map of marcheWedged between the verdant Apennines and a turquoise Adriatic, Le Marche is a varied region, and one you could enjoy weeks of slow travel exploring. Sparsely populated inland areas are unspoilt and untouristed, particularly in the southwest, where stone hill-villages make atmospheric bases for hikes into the spectacular Monti Sibillini range. Ancona, the region’s capital, is a gritty but engaging port town which gives way heading southwards to the dramatic Conero Riviera, with its natural white-pebble beaches backed by milky Dover-esque cliffs. In contrast north and south of the Ancona area the coastline is hemmed with boxy new-build resorts and mechanically pruned beaches of coarse sand.

Of Le Marche’s old-fashioned and slightly forgotten seaside resorts, Pesaro is the largest, with a Renaissance centre maintaining its dignity behind the package-tour seafront, and lesser-known Fano to the south offers a similar experience. Away from the scorching seaside fun, most appealing – and best known – of Le Marche’s sights are the small hilltop town of Urbino, with its spectacular Renaissance palace, and the dramatic fortress of San Leo, just across the border from San Marino. Further south, architecturally fascinating Macerata is a sleepy university town surrounded by lovely countryside, and, right on the regional border, the fascinating city of Ascoli Piceno is a worthy stopoff on the way into Abruzzo. Loreto just south of Ancona is one of Italy’s top pilgrimage sites, the basilica providing shelter for what Catholics claim is Jesus’ childhood house, air freighted to Le Marche by a band of angels.

Le Marche has it All

From the white-pebble, cliff-backed bays along the Adriatic to sloped hill towns and the high-rise mountain ranges of Monti Sibillini, Le Marche is one of Italy’s little-known treasures.

It’s inland where Le Marche really shines. Urbino, Raphael’s hometown, presents a smorgasboard of Renaissance art and history up and down its vertical streets. Pale but lovely Ascoli Piceno has beauty and history in bounds. Equally walkable is Macerata, with a famous open-air opera theatre and festival. Covering its western reaches, and bleeding over into neighbouring Umbria, is the wild and wonderful Parco Nazionale dei Monti Sibillini.