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.