Driving across Italy you are struck by just how green and fertile this country is. Trees, plants and vines seem to cover every vista and cling to every mountainside, no matter how vertiginous it might be. There are orchards, olive groves and grain fields everywhere you look — even in the wilderness areas fruits, herbs and nuts seem to pour from the land. Planning this year of travel we knew we wanted to take in more of this picturesque country, so when our friends Matt & Jules invited us to stay with them in Le Marche, an eastern region sitting between the Apennines and the Adriatic, driving across the country seemed the only way to go.
Setting off from Positano, we left the sheer mountains, rich greenery and intense aqua blue seas of coastal Campania behind. It’s hard to imagine any other region being as beautiful but after cutting through the farmlands of Lazio we hit the Apennines. Impressively tall and richly forested, we found them equally stunning. Our route took us over precarious mountain roads and through tunnel after tunnel — we joked that in just five hours we had driven through more tunnels than we had in our entire lifetimes combined!
The region of Marche was not one that was ever on our wish list of new regions to visit– Puglia, Piedmont, Liguria and a few others would have definitely come before—but we’re so glad we were introduced to it now. Framed by the sea and the Apennines, the region is slightly reminiscent of Tuscany, dotted with hilltop towns and villages, each more beautiful than the last. However, it is much more mountainous than Tuscany and this time of year, more green. It is also exceptionally quiet and surprisingly inexpensive.
Le Marche moves to the pace of Italy of the past, with all shops and activities ceasing for the siesta, a sensible ritual that still punctuates each day. Things move slower here and a visitor has to adopt that same pace. We found it incredibly relaxing and looked forward to our mornings spent in town, picking up groceries for that night’s dinner, and afternoons spent at home. During our time in the area we enjoyed the sleepy but charming towns of Gualdo, Sarnano and Penna San Giovanni. We also heard wonderful things about Ascoli Piceno, but it was a bit too far away for us to explore it.
We only had four nights in Le Marche but we were charmed by this region and would love to travel it further. When the charming towns of Tuscany can bear no more tourists, we bet they’ll start spilling over here.