute walk to reach Del Frate Beach. The Costarella, one of the most peculiar streets in Numana, is entirely made of steps and decorated with colourful flowers. Once on the top, the view from Numana Alta has no equals. In order to reach Del Frate Beach, we followed our mobile GPS and went down on a street located in the gardens of a hotel. I really suggest you to choose the earlier hours of the day to avoid the crowd and to bring with you your lunch if possible!
For a special sunset, Loreto's terraces are a great choice! The city is one of the most important pilgrimage site in Italy and you'll immediately notice religious references all over its streets. From Piazza della Madonna it's possible to admire the majestic Basilica della Santa Casa dating back to the XV century that was then fortified to be protected by the Turkish invasions.
If you happen to visit Loreto during the day, there's a real pathway all over the structure called ''I Camminamenti di ronda'', that can be accessed!
Day 3 - A special trek to the Italian canyon
Another day, another adventure!
This time, we reached Fiastra Lake by car and started from the dig a very special trek in Monti Sibillini National Park. We left the aquamarine lake behind and we started the pathway on the opposite side of the bridge. After about 1h15, a breathtaking natural show was right in front of our eyes. Lame Rosse is considered the Italian natural canyon, a phenomenon created by the erosion of the superficial part of the rock layers over the years. The iron substrate is then visible, giving this warm colour to the rocks.
Tips: privilege the cloudy days or the spring/autumn months; bring with you a hat to protect your head from the sun and make sure to have enough water; wear comfortable shoes and don't forget to take with you some snacks or a lunch box!
For a poetic evening, you can visit Recanati, hometown of one of the greatest Italian poets, Giacomo Leopardi. All over the Medieval village, there are references to its poems and history, closely linked to the place. Italians will be able to recognise the location described in their college books, some of them learnt by heart as Il sabato del villaggio or L'infinito. Casa Leopardi, the home where he was born and raised, as well as Colle dell'Infinito are definitely two must-stops during your walk in Recanati!
Day 4 - The power of rocks: Frassassi Caves, Tempio del Valadier and Gola del Furlo
Time for a day entirely dedicated to nature! The main natural landmark of this region are, without any doubts, the Frassassi Caves: a real treasure discovered in 1971 by a group of speleologists and geologists. After one month, they managed to widen a narrow path and to pass through the so called ''Strettoia del Tarlo''. Once inside the caves, it's so easy to loose the sense of space and time: can you believe me if I tell you that the biggest part of the cave could host the size of the Duomo of Milano?! Tickets are sold in the parking of Grotte di Frassassi from where a public bus will pick you up to leave you right in front of the entrance. The visit lasts about 1h15 and it's lead by a professional guide that will show you all the secrets of this natural treasure!
Second step of the day: Tempio del Valadier, a fascinating hidden jewel set in the rock. In order to reach it, you'll simply have to follow the road after the Frassassi Caves, direction Genga. After a walk of about 20 minutes, the majestic octagonal-shaped temple opened up in front of our eyes. The structure was built around 1828 by Pope Leo XII with the original purpose of serving as a refuge for Christians asking for forgiveness.
Continuing on the road to Genga, we stopped along the river for a refreshing break. The water was so freezing that we could hardly leave our feet inside it for a while! This secret spot along the road is definitely a local tip to enjoy the surrounding forest and the relaxing murmur of running water. Last stop: Gola del Furlo (Furlo Pass) for an amazing panorama! You can check the official website to discover the various treks and the activities organised in the area!
Day 5 - Discovering the moscioli of Portonovo and the production of Rosso Conero wine
Our last day in the Marche was all about relax and local flavours. A member of the staff in our camping gave us a local tip about a restaurant we couldn't miss: Da Emilia in Portonovo. We booked our table for lunch a few days before (it's absolutely recommended!) and we arrived in the morning to enjoy Portonovo beach before a delicious meal. The restaurant is located right on the beach with a very elegant decoration. Here, we had the chance to try ''moscioli'' (mussels), a slow food product from Portonovo. It feels so good to know what's in your dish, its exact provenance and the treatment process. Pasta with moscioli is absolutely delicious and there's even a gluten-free version for celiacs!
Rosso Conero is the local red wine variety and we couldn't leave Marche without visiting a wine estate in the area! We followed a local suggestion and had a visit and tasting at Moroder estate that started its production in 1837. Enjoying the tasting accompanied of local cheese and cold meat right on the exterior terrace with the view on the local vineyards was absolutely the best gift before leaving this incredible region!
Hope I transmitted the charm of this Italian region that maybe you'll be able to discover soon! P.S. Make sure you're in good company as I was, with my dear friends, le Pinghe.