The capital city of the region is Ancona. The five communes are Ascoli Piceno , Fermo, Macerata, Persaro e Urbino, & Ancona.
The flatter, coastal region is the most densely populated and has a very active tourist industry due to its abundance of beautiful beaches. There are many wide, sandy beaches with clear water and all facilities as well as small, natural, white pebble coves and rocky creeks with wooded backdrops. The shores of Le Marche also provide excellent facilities for yachtsmen with several good marinas spread along its length. The railway and main road run along the coastal plain with the interior of the region only having narrow, winding roads for access.
Moving inland from the coast the terrain turns into gently rolling, fertile hills which are intersected by short rivers, wide gullies and alluvial plains. The countryside is mellow and picturesque with fields of sunflowers, wild flowers and rounded hilltops with ancient fortified towns perched on the highest points.
The rolling hills eventually amalgamate with the mountains where the highest peak is Monte Vettore at 2,476 metres. This inland mountainous area of Le Marche consists mostly of limestone and is noted for its bare peaks, rushing torrents, numerous caves and deep, dramatic river gorges. The most well-known of these gorges are the Furlo, the Rossa and the Frasassi caves..
We love this area and will be returning on a regular basis. A day with the truffle farmers near Ascoli Piceno ranks as one of the highlights of our stay in that region.
Food in the Marches is not limited to one particular dish or type, but rather blends the flavors of the entire region, each with their own special characteristics. The typical rustic tastes of the hinterland can be identified in meat dishes like roast suckling-pig and marinated lamb, as well as in dishes created around truffles – particularly those from Acqualagna and Sant’Agata Feltria – and mushrooms. Among the first courses we find pasta: tagliatelle,strozzapreti? (“priest stranglers”) and the traditional vincisgrassi, forerunner of lasagne throughout the Italian peninsula.
The fresh, sweet flavor of the sea can be recognized in various fish dishes – the undisputed champion of these is brodetto, a fish soup containing more than 14 fish species; it is often enhanced with tomatoes (Pesaro and Ancona) or saffron (Ascoli).
Ascoli’s signature is the fritto misto all’ ascolana, a medley of stuffed olives, cream, zucchini, artichokes and lamb chops – all fried. The most famous desserts are ciambellotto con i funghetti all’anice (a ring-shaped cake with aniseed), cicerchiata? (deep-fried dough with honey), and fried ravioli stuffed with chestnuts, cream and ricotta cheese.
Additional must-tries are the pecorino sheep’s cheese from Talamello, wrapped in walnut leaves and ripened in tuff caves (formed by limestone and calcium); ham, dried cured loin of pork; and brawn salame.
Food is accompanied by the wines of Ascoli Piceno: the white Falerio dei Colli Ascolani, the red Rosso Piceno and Rosso Piceno Superiore and, finally sweet wine stored in wooden casks, and with a Mediterranean hint of the aniseed-flavored liqueurs, Anisette and Mistrà.