Passions & Places


Le Marche
...the enchantment of the mountain and the magic of the sea

Discover a geographical area suspended between the enchantment of the mountain and the magic of the sea, capable of rivalling the better known and more frequented highways and by-ways of the italian territory. Le Marche - remember they're plural - form the eastern seaboard of central Italy with the regions of Emilia-Romagna to the north and Abruzzo to the south. From the relatively narrow coastal plains the land rises sharply to the peaks of the Apennines that form a natural boundary with Umbria and Tuscany to the west.

While the coastal plains are more densely populated, the beautiful inland countryside is sparsely inhabited. The total population is around 1.5 million with an average density of less than 150 inhabitants per square kilometre; in other words peace and quiet assured. The region covers just under 10,000 square kilometres.

The inland mountainous zones are mostly limestone and are noted for bare peaks, rushing torrents, dramatic gorges and numerous caves. In contrast, the areas nearer the coastal plain are celebrated for their fertile rounded hills topped by ancient fortified towns.

The highest point in the Marche is Monte Vettore in the Sibillini mountains at 2,476 metres. The coast itself boasts long sandy strands; apart from the limestone lump of the Conero peninsula, it is mostly flat.

But wherever you are in the region, the mountains are never very far away. They offer some the finest scenery imaginable as well as a home for some of Italy's most fascinating wildlife; even if they keep well away from your picnic hamper, there are even wolves up in these hills.

The best places to get up close to Mother Nature are in the large areas that have now been designated natural parks.

The biggest is the Parco Naturale dei Monti Sibillini. It lies in the south-west corner of the Marche and spreads over 40 km of mountain peaks, including Monte Vettore, westwards into neighbouring Umbria. The area is a botanist's paradise as well as being rich in exotic birdlife.

The prettiest is perhaps Monte Conero, just south of Ancona. The lone limestone mountain provides the only really rugged coastline in the Marche, rising spectacularly out of the sea to a height of just over 500 metres. The park boasts over a thousand species of wild plants, as well as fascinating bird life. And if that's not enough, the views out over the sea are stunning.

Other parks include:

  • The WWF's small Torricchio Riserva Naturale, just north of the Monte Sibillini park and covering around 800 acres. Great flora and a flutter of butterflies

  • The nature reserve near the Cistercian abbey of Fiastra. Here the wildlife includes deer, beech-marten, sparrow-hawk, tawny owl, hoopoe and green woodpeckers.

  • The Gola della Rossa & Frasassi regional park, in the area of Genga with a series of towering limestone gorges and several pairs of golden eagles. The Frasassi Caves in the heart of the area are among the most spectacular caverns in Italy.

  • Below the high peaks of Monte Catria and Nerone, the Bosco di Tecchie woodland park near Cantiano is home to many species of mountain wildlife, including deer, wild boar, porcupine, and wolf. But don't let that put you off a walk in this enchanted forest.

  • Dramatic limestone crags, ancient Roman remains and golden eagles await you at the Furlo Gorge to the east.

  • In the northern Marche, the beach woods in the Sasso Simone and Simoncello Regional Park, protect numerous species of wildlife including deer, fox, badger, beech-marten, heron and the rare Montagu's harrier. Fine mountain scenery is an added bonus.

  • The small Colle San Bartolo Regional Park, near Gabicce on the Northern Marche coast, offers guided tours of marshland, the winter habitat of rare seabirds.

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