Summers are usually sunny in the Marche but if the forecast calls for rain, here are some ideas to enjoy your vacation at Casa Pace e Gioia regardless of the weather.
1. Go underground at the Frasassi Caves!
It’s just over an hour’s drive from Casa Pace e Gioia, and I always recommend that our guests explore the largest cave system in Europe, even when the weather is beautiful. The largest room in the 30-kilometer complex, the Ancona Abyss, could hold Milan’s massive Cathedral. Guides lead visitors on a 1500-meter walkway that take you past shimmering crystals, an underground lake, spires, pinnacles, rock formations, stalactites, and stalagmites. Pre-registration is required, and tours are offered in a variety of languages. Bring a sweater as the caves are kept at 14°C (57°F) year-round.
While you’re there, see the nearby Temple of Valadier, an octagonal church that is built inside of a cave and is a favorite Instagram post.
2. Visit Tolentino’s museums and monuments.
Only 15 minutes away from Casa Pace e Gioia, in Tolentino you can visit our local landmark, the Basilica di San Nicola, a 13th-15th century church famous for housing the remains of St. Nicholas, who was a hermit and preacher to whom many miracles were attributed. People from all over the world pilgrimage here in veneration. The complex is still under restoration from the earthquakes of 2016 but most of it has reopened. The lovely Cappellone di San Nicola is beautifully frescoed and the cloister is peaceful and suggestive.
Just two blocks away from the Basilica, and facing our famous clocktower and the Piazza della Libertà is the MIUMOR, the International Museum of Humor in Art. The Museum hosts a notable International Biennale in odd-numbered years but displays artworks including caricatures, cartoons, and sculptures year-round. Locals always recommend a visit and it gets great reviews. It’s a quirky and fun way to spend some time indoors.
In the same piazza, the bar Pasticceria Zazzaretta has outdoor seating under a loggia if you want to stop for a snack or coffee. For lunch options, I suggest il Santo Bevitore, just down from the clocktower, or Osteria San Nicola, a few blocks away at via Flaminia, 6.
Three kilometers east of Tolentino’s historical center and just off via Nazionale, the Poltrona Frau Museum is a 1400 square meter space devoted to recounting the history and achievement of the legendary furniture-making firm founded in 1912. You can get a glimpse of how their handcrafted furniture is made through exhibits and videos and see their leather in a Ferrari. The outlet store to the left ships internationally and has unbeatable prices.
Four kilometers east of the Poltrona Frau museum is the well-preserved 14th century Castello della Rancia, a former castle that now houses an archeological museum and often hosts special exhibitions. The view from the tower is fantastic on a clear day, but the rest of the castle is still worth a tour in the rain.
The nature reserve at the Abbadia di Fiastra is splendid in fine weather but if it rains, take the opportunity to visit one the 12th century Abbey Church, one of the best-preserved Cistercian abbeys in Italy, with its frescoes and rose window. Tour the adjoining monastery’s cloisters, chapter house, refectory, Cellarium, wine museum, gardens, and the olive oil storeroom that now houses archeological finds from the ruins of Urbs Salvia. Also in the park is the 18th century Palazzo Giustiniani Bandini, owned by the last heir of the property which is now managed by his foundation.
Several terrific restaurants and bars in the park are open for lunch or a refreshment.
4. Meet a local artisan and make your own souvenir
The Marche region has a long heritage of high-quality craftsmanship. Marchecraft recognizes this and has sought out talented artisans to share their techniques with visitors. And in many cases, you’ll get to take home your own Made in Italy souvenir. You can make your own sandals, pottery, paper, jewelry, traditional tambourine, and more! Several experiences are suitable for children. The duration of the experiences vary by type and they are located throughout the region.
5. Head to Macerata
The sun always seems to shine on Macerata, even when it’s storming here. So you might get lucky and it won’t be raining there, but even if it is, some of Macerata’s best sites are indoors. Macerata is a 30 minute drive and I suggest parking at the Parcheggio Centro Storico, which is covered and has an art-filled tunnel and an elevator to reach the city center.
The Sferisterio, a gorgeous, elliptically shaped arena, is a must see, although part of it is outdoors. It opened in 1829 after 100 private citizens raised the funds to design and build a venue large enough to play the Roman ball game pallone al bracciale, and to hold circuses and bullfights.
Twentieth century Italian art is displayed in a 17th century palace with period furnishings, in a unique and intimate setting at the Galleria d’Arte Contemporanea housed in the Palazzo Ricci.
The Palazzo Buonaccorsi has three museums. The notable Carriage Museum in the basement displays a variety of vehicles throughout history. In frescoed rooms on the first floor the Pinacoteca displays 14th-18th century art, among them a Carlo Crivelli. And on the second floor, the Galleria d’Arte Moderna has works by 19th century Italian artists.
The Basilica della Misericordia is the world’s smallest basilica and a national monument. The interior, with ceiling frescoes, paintings, and gilded accents is gorgeous and peaceful.
For lunch or dinner in Macerata I suggest Osteria dei Fiori. The Carducci family serves typical Maceratese cuisine in an elevated style, with excellent local wines. Covered outdoor seating is available and their spacious interior is inviting.
6. Stay at home and have Chefaway come for an in-house food demonstration.
Our friend Andrea at Chefaway has put together memorable experiences that introduce you to local food traditions and techniques. They offer pizza making, cheese making, pasta making, and gelato making experiences; hands-on cooking classes, and a local dinner experience. Create your own combination or just enjoy one. They can do all of the demonstrations in the house and the loggia and it would definitely entertain children.
7. Taste local wines!
Most of our local winemakers are available on a short notice to visit. It’s often raining when we visit Saputi down the road during our spring and fall visits. Giovanni at Fattoria Colmone della Marca has a huge tasting room with expansive views. Terre di Serrapetrona also has a lovely vista that you can admire from indoors. Sandro at Podere sul Lago has a gorgeous barrel storage room and is happy to give you a tour of his cantina and tasting room. For something special and very local, visit Cantina Il Lorese to try “cooked” Vino Cotto. Their underground cellar is very suggestive. I can assist with reservations.
8. Visit Ancona
The region’s capital is about an hour’s drive and perhaps it won’t be raining there? Founded and settled by Greek mariners in the 8th century BC, Ancona thrived as a trading port city. The Romans came and further elevated the city’s status. For five centuries, Ancona was a powerful independent Maritime Republic until 1532 when it came under papal control until the French invaded in 1797. This rich history has given the city a unique mix of architectural styles and sights to see.
Trajan’s Arch, a famous landmark, is outdoors but many other sites are indoors.
The Museo Tattile Statale Omero is a museum for the blind and a good choice for those with children. Upon entering, you are offered a blindfold and encouraged to touch the many sculptures that are replicas of famous artworks. (They have strong Covid-19 prevention protocol in place and encourage advance booking.)
The 11th-13th century Duomo di San Ciriaco overlooks the city, shimmering in white stone. It requires an uphill climb, but the views of the city are superb, and the architecture is notable. Some of the floor is glass, allowing you to see the pagan ruins on which the church was built.
Set in a 16th century palazzo with beautiful ceilings, the Museo Archeologico Nazionale delle Marche displays archeological finds from the region from Prehistoric times until the Middle Ages, with artifacts from the cultures that have made their imprint on the Marche such as the Picene civilization, the Celts, and the Romans.
The lovely Chiesa Santa Maria di Piazza has a gorgeously carved exterior and a priceless 16thcentury crucifix. Mosaics from earlier churches from the 5th and 6th century are visible in the crypt.
9. Take a cooking class
We have several cooking class options. One recommendation is to learn how to make typical dishes from a highly regarded chef, Andrea Tombolini at Locanda le Logge, in nearby Urbisaglia, one of our recommended restaurants. He can come to the house, but I’d suggest the short drive to cook in the restaurant’s kitchen. I can also arrange a class just down the road with our housekeeper Claudia.
10. “Made in Italy” Outlet Shopping
A lot of what is “Made in Italy” is made in the Marche. Well-known brands and private-label producers alike offer discounts at their outlets. Leather bags, accessories, shoes, ceramics, and clothing are among the most popular items. A Google Map of our recommendations is here.
Book your Marche vacation at Casa Pace e Gioia here.