Le Marche, the new Tuscany

A treasure for passionate and discerning travellers

6 JULY 2014,
Monti Sibillini
Monti Sibillini

I have always believed at love at first site. I know exactly what I like and when I walk into a hotel or a restaurant I immediately sense whether or not I will have a good experience. This is exactly what happened when I visited le Marche. Most people fall in love with Italy because of its beautiful landscape, great food and picturesque cities. I was one of them. But let me tell you something: as beautiful as it may be it is incredibly unappealing to walk in the main piazza of any town and hear every language but Italian. Passionate and discerning travellers always seek and treasure authenticity, which is what in my opinion, differentiates a holiday from an experience.

Welcome to Le Marche. A stunning, soulful and undiscovered region that will take you back in time and make you instantly fall in love with the so called “stile di vita Italiano”. I am not going to translate that, by now you should know the meaning of it! This place really has it all. With its mouth-watering gastronomic treasures, including the white truffles from Acqualagna, the savoury Verdicchio white wines and some unforgettable Michelin star restaurants, Le Marche is the ultimate destination for adventurous food & wine lovers. The charming coastline with the impressive Conero natural park, the gentle hillside and striking medieval villages make it the ideal place to unwind.

What even fewer people know is that region is also famous for its fine craftsmanship with fantastic designers, tailors, artists and all sorts of local artisans allowing visitors to come across unique shopping experiences. But the one thing that I love the most is that you almost have the feeling that when you reach le Marche time stops. How about that for a luxury! With the help of local friend & guide, we rented a car and toured for a few days around the region. Here are some of my best highlights. We started from the very north of the Region, right on the border with Emilia Romagna. Our first gastronomic delight took place in a fantastic family run one Michelin star restaurant located in a country house in the wonderful setting of the Sasso Simione natural park.

Never would have we expected to come across such a refined meal in such a remote location. Gastronomically speaking, the area is known for its hearty and robust dishes but in this case the chef surprised us by combining intensity of taste of the local flavours with the lightness of his gentle cooking style. Next stop was Urbino, a beautiful town further south known for its immaculate cultural treasures and part of the Unesco world heritage sites. Among the parts that we visited, Palazzo Ducale was certainly the one that impressed us the most due to its fascinating décor.

For the first couple of nights we stayed in this lovely castle in the center of Monterado which was an incredibly authentic experience. Our next stop was definitely one we were looking forward to: Acqualagna, a foodies dream, home to some of Italy’s finest white truffles. Here we meet Federico, a funny young local who owns a “truffle reserve”. After having had a tasting of his different truffle products, we got dressed up like proper hunters with all the proper gears and together with the dogs we head to the forest in search of this precious jewel. Luckily after 40 minutes of wandering around we found 2 medium- sized truffle which rewarded us with an instant sensation of accomplishment.

Federico then took us to a nearby local Trattoria where our “hunting efforts” were turned into glory. With our truffles, the chef prepared a full on truffle inspired menu: never been so close to heaven! We head south east to the picturesque town of Senigallia located right on the coastline where we stayed for the last couple of nights in this luxurious B&B run by a wonderful couple with a great sense of hospitality. On the way, we decided drive by some of the most beautiful medieval villages including the one of Mondavio. Senigallia is the region’s gastronomic capital. This town in fact hosts two 2 Michelin star chefs with completely different style. Just when we thought it could not get any better! Chef Uliassi has more of a classic approach. He elevates to an unreachable dimension local classics while eclectic chef Cedroni has more of a modern and playful approach whereby he blends local delicacies with ingredients from the other side of the world. Choosing between these 2 restaurants is like asking if you prefer pasta of pizza: they are both great, it just depends what mood you are in. All I can tell you is that these are some of the finest fish restaurants I have ever eaten at and to have them in the same town gives you no excuse to try both.

Of course our visit to Le Marche could not end without a good glass of wine. From Senigallia, we drove 30 minutes to the town of Jesi, famous for the production of Verdicchio. This savoury and mineral white is one of Italy’s hidden gems. If you are not a fan of Italian white wines, give Verdicchio a try. Over the last few decades, producers have realised the incredible potential of this wine and as a result they are now producing wines which are rapidly gaining consideration in the world of fine wines. We met one of the winemakers whom has revitalised the image and quality of Verdicchio. After having taken us around the vineyard to see where “the magic happens” we finally arrive at his tasting room to see what this wine is all about. He pours his Riserva 2004, a 10 year Verdicchio, something unthinkable to do until a few years ago. We look around the tasting room and all we see are empty bottles of fine white Burgundy lying around. We tasted the wine and it suddenly all makes sense. That is why I love le Marche and that is why you should love it.

Ps: Please don’t tell too many of your friends, I still want to hear people speaking Italian in the main piazza.