Marche is a region of central Italy overlooking the Adriatic Sea. It is a varied area ranging from the mountain landscapes to cities of art such as Gradara, Urbino, Macerata, Ascoli Piceno, to Conero Riviera, with its ancient towns and its beautiful beaches.
Most beautiful places in Marche Italy
The city of Ancona, the main city of the region, stands on a promontory protected by Mount Conero. The most important buildings of the city overlook the central square, Piazza del Plebiscito. Among the symbols of Ancona we find the Arch of Trajan, a Roman arch erected in the 1st century AD and the Mole Vanvitelliana, a splendid artificial island with a pentagonal fortress inside the port, built on a project by the architect Luigi Vanvitelli, now home to of interesting art and photography exhibitions. Behind Ancona extends the famous Riviera del Conero, an area protected by the Regional Natural Park of the same name, where there are the most beautiful coves and beaches of Marche (such as those of Numana and Sirolo).
Read also: Things to do in Ancona
Pesaro is one of the liveliest cities in Marche, where it is possible to experience many different types of holidays: from the sea to the hills, from sport to music, passing through art and culture. One of the symbols of the city is the suggestive contemporary sculpture, the “Ball”, a bronze sphere created in 1998 by the sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro which is located in front of the sea. There are seven kilometers of sandy beach in the city, between the equipped and free shoreline, and more than 100 tourist accommodation facilities, with particular attention to families and children. There are also several cycle paths in the city. But Pesaro is not just the sea. Pesaro is in fact the city of music thanks to its most illustrious fellow citizen, Giochino Rossini, who was born here and remained very attached to his city, so much so that, upon his death, he left a sum of money to establish the Rossini Conservatory, one of the music most prestigious schools in Italy.
The Gola del Furlo is a beautiful canyon created by the erosion of the Candigliano river. It is possible to climb Mount Pietralata to go trekking and admire the gorge from above. A few kilometers from the gorges there are also the Marmitte dei Giganti, imposing structures produced by the erosion of the Metauro river. Also worth seeing in the surroundings is the Monastery of Fonte Avellana. This ancient hermitage hidden in the hills and mountains is located at the foot of Mount Catria, enclosed in a basin surrounded by large beech woods. Entering its spaces you can visit the scriptorium dating back to the thirteenth century, where the scribes copied the ancient manuscripts enriching them with artistic miniatures.
Urbino is perhaps the most magical place to see in Marche. The city is a masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance and its historic center has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But Urbino is also the city that gave birth to Raphael. To visit absolutely is the Ducal Palace, the palace where Duke Federico da Montefeltro lived. Today it is the seat of the National Gallery of Marche which houses one of the most beautiful and important art collections of the Italian Renaissance with works of art by Raphael, Piero della Francesca, Paolo Uccello, Tiziano and Melozzo da Forlì. Among the rooms of the palace, there is the wonderful duke’s study, a private place where Federico used to spend time. This room houses valuable stuccoes on the vault and is covered in the lower band with inlaid woods based on designs by Sandro Botticelli, Francesco di Giorgio Martini and Donato Bramante. Once you exit the Ducal Palace, a few steps away you will find yourself in front of the imposing cathedral. In the years 1474-1488, the Romanesque-Gothic cathedral was rebuilt from its foundations, according to simple and elegant Renaissance modules. The cathedral has a three-nave plan with a sober neoclassical decoration, with altars in the side aisles that preserve paintings of great historical and artistic value, such as the Martyrdom of St. Sebastian and St. Cecilia by Federico Barocci. Attached to the cathedral is the Diocesan Museum: this museum houses the most varied ecclesiastical furnishings, from the thirteenth century to the present day: thirteenth-fifteenth-century illuminated manuscripts, chalices, and reliquaries, liturgical vestments. Also worth seeing is the Oratory of San Giovanni, where you can admire an impressive cycle of frescoes, made between 1415 and 1416, by the brothers Lorenzo and Jacopo Salimbeni from San Severino Marche. In this sacred place, you can admire the scenic power of the frescoes and the crucifixion that covers the wall of the apse. The sculptural complex depicting the Nativity of Christ, created by Federico Brandani, an artist of international fame for his wonderful stuccos, is preserved in the Oratory of San Giuseppe. The work of art, created between 1545 and 1550, in tuff and pumice stone, has a particular location: it is kept inside a chapel entirely covered with tuff to recreate the environment of a cave as much as possible. Finally we have the Albornoz Fortress, an imposing building built in the second half of the fourteenth century by the will of Cardinal Egidio Alvares de Albornoz. This is one of the most panoramic point of the city.
Discovered in 1971, the Frasassi Caves are among the most fascinating caves in the world, where you can admire natural sculptures formed by calcareous layers over 190 million years thanks to the work of water and rock. Walking among stalactites and stalagmites along the route of the visit (which covers only a small part of the 30 kilometers of extension of the caves) you reach the Ancona Abyss, a gigantic cavity, 180 meters long and 200 meters high. Starting, on foot, from the car park of the caves, you can also visit another magical place and symbol of Marche: the Temple of Valadier. Set in a hollow in the mountain, the temple is an octagonal sanctuary in the neoclassical style built by Pope Leo XII to a design by the famous architect Giuseppe Valadier.
Fabriano is the city of paper; its paper mills today mainly produce banknote paper. In the Museum of Paper and Watermark, visited by thousands of tourists every year, it is possible to travel the historical journey of paper, starting from the hand-made paper up to the display of watermarks.
Sibillini Mountains National Park
The Sibillini Mountains National Park is of extraordinary beauty: its Lame Rosse are fiery red canyons that open in the middle of an oak forest. To reach these marvelous rock formations you will have to take a 7 km path that starts from the dam on Lake Fiastra. A few kilometers from the lake there is Sarnano, recently included among the most beautiful towns in Italy.
Chiaravalle Abbey, Fiastra
The Abbey of Santa Maria in Chiaravalle di Fiastra is one of the most valuable and best-preserved monuments of Cistercian architecture in Italy and represents the highest evidence of the presence of the Cistercians in Marche.
Ascoli Piceno has its historic center built almost entirely of travertine (a white limestone typical of the area) and revolves around the magnificent Piazza del Popolo, considered one of the most beautiful squares in Italy. Called the “white living room of Italy”, this Renaissance-style square is literally framed by a loggia with 59 arches and Renaissance buildings with arcades. The Palazzo dei Capitani del Popolo, the Church of San Francesco, various Renaissance palaces and loggias overlook the square. Ascoli Piceno is also famous for its gastronomy, especially for the fried olives stuffed with meat. Nearby there is the town of Offida to visit (among the most beautiful towns in Italy).
The town of Loreto represents the heart of the spirituality of Marche and owes its fame to the Sanctuary, which houses the famous relic of the Holy House of Nazareth where, according to tradition, the Virgin Mary lived and where she received the announcement of the birth of Jesus. A rich and sumptuous marble enclosure covers the Holy House and was designed by Bramante. The sanctuary of Loreto is a beautiful example of basilica characterized by patrol walkways and towers. It is possible to walk along the walkways from which you can admire the beauty of Marche countryside and enjoy a wonderful panorama that ranges from the mountains to the sea.
Almost on the border with Romagna is Gradara, one of the best-preserved medieval villages in Italy. The Rocca of Gradara, in addition to its beauty, is also famous for having hosted illustrious characters such as Lucrezia Borgia and Francesca di Rimini, protagonist together with Paolo, characters in the famous love story narrated by Dante in the Divine Comedy. From its walls, you will have a full view of the surrounding hills to the sea. Around the fortress, you can walk the Path of lovers that surrounds the hill, from which you can admire an enchanting landscape. In the context of the medieval fortress, there is also the Ornithological Park – Falconry Center “Il Teatro dell’Aria”, an environmental education park entirely dedicated to the art of falconry. Here you can admire demonstrations of specimens of birds of prey in flight – hawks, vultures, kites, eagles, owls, goshawks, and buzzards – and watch exciting shows with birds of prey. The stretch of coast closest to Gradara is the one protected by the Mount San Bartolo Natural Park, which extends from Pesaro to Gabicce Mare and has many cycles and pedestrian paths.
Another magical place in Marche, celebrated by the poet and writer Giacomo Leopardi, is the town of Recanati, in the province of Macerata. In fact, here was born one of the greatest Italian poets who praised its beauties in many of his most famous poems. Recanati is a “balcony city” due to the wide panorama that can be seen there and you can only start your visit from the Colle dell’Infinito, not far from Leopardi Palace, the poet’s birthplace, now a museum. It would be precisely the panorama enjoyed from here that inspired the poem of the same name composed by the poet at the young age of 21. In the surroundings it is also worth visiting Castelfidardo, considered the capital of the accordion.
In Macerata, there is one of the oldest universities in the world. One of the most representative monuments is the Sferisterio Arena, a splendid example of neoclassical architecture that hosts a prestigious opera season every summer, the Macerata Opera Festival. In the heart of the city there is also the eighteenth-century Buonaccorsi Palace with the wonderful Aeneid Room. Here is the seat of the collections of ancient and modern art and the Carriage Museum.
Natural Arch of Fondarca
The Natural Arch of Fondarca is a natural amphitheater located near Cagli, in the north-east of the region, on the slopes of Mount Nerone. We are in the heart of the Marche Apennines in what probably, some geological era ago, was a large cave whose ceiling collapsed. What has remained until today is a spectacular rock arch with high and steep walls that can be reached with a short and easy trek that starts from the town of Pieia.
Last but not least, the city of Fermo stands on the summit and along the slopes of the Sàbulo hill and its historic center has remained almost intact over the centuries with its splendid medieval appearance. The heart of the city is the Renaissance Piazza del Popolo, where the sixteenth-century Palazzo dei Priori is located, which houses the Civic Art Gallery and the World map Hall, the fulcrum of the “Romolo Spezioli” Civic Library. The trip is worth a visit to the splendid Roman cisterns, an underground building from the Augustan age (40 AD), with a surface area of about 2,000 square meters, divided into 30 rooms placed in 3 parallel rows, built for the purpose of accumulating water.