A holiday in the Marche

Before heading off on our summer holiday to Numana, a town on the central Adriatic coast of Italy, I had big plans for this post. I would write a detailed guide about the often overlooked region of the Marche. With its hilly landscape, cities and towns of great beauty and historical interest (Ancona, Ascoli Piceno and Urbino to name just a few) and an incredibly varied cuisine, it has much to offer visitors looking to go off the beaten track in Italy. However, as the saying goes,’ God laughs when you make plans’, especially if you are travelling with a toddler! Nine days into our holiday, after a day of sightseeing in Loreto and Recanati, my little girl came down with a virus and fever. Instead of visiting the castle towns of Offagna and Osimo, the caves of Frasassi and the city of Ancona for a second day as we had planned, my husband and I spent the rest of our holiday comforting our little one and trying to alleviate her symptoms. Oh well, this is the reality of raising children. They will get sick and often at times that we’d really prefer they didn’t.

So, even though we weren’t able to do everything we’d planned, it was, for the most part, an enjoyable holiday. Here’s a synopsis of where we went, what we ate and other local specialties we treated ourselves to during our holiday along the Riviera del Conero in the Marche.

Where we went

We rented a flat for two weeks in Numana and used this seaside town as our base. Originally inhabited by tribes of Picentini and Sicels, the town fell under Greek,  then Roman domination over 2,500 years ago. Notable sights such the aqueduct and Arco di Torre date back to the period of Roman rule.

Numana - Arco di Torre at twilight
                                                    – Numana – Arco di Torre at twilight –

Our flat was in the old town which is situated on a cliff overlooking the sea. I really came to love the walk down (with the heat and a toddler in tow, I didn’t feel the same way about the walk up!) to La Spiaggiola beach. We stopped so many times to take photos and admire the view.

Numana - view of La Spiaggiola
                                               – Numana – view of La Spiaggiola –

Sirolo is only ten minutes (uphill!) walk from Numana so we went here several times during our stay. Like Numana, Sirolo has been inhabited since ancient times. To defend itself from invasion, the town was fortified in the year of 1050. In 1225, the ruling Cortesi family ceded rule of the town to the maritime Republic of Ancona.

Sirolo - view of the coastline from the main square
                                – Sirolo – view of the coastline from the main square – 

I loved the town’s medieval centro storico, the vicoli and the main square’s cliff top position. The view of the coastline from this piazza is just spectacular.

Sirolo - one of the many quaint vicoli
                                            –  Sirolo – one of its many quaint vicoli –

Ancona is the regional capital of Le Marche. Home to over 100,000 inhabitants (200,000-300,000 in the greater met area) this distinctly elbow-shaped port city was founded by Greek settlers from Syracuse in 387 BC. One of travel brochures I came across described the city as an open air museum. After visiting the city halfway through our holiday, and realising a day was not enough to visit all the sites of historical and/or cultural interest, I feel the description is not an exaggeration.

As you know, we weren’t able to visit all the city sites we had intended to. I’m glad, however, that we at least made it to Ancona Cathedral. Dedicated to the city’s patron saint, Cyriacus, this place of worship perfectly encapsulates the city’s 2,500 year history in one building. Construction of the Romanesque-Byzantine cathedral began in the year 995. Excavations in the late 1940s revealed that the cathedral had been built upon the site of a temple dedicated to Aphrodite dating back to the 3rd century BC and on top of that, a 6th century paleo-Christian church. Situated on the summit of Guasco hill, it’s the perfect place to enjoy panaromic views of the city and its port.

- Ancona - marble lion at portal of Ancona Cathedral -
                            – Ancona – marble lion at portal of Ancona Cathedral –
- Ancona Cathedral -
                                                              – Ancona Cathedral –
- View of the port from Guasco hill -
                                               – View of the port from Guasco hill –

Loreto is an inland hilltown southeast of Ancona. It’s home to an important site of Catholic pilgrimage, the Basilica Della Santa Casa.  TT had a wonderful time climbing the stairs here. Needless to say but it wasn’t as much fun for her parents…

Loreto - Basilica della Santa Casa
                                             – Loreto – Basilica della Santa Casa –
- Loreto - Basilica della Santa Casa -
                                              – Loreto – Basilica della Santa Casa –

Recanati is another inland hilltown. Founded in 1150 AD from three pre-existing castles, this lovely medieval town is perhaps best known today for being the birthplace of several notable cultural figures, such as the tenor Beniamino Gigli, the poet Giacomo Leopardi and the composer Giuseppe Persiani.

- Recanati - Church of Santa Maria in Montemorello -
                             – Recanati – Church of Santa Maria in Montemorello –
- Recanati - Civic Tower -
                                                – Recanati – Civic Tower –
- Recanati - an extract from one of Giacomo Leopardi's poems -
                    – Recanati – an extract from one of Giacomo Leopardi’s poems –

What we ate

Being a coastal region, we ate a lot of seafood, including dishes like fritto misto di pesce e verdure, calamari in porchetta, and spaghetti con i moscioli. The region is also known for its production of pasta, cheeses such as pecorino, mozzarella and ricotta as well as salumi and prosciutti.

- Ancona - a gastronomia with regional salumi, prosciutti and cheeses -
               – Ancona – a gastronomia with regional salumi, prosciutti and cheeses –

One of my favourite regional dishes, a guilty pleasure if there ever was one, would have to be le olive all’ascolana.  These stuffed olives are generally served as a finger food or appetiser. They are a specialty of Ascoli Piceno, a beautiful city which boasts a centro storico almost entirely built in Travertine marble, in the south of the Marche. These days, however, they are made all over the region. I had entertained the idea of doing a post with a recipe for these deep-fried delights once I returned home to Turin. I quickly discarded that idea though when the owner of a gastronomia (a type of delicatessen that is also an eatery) we ate at in Numana told us that he only uses le olive ascolane DOP specially delivered from Ascoli Piceno to make them. Apparently, the results are just not the same with other types of olives.

- le olive ascolane - a regional finger food/appetiser -
                                  – le olive ascolane – a regional finger food/appetiser –

What we bought

Ladies (and fashion conscious men!), guess what? You know those all those handbags and shoes by Tods, Hogan and Prada? There’s a very good chance that they were Made in the Marche! Along with fellow central Italian regions Tuscany and Umbria, the Marche has a long tradition of making leather goods. If you are looking for bargains on the big names, there are plenty of outlets. I must admit though, I prefer the one-of-a-kind creations of small-scale artisans. After TT got sick, I felt I deserved a bit of retail therapy and bought some lovely handmade shoes by La Scarpetta di Venere and a bag by Elisabetta Cosmo in Sirolo.

You can find shoes by La Scarpetta di Venere and Elisabetta Cosmo’s bags at the following:

Address: Via Verdi 3

Sirolo (AN)

Website: www.scarpettadivenere.it/

www.elisabettacosmo.it/

Email: alice@scarpettadivenere.it

       info@elisabettacosmo.it

N.B. This post wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Turin papà (TP). Not only was he incredibly helpful when TT came down with her virus, he also took many of the photos featured in this post.  TP, ti ringrazio di cuore per questa bellissima vacanza. Ti voglio un mondo di bene!

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