Marche is one of the least-visited regions in Italy. That’s not to say that nobody ever goes there, it’s just that people have far more pressing matters to be getting on with when venturing to Italy, like seeing Rome, or Pompeii, or Venice, or basically any of about twenty other must-see-before you die locations. It sits on the right hand side of the country, between the Adriatic Sea and the Appenine Mountains, and all I’m saying is it’s full on, big time, beautiful. I knew absolutely nothing about Marche whatsoever, until the actual day that I arrived there, but…it is incredible, and you should definitely go there, particularly if you like to explore locations that are a little less touristy.
CLIMB TO THE TOP OF MONDAVIO CASTLE
Mondavio is where I was based for the first week of my stay in Marche; a beaut little town perched on top of a hill, where everybody seems to know everybody and the locals like to hang out in a little cafe next to the castle (Rocca Di Mondavio) drinking coffee and eating cannoli. It’s all cobblestones and winding streets and the view from the top of the castle is something to behold, so worth the climb. There’s a really amazing restaurant at the top of the hill which does the best pizza in the history of my life, ever. Go there, ok.
People round these parts seem really big on their medieval re enactments and my host dad proudly pointed out his whole family plus other friends throughout the years in several of the photos on display of reenactments past. I would LOVE to experience an Italian Medieval festival one day, I feel like they’d do this well.
This 14th century castle doesn’t look anything like the type we get in England, that’s for sure; for one thing it has shutters.
SWIM IN THE ADRIATIC SEA
We spent beach days at Torrette, near Fano, which is a pretty family-orientated beach filled with parasols by day and beach bars by night, mainly because my host family have an apartment there which they rent out on Air BnB from time to time. You can rent a pedalo (which we did; I was terrified when I had to jump in despite the fact it’s completely safe and I would not have died), which I actually highly recommend just for the downright hilarity of pedalling a vehicle on the ocean. I mean, whose invention was that!? In the evening the bars do pizzas and barbecues and cocktails and it’s a nice chilled out vibe with not an English voice in earshot. When I was there it was September and apparently uncharacteristically hot- until a massive downpour broke the heatwave halfway through the week- so any later in the year and you might not be so keen on a dip in the sea.
EAT ICE CREAM IN PESARO
Pesaro is one of the bigger seaside resorts in the region, with a lively atmosphere and some beautiful old buildings to boot. Good one, Pesaro! My main point, however great Pesaro is, is that Italian ice cream is DA BOMB and I could eat it forever. The key feature is that it doesn’t taste like artificial flavourings and cream, it tastes like actual real strawberries/pistachios/mango and cream, and that is worth everything. Italian ice cream makers, I salute you. You are awesome.
TASTE WINE AT LA CANTINA TERRACRUDA
Because it’s so cute!! This is a tiny winery near the village of Fratte Rosa, with an incredible view of the countryside rolling right away from you towards the sea in the distance. I was really lucky to be taken by my host family who know the owner; what a nice guy that man is! He gave us a detailed story for every wine (note story, not description), and clearly loves what he does. The road up to the cantina passes the vineyards where the grapes are grown, and we were able to stop and taste the different grapes fresh off the vine. (We did ask first.)
The other incredibly brilliant thing about his place is that it houses a BnB which looks seriously STUNNING. The family have put so much care and attention into this place and one of the teachers I was working with was lucky enough to have been able to stay here for her second week of work. Oh, myyyy we were jealous! Although I didn’t stay here it comes strongly recommended and one day I need to go back and sample it myself. This place is a right gem.
VISIT A MONASTERY IN THE MOUNTAINS
I went to the Fonte Avellana with my second host family, a monastery high up in the mountain range that I’d been seeing in the distance the whole week. The drive up there alone is worth a visit, although maybe I was more astonished than some others would be as I’ve never been in a real life mountain range before; I felt like I was on a car advert for goodness’ sake. Everything is green and the air is much cooler and crisper as you’re so much higher up. The monastery was established in 980…I mean that’s quite a while ago…and all I kept thinking is that that would have been a pretty hard task for a group of hermits, to build a whole monastery with stone carvings and all. What a hardworking bunch.
EXPLORE THE FRASASSI CAVES
This is probably the most touristy thing I did in Marche, however it is definitely worth visiting as these caves are just so bloody awesomely jaw-droppingly brilliant. And that is an understatement. And really the only reason it’s touristy is that they’ve whacked a load of gift shops outside, coupled with the fact that you have to go in groups with a tour guide (or tour English-speaking-iPod, in my case 👍).
The Grotte Di Frasassi is one of the largest complex of caves in Europe, and it truly looks like something out of a fairytale. I was an ultimate rebel and took a picture on my phone (you’re not allowed unless you pay extra for a photo tour), but to be fair I don’t think any photograph will ever do it justice. Nothing prepared me for the sheer cavernous size of the place, and how weird and wonderful the stalactites and stalagmites would look; it’s easy once you’re in there to lose your sense of proportion and giant things far away can seem deceptively small. A word of warning: it’s a cave, it’s cold, dress appropriately or risk freezing like I did.
UNCOVER ROMAN RUINS AT SUASA
A true story for you: when I was eight, I wrote to Girl Talk (a magazine for young girls, for those who weren’t avid readers like I was), specifically to try and get featured on their ‘Dreams Come True’ page. Every week they made a different girl’s dream come true and she got a full page spread in Girl Talk to document the Coming True of the Dream. Girls were taken to zoos, theme parks, to meet singers, to see shows, and all they had to do was write a good enough letter and Girl Talk would enable their dream to become reality. Do you know what I wrote, pals?
‘DEAR DREAMS COME TRUE,
I WISH I COULD LEARN EVEN MORE ABOUT THE ROMANS.’
Girl Talk (amazingly) thought this would make a great feature for their page, and whisked me off in A-List style to The Roman Experience at The White Cliffs of Dover. I wore my lime green Spice Girls dress with knee high white socks as I knew I’d be having photos taken (gotta look good for the camera), but upon arrival they promptly dressed me in a hessian sack with a rope belt, Roman style, to match my two fully grown Roman tour guides/ fellow models, and taught me all they had to give about the Romans. Dream: made.
Or so I thought!
Because do you know what finally topped my Girl Talk/Dreams Come True/Roman Experience??
GOING TO AN ACTUAL OLD ROMAN CITY AND HAVING A PROPER SNOOP AROUND.
I no longer hold the same unfathomable fascination with the Romans that I apparently once held, but those feelings of fascination came flooding back when I stepped foot in the ruins of Suasa, I’ll tell you that for free. I’m not even joking. Suasa was a city which lasted hundreds of years, but was abandoned hundreds of years ago, and that timescale blows my mind. Those Romans were clever people…the excavations are ongoing but so far they’ve discovered roads, an amphitheatre, a necropolis and a domus (a grand house which is probably the most amazing part at the moment, because of the mosaics that are so well preserved), amongst other things. Even if you’re not the slightest bit interested in history, this place is fascinating.
VISIT THE VILLAGE OF SAN LORENZO (OR ANY LITTLE VILLAGE AT ALL)
Mainly just for a slice of village life and to see the locals, because they are a right old lovely bunch! The parents at our second school organised a tour of San Lorenzo which I really appreciated- the village (and most villages in the area) is full to the brim with churches, so they took us to meet the priest which was a right laugh. They have the coolest priest I’ve ever seen in all my days, a guy with scruffy hair and his dog collar a little twisted, who fully and intentionally ran into the pathway of one of his pals on a moped. He stopped the moped in its tracks, with his bare, priestly hands! What an absolute legend.
They also took us to see the actual bones of a Saint. Human bone remains. Of a saint. They keep them in a case in the crypt. ‘Cause that’s just how those Catholics roll.
Also worth checking out in San Lorenzo is the cutest theatre I’ve ever stepped foot in, the Teatro Tiberini. The local community uses it for their school performances, but this is no ordinary village hall, and they are a lucky bunch to have such a beautiful theatre for their shows. Check out this badboy-
Obviously these are only a tiny selection, from the tiny area that I was based in Marche. Did I miss many important places? I need to go back to try out the Terracruda BnB anyway, so where to next time, pals?