Marche: what to try in Pesaro and Urbino
Sea and olive groves, truffle forests and vineyards: this is the Marche, on the east coast of Central Italy. There are things to see and taste, things to marvel at and things to take as souvenirs.
Where to go and what to see in the Marche
In the capital city of Marche, Ancona, interesting antiquities. On the seafront is the Triumphal Arch of Trajan, a well-preserved Roman monument, and in the National Archaeological Museum of the Marche one can spend a long time wandering among Italian, Greek and Roman exhibits.
Even more interesting is outside the capital. In the orchestra of Ancona, in the town of Loreto, the Basilica of Loreto is a famous pilgrimage site: According to Catholic tradition, the temple stands on the spot where, once upon a time, the house where the Virgin Mary was born was miraculously transported from Palestine. Great sculptors and artists of the Italian Renaissance worked on the interior of the temple.
In Fabiano you can visit the museum of ancient musical instruments (you can hear harpsichords from the time of Bach and old pianos from the time of Mozart), and the museum of paper, where you will be shown the production of paper by medieval technology. Local paper with watermarks is the pride of Italy. This is the paper on which the euro is printed in Italy.
Pesaro is the birthplace of the great Rossini. Here you find not only the composer’s house, but also the famous theater named after the musician, which, from 10 to 22 August will host the annual Rossini Opera Festival. A good reason to visit the Marche!
The city of Urbino is home to the enormous Palazzo Ducale, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This palace houses the collection of the National Gallery of the Marche (Piero della Francesca, Uccello, Raphael and other great painters) and another archaeological museum with a huge collection of epitaphs.
Finally, nature lovers will appreciate the famous Frasassi Caves, one of the main cave complexes of Italy. There is a 1.5-kilometer tourist route through them.
How to stuff in the Marche
On Italy’s culinary map, the Marche region stands out for the locals’ predilection for long and complex culinary processing of foods. Light and quick snacks are not from here; the dishes are complex, layered, invented and prepared with imagination.
Perhaps nowhere else in Italy do they resort to stuffing with such consistency as in the Marche. Residents of this region stuff everything – from olives to rabbits, from calamari to langate, from cuttlefish to lamb’s head.
Here, for example, they are fond of cannelloni – large tubes of dough stuffed with prosciutto and asparagus. Of the “dumplings” in the Marche, sweet cachuni are very popular . They are stuffed with sweetened goat cheese and baked. Before baking, they often leave a small incision on the surface of the cachuni to let the melted cheese flow out onto the tray and bake nicely.
Inhabitants of the Marche like to roll up a cut of meat and stuff it: in Urbino, for example, they make envelope-shaped languettes filled with omelettes and prosciutto, and in Pesaro they roll up veal rump steaks with a basil and prosciutto stuffing.
In Marche coastal cuisine, not only squid and cuttlefish are stuffed, but also mussels: they are stuffed with tiny pieces of prosciutto with garlic and parsley, then placed in a saucepan, covered with breadcrumbs and baked in the oven.
Even the bread stuffed in the Marche is crêchea. It is essentially a flatbread stuffed with meat, vegetables, and herbs, the local version of a sandwich. For example, the château of Frontona is famous for its crêpes, where the local restaurant serves bread with various fillings. For example, with boar meat. The meat is roasted exclusively on coals in a large fireplace, which can be seen from the hall.
Truffles from Aqualagna
The people of the town of Aqualagna in the north of the region are very lucky: at any time of the year they can cook fresh truffles. Four kinds of truffles are native to the town, and Aqualanians can pick them all year round. All winter and early spring, black truffles grow under oaks and hornbeams. From January through April, locals look for martzuolo, a cousin of the famous white truffle – perhaps not as valuable, but also interesting. With the arrival of the May holidays comes the time of summer black scorzone, which can be harvested until just before New Year’s Eve. Finally, in autumn and early winter the hunt is on for the famous tartufo bianco, the white truffle. This is not to say that local truffles are as highly prized as those of Piedmont, Umbria, or Perigord; besides, there is not a pretty business when local truffles are resold to other regions at an inflated price. Nevertheless, the sheer abundance of truffles, their variety, and the respectful attitude of the locals toward this delicacy make Aqualania an important truffle center in Italy.
The Aqualanians hold many festivals in honor of the famous mushroom. The most famous is the white truffle fair at the height of the fall season. On the days of this fair the population of the city increases literally several times, all the hotels are full, and on the squares of the city you can meet famous Italian actors, politicians, representatives of the beau monde – and, of course, famous chefs.
Cheese from the Pit
One of the Marche’s amazing food specialties is the cheese from the pit, formaggio di fossa . The name comes from the fact that the cheese matures in the ground: it is buried in the ground for several months, which gives the cheese a smooth texture, a persistent aroma and a tangy taste.
Usually the cheese pit is almost two meters deep. At the bottom of a special wooden pallet, and on it – a large cotton or linen bags with the cheese mass, covered with a wooden lid. Excess whey drains through the slits of the pallet. Under the pressure of the wooden lid, the fabric bags with the cheese mass deform – that is why the heads of cheese from the pit are never properly shaped. Before being put in the ground, this cheese resembles a pecorino, but after five months underground, it looks like a two-year-old Parmesan. Marche residents put it in salads, pastas, and serve it with sweet confitters.
Marche coastal cuisine
The Marche region has access to the Adriatic coast. Of course, coastal cuisine differs from that of the region’s towns that are far from the sea: meat is replaced here by dozens of species of fish and seafood. They are eaten with pasta, stewed in complex sauces – and, as already mentioned, stuffed. And they also make a fish soup brodetto – thick, like a stew.
The name brodetto comes from the word “brodo,” which means “broth. Actually, brodetto is cooked in Veneto, Abruzzo, and Molise, but as is customary in Italy, the residents of each region believe that the native recipe is the correct one.
So do the residents of the Marche. For ages, local housewives have been cooking a thick soup of 13 kinds of fish and seafood, adding olive oil, onion, garlic and parsley to it. Thirteen is not a random number. Local connoisseurs say it’s the number of Last Supper participants (fish has been a symbol of Christ since the early centuries of Christianity). Other connoisseurs, no less convinced of their correctness, say that the thirteen ingredients correspond to the architectural symbol of Ancona – the fountain del Calamo with thirteen masks. Oh, those lovers of intricate culinary legends! Apparently, in the days when no one could even think of making brodetto a restaurant dish, this soup was cooked from small, “substandard” fish, mixing it with each other in the most bizarre combinations and adding octopus tentacles, small shells, broken oyster shells, clams and seaweed.
These days, the ingredient mix varies not only from city to city, but also from house to house. Fano and San Benedetto del Tronto, Porto Recanato and Vasto have their own brodetto, recipes that have been consecrated over the years. Tourists visiting Ancona, the region’s capital, or, for example, the nearby resort of Portonovo, will be served Brobdetto al Anconetana, which is prepared with tomatoes or tomato paste – like bouillabaisse. The latter comparison is worth keeping to myself so as not to offend the hospitable locals: they revere brodetto so much that they put it above any other soup.
What to take back from the Marche
In addition to truffles and “cheese from the pit,” there are plenty of interesting local products to take back from the Marche. There are very good meat specialities in the Marche: salami (including pork salami from Fabriano, sheep salami, salami with bacon – salami lardellato), prosciutto (including from Carpegna and Montefeltro) and “ciauscolo”, sausage spread on bread with orange peel.
Of the coastal specialties, the most famous is stoccofisso, dried cod from Ancona, which is soaked before cooking. And also in the Marche sells wonderful local honey and wonderful white wine verdicchio. Of other drinks worthy of attention are liqueurs by Varnelli, who invented a bitter Amaro Sibilla from local herbs, roots and honey. In general, there is something to take away with you!
We thank the tour operator ICS Travel Group for organizing the trip to the Marche region.
4 gastronomic and wine routes in the Marche, Italy
- Choose a country
In the first part of the article “Marche Region: The Unknown Italy” I focused on the cultural and historical sights of the Marche and its main cities, as well as beach vacations. At the same time (let’s not forget the diversity of the region!), there are other vacation options here, and I’ll talk about them now.
As I have repeatedly mentioned, almost in all European countries megapopular and constantly developing as an independent direction of rural or agro-tourism. In the Marche, among the picturesque green hills with olive groves and vineyards, scattered many small farms, whose owners provide tourists with shelter (varying degrees of comfort, but mostly good), share with them the secrets of peasant life and the fruits of their labor in the form of organic and tasty products. Farms are open to visitors mainly from April to October and offer all guests traditional specialties of the region. Accommodation in country houses can be combined with walks in the countryside or with jogging, mountain biking or horse-riding activities.
If a symbol of quality beaches and clean water is a “blue flag”, then in Italy small interesting towns are awarded the “orange flag”, which means the quality brand in the field of tourism. There are 17 such places in the Marche – Gradara, Mondavio, Montefabbri, Corinaldo, Offagna (Pesaro and Urbino provinces). In the province of Macerato they are Matelica, Montecosaro, Ezanatoglia, Cingoli, Treia, Montecassiano, Montelupone, Sarnano, San Ginesio, Visso. In Ascoli Piceno, there are the Moresco and Montefiore del Azo and some others that you can find out about on site at any tourist office. Lovers of nature, silence and walks under the shade of forests will be interested in 2 national parks, 4 regional parks and 6 reserves of the region with rich flora and fauna.
It is impossible not to mention the thermal springs in the Marche and the surrounding infrastructure. If you want to combine a vacation with a spa or medical treatment, you can go to the thermal springs of Acquassanta (Ascoli Piceno), which were known and used by the Romans. Other places for recovery in the Marche region are the springs of San Vittore delle Ciuse (province of Ancona), Carignano thermal springs in the province of Pesaro and many others.
The cuisine of the Marche region is characterized by its peculiar culinary traditions. The locals are proud of their products, among which the following can be highlighted:
Truffles (white and black), as well as less valuable mushrooms that are collected in the mountains (white, morels, meadow mushrooms, chanterelles and other specific Italian species)
Sausages and meat products, the main of which is pork. Here you must try several local varieties of hard sausages, as well as a variety of wieners, homemade sausages and ham.
Olive oil. The Marche is proud of its own oil, produced from local varieties of olives and quite competitive even against the products of other regions of Italy.
Cheeses. Many kinds of cheeses from cow, goat, sheep and mixed milk are produced in different parts of the region. Cheese is not a surprise to anyone in Italy, but local varieties of parmesan are really delicious.
Wine and liqueurs. If with the wine everything is clear – choose a winery by taste, taste and buy what you like, then with liqueurs you need to clarify – the specialties of this area of Italy are anise – mistra and anisette.
The most popular fish specialty in the Marche region is the broth with whipped eggs and lemon juice, which also has local names (depending on where it is prepared): the Ancona style, the Sanbenedet style and so on.
Local sweets, whose names alone make you want to try them, are wine cookies, fig sausage, chestnut ravioli, almond and walnut casinaki, and many others. Making sweets and eating them has historically been timed to coincide with religious holidays.
Another important point that cannot be ignored is the shopping in the Marche region. It is a very developed industrial region, with numerous factories and workshops for the production of clothing, but especially strong in the production of shoes. It is where the world-famous shoe brand Fabiani comes from. It was founded in the 1970s by designer Giovanni Fabiani in the Marche (Fermo) region and became the epitome of Italian design and quality, making its PR contribution to the “Made in Italy” brand. But the Marche, of course, is not just Fabiani. There are more than 2,000 shoe manufacturers concentrated here, so you can find interesting shoes in almost any town by lesser-known manufacturers outside Italy, which no one else will have.