How to Drive in Italy

Country road in Italy
Photo by Luca Micheli on Unsplash

Italy’s most popular tourist destinations are easily reached by plane, train, or cruise ship. But to see Italy’s hidden treasures, to travel like a local, to experience first-hand Italy’s dolce vita, rent a car and drive to smaller cities and tiny villages.

Driving in Italy is a sport. Italians drive fast, except when they drive slow. They tailgate, then slam on the brakes at a “zebra crossing.” They use both hands to speak while driving, and they drive in-between designated lanes, as if to create additional ones. 

And yet, my trips to Italy were more immersive and enchanting once I got behind the wheel. It will for you too. Here is everything you need to know to drive in Italy.

Italian road with a car
Photo: AlexGukBo/Depositphotos

Before you Drive

You’ve taken pictures of your rental car and are ready to leave the lot. Before you do, turn on your headlights. Low-beam and parking lights are required at all times in suburban areas and the motorways. 

Buckle your seatbelts, even passengers in the back seat — it’s the law. Children under the age of four must be in an approved safety seat and children aged four to 12 are required to use a booster seat until they reach 1.5 meters tall (about 4.9 feet).  Your car rental company can provide both. 

 Program your destination into Waze, or a similar GPS system that displays the speed limit, and alerts you when you’re exceeding it. Speed limits change often, even on the same road, and are not always marked.  If you’re American, you may want to change your GPS settings to metric so they match the road signs. 

Mobile phone use is allowed only in “hands-free” mode. 

Leave your International Driving Permit in the vehicle. It won’t do you any good in your luggage in your hotel room. You also need your driver’s license. 

If it’s between November 1 – April 30, depending on where you are driving, you may be required to have snow chains in your car, or winter tires mounted. 

Speed limit sign in Italy
Italian speed limits

Speeding

As a general rule, the speed limit on major freeways, (Autostrada, some Strada Statale) is 130 km/h (80 mph), reduced to 110 km/h (68 mph) in rain or bad weather. On divided highways in suburban areas (Strada Statale), the limit is 110, or 90 (56 mph) in inclement weather. On secondary and local roads (Strada Provinciale) the speed limit is 90 km/h, reduced to 80 km/h  (50 mph) when raining. In cities it is 50 km/h (31 mph) regardless of weather.

Speed limits are enforced by a vast network of cameras, which are marked but easy to miss, especially when you don’t speak the language, you’re trying not to get lost, and you’ve got one eye on your rearview mirror. Waze is good at warning when you approach a camera, but be advised some locations change weekly. 

To add to the confusion, two different systems monitor speed. One is clearly marked “controllo elettronico della velocità con sistema tutor.” Usually on the Autostrade (plural for Autostrada), the Tutor system uses two cameras at fixed points to establish an average speed. If your average speed is over the limit, expect a ticket to arrive by mail. The second method, signaled by “controllo elettronico della velocità” is simply a camera with a radar, either in a box along the road or hand-held by a police officer.

As with the Tutor system, don’t expect to be pulled over and fined for speeding. You’ll get a ticket in the mail. If you really want to prepare, the Polizia di Stato website publishes camera locations, updated weekly. (In Italian, but you can use Chrome or an extension to easily translate.) Many small towns also have speed cameras that should be designated, but even at a slower speed, they are easily overlooked.

As stated on my speeding ticket, drivers are given a 5% tolerance over the posted limit, with a minimum of 5 kmh for a speed limit of 100 kmh or less. Anything above that speed is subject to fees that start at € 41 and can reach € 336. Fines increase incrementally with higher speed violations, and if it occurs in the evening, a surcharge is added. 

Your first indication that you have a ticket is if a charge appears on the credit card that you used to pay for your rental car. You might even receive an email from the car rental agency advising you that you have received a ticket and they have charged you an administrative fee to provide your information to the local authorities. 

The ticket itself may take months to arrive. The police have 360 days to notify you. My ticket arrived by registered mail almost 4 months later. My fine, for driving 4 kmh over the threshold in a 70 kph zone, was € 44.60 including “notification and procedure costs” if paid within 5 days of the receipt of the notification, which they know because they sent it certified mail. Hertz also charged me € 25 for the aforementioned administrative fee, lower than the € 50 that Europcar charged me for a “ZTL” infraction. 

My ticket arrived the same day as my husband’s, although his was from a different region and 4 months before mine. Both were in English and provided websites to view our crimes captured on camera. They offered methods to appeal but none were convenient for a guilty foreigner. The only way to pay was by international wire transfer, for which many American banks charge exorbitantly. 

I don’t know what happens if you don’t pay. Our tickets stated that after 60 days, “relevant tax authorities will be entitled to recover the half of the maximum amount of the violation” — more than double the fine. We drive often in Italy, so for us non-payment was never a question. 

Autostrada minimum speed by lane sign
Minimum Speeds by lane for the Autostrada

Italian Driving Quirks

Especially when driving on the Autostrada, you might think speed limits are not enforced in Italy, or that the drivers flying past you have some sort of immunity. Whether on the 8-lane Autostrada or a 2-lane country road, you’ll look in the rearview mirror that you just peeked at 3 seconds ago and suddenly a car has appeared out of nowhere, the driver is tailgating you, flashing their headlights, and gesticulating wildly. What we consider criminal tailgating is Italian habit. Don’t take it personally.  

Stay in the middle or right lane on the freeways. Use the left-most lane only to pass and be quick about it. Signal your intent, but don’t expect other drivers to do so. Constantly check your mirrors, especially when changing lanes. Don’t try to understand why some drivers leave their turn signals on. I’ve asked several Italians and they don’t know either. If the driver behind you on a freeway flashes their lights, move to the right. Signs above the Autostrada display blue circles and speed limits by lane. Those are the minimum speeds you can drive in each lane. 

Lane dividing lines are painted but don’t be surprised to see cars straddle them and drive in-between lanes, especially the left and middle ones.  

Entrance and exit ramps are shorter on Italian highways so accelerate quickly to merge with traffic. Italians are fairly polite about moving over to accommodate incoming cars. The next exit is painted on the pavement in the right lane in addition to roadside signs.

Emergency stop areas are marked and often include a telephone. In the event of a breakdown or problem, wear the fluorescent safety vest usually found in the trunk of your rental car and place the warning triangle 50 meters from your car. In the unlikely event that you cannot reach your car rental agency, roadside assistance is available from the Automobile Club of Italy 24/7 by calling 800.116.800 from a foreign mobile phone. 

Autogrill image
Photo courtesy of Autogrill

Autogrills

Autogrill is the most common rest stop in Italy. I’ve had a light lunch in a couple of them and have left thinking that I could have eaten better for less money elsewhere. If you’re hungry and it’s lunch or dinner hours, exit the freeway, consult Google Maps, and find a local restaurant nearby. We stumbled upon a family owned bar and restaurant on the road from Rome to our house in the Marche. They source their own meats and breads locally and our lunch there was less expensive than Autogrill. 

If it’s outside serving hours, Autogrill’s sandwiches are not bad. Ask them to heat it for you (caldo means warm). I’ve never had their cafeteria-style hot food. If you see several police cars or a lot of semi trucks parked at a rest stop, that’s a good sign. They know where to find a good meal on the go. 

Drinking and Driving

Italy’s blood alcohol limit is 0.5 gr/l, or 0.05%, lower than many states in the U.S. If you are found above that, the penalties are severe. You can be fined € 527 to € 6,000, banned for driving, prosecuted, and imprisoned up to one year. Police routinely perform random security and sobriety checks. And not always at night. My husband Matt was driving from a wine tasting on a weekend afternoon when a police officer stepped into the road holding a stop sign. He approached our car and asked to see his license. Matt handed it to him, along with his International Driving Permit, which I think was the first one the police officer had ever seen by the curiosity with which he regarded it. The officer shook his head at his boss sitting in the car and waved us on. Thankfully, Matt had not been drinking, but don’t assume you won’t get stopped in broad daylight. 

Autostrada toll booth
Photo by dominic arizona bonuccelli / azfoto.com

Tolls

Most autostrade have tolls. At the first stop, you’ll get your ticket (biglietto). Do not pick the Telepass lane. As you exit the autostrada, you’ll have to pay. Again, do NOT take the Telepass lane. Pick a lane that shows a credit card symbol to pay by credit card (American cards accepted), or the money symbol to pay in cash. Insert your ticket, the machine will tell you what you owe, and gives change. If an agent is available, the sign will display a hand giving change. You can estimate the tolls for your route on the Autostrada website

Roundabouts

I found roundabouts pretty fun once I got the hang of them and it’s an easy way to turn around when I get lost. In a one-lane roundabout, you enter to the right when it’s clear and signal only when you get to your exit. In a multiple-lane roundabout, if you’re taking the first exit, you must use the right lane to enter and signal right. If you’re going straight, use the right lane to enter, and signal only when you approaching your exit. If you need to go left, enter the roundabout from the left lane and signal left, then move to the right lane, and signal right. That sounds more complicated than it is, and it becomes intuitive. 

Italy no passing sign
No Passing Sign

Passing

On two-lane country roads you might get stuck behind a tractor or a slow driver. You can pass on the left if it is not a “no passing zone” indicated by solid double white lines, and/or with a sign that has a red car to the left of a black one.  That being said, ensure you check for oncoming traffic with the understanding that an approaching car can appear seemingly out of nowhere. Likewise, if a driver wants to pass you, move to the right a bit. I recommend familiarizing yourself with Italian road signs before you get there and bringing a printed version for quick reference. 

Strade Bianche – White Roads

Are so called because they are typically white gravel. They might be paved or dirt, but in all cases, they are narrow. Commonly found in the idyllic countryside, these roads are not heavily trafficked or maintained. If you meet another car, the one going up a hill has priority. You may have to reverse to find space to allow them through. Take your time, relax, tranquillo. Italians driving in the countryside are generally very accommodating.  

ZTL Sign
From Wikimedia Commons

“Zona Traffico Limitato” The Dreaded ZTL 

More than forty Italian cities have restricted traffic zones (ZTL), usually around the “centro storico” city center. In ZTLs vehicular traffic is restricted to residents, or authorized at certain times of the day, or a congestion charge is required to access. Research the areas where you plan to drive in advance and in Rome, look for signs that say “Varco Attivo” meaning the ZTL is active and you cannot enter. “Varco non Attivo” means you can drive freely. A sign that says “Zona Traffico Limitato” with a white circle and a red border is another sign not to cross, unless the hours posted below it indicate otherwise. In Milan’s center is an “Area C” for which you can buy a pass online and activate upon your arrival in Milan. In some smaller towns, your host or hotel may be able to register your car with the police to allow admittance. 

As with speeding, ZTLs are enforced by a surprisingly efficient camera system, and if you violate one, you will be fined both by the authorities and the rental car agency. 

Road Signs

Stop signs are red and say stop, so that’s easy. If you see a red circle with a white horizontal rectangle it means wrong way, do not enter. A narrow, white arrow on blue indicates one-way traffic, is often faded, and shockingly small. You may see the words “senso unico” which mean one way. A quick hint to determine if you are about to go the wrong way down a one-way is to look for parking signs on the street. If you can’t see any, you may be making a mistake.

I’ll cover parking signs in the next article of this series but “no parking” is represented by a red-framed blue circle with a red line through it. Just remember, parking signs are blue and things you can’t do are red

You’ll see “Varco Aperto” on signs on the highways. It just means there’s a short stretch of road ahead where the center divider is missing. 

Galleria means a tunnel, and they are marked with an odd sign that is clearly intended to represent a tunnel but when flying past it at 130 kmh, it doesn’t look like anything. 

Zebra crossing in Italy
Photo by Max Nayman on Unsplash

Crosswalks and other town hazards

At zebra crossings, or crosswalks with black and white striped lines, you are legally required to stop to allow a pedestrian to cross, usually screeching to a halt to do so. As a pedestrian though, do not assume the driver is paying attention and cross only when you know it’s safe. 

There is no right turn on red in Italy. A red light means you can’t go anywhere. 

An Italian would want to avoid traffic and drive their car in the bus lane but it’s a fineable offense. Thankfully, when I accidentally drove in the bus lane the only witnesses were curious bystanders. 

In villages with narrow lanes, you may want to fold in your side mirrors when negotiating tight spaces. 

Don’t blindly obey your GPS instructions. The app does not know it’s market day and the road is closed. If, like me, you find yourself driving through a crowded market in Sicily, smile and shrug in a rueful apology. You won’t be the first. 

Getting Gas

Diesel cars are common in Italy. Double check your rental’s fuel type before filling it with gas. “Benzina senza piombo” is unleaded gasoline and diesel or “gasolio” is diesel. Getting gas in Italy can be an adventure, and one you’ll pay a lot for. We recently paid € 1.73 per liter for diesel, or about € 6.65 per gallon. 

Especially in rural areas, it may be hard to find a gas station open 24/7 and some close for lunch. Many gas stations offer full service, so if your rental car lacks washer fluid (it happens often to me) and you need your windows washed, pick full service. They sometimes give you a free coffee too. 

To pump your own gas, look for “Fai da te” which means do it yourself. You may have to pre-pay at an outdoor kiosk by entering your pump number and credit card or cash. Some gas stations let you pay inside the store afterwards, or to an attendant outside with a credit card reader, or my favorite, a drive-through booth with an attendant. Some gas stations even have disposable gloves you can use. In large cities, micro gas stations are tucked along the streets. 

Amalfi Coast Traffic
eFesenko / Alamy Stock Photo

The Cinque Terre and Amalfi Coast

I have been to both but have never driven them. In the Cinque Terre, the villages do not allow cars, so you pay to park outside the town, then walk (typically uphill). The narrow roads are hairpins and may induce carsickness. A train connects the villages from the La Spezia station, I recommend that or the ferryboats instead. 

The Amalfi Coast is breathtakingly beautiful and the driver will miss it all because their eyes will be on the road. The passengers may get carsick, and if you drive there in the summer, you’ll spend a lot of vacation time in horrendous traffic and looking for a parking spot. The roads are narrow for two-way traffic and overridden with tour buses you can’t see coming around the curve. Unless you’re driving in the off-season, I recommend taking the public bus, hiring a driver for a day trip, or better yet, ride a ferryboat. 

Sicily

An Italian friend of mine thought his wife had not understood my Italian when she told him that I had driven in Sicilia. He later asked me, wide-eyed with incredulity, if the rumor was true. 

Even some mainland Italians confess a fear of driving in Sicily. But if I can do it, so can you. That being said, do not drive in Palermo or Catania. Many Sicilians have cautioned me against doing so, and I heed local advice. 

The rest of Sicily is drivable, with caveats. In my experience, GPS is not as accurate, so expect to get lost. In some areas, the roads are potholed, missing shoulders, and without dividing lines. A Sicilian driver behind me blared his horn when I dared to stop at a stop sign. Another driver honked his displeasure when, at the end of a road, I stopped to look, then waited for oncoming cars to clear before I proceeded. During a morning traffic jam in Trapani, we all drove around two stopped cars while the drivers conversed in the busy intersection. 

Sicily is one of my favorite places in the world. Sicilians are warm-hearted, and if you get lost they will help you. 

In my next articles I’ll cover everything you need to know to park in Italy.

If you think I’ve missed something or if you have any questions please leave a comment. 

Buon viaggio!

Useful Links: 

Everything you need to know about renting a car in Italy 

Waze GPS app

Polizia di Stato information on camera speed enforcement (Italian, use Chrome or an extension to translate)

Autostrada website in English

PDF of Road Signs in English to Bring With

Rome’s ZTL information in English

Milan’s Area C information

Autoeurope has a guidebook in English for driving in Italy

The Automobile Club of Italia is an excellent resource for advice in several languages

The Hertz guide to driving in Italy  

The Hertz guide to ZTLs

Wikipedia’s Road Signs in Italy Page

Useful vocabulary:

Mi sono perso (for a man), mi sono persa (for a woman) – I am lost

Mi può aiutare – Can you help me? 

Limite di velocità – speed limit

Rallentare – slow down

Autonoleggio – car rental

Destra – right

Sinistra – left 

Sempre diritto – straight ahead

Strada – street

Uscita – exit
Entrata–  entrance

Rotonda – roundabout

Semaforo – stoplight

Nebbia – fog (You’ll see this on signs that advise a lower speed limit in case of nebbia

Autostrada – the high speed toll freeway, named A + the number, signs are green

Strada Statale – highway, named SS + the number, signs are blue

Strada Provinciale – Provincial roads, named SP + the number, signs are blue 

Biglietto – ticket 

Telepass – A toll pass that your rental most likely does not have. Do not take this lane

Controllo elettronico della velocità con sistema tutor – Average speed zone checked by camera. 

Controllo elettronico della velocità – Speed checked by camera

Patente – driver’s license

ZTL, Zona Traffico Limitato – Limited Traffic Zone – vehicular traffic may be restricted.

Varco Attivo – ZTL is active. If you pass, you may get fined.

Varco Non Attivo – ZTL is NOT active and you are free to drive past the sign.

Senso Unico – one way street

Varco aperto – road divider missing up ahead. 

Galleria – tunnel 

Benzina senza piombo – Unleaded gasoline

Gasolio – diesel

Pieno – full (as in tank of gas) 

Fai da Te – do it yourself, self-service gas pump

Divieto – Prohibited

Vietato – Forbidden

Macchina – car

Lavori in corso – road work, men at work 

Incidente – accident  

Deviazione – detour

parcheggio – parking

7 Perfect Summer Days in the Marche

Casa Pace e Gioia aerial view. 7 perfect summer days in the Marche.
Casa Pace e Gioia

At Casa Pace e Gioia we are lucky because there are so many things to do in our area, all year round. So we put together our version of an ideal summer week at Casa Pace e Gioia that introduces you to the Marche’s nearby hidden gems, and also gives you time to relax in the quiet countryside, without hurry. Because when returning home, no one wants to feel like they need to recover from their vacation. Presenting our 7 Perfect Summer Days in the Marche…

Day 1:

Arrive and relax with a glass of wine, wander the grounds and take in the views. 

If it’s lunchtime, try Osteria San Nicola, il Santo Bevitore, or Alimentari Fioretti in the historic center of Tolentino, a 15 minute drive. 

In the afternoon after the shops reopen, head to nearby Colmurano and pick up award-winning wines directly at the Saputi family’s cantina. They’ll treat you to a quick tasting if you’d like to try before you buy. Then head to the renowned bakery I Sette Artigiani, for breads and sweets. Up the main street through town you’ll find an excellent butcher, a small but well-stocked grocery store, and a large fruit and vegetable market with delicious olives. 

There should be enough time for a swim or to relax in the hanging chairs before your Private Chef is ready to serve your Welcome Dinner! You’ll dine under the loggia with views of the sun setting over the valley and depending on the month, fireflies. Your private chef will prepare traditional local foods, paired with wine, and explain the provenance. They’ll also clean up everything, so no mess for you to deal with. 

Marco Candi with Laura Dezi at a wine tasting

Day 2:

You’ll spend the day on a Wine and Food Tour with Marco’s Way

Marco will pick you up at 9 AM for an unforgettable introduction to our local foods and wines. You’ll visit 2-3 small family owned wineries that use native grapes to make a stunning variety of exceptional wines. He will also take you to a local olive oil producer for a tour and tasting. You’ll lunch very well at a winery or a local typical restaurant. Marco is a native Marchigiano who has a wealth of history and information about the area which will further enrich your tour.

Once home, if you have any room, find a casual dinner nearby, like Il Muretto, Pizzeria Best Of, or L’Approdo.

First Century Frescoes in the Temple at Urbs Salvia
First Century Frescoes in the Temple at Urbs Salvia

Day 3: 

Tour the nearby First-century Roman ruins of Urbs Salvia with a guide to put it all into context for you. Preserved by a landslide, the ruins are now excavated and scattered among the 40 hectare archeological park, where they continue to unearth more discoveries. The upper part in Urbisaglia includes the aqueduct reservoir, within the city walls, which shows how the Romans engineered a safe water supply. Descending the hill, you’ll see the theater, the amphitheater, and the temple with first-century frescoes. 

Also in Urbisaglia, La Rocca is a 12–15th century castle overlooking Piazza Garibaldi. It has amazing views of the countryside from its four towers. Enjoy a gelato, caffè, or an aperitivo at our favorite bar in the piazza that faces the church behind La Rocca. 

Lunch in Urbisaglia under the loggia at Le Logge, a favorite restaurant of many. The Tombolini family is welcoming and Chef Andrea offers creative interpretations of traditional local dishes. 

Enjoy the afternoon at home in the pool.

For dinner tonight you’re headed to Il Sigillo in the lovely medieval town of Camporotondo di Fiastrone. Il Sigillo is an intimate family owned restaurant with stone walls and a relaxing ambiance. Stefano, who runs the front of the house, has curated an excellent wine list and is an expert at pairing them with the delicious homemade dishes that his sister and mother make. Save room for Cinzia’s special desserts. 

A walking path at the Abbadia di Fiastra Natural Reserve
A walking path at the Abbadia di Fiastra Natural Reserve

Day 4:

Sleep in and get a good night’s rest after what might have been a late evening. Hang out in the pool, play bocce or ping pong. 

At lunchtime, drive to the nearby Abbadia di Fiastra Natural Reserve. Eat on the patio at Ristorante da Rosa, and pick from many traditional local dishes and seasonal specials. Their homemade ravioli is particularly outstanding, and their homemade desserts are fabulous. 

Walk off lunch along the walking trails throughout the park, including one designed without obstacles for the visually impaired and incorporates the senses of hearing, touch, and smell. Another trail traverses past a woodland area and is the last example of the historical forests that once covered Le Marche. 

Visit the park’s namesake Abbey Church, founded in 1142 and one of the best-preserved Cistercian abbeys in Italy. The cloisters are particularly beautiful. The Farm Museum, the Archaeological Collection, and the Wine Museum provide a fascinating history to this unique area. 

Dine in the historic city center in Tolentino at il Santo Bevitore, known for their creative seafood dishes and excellent wines to pair with them. If you haven’t already, stroll down the block to admire our notable clocktower and continue on to the nearby Basilica of San Nicola and its peaceful cloister. 

Lame Rosse, Sibillini National Park
Lame Rosse

Day 5:

Today you’re driving to the  Sibillini National Park to reach the trailhead of the hike to the Lame Rosse.  The famous“Red Blades” are unusual and amazing rock pinnacles and towers caused by erosion and held together by clay and silts. In the mornings they glow red, but they are spectacular any time of the day. The 7 kilometer hike takes about 3 hours round trip and begins with a walk over the Fiastra Lake and the dam that created it. 

When you’ve finished your hike, lunch at nearby Rifugio di Tribbio which has a peaceful position in the mountains and fantastic local dishes. 

After lunch, drive up the narrow road to the ruins of the Malagotti castle and the church of San Paolo. From the summit, admire the panoramic view of the Fiastra Lake and wander among the ruins, scattered with wildflowers and frequented by birds. 

Take a scenic route back and head towards Bolognola, Sassotetto, and Sarnano to experience more of the park. You may encounter sheep in the road and see cows grazing in the fields. Wild orchids, other wildflowers, and flowering trees often line the roadway. 

The medieval fortified town of Sarnano is named one of the Most Beautiful Villages in Italy. Park in the piazza and walk through the gate to wander the concentric circles of this attractive brick town. 

From Sarnano, it’s an easy drive on SP78 to return home.

After a long day hiking, for dinner, take it easy and have a pizza night. Il Muretto in Colmurano is only 5 minutes away and has excellent pizzas. They also have take out if you prefer to eat at home.  

Beach on the Conero Coast.
Beach on the Conero Coast. Photo courtesy of Turismo Marche

Day 6:

After hiking the mountains, relax at the beach

The closest beach is 30 minutes away at Civitanova Marche where both the North and South beaches have Blue Flag status for cleanliness and quality. Select one of our recommended beach chalets and rent chaise loungers and umbrellas for the day, several chalets also have beach sports and kids activities. 

Alternatively, the Mount Conero coast beaches south of Ancona are just an hour away.  Under tall cliffs dotted with villages, these suggestive beaches boast a beautiful panorama. Stand up paddling, canoe rentals, windsurfing, and kitesurfing are offered. You can also rent an inflatable boat and see the famous “Due Sorelle” rock formation and spend your day on a beach accessible only by boat. 

No matter what area you choose, have lunch on the beach barefoot or at a nearby waterfront restaurant where you’re certain to find fresh Adriatic seafood on the menu. 

If you make it back to the house in time for dinner, I suggest Terra Nostra, in nearby San Ginesio, where you can eat inspired local dishes outside with a view of the mountains and the setting sun. 

poolside ping pong
Poolside ping pong

Day 7: 

It’s your last day. So you’re enjoying it fully, at home in the pool, playing lawn games or ping pong. If you don’t have leftovers for lunch, head to Norcineria. It’s very close by, casual, they have outdoor dining, a playground for kids, and delicious antipasti, pastas, sandwiches, meat dishes and more. 

For your last dinner, if you have not yet been, definitely try Ristorante Pizzeria L’Antico Approdo. It’s one of our favorites. It’s also nearby, casual, family-friendly, with indoor and outdoor seating, and a broad menu that give you a chance to try your favorite Marchigiano dish one last time. 

hanging chairs
Hanging Chairs

Day 8:

Checkout isn’t until 11 o’clock and we sometimes have complimentary late check outs available, just ask! Have some breakfast and pack calmly. There’s time for a morning coffee (and/or Prosecco) from the hanging chairs and one last swim before you leave. 

Reserve your perfect week here.

Contact me and I’ll create a custom itinerary for you.

A 14 day itinerary is coming soon!

Local dishes to try in the Marche

Cinghiale with Polenta
What to eat in the Marche
Cinghiale with Polenta

In the Marche we are lucky because we have the largest variety of traditional local foods in all of Italy. You could stay two weeks and try a different dish every day. 

We have our beautiful geography to thank. The Sibillini mountains to our west provide truffles, sheep, cheeses, cattle, chestnuts, and boar. Countryside foothills abound with wheat, vegetables, olives, and fresh produce. Area farms raise pigs, chickens, ducks, and rabbits. And the Adriatic to our east supplies not only our area, but all Italy with an abundant variety of fresh fish and seafood. 

Our location also reflects our food heritage. Being just over the mountains from Rome, and connected by the ancient Via Salaria, we have Roman influences. Greeks and North Africans landed on the coastline and settled, imparting some of their culinary customs. So there really is something for everyone, no matter what your food preference is. 

15 of our favorite “Must-Try” Traditional Marchigiani foods

Vincisgrassi at Il Sigillio
Local dishes in the Marche
Vincisgrassi at Il Sigillo, Camporotondo

Vincisgrassi is a multi-layered lasagna that originated in Macerata. Everyone makes it a little differently, and some use vino cotto in the pasta dough. The meat and cheeses used can vary but often include veal, prosciutto, chicken livers and giblets. Historically it was made at special occasions but it’s often a menu item, and surprisingly light considering the many layers.

Ciauscolo, or ciabuscolo is a pork sausage made with highly ground meat and often white wine or vino cotto. It is lightly smoked and dried in a cool place for a couple of months. Eaten raw as an antipasto, it is often spread on bread. It’s also delicious as an ingredient in filled pasta or polenta. 

Brodetto is a fish stew famous along the coast. It is thought to have been invented in Athens and spread throughout the Mediterranean by the Greeks. Each town makes their own version and asserts it as the best. I have 5 different recipes for it in one Marche cookbook. Every preparation calls for an assortment of fish, often as many as 13 types. Scorfano, or scorpion fish, is almost always included in a traditional Marchigiano Brodetto

Olive Ascolane, fried olives
Typical food in the Marche
What to eat in Marche
Olive all’Ascolana at L’Antico Approdo

Olive all’Ascolana, or fried stuffed olives are ubiquitous at restaurants and as street food, and originated in the Ascoli Piceno province just south of Casa Pace e Gioia. Perfect as an appetizer, local Ascolane olives are pitted, stuffed with a meat mixture, breaded and fried. The filling can vary but typically includes a meat mixture with nutmeg. Vegetarian options exist and the Montelupone artichoke stuffed and fried olives are fabulous! 

Cinghiale con le Pappardelle or wild boar with pappardelle, can be found in other Italian regions but what distinguishes a Marchigiano dish is wild fennel, which grows abundantly in our area and complements the flavor of the boar. The boar is marinated at least overnight, if not for days, prior to making the sauce. 

Bistecca di Scottona Marchigiana, a grilled steak of a young, prized Marchigiana cow which has IGP status, a symbol of high quality. The Marchigiana is a powerful white cow with muscles that have an excellent proportion of fat to create a succulent marbled meat. Until the 1950s they were also used as working animals. 

Coniglio in Porchetta, what to eat in the Marche
Coniglio in Porchetta at Il Santo Bevitore, Tolentino

Coniglio in Porchetta, or Rabbit with Wild Fennel is a local traditional dish for both the rabbit and the wild fennel, two Marchigiani trademarks. Preparations vary, and sometimes the rabbit is stuffed, but the ingredients always include pork, wild fennel, and garlic. 

Porchetta Roasted pork, not to be confused with Coniglio in Porchetta, above. Is roasted pork usually served as street-food style sandwiches, is popular throughout Italy, but is distinguished in the Marche again by the presence of wild fennel. Historically, the Marchigiani prepared a porchetta for the festival celebrating the wheat threshing. 

Cicoria, or chicory is on almost every menu in our region. Indeed, it grows wild in between our grapevines. These slightly bitter leafy greens are usually boiled, then tossed in a pan with olive oil, chili pepper, garlic, and salt. It’s a must-try, at least once. 

Cappelletti in Brodo di Cappone, 
What to eat in the marche
Cappelletti in Brodo di Cappone at L’Antico Approdo

Cappelletti in Brodo di Cappone is a homemade pasta stuffed with a mixture of cooked veal, chicken, pork, mortadella, and parmesan cheese, then folded to resemble a hat (cappelletti). They are served in a delicious capon broth. In the past, this was served only at Christmas but nowadays is available in the fall-spring seasons. 

Agnello allo Scottadito is seasoned lamb roasted over a hot grill and served so hot it will “burn your fingers” (scottadito). It’s often included in a “mixed grill” dish. This is Matt’s all-time favorite. 

Pecorino dei Monti Sibillini is one of our many fantastic local cheeses. This one in particular is in the Slow Food Presidium and is slightly aged. Cheeses are often featured on antipasti platters or as a dessert. You can also find it at weekly markets and the grocery store in Colmurano. 

Chickpea soup, zuppa di ceci, what to eat in Marche
Chickpea Soup

Chickpea soup (zuppa di ceci) was often consumed by local farm families because chickpeas were cultivated locally and they could be stored for a year. It’s often featured on menus and is really delicious. Sometimes prosciutto is added but usually it’s a vegetarian dish. 

Gnocchi with Duck Ragu is typically slow cooked in a sauce of red wine, tomatoes, and herbs until the duck meat falls from the bones. Fresh potato gnocchi are folded into the sauce. It’s especially popular around our nearby area, especially the Abbadia di Fiastra. 

Carbonara al Tartufo, Carbonara with Truffles, what to eat in marche
Carbonara al Tartufo

Truffles with anything. The Marche is internationally underrated for our truffles but we have both white and black varieties, which makes our truffle season longer. If fresh truffles are available you will see them on menus (tartufo). My favorite is truffles shaved on top of carbonara. 

Buon appetito! 

The Best Outdoor Activities in the Marche

View of Colmurano from Casa Pace e Gioia
View of Colmurano from Casa Pace e Gioia. Photo by Heather von Bargen

Our holiday home, Casa Pace e Gioia, is the perfect place to nurse your Covid hangover. Nestled on a hilltop in the Italian Marche countryside, our private sanctuary is the ideal place to enjoy fresh air, plentiful sunshine, and amazing views. 

Our area also boasts an abundance of outdoor activities that make the most of our mountains, sea, and midland hills. And you can partake in them safely while social distancing. Here are some ideas to consider.

Cycling in the Marche
Photo courtesy of Turismo Marche

Land

Le Marche’s reputation as a cycling destination is well deserved. But you don’t need to be an expert to pedal up our hills. E-bike rentals make the ascent easier. Mountain and racing bike rentals are also readily available, and we have a lot of information on local routes if you want to set out on your own. Or meet the locals with a guide who can steer you to insider places. Organized cycle tours are conducted in accordance with Covid protocols. 

If you prefer walking, the nearby Abbadia di Fiastra has several well-maintained paths that traverse a variety of environments and are kid friendly. Just up the road from our house, Colmurano has a walking and biking path along the main road and is a popular place for an evening stroll. 

Just a half-hour away, in Sarnano, the 6 kilometer Path of the Lost Waterfalls connects 3 waterfalls (two of which were just uncovered in 2020) not far from the historic center and is suitable for children. Also 30 minutes away, the Valle dei Grilli in San Severino Marche, is a mostly flat walking path immersed in nature to the Caves of Sant Eustachio, which houses an abandoned church carved into the rock. 

Trekking Monte Sibilla. Things to do outside in the Marche
Photo courtesy of Turismo Marche

Themed guided walks throughout the region are offered with social distancing. These inexpensive excursions are a great way to let locals introduce you to our area’s treasures and breathtaking views. Think: a full moon night hike in the Sibillini; photo walks with other photography enthusiasts; a hike to the top of Monte Conero with a celebratory aperitivi; sunset hikes to the balcony of the Sibillini where you enjoy local wines and food; organized star gazing and meteor watching with an astronomer; wine tasting treks; and even “rivering,” which is trekking in a river in diving suits. 

Hikers have a lifetime of nearby options. The Sibillini Mountains are only a half-hour away from Casa Pace e Gioia and have a stunning amount of marked hiking trails that crisscross diverse environments. You are sure to find one that’s the perfect length and difficulty level. One popular scenic trail starts at Lake Fiastra and then goes to the Red Blades, Le Marche’s version of the Grand Canyon. Another hike leads to a hidden hermitage in the mountains. At least 72 other trails reveal the beautiful treasures of the Sibillini. We have a book of Sibillini hikes with maps at the house. 

If you’d like to explore our area on horseback, several nearby riding clubs offer guided trail rides for all ages. Maneggio Alma is the closest at the Abbadia di Fiastra, but there are several near the water in Civitanova Marche, and some towards the mountains. 

 Golfers can play Conero Golf Club’s 18-hole, par 71 championship course, or their 5-hole, par 17 executive course. Club rentals are available, so you don’t have to pack yours. The highly rated course is conveniently located just off the freeway towards Ancona and has wonderful views of the surrounding countryside. 

Water

Conero beach. Outdoor activities in the Marche
Photo courtesy of Turismo Marche

Hit the beach while social distanced! Typically in the summer, and especially on weekends, Italian beaches are crowded, but this year you’ll get more room with social-distancing measures in place. The Adriatic Beaches are set to open May 1 for an extended season that stretches until Oct. 3. And don’t worry, restaurants will still serve local fresh seafood and chilled white wines outdoors. 

Take to the water and rent a boat! Small inflatables don’t require a nautical license and give you the chance to explore coastal areas that can’t be reached by land. 

Let someone else be the captain and take an excursion on a sail or motorboat. You can charter a private tour or join an already-organized socially distanced outing. Food, drinks, and music will make your day along the Conero coast unforgettable. 

Portonovo – Scoglio della Vela

Prefer something slower paced? Rent kayaks and stand-up paddle boards along the coast and at Lake Fiastra and Lake Caccamo. 

Air

Admire our area’s breathtaking views from the sky. Try hang gliding or paragliding! You don’t need to have experience; an instructor can join you. We see paragliders fly near Casa Pace e Gioia frequently. Get a bird’s eye view. 

Go high in the sky in a memorable hot air balloon ride. The pilot will be masked, and the views will be incredible. As always, I’m happy to make suggestions and arrangements for our guests.

Things to do in Le Marche with kids

Le Marche is a fantastic holiday destination for families. With our beaches, mountains, parks, museums, castles, and sights, there is something for everyone of all ages to enjoy. Here are some of our recommendations of things to do with kids.

Parco Archeologico Urbs Salvia and La Rocca 

In nearby Urbisaglia this 40-hectare archeological park is the largest in the area and dates to AD 23. Roman ruins from the first century are spread out over a large area of what used to be a bustling and important Roman city. The amphitheater is remarkably well preserved and very suggestive, surrounded by oaks. The criptoportico’s walls are decorated with vivid first-century frescoes. A walk up the hill takes you past the theater, and reaching the top of the hill, and the city walls of Urbisaglia, you can enter the tunnel of the aqueduct that supplied the city with fresh water. The park often hosts special events for children and the large lawn encourages play. 

The restored medieval castle, La Rocca overlooks Urbisaglia’s piazza and gives children of all ages an amazing view from the walkways and towers. 

The Butterfly Garden of Cessapalombo
Photo courtesy of the Butterfly Garden of Cessapalombo

Il Giardino delle Farfalle di Cessapalombo – The Butterfly Garden of Cessapalombo

Less than 30 minutes from Casa Pace e Gioia this nature park and museum in the Sibillini mountains was created with kids in mind and has more than just butterflies! This large green space has pathways, guided tours, donkeys, a play area, and flowers that attract the butterflies. With advanced reservation you can order a lunch to enjoy at the shaded picnic tables immersed in relaxing nature. 

Lake Fiastra

The Lago di Fiastra is a gem in the Sibillini Mountains, just off the main road. The lake’s clear water reflects the gorgeous scenery. At Verdi Fiastra, you can lounge under umbrellas by the beach or rent canoes, kayaks, and bicycles. The onsite restaurant serves local food with lakefront views. 

Photo courtesy of the Adventure Park Lago di Fiastra

Close by Fiastra Lake is the Adventure Park Lago di Fiastra, a  suspended ropes course and zip-line path through the trees and over the water in the Sibillini Mountain National Park. Suitable for children over 140 cm (4.59 feet), additional activities like archery and orienteering are also available.

Lame Rosse
700800Photo grazie a @berr_ver on Instagram

Also near Lago di Fiastra is the hiking trail to the Lame Rosse, a stunning red canyon that appears in the midst of an oak forest. The “Red Blades” are pinnacles of gravel, clay, and silt, formed by the wind and rain that blows through the area. The 7-kilometer round trip path starts at the parking lot near the dam and is rated easy. 

The Frasassi Caves

The Grotte of Frisassi
Photo by Federico Stella, courtesy of Regione Marche

The Grotte di Frasassi is the largest cave system in Europe and among the largest in the world. Its stunning raw beauty matches its size; the first room, the Ancona Abyss, could contain the Duomo of Milan. A guided tour takes you on an easy 1500-meter-long walkway that wends through a variety of caverns with lakes, stalactites, stalagmites, and crystal formations. 

Photo courtesy of Regione Marche

Very near the the Grotte di Frasassi is the Sanctuary of Madonna di Frasassi, which dates to 1029, and the Temple of Valadier, an octagonal church commissioned by the pope in 1828. The shimmering temple is made of white local travertine and inside a cave! It is a 750 meter walk uphill from the parking lot where you can fill your water bottle for the climb. 

The Abbadia di Fiastra

The Natural Reserve of the Abbadia di Fiastra is very close to Casa Pace e Gioia and is a large, well-maintained park with good parking, restrooms, and shaded walking trails in a variety of natural environments with plenty of benches. The Sensory Trail is designed for those with limited mobility or limited vision and is optimized for sound, touch, and smell. The abbey church, monastery, and cloisters are worth a visit and host the Farm, Wine, and Archeological museums. Large lawns invite running and picnics. Several onsite restaurants, (one has a playground and farm animals) ensure that you can easily spend a fun day at the park! 

La Cascata del Mulino
La Cascata del Mulino. Photo by Heather von Bargen

Hidden Waterfalls

In Sarnano, a borghì più belli d’Italia (one of the most beautiful villages in Italy) the access trail to reach the charming waterfalls of the old mill just reopened. In Italian, il Percorso Cascata del Mulino. Park by the municipal pool and sports park on Via del Colle and follow the posted signs that bring you to a small but suggestive area with shallow water and a lovely waterfall. 

The Adriatic Beaches

The beaches of Civitanova Marche are only 30 minutes away! The Lungomare Nord has shallower water and sandier beaches than the Sud and rocky outcroppings give bigger children something to jump from. If the kids tire of swimming, many beach establishments have playgrounds. All of the balneari have food available and umbrellas and beach chairs for rent.