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! 

9 Enogastronomic ways to Experience Le Marche

Wine Dinner at Cantina Sant'Isidoro
Photo courtesy of Cantina Sant’Isidoro

Enogastronomia is an Italian term that combines enology (wine) with gastronomy (food), and also adds a significance to the unique territory from which they come, their provenance. “Turismo enogastronomico” is an ever-expanding movement in Italy, and I’m often asked by Italian guests what enogastromic activities I suggest. Here’s a compilation of food and wine experiences that you can enjoy near Casa Pace e Gioia, our holiday home equidistant from the Adriatic beaches and the Sibillini mountains in Le Marche, Italy. 

Private Chef

Table ready for private chef dinner at Casa Pace e Gioia
Table ready for private chef dinner at Casa Pace e Gioia

I often recommend a welcome dinner to start your holiday, especially for those who have driven a long distance or arrive with jet lag from an international flight. A private chef comes to the house and will introduce you to the best of la Cucina Marchigiana with a fun dinner of local specialties. He’ll also give you insider tips to explore the surrounding region’s hidden gems, so you’ll know where to go and what to do.  

In-Home Parties

We have a collaboration with Chefaway a team who bring delicious and entertaining in-home parties: your choice or combination of pizza, pasta, gelato, or cheese. 

Wine Tasting Experiences

Destemming the grapes at Podere sul Lago
Destemming the grapes at Podere sul Lago

Casa Pace e Gioia is within minutes of several award-winning wineries that make excellent and affordable wines and are always happy to offer our guests tours and tastings. If you’re here in the fall, you can watch the wine harvest process. Some wineries host dinner parties you can attend to celebrate the end of the harvest. In the summers, they often hold memorable “Dinners in the Vines” and weekly aperitivo tastings in the vines. I post updates as I get them on our Facebook page and our house Area Guide app.

Winery Excursions

In spring through autumn, guided hikes and walks lead to vineyards with wine tastings and cantina tours. On a Passeggiata Enogastronomica like the Magnalonga Marchigiana, you can take an 11 kilometer walk with 5 stops, each one a different course paired with a local wine. Our area also has a variety of Wine Cycle Routes which you can enjoy with or without a guide. 

Food Festivals

Food stand at Festa del Vino Cotto in Loro Piceno
Food stand at Festa del Vino Cotto in Loro Piceno

Sagre are food festivals that celebrate a local food product, and pre-covid you could find one almost every weekend from spring to fall. They are a wonderful opportunity to experience real Italy. (Look for signs or events with the words festa or sagra, which is singular for food festival.) We have a list of events, including sagre, on our website. Typically sagre start on Friday evening and end Sunday evening. Live music, food stands, craft fairs, entertainment, activities for kids, demonstrations, shows, and special group dinners are typical elements. The sagre are slowly starting to reappear in a smaller format, but hopefully in 2022 we’ll be able to celebrate food like we used to. 

Olive Oil Tasting & Harvest

It’s not well known, but our area of the Marche makes excellent olive oil and you can visit a local frantoio, (olive oil press) for a fascinating olive oil tasting year-round. During the olive harvest, usually in October, you can witness the collection of the olives and taste the freshly-pressed oil! It’s an unforgettable experience. 

Farm Visits

Being an agricultural area, we’re surrounded by farms and you can visit them! One even lets you play cheesemaker for a day! You can also stop by for a tasting and tour and buy directly from the producers. 

Cooking Classes

Making pasta at a private cooking class
Making pasta at a private cooking class

We have a variety of affordable and authentic cooking class options, in-house or nearby. I recommend a class at one of our favorite restaurants, Le Logge. Chef Andrea is fabulous, putting his own touch on Marchigiani classics, and he opens his kitchen for lessons. At the end of your class, enjoy your meal paired with a local wine. 

“Real Italy” Dining

In addition to all of these enogastronomic experiences, we’re within minutes of dozens of fantastic restaurants that offer uniquely Marchigiani meals. We recommend more than 25 restaurants but you can read about our favorites here. Each one uses local ingredients that honor the farming or seafaring heritage of this diverse region. 

Discover Italy’s most Beautiful Villages near Casa Pace e Gioia

Borghi Piu Belli Logo

If you see a sign in Italy that says: “I Borghi più belli d’Italia” follow it. It will bring you to one of the 313 villages that have earned the designation as one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. The Borghi più belli Association was formed in 2001 to protect, preserve, and promote smaller villages that are typically overlooked by travelers. A Borgo più belli is selected for its aesthetic beauty and for the welcome and resources that the town offers to visitors. 

Not surprisingly, the Marche has more Borghi più belli than any other region, with 28. And our holiday rental home, Casa Pace e Gioia, is in the enviable position of being within an hour’s drive of 12 of these beautiful villages!

Most of them are medieval walled towns perched on hilltops with breathtaking views. All of them have historical churches and buildings with notable artworks and architecture that reflect a long past. And each village has its own unique traditions, culture, and craftsmanship. 

I describe each borgo below, organized by location to help you plan your visit.
(If the linked websites are in Italian only, use Chrome to translate it.) 

Treia. Photo courtesy of Comune di Treia
Treia. Photo courtesy of Comune di Treia

Treia is a thirty-minute drive north of Casa Pace e Gioia. Twenty-five centuries ago, it was called Trea and was located where the Santuario del Santissimo Crocifisso is today, outside of town in the countryside hills. This monumental church was built with the ruins of the old town and is famous for its 15th century wooden Crucifix. As the Roman Empire was falling, the inhabitants fled up the hill to where the town is now. 

The Museo Civico Archeologico, in the Church di San Francesco, displays artifacts from the Neolithic era and numerous finds from the original Picene settlement. Treia’s municipal theater is a gem, with a beautiful frescoed ceiling and box seats. Ask the tourist office for a guide to open it for you.  

The view from the horseshoe shaped Piazza della Repubblica is stupendous and spans the Conero Mountain to the Sibillini Mountains. Treia hosts many fairs and food festivals and is especially famous for playing the ancient Roman sport pallone al bracciale

Cingoli. Photo courtesy of Cingoli Tourism
Cingoli. Photo courtesy of Cingoli Tourism

Cingoli is a twenty-minute drive northwest of Treia, or 55 minutes from Casa Pace e Gioia. The panoramic views from hilltop Cingoli are among the best in the region and give it the nickname “The Balcony of the Marche.” The most famous monument in Cingoli, the Collegiate Church of Sant’Esuperanzio, is outside the city walls. It was built in the late 12th century to accommodate the tomb of Esuperantius, the patron saint of Cingoli. The magnificent Romanesque portal was carved in 1295 and the interior walls are covered with frescoes. 

Inside the city walls, Cingoli’s center is calm, thanks to traffic restrictions. With many churches, Renaissance palaces, fountains, piazze, parks, and a medieval district, there’s something for everyone here. City Hall, on the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, houses the Museo Civico Archeologico, which exhibits finds from the Paleolithic to Roman eras. In the hall of the coat of arms an impressive Lorenzo Lotto painting, the Madonna del Rosario, is displayed. The Baroque Chiesa di San Domenico has several notable artworks, one of which is another Lorenzo Lotto painting, Madonna of the Rosary and Saints.  

Montecassiano. Photo courtesy of Marche Tourism
Montecassiano. Photo courtesy of Marche Tourism

Montecassiano is a hidden gem of a well preserved medieval village not found in many guidebooks. It is a 35-minute drive northeast from Casa Pace e Gioia, 15 minutes northeast of Treia, and 15 minutes west of Montelupone, the next Borghi più Belli

Concentric streets joined by alleys and stairs spiral their way to Montecassiano’s central piazza which is flanked by the main attractions of the town. The Palazzo dei Priori is now the City Hall and was rebuilt in the 15th century in Gothic style. The nearby Collegiate Church of Santa Maria Assunta, built in 1234 on a pre-existing temple and later modified, boasts an exquisite glazed terracotta altarpiece.  

The deconsecrated church of San Marco is elegant with a light interior and numerous crystal chandeliers. It hosts events and conferences and is opened upon request to the tourist office. The former Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista is now a museum of sacred art and also opened upon request at the tourist office. 

Montelupone. Photo courtesy of Marche Tourism
Montelupone. Photo courtesy of Marche Tourism

Montelupone is a welcoming town with a medieval historic center on a hilltop surrounded by intact city walls and towers, with a park at one end from which the views of the countryside are amazing. Montelupone is famous for the artichokes they grow and they host a festival featuring artichokes every May. 

Many important sights are located near the Piazza del Comune. The 14th century Palazzo del Podestà houses the Civic Art Gallery, with artworks ranging from 16th century frescoes and paintings to works from the 1900s. In addition, you can see archeological finds from the Roman and ancient Picene settlements in the area. 

The Palazzo Comunale (city hall) also faces the square and houses the splendid Teatro degli Angeli, a small theater with a gorgeously frescoed ceiling. In the basement, the Museum of Ancient Arts and Crafts displays a collection of historical agricultural and artisanal tools, old school desks, cinema projectors, clothing, and in short, a wide variety of interesting objects. Ask the tourist office for a guided visit to both of these sights as they are not open regular hours. 

If you’re interested in photography, arrange a visit to the Historical Photographic Museum, a collection of 800 photographs and more than 700 old cameras in excellent condition and still fully functional. 

Just four kilometers north of Montelupone is the fascinating ancient Abbey of San Firmano, built in 980, and reconstructed in 1256. The portal is from the original building and has a Byzantine lunette and five figures carved into the back of a Roman statue, visible inside. The presbytery is elevated 17 steps, probably to avoid flooding by the Potenza river. The remains of Saint Firmano are in the crypt, supported by an arch, and according to tradition, passing under it 9 times relieves bone pain. In addition to several important artworks, the terracotta floors are unique. If the door is locked, ask at the bar. They have a key and can let you in. 

Montecosaro. Photo courtesy of Marche Tourism
Montecosaro. Photo courtesy of Marche Tourism

Montecosaro is a 40-minute drive northeast from Casa Pace e Gioia, not far from Civitanova Marche, and about 10 minutes from Montelupone. A pleasant and clean hilltop walled town, it has one remaining city gate and a park with 360-degree views of the Adriatic, Monte Conero, the Sibillini mountains and the countryside. 

Outside the city walls, the octagonal church of San Rocco boasts a fresco by Simone de Magistris. Within the walls, the Collegiate church of San Lorenzo has a gorgeous interior with 15th century frescoes and a wooden Crucifix from the 13th century. The church of Sant’Agostino is known for its 18th century organ. 

The Museo Cinema a Pennello is a unique private museum of sketches, drawings, and painted movie posters and other cinema memorabilia. It is highly recommended and if you reserve in advance, Paolo Marinozzi, the collector can give you a guided tour with his insights. 

Down the hill towards SS77, in Montecosaro Scalo is the Basilica di Santa Maria a Pié di Chienti, a national monument and a masterpiece of Romanesque art and architecture. The first written mention of it dates from 936. The current church was built in 1125 with some later additions and changes. Surrounded by green parkland, the brick structure looks rather severe from the front but when you walk around to see the graceful apses behind, it is stunning.  

The interior is very unique and harmonious. Two levels high, with three arched naves, a 15th century wooden Crucifix is visible upon entering. A high presbytery on the second floor was created in the 15thcentury after a wall collapsed and is embellished with frescoes. The church is an active parish and holds services daily. 

Esantoglia. Photo courtesy of @gaetanocessati via I Borghi più Belli
Esantoglia. Photo courtesy of @gaetanocessati via I Borghi più Belli

Esanatoglia is just west of Fabriano, tucked up in the mountains and surrounded by nature near the Umbrian border. This small medieval town is a 55-minute drive from Casa Pace e Gioia. Corso Vittorio Emanuele, the main road that goes through the town, is lined with 7 bell towers. As you wander the town, be on the lookout for medieval houses with three doors. One was for daily use, one for the entrance of bridal couples, and one for the coffin to exit. 

The parish church of Santa Anatolia is Esanatoglia’s oldest, first recorded in 1180, has a 13th century portal, and is possibly built on a pagan temple. The church of Santa Maria Maddalena displays a painting from 1565 by the de Magistris brothers and a painted wooden choir. The church of San Martino was built in the 13-14th century. 

The source of the Esino river is just west of town along Strada Sorgenti Fiume Esino, and is the site of a picnic area and a walking path. Numerous trekking and biking paths in the area are well maintained and marked. The hermitage of San Contaldo is on Monte Corsegno and is a recommended hike. 

San Ginesio's Piazza Gentili. Photo courtesy of Heather von Bargen
San Ginesio’s Piazza Gentili. Photo courtesy of Heather von Bargen

San Ginesio’s twin towers are visible from Casa Pace e Gioia. Known as the Balcony of the Sibillini, San Ginesio has spectacular views of the Sibillini mountains and the countryside from three city parks. Earthquakes in 2016 hit San Ginesio hard. Many buildings remain closed to the public and are braced with metal supports, but the town is still lovely and merits a visit. 

Just past Porta Picena, the main entrance to the town is the Ospedale dei Pellegrini, a 13th century building that hosted pilgrims who traveled on foot to and from Rome and Loreto. It is temporarily closed but you can admire the lovely portico and loggia. 

The town’s main piazza is named for Alberico Gentili, who was born in San Ginesio, taught at Oxford University, and is considered the founder of international law. The unique Collegiate Church overlooks the piazza and is an emblem of the city. The church is Romanesque with a Gothic facade with a travertine arched portal and terracotta adornments above. It is currently closed for repairs. On the other side of the piazza the Bar Centrale has delicious gelato. 

Four parks along the perimeter provide shade trees, play areas, and fantastic views. In the Parco di Colle Ascarano, the restaurant Terra Nostra has terrific crispy thin pizzas and savory pasta dishes. With plenty of outdoor seating, it’s an excellent place to enjoy the sunset.

Sarnano. Photo courtesy of Heather von Bargen
Sarnano. Photo courtesy of Heather von Bargen

Sarnano is a 30-minute drive from Casa Pace e Gioia, and is an ideal starting point to explore the Sibillini mountains. The walled historic center is a labyrinth of streets that wend their way up to the Piazza Alta, from which the views are stupendous. You can download a free audio walking tour of the historic center on the izi.travel app. (In Italian only but if you know some it’s very clear and there are pictures.) 

The 13th century Chiesa di Santa Maria di Piazza Alta is the most important church in Sarnano. The Gothic entrance portal is elaborately carved with a triple cornice and complements the brick building. The single nave interior features several 15th century frescoes. 

The Pinacoteca on Via Leopardi displays an impressive selection of artworks from the 14th-17thcenturies. The jewel of the collection is a panel painting by Vittore Crivelli, Madonna Adoring the Child with Musician Angels. Additionally, the Pinacoteca has preserved important artworks from the Chiesa di Santa Maria di Piazza Alta. 

Tucked away, not far from the municipal pool and sports park on Via del Colle, the delightful Cascata dell’Antico Mulino (waterfall of the ancient mill) is reached by walking a marked path 10 minutes, and is the first of three waterfalls on a route

I highly recommend lunch or dinner at Osteria Scherzi a Parte five minutes down SP120. 

Servigliano. Photo courtesy of Comune di Servigliano
Servigliano. Photo courtesy of Comune di Servigliano

Servigliano, 35 minutes southeast of Casa Pace e Gioia, has a long history, but the old city began to collapse in 1758 when the hill it was built on became infiltrated with water. In 1771 Pope Clement XIV ordered a new city to be built 4 kilometers away on a plain near the 12th century Church of Santa Maria del Piano. The current historical center was designed in a contemporary quadrilateral shape with straight streets of brick buildings and is enclosed by three gates. 

The Collegiate Church of San Marco is on Piazza Roma, as is City Hall, a two-story building with 7 arches. The nearby restaurant Pane e Vino is highly recommended. Shops and bars scattered around the clean historic center make a pleasant stroll without steep hills. 

In 1915, a prison camp was built in Servigliano to guard Austro-Hungarian soldiers. During World War Two it imprisoned Allied soldiers and served as an internment camp for Jews. In 1943, about 2000 Allied soldiers escaped and many were sheltered by area families. After the Italian armistice in the fall of 1943, the Germans took over and at least 61 Jews were imprisoned here. During a bombing attack, 30 Jews managed to escape but the rest were sent to Auschwitz. Only 3 survived. After the war, the camp became a refugee center until 1955. 

You can see traces of the wall through which the Allies escaped, and barbed wire and glass shards on top of the wall at the Peace Park. The Casa della Memoria is in the old railway building (from which the prisoners were transported) and is a memorial museum with objects, photographs, and documents. To request a visit and tour, available also in English, arrange at least one day prior.  

Torre di Palme. Photo courtesy of Città di Fermo
Torre di Palme. Photo courtesy of Città di Fermo

Torre di Palme is a medieval hamlet perched on a hill on the Adriatic coast south of Porto San Giorgio. It is a 55-minute drive from Casa Pace e Gioia. The village is well kept with harmonious brick buildings, cobbled streets, and fantastic coastal views. 

At Piazzale della Rocca, the access point of the town, you’ll find the Archeological Museum, which displays finds from three of ten recently excavated funeral tombs nearby. The oldest dates to the Bronze Age (9th-7th centuries BC.), the others date to the 6th century BC and shed some light on how the Picene people lived. 

The 10th century Church of St. John the Baptist is the oldest in the village. A small structure built in stone blocks, it has been recently restored. Just down the road is the Church of Sant’Agostino, where the polyptych by Vittore Crivelli is a stunning highlight. Stolen in 1972, it was found a month later (missing 4 panels in the predella) and subsequently restored. A 16th century painting of the Madonna by Vincenzo Pagani hangs on the left wall. 

Further down the road, the 12th century Church of St. Mary by the Sea has fantastic Byzantine frescoes and a 14th century bell tower. The end of the road is the Piazza Lattanzi, with its breathtaking views. Numerous bars and restaurants in the area offer panoramic dining options. 

A well maintained and marked walking path from the parking area off Via Fonte di Mosè leads to the Bosco del Cugnolo, a protected woodland area with views of the sea and Torre di Palme. Continuing on the path, in addition to the flora and fauna, you can see an ancient church, a waterfall, and the legendary Lover’s Cave. 

Moresco. Photo courtesy of Moresco Turismo
Moresco. Photo courtesy of Moresco Turismo

Moresco, 15 minutes inland from Torre di Palme and an hour’s drive from Casa Pace e Gioia, is a medieval mystery. The name Moresco, which appears for the first time in 1083, could derive from a variety of references, none of which are definitive. The imposing castle on top of the hill has no documents regarding its origin. It is mentioned in 1248 and was probably built in the 10th or 11thcentury. What we do know is that this small fortress-village is a jewel to visit. 

The emblematic 12th century seven-sided tower is unique in all of Italy. The views from the top are fabulous (on a clear day you can see Albania) and the tower also hosts art exhibitions. An imposing 13thcentury clock tower stands guard over the village entrance and is also used for exhibits. The town hall displays a large altarpiece by Vincenzo Pagani. The ex-church of Santa Sofia is now a small theater with about 50 seats. To avoid disappointment in viewing sites, contact the tourist office in advance to ensure opening times or to set up an inexpensive guided tour. 

Outside the city walls, just off the main road is the tiny but beautiful Church of Madonna della Salute, said to be 8th century. Leaving Moresco on Via Santa Maria dell’Olmo brings you to a 15thcentury church of the same name, so-called because it is near an Elm tree. The interior features a notable altarpiece by Vincenzo Pagani. A highly regarded winery, Castrum Morisci is just down the road from the church.

Montefiore dell'Aso  Photo courtesy of Comune di Montefiore dell'Aso
Montefiore dell’Aso Photo courtesy of Comune di Montefiore dell’Aso

Montefiore dell’Aso is a 15-minute drive south from Moresco and an hour from Casa Pace e Gioia. Six towers from the 15th and 16th centuries dominate the skyline of this medieval village on a hill. The historical center is compact and reached by three gates.

The former convent of San Francesco, with its cloisters and history, is the evocative setting for the Polo Museale di San Francesco, where the Carlo Crivelli room displays the surviving panels of his large vibrant polyptych that was originally an altarpiece. The famous artist Adolfo De Carolis was born in Montefiore dell’Aso and the Adolfo De Carolis room exhibits hundreds of his drawings, sketches, and woodcuts. Sala Basili is dedicated to stage sets, photos, and cinema memorabilia from local set designer Giancarlo Basili. In a cloister, the Museum of Peasant Civilization has a collection of donated objects and tools used in the past by local families. Last but not least, the Domenico Cantatore collection has 114 aquatints, etchings, and lithographs that the artist donated to Montefiore dell’Aso. 

The facade of the church of Saint Lucia is partially covered by another building but the interior gleams with wood and marble accents. The church of San Francesco d’Assisi was built in the thirteenth century but the interior was renovated in Baroque style. Upstairs, the apse is adorned with exceptional 14th century frescoes. The highly recommended Clock Museum presents a collection of time pieces from Ancient Rome to the present and is open upon request.  

From Belvedere De Carolis, the view spans the Sibillini to the sea. A well-equipped park at the western end of the town has a restaurant, walking paths, shade trees, and games for children. 

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Why Fall is the Best Time to Experience Real Italy

Civitanova Marche in September
Civitanova Marche in September

Without a doubt, fall is my favorite time of year to spend at Casa Pace e Gioia. Warm weather and abundant sunshine stretch the swimming season through September. The Adriatic beaches are quiet and uncrowded, yet the waterfront restaurants still serve fresh seafood and rent lounge chairs and umbrellas. In the Sibillini mountains, wildflowers bloom, backdropped by a kaleidoscope of majestic trees changing colors.

September also means the start of the grape harvest (vendemmia) season! Local wineries are busier than usual, but many of them invite visitors to watch their hard work, from hand-picking the grapes, de-stemming, crushing, to filling the large tanks. Some host wine dinners in the vines to celebrate when the harvest is done.

De-stemming the grapes at Podere sul Lago winery
De-stemming the grapes at Podere sul Lago winery

In October, the temperatures drop but still reach the high seventies, and it’s time for the olive harvest (raccolta delle olive). When the olives are ripe, they are picked and brought to a frantoio for pressing into fabulous extra virgin olive oil. You can watch and taste the process by appointment. 

We fire up the wood-burning stove in November when the temperatures drop into the fifties and sixties. The Adriatic breeze keeps moisture in the air and here in central Italy, winters are typically mild. Nevertheless, we tuck into cozy restaurants and feast on seasonal wild boar with pappardelle, hearty lentil or chickpea soups, and a local favorite, fresh roasted chestnuts. 

The Marchigiani celebrate fall’s harvest and flavors with food festivals called sagre. During these weekend-long festas, the historic center squares become an ever-changing scene with food and market stands; concerts and dancing; parades; street performers; competitions; children’s events; and communal dinners. It’s an opportunity for the community to celebrate the bounty of the harvest, to honor long traditions, and to gather together outdoors before winter. 

As a traveler, attending a sagra is an unforgettable and fun way to experience real Italy, to meet Italians, to try regional dishes, and live like a local. Sagre are held year-round, but they abound in the fall. Here are some of the most notable ones not far from Casa Pace e Gioia. Please note that many are postponed or scaled down in 2020 due to Covid. Mark your calendars for 2021. We are taking reservations and filling up fast. 

Festival del Vino Cotto Loro Piceno
Photo courtesy of Festival del Vino Cotto – Loro Piceno

The Festival del Vino Cotto in Loro Piceno is at the end of August but it’s one of my favorite sagre. Loro Piceno is justifiably famous for its Vino Cotto, “Cooked wine.” For this weekend event, local Vino Cotto producers set up storefront tasting areas scattered throughout the medieval village where you can sample this unusual and delicious wine. Area restaurants have food stands serving regional dishes eaten at communal picnic tables. Several concert venues host live music and performances. 

I Primi d’Italia – This unique festival that celebrates i primi piatti brings visitors from all over Italy to Foligno, in nearby Umbria. Four days of pasta, rice, soup, gnocchi, and polenta tastings; cooking lessons; chef demonstrations; free concerts and shows; and a children’s festival highlight the events that take place in Foligno’s beautiful historic center. 

Cupramontana’s Sagra dell’Uva is the oldest celebration of the grape harvest in Le Marche and is held at the end of September or the beginning of October. Live music in the piazza accompanies wine and food tasting tables. Museums display exhibitions, parades, demonstrations and shows are performed.

The beautiful town of San Severino Marche holds a Sagra della Porchetta, usually the first weekend in October with live music and DJs in addition to all the porchetta you can imagine!

Diamanti a Tavola The first week in November Amandola pays homage to its white truffle with a truffle fair, truffle hunts, loads of organized outdoor activities, like hikes, mountain bike rides, photography tours, markets, shows, restaurant tastings, and much more.

Appassimenti Aperti Serrapetrona
Photo courtesy of Appassimenti Aperti

Appassimenti Aperti in Serrapetrona. On the second and third Sundays in November, the cantine in nearby Serrapetrona open their doors to visitors who can tour freely and see the notable vernaccia grapes hanging in rows to dry. In the town square, the festivities continue with a market, food and wines, and music.

Why you should visit Le Marche in winter

Le Marche’s winter landscape

While Le Marche is enchanting year-round, those who visit in winter are rewarded with lower prices, amazing seasonal food, and unique opportunities to travel like a local. 

You may need a jacket, but the views are still sublime. Morning fog rolls in the valleys and chimney smoke spirals upwards. Leafless trees and thin grapevines enlarge the patchwork landscape. Adriatic influences moderate our weather, making winters here relatively mild. Le Marche’s blue skies don’t fade in the winter and the sun shines brilliantly, albeit for fewer hours.

The holiday season is celebrated in Italy like nowhere else and Le Marche is no exception. Towns usually decorate on 8 December (Immaculate Conception) until 6 January (Epiphany). The piazza often has a Christmas tree and many villages display a nativity scene (presepio) and some even have costumed villagers act out the parts of the nativity. Christmas lights and window displays along the streets and in the piazze add to the festivities. 

The Christmas Market in nearby Tolentino. Photo from Tolentino Notizie

The weeks leading up to Christmas mean holiday markets, complete with roasted chestnuts, live music, and local food stands. On New Year’s Eve concerts and fireworks are held in the piazze, and on Epiphany, the Befana, an older woman who rides a broom and leaves toys or treats for good children, arrives to great fanfare in the piazza. 

Winter also means it’s time to play outside. In the nearby Sibillini Mountains, ski resorts offer downhill and cross-country skiing, and snowboarding. Chalets serving local food and wine provide an atmospheric place to warm up afterwards! The Sibillini National Park also plays host to guided snowshoe hikes, often ending with a dinner at a chalet. Rental equipment is available for all of these events, so you can pack light! Several towns set up an ice rink for iceskating and there’s an excellent sledding hill just off the road in the Sibillini Mountains. 

Mozzarella stretching

For those who prefer to remain indoors, winter is a fabulous time to participate in a culinary demonstration held in our own kitchen. Find out how mozzarella cheese is made and the many forms it can become – tasting them all! Learn how to stretch your own crust to make a traditional Italian pizza cooked in a wood-burning oven using techniques you can use at your own home with standard equipment. Take a cooking class and discover the secret to quick ravioli (yes, there is such a thing) and find out that tiramisù is actually pretty easy to make! 

Speaking of food, Le Marche is famous for its black and white truffles, and winter is an excellent opportunity to go on a truffle hunt with an English-speaking truffle hunter and his dog. Perhaps you’ll get lucky and take home a fresh truffle souvenir!

Winter also means Carnevale! Parties and events are held in many local towns but Ascoli Piceno’s Carnevale is a five-day celebration with costumes, contests, confetti, concerts, dancing, and local food! 

The off-season is a great time to visit local wineries. The grapevines might look sparse but the owners usually have more free time for personal tours and tastings. Winemakers often host holiday dinners and winter tasting events.

Carbonara with fresh truffles at Ristorante Casa Mia in Tolentino

One of our favorite things to do in Le Marche’s winter is enjoy a hearty meal at a leisurely pace. Restaurants remain open year-round, and with fewer tourists, it’s easy to get a table near the fireplace. Wild boar sauce with pappardelle and chickpea soup are local cold-weather favorites. Pasta with freshly-shaved truffles is sought-after in the winter. Many of our recommended restaurants have delightful warm winter ambiance; we come to Le Marche often in winter. 

Things to do in Le Marche in the fall

The grape harvest (vendemmia) at Podere sul Lago, Serrapetrona.

Le Marche’s unforgettable autumn experiences spotlight the region’s natural treasures and celebrate Le Marche’s fabulous local foods and wines. Temperate weather brings gorgeous morning fog to the valleys and golden afternoon light, making this a prime time for outdoor pursuits. Autumn in Le Marche means grape and olive harvests and an abundance of food and wine festivals.

Here are our suggestions for the top 7 fall activities da non perdere (not to be missed) in Le Marche:

1. La Vendemmia – The Grape Harvest!

In Le Marche, grapes are picked by hand in September and October, depending on the weather. Most winemakers welcome visitors to watch the winemaking process that starts immediately after harvest. If you’re lucky, a local winery will host a harvest meal among the vines. It’s an unforgettable event.

2. Hike the Sibillini

Burn calories and enjoy fall’s changing colors on a trek in the Sibillini Mountains. Organized group hikes in the autumn are often themed for photography, wildlife, and food. One event starts with chestnut collecting, followed by a lunch of typical products, and ends with a hike to the beautiful Gole dell’Infernaccio.

3. La Raccolta delle Olive – The Olive Harvest

Olives and olive oil from Le Marche have a centuries-old history of renown and quality. The harvest typically starts in October or November and is done by hand or with mechanical help. You can watch the olive collecting, or even try your hand at it. After the olives are picked they are brought to a local frantoio to be washed and pressed to become savory extra virgin olive oil. Visit a frantoio to see it done and for a memorable olive oil tasting.

Olives at Frantoio Agostini. Photo from Frantoio Agostini

4. Party at a sagra – Food festivals!!!

It seems that every weekend in the fall, at least one village, if not many, throw a festa to celebrate a local food tradition. San Severino Marche’s Sagra della Porchetta, Macerata’s Street Food Festival in early October, and Colmurano’s Borgo in Festa are just some of the many weekly events that include live music, shows, food stands, markets, and children’s activities. Our website has a list of events and sites to check to see what’s happening.

Festa in Macerata, photo from Comune di Macerata

5. Drink fabulous wine at Appassimenti Aperti

Le Marche’s unique and delicious Vernaccia di Serrapetrona wine is made with native grapes, typically in three diverse styles (two sparkling). Often, the grapes are dried for three months to concentrate the flavor. On the second and third Sunday in November, Serrapetrona’s area wineries open their doors for guests for tours and to see the dried grapes. The lovely village of Serrapetrona hosts a festa with food and wine stands, a market, and music.

Vernaccia nero grapes drying. Photo from Appassimenti Aperti

6. Get your White Truffle fix

Every November, Amandola celebrates its famed Tartufo Bianco at Diamanti a Tavola. In addition to the live music, markets, and local food stands you’d expect, you can partake in a truffle hunt or dine at a gourmet dinner prepared by notable chefs who pay homage to the white truffle.

White truffles. Photo from Diamanti a Tavola.

7. Admire the changing fall colors

Although there are many beautiful forests in the Marche where you can photograph fall foliage, the nearby Parco del Monte San Vicino is where I would start. The Confaito Beech Forest’s century-old trees are a splendor of colors in autum. The oldest tree is around 500 years old and on a list of the 300 monumental trees in all Italy. In the same park, another path leads through the woods and reaches the summit of the mountain from which the view is breathtaking.

Our Magical Marche

In the last thirteen years Matt and I have had the good fortune of visiting many places in Italy.  But it was not until we went to Le Marche that we experienced “Real Italy.” It was here where locals welcomed us with friendly curiosity, where we learned to pay the restaurant bill at the counter rather than wait for “il conto,” where we could admire 1st century frescoes in a Roman ruin with only 2 other people. 

Le Marche is, to us, the magical Sibillini Mountain backdrop: sometimes obscured by clouds, but always there, a reassurance. The rivers that flow down valleys through the rolling countryside fields of sunflowers, erba medica, olive trees, and grape vines. The medieval walled towns with labyrinthine roads so narrow I hold my breath as we pass through a gate. It’s where you show up without an appointment at a winery and they give you a free impromptu tour and tasting. 

Le Marche is Stefano at Il Sigillo, who is passionate about local food and wines, and tells you about the local farm that supplies their meat and cheese and encourages you to visit. After our first dinner at Il Sigillo, his father Domenico got in his car (on his birthday, no less) and drove us to a shortcut back to our home. Le Marche is Gaby at Osteria Scherzi a Parte who greeted us like long friends on our return months later, and made an international toast for the entire restaurant. Le Marche is Paolo at Il Santo Bevitore, who served us a fantastic wine and called the winemaker who then hosted us for a visit and tasting on his day off. 

Le Marche is where, at the market, we did not understand “ottanta centime” because it seemed unfathomable that a bag of produce would cost less than one Euro. Le Marche is the stonemason working on our house who, after seeing my husband cut firewood with a saw, brought his chainsaw and cut a huge pile for us. Le Marche is where, at dinners in the vines, the people seated next to us became good friends who invited us to their home for dinner. 

Le Marche is fantastic food: delicious and unpretentious, grown with passion, cooked with skill, and served with warmth. Le Marche is fascinating unique wines, cultivated respectfully, made reverently, and priced affordably. 

Le Marche is impossibly blue skies and breathtaking views that lifelong residents never tire of. Le Marche is the smell of the sea in the breeze towards the mountains. Le Marche is church bells, cowbells, birdsong, dog barks, and tractors. 

In Le Marche, strangers on the street greet each other with a “Buongiorno.” When you sit down for dinner, don’t be surprised if the other diners greet you with a “Buonasera.” When you have drinks in the piazza, watching kids play football, you’re the only tourists, and you feel like a local.