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Marches

Italy > Marches

Marches

The coast of the Marches has numerous attractions for visitors, but the greatest of all are the fine, smooth sands, extending from Gabicce Mare, where the beach is overlooked by the Monte San Bartolo and the fortress of Gradara, southwards to Pesaro, Fano, Marotta, Falconara M., Porto Recanati, Porto Potenza Picena, Civitanova Marche, Porto SantElpidio, Casabianca di Fermo, Pedaso, Porto San Giorgio, Cupra Marittima and Grottammare. Known as the velvet beach, the one at Senigallia is particularly famous and has been a tourist attraction since the 19th century. On the border with the Abruzzi, San Benedetto del Tronto is famous for its many tall palm-trees (about seven thousand), which lend the town an exotic air. Near Ancona ana tne promomory oi Conero, an offshoot of the Apennines forming the only headland jutting into the Adriatic between Istria and . the Gargano promontory in ! Apulia, there are rocky coves where the seabed is visible through the clear blue water. On this stretch of coast there are hidden bays and the enchanting small harbours of Portonovo, Sirolo and Numana, which also attract visitors in spring, wffen Monte Conero is covered with broom, and the autumn, when it is mantled with the warm colours of the strawberry tree (arbutus unedo).

The sea

All the provinces of the Marches are on the Adriatic Sea and, on thecoast, there are cities with ancient origins that have a long;history as ports and markets. For travellers arriving from Rome on the Via Flaminia, the first town they reached on the sea was Fano; from medieval times one of the most important fairs in Europe, the Fiera della Maddalena was held at Senigallia, at the mouth of the River Misa; originally a Picene port, Ancona later became a Greek and a Roman one; Numana was a rich Picene and Greek port; Porto Sant'Elpidio and San Benedetto del Tronto, and other coastal towns in the province of Ascoli Piceno, were important Picene and Roman ports. Many of the coastal towns and cities of the region are still active ports: Ancona is a large commercial port, while San Benedetto del Tronto, together with Fano, Civitanova Marche and Porto San Giorgio are the main fishing ports. This vicinity to the sea has favoured the development of an excellent cuisine in the region and has led to the growth of the tourist industry since sea-bathing first came into vogue among the upper middle classes in the mid-19th century. In the course of time, bathing establishments, sports facilities and hotels were built in the seaside resorts of the Marches, which, particularly after the Second World War, have welcorned millions of visitors from Italy and abroad.

The coast of the Marches has numerous attractions for visitors, but the greatest of all are the fine, smooth sands, extending from Gabicce Mare, where the beach is overlooked by the Monte San Bartolo and the fortress of Gradara, southwards to Pesaro, Fano, Marotta, Falconara M., Porto Recanati, Porto Potenza Picena, Civitanova Marche, Porto SantElpidio, Casabianca di Fermo, Pedaso, Porto San Giorgio, Cupra Marittima and Grottammare. Known as the velvet beach, the one at Senigallia is particularly famous and has been a tourist attraction since the 19th century. On the border with the Abruzzi, San Benedetto del Tronto is famous for its many tall palm-trees (about seven thousand), which lend the town an exotic air. Near Ancona ana tne promomory oi Conero, an offshoot of the Apennines forming the only headland jutting into the Adriatic between Istria and . the Gargano promontory in ! Apulia, there are rocky coves where the seabed is visible through the clear blue water. On this stretch of coast there are hidden bays and the enchanting small harbours of Portonovo, Sirolo and Numana, which also attract visitors in spring, wffen Monte Conero is covered with broom, and the autumn, when it is mantled with the warm colours of the strawberry tree (arbutus unedo).

Towns and villages looking out over the sea

From the beaches of the Marches it is easy to travel inland up the numerous valleys to the historic towns, or to visit the old towns and villages on the heights overlooking the coast. The art treasures in their churches and museums, saved from the depredations of the Saracens, testify to their lively cultural history. In medieval times some of the hill villages were fortified, for instance Gabicce Monte or Fiorenzuola di Focara in the province of Pesaro. Further south there are the hill villages of Civitanova Alta, above Civitanova Marche, and Torre di Palme. Cupra Marittima, Grottammare and San Benedetto del Tronto all have a high quarter that is older than the seaside town below, while the historic towns of Recanati, Sant'Elpidio a Mare and Potenza Picena, all some distance from the sea, have their seaside equivalents at Porto Recanati, Porto Sant'Elpidio and Porto Potenza Picena respectively.

Parks by the sea

From the beaches of the Marches it is easy to travel inland up the numerous valleys to the historic towns, or to visit the old towns and villages on the heights overlooking the coast. The art treasures in their churches and museums, saved from the depredations of the Saracens, testify to their lively cultural history. In medieval times some of the hill villages were fortified, for instance Gabicce Monte or Fiorenzuola di Focara in the province of Pesaro. Further south there are the hill villages of Civitanova Alta, above Civitanova Marche, and Torre di Palme. Cupra Marittima, Grottammare and San Benedetto del Tronto all have a high quarter that is older than the seaside town below, while the historic towns of Recanati, Sant'Elpidio a Mare and Potenza Picena, all some distance from the sea, have their seaside equivalents at Porto Recanati, Porto Sant Elpidio and Porto Potenza Picena respectively.

The museums on the coast

Those interested in the sea and maritime history may satisfy their curiosity in a number of museums situated in some of the seaside resorts of the Marches.

Sport at the seaside

In the seaside resorts of the Marches there are excellent facilities for popular watersports such as windsurfing, waterskiing and sailing, for which courses are held in the main resorts, while the best places for underwater fishing are An-cona, Vallugola, Portonovo, Sirolo, Numana and Pedaso. There are also marinas: Gabicce Mare, Vallugola, Pesaro, Fano, Senigallia, Ancona, Numana, Civitanova Marche and San Benedetto del Tronto; special mention should also be made of Marina di Porto San Giorgio, which, with its one thousand moorings is the largest harbour of its kind in the Adriatic. In the resorts of the Riviera del Conero it is possible to go horse-riding, play golf and take trips by mountain bike to the hills inland from Ancona.

The mountains

Not only is this a region with splendid sandy beaches and clear seas, but there are also outstanding areas of natural beauty in its mountains: the splendid Monti Sibillini, with landscapes that, in places, are Alpine in character; the spectacular caves of Frasassi; and the forest-clad mountains in the Montefeltro area, forming a backdrop to craggy spurs, such as the rock on which San Leo is built. The most magnificent mountain landscapes in the Marches are to be found in the Monti Sibillini National Park, which is about forty kilometres (25 miles) in length and extends into Umbria. From the summits of Monte Vettore (2,476 m), Monte Sibilla and Monte Priora described by the poet Giacomo Leopardi as the blue mountains to the valley of the Fiastrone and the Gole delllnfernaccio, nature is combined with the legends of the Sibyl, a soothsayer who was said to have lived in a cave on Monte Sibilla, Guerrin Meschino (a character from the Carolingian epos) and Pontius Pilate, after whom the only natural lake in the Marches (Lago di Pilato, high up on Monte Vettore) is named. And at the foot of the mountains are scattered numerous towns and villages, each with its own church and, in many cases, a museum containing relics of its eventful past. A small part of the Marches, comprising the communes of Acquasanta Terme and Arquata del Tronto, lies within the borders of the Gran Sasso and Mond della Laga National Park. On the border with Tuscany, the Regional Park of Sasso Simone and Simoncello. in the Montefeltro region, is well known for the large beechwood of Pianacquadio. In the 16th century, on the rock of Sasso Simone, the Medici built a fortified town that was later abandoned because it was not *" easily accesSffile. There are many areas of outstanding natural beauty in the province of Pesaro-Urbino, such as the Cesane pinewood between Urbino and Fossombrone. Not far away is the massif of the Furlo, with its suggestive gorge, recently reco-gnized as a National Natural Reserve; the Alpe della Luna, after Mercatello sul Metauro; and the area of Monte Catria and Monte Nerone, with its many gorges and natural arches. The province of Ancona also boasts the Gola Rossa and Frasassi Regional Park, with many rocky areas crossed by the two gorges of the same name, the habitat of golden eagles, peregrine falcons and eagle owls. In the upper Esino valley there is the Centre of Environmental Education of Valleremita. Worth seeing in the province of Macerata are the Monte San Vicino with the ancient beechwoods of Canfaito, the maquis of Montenero at Cingoli and the valley of the Grilli that ends in the S. Eustachio Gorge, which is surrounded by the caves of the same name. Between the communes of Pieve Torina and Monte Cavallo, near Visso, at the foot of the Monti Sibillini, is the Montagna di Torricchio Nature Reserve, recognized as a biogenetic reserve by the Council of Europe. Whereas the Cistercian abbey of Chiaravalle di Fiastra is included in the other nature reserve, Abbadia di Fiastra, famed for its agricultural land-scape that is still distinctly medieval in appearance.

He natural history museums of the Marches

Those who make the effort to see the areas of outstanding natural beauty in the Marches will also want to visit the natural history museums in the region. The fossils in the museum at Apecchio come from Monte Nerone, as do the palaeontological exhibits in the Museo Brancaleoni at Piobbico. Other museums of fossils are to be found at Ostra. Genga and Serra San Quirico, in the province of Ancona; at Pioraco, in the province of Macerate: and at Amandola and Smerillo. in the province of Ascoli Piceno. For those interested in rocks and the geological history of the Marches a visit to ihe Museo di Scienze della Terra at Piandimeleto, in the province of Pesaro-Urbino. is recommended. Exhibits relating to the typical flora and fauna of the Marches are displayed at the Museo Paolucci at Offagna, in the province of Ancona. Specimens of birds from the Monti Sibillini and the cen-tral Apennines are to be found at the ornithological mu-seums at Sarnano and Montefortino. Other natural history museums include the one at Macerata. the museum at the Abbadia di Fiastra Nature Reserve, the Museo Orsini at Ascoli Piceno. the Museo Salvadori at Fermo.

The key to good health: SPA resorts

There are numerous spas specialized in the treatment of various ailments. In the province of Pesaro there are the Pitinum at Macerata Feltria, the di Monte Grimano. the di Raffaello at Petriano and the di Carignano, near Fano. At Genga, near the Frasassi caves, is the renowned Terme di San Vittore and near the Riviera del Conero is Aspio . Famous in the province of Macerata are the Terme of Santa Lucia near Tolentino and the di Sarnano. close to the Monti Sibillini. In the province of Ascoli Piceno there are Acquasanta already known in Roman times and, at Torre di Palme, perched above the sea near Fermo, the spa of Fonti di Palme.

A miracle worked by water and time: the fantastic caves of Frasassi

The caves of Frasassi, in the heart of the Gola della Rossa and Frasassi Regional Park and the gorge of the same name formed by the River Sentino, are one of the most interesting systems of limestone caves in Italy. After the discovery in 1971 of the Grotta Grande del Lento, the caves were opened to the public in 1974 and now attract thousands of visitors every year. With its fasci-nating series of small lakes, exquisite stalactites and gigantic stalagmites, the underground tour comprising the lofty cavern called Abisso Ancona (240 m in height), the Sala dei Duecento, the Sala delle Candeline, the Sala dell'Orsa and the Sala dell'Infinite is enhanced by the spectacular use of lighting.