Marche - Marches
Guals, Romans, church and state have all seemed to control this Region over the course of many years. In the 17th Century the region ws under the rule of the Popes. After Napoleon ran through the country the Popes lost control of the region and it became a republic. It was later returned to the Church and in 1860 annexed to Italy during the Second War of Italian Independence.
Overall the terrain is more rugged than that of Umbria or Tuscany. The cities and towns are rich in history. Travel between the towns takes a considerable time.
On our 2005 visit we had choosen Montalto delle Marche, located just north of Ascoli Piceno as our base to visit this segment of the Marche. Well as we found, it was a good plan, and it was not that far from Ascoli Piceno, but we did not take into account the mountians. Turned out to be a much longer drive to get eveywhere than we expected..
A great region of Italy. For many, not on the "must see" list, so not subject to the heavy flow of tourists.
We highly recommend seeing the Frasassi Gottos. They are some of the largest in Europe with a complex netowrk of chambers, runnels, halls and small lakes all under ground. They were discovered in 1971 and opened to the public in 1974.
If you are travelling in the summer, and in the heat, less clothes seems better than more, do dress accountingly. It is quite cool once you get under ground. The grottos are always 14 C.
So when we say they are big, they are. The Grotta del Vento is over 14 km in length. The abisso Anacono is the largtest cave in Europe, 120 meters high. The Sala Duecento has a stalgmite that rises 15 meters from the floor.
This is a major pilgrimate site in Italy, even today. Be ready for tour buses and the like. The primary activity of Loreto is to provide service to the thousands of pilgrims that who travel from from around the world. When we arrive we saw people on crutches and wheel chairs arriving in the town.
But walk through the impressive door into the main piazza and tour the church and other sites.`
(To right, our friend Chris Grant getting ready to enter through the Porte)
Inside Sanctuary of the Santa Casa is a hugh marble casing by artist Bramante which holds what is beieve to be the Nazareth house where the Virgin Mary was born and received a visit from an Angel. According to the beliefs, angels carried the house from Nazareth, Galilea to Loreto. Loreto became a major pilgrimage destination. In 1469 the Pope ordered the basilica to be built.
The Casa Sant is protected by a marble mausoleum. Of the Holdy House, it has graffiti that is verified to be similar to that of Juedo-Christians in the Holy Land of the time.
We have been to this Region twice and each enjoyed it very much. Allow yourself enough time. The northing half of the Region seems to have roads that only run east-west -- because of the mountains. If means if you want to travel north-south, it takes much more time than you might have planned.
This is one impressive town. It is known as the "picolla Siena" because of its blend of Medieval and Renaissance architecture, and also as the "Travertine City" because of the predominant use of travertine stone.
The town probably dates back as far as the 6th Century. With strong Roman roots, the city was at its height of power in the Middle Ages.
The heart of the old medieval Ascoli is the Piazza del Popolo. Along one side is the 13th century Palazzo del Popolo. The Chiesa di San Francesco which dates back to 1262 is along the other side. Right beside that is the Loggia dei Mercanti, built in the 16th Century by the powerful guide of wood merchants. The Piazza del Popolo is a sight. What also impressed us on our visit there was how the piazza was part of the everyday route of the people. The piazza was full of kids and parents on bikes and people just enjoying themselves.
The Piazza Arringo, located just a few blocks away, has the Cathedral St. Emido, dating from the 15th Century. In the Cappella dei Sacramento is the work of Carlo Crivelli - the Polittico, a polyptch from 1473. The 11th Century Baptrisy is to the left of the chruch. The octagon shaped structure dates back to the middle ages. It was rebuilt in the 12th Century. I am told the cctogonal shape of the building represents the mean of the baptism as an intermediatry between the earthy and the devine. The two identical foundtains in the Piazza are made from traverstine stone and bronze. The fountains we built in 1884 to honor King Vittorio Emanuelle II. The tourist office is located in the Plazzo at Piazza Arringo and will provide maps and information.
Before you leave Ascoli, stop by the Caffè Melletti to try the Anesetta Meletti - it is served with coffee beans. Don't tell them you think it is similar to Sambuca unless you are ready for a full debate!
We never recommend travelling in Italy during August, as that is the holiday month for the country. With the whole country on vacation it makes getting hotels, in any location of the than big cities, a challenge. But, the big festival is held the first Sunday in August. Usually there are over 1,000 people, all dressed in costumes. There is a tournament with knights. It is supposed to be quite the sight.
Montalto delle Marche
For our 2005 visit to this area we stayed just north of Ascoli Piceno at the B & B San Francesco.
It is located between two scenic hill-top towns, Montedinove and Montalto di Marche [pictured to the left].
While it was very pleasant,and the hosts most gracious, we would not include the San Francesco in our Great Places to Stay as its location was too remote to be a true base to tour the area. We found, too late in our four day stay, that unless you travelled up to the S433 road that ran East-West, that travel on the smaller roads just took too long. What looks like it would be a relatively short drive between two locations consumes most of the morning or afternoon.
I got to know Montalto quite well. Our breakfast at the Francesco would be served at 9:00 am (a little too late in the day for my liking as I prefer to get up early and head and see things). Since I am an early riser, I would take a pleasant twenty-minute walk to Montalto, sample of of the four bars to see who made the best cafe latte. Not a bad challenge to take I must admit.
Above: Santa Maria Della Rocca
This was an interesting town, and start your tour of the town at the Santa Maria Della Rocca [photo to the left] - the large impressive church located just outside the walls of the town.
You will not be overrun with tourists, the town is often not even included in some of the majour tour guides of the Region.
The Santa Maria Della Rocca was rebuilt in 1330 on the site of an 11th century church. The crypt is the entire area of the first floor and has frescoes from the 14th century. The upper floor was also originally painted with frescoes. Now, only fragments remain.
Offida was at its height in medieval times gaining free-town status in the 13th Century. In the 16th Cent6ury it was under the rule of the church and in 1860 joined out towns and cities that rose against the control of the Papal State. It was then included as part of the Provence of Ascoli Piceno in 1861. The medieval walls remain and plan for an enjoyable couple of hours to walk the streets and visit some of the other churches.
Above: The Ducal Palace
This is a great, walled city, south-west of Pesaro. It is designated as a World Heritage Site and it is impressive.
We remember on our 1997 trip that as we drove across from San Gigimano to Urbino the tour through the mountains/hills was very scenic. There were enough "S" curves to get the thrill of gearing up and down out of anyone's system.
We parked on the outskirts of town and then walk about to find a hotel. Once we had a confirmation the hotels provide a pass and you can bring you car into the town to park it. We found a hotel, although not exactly what we wanted. It was one of those decision, we were there, we had to see the Palace, and well who cares about the price of the room.
The Palazzo Ducale is something not to me missed. Construction started in the latter half of the 15th Century. Now, the National Gallery of the Marche is housed in the palace.
The towers of the Ducale Palace can be seen from a distance.
Tours of the Palazzo are only allowed with a guide. While group tours with a guide can be less desirable as you move along at the speed of the slowest person, this was different. It was just us and we had Adetto, the coolest looking Italian guy you will find.
We got his personal tour of the Palazzo. Not only did he give us a lot of history about the palace but at the end of our visit when we asked here we should go the following day, he pointed up to go to Sirolo on the Il Conero - a promontory further up the coast.
As Adetto told us, he was a guard, not a tour guide, and from time to time such as when we looked at Raphael's "La Muta", Adetto would look at the piece and say: "What can you say...".
Duke Federico's studiolo is decorated with intaria paneling and the perspective of the inlaid wood was unbelievable. There was such depth.
Il Conero - Sirolo
The drive up the coast from Urbino was pretty uneventful in terms of what we saw. But Il Conero is very different. Here there are rugged cliffs, white sand and some rock beaches and the is just a different feel from the broad flat beaches of the Adriatic.
While having a lunch on the patio of a restaurant I kept looking down at the small cove thinking this is the place that I would like to stay. Well after a walk down to the water we find a small eight room Penione that we stayed until they forced us out.
The Pensione Autora was heaven, we were on the third floor of the yellow building. Eight rooms, after dinner the family locks up the hotel and leaves. It is just you and the beach. Up on the town thre is a good even promenade and a great restaurant, the Osteria Sara. We had a couple of great meals there. The kitchen is open, actually, you have to walk through it to get to the washrooms that have a entrance of the back lane! The restaurant is clean, and the two woman who ran it and prepared the meals cooked up a storm.
Located in what is known as the Chienti Valley the town is charming to visit. Stop by Zazzaretta on the Piazza dell Liberta and enjoy a drink and watch the activities of the town
The Basicilica di S. Nicola da Tolentino is worth the drive. Here are the remains of Saint Nicholas who died in 1305. A well known saint, Saint Nicholas has been proclaimed as the saint for a number of Italian cities that include Rome, Naples, Venice, to name just a few.
Saint Nicholas' arms were placed in a wood and steel box and the Chapel of the Holy Arms was built to hold this relic. But, in 1926 his body was found and a crypt constructed and there his body and arms are now housed.
The cappellone di S. Nicola, the room located directly above the crypt of Saint Nicholas, is decorated with magnificent frescos. The cloisters date from the 13 to 14th Century with "new" cloisters built in 1510. The Coffered ceilings date to 1628 and took 25 years to build. Filippo di Firenze and his won work on this masterpiece
The chapel of the Holy Arms is impressive and make sure you look up at the dome and see the blue plaster and painted 17th century ceiling with the many small children, called Heaven.
As included on the Cloisters Site.