When most foreigners think about the Italian countryside, they think about Tuscany, maybe Umbria if they know the country well. Before coming to live here I had no idea how much diversity Italy’s various regions represent. Vineyards in Umbria, beaches in Tuscany, mountains in Abruzzo. The center of Italy is culturally diverse and rich in history and food traditions.
One region that I didn’t have much experience with was Le Marche. I knew it was in the center of the country but didn’t realize how many unique landscapes it holds. After driving through the Apennine mountain range, you come to rolling hills and fields as far as you can see, until reaching the eastern coast and the Adriatic sea. We managed to make an overnight road trip out of it, with plenty of stops for food and photos along the way.
Today I’m sharing some pictures and information about one of my favorite cities in Italy, Urbino, before going on to share about Abruzzo (Tuscany) and San Marino (it’s own little country within Italy!)
What we saw: the city of Urbino
I had the good fortune of having a friend study abroad in Urbino, while I was studying in Rome. I went to visit her once, before we left for Oktoberfest and I still remember that short trip. While I was only there for a night, I was stunned when we walked up a hill and entered the walled city by how beautiful the views were. I haven’t seen anything like the amazing landscape of this region before. Because you’re at a high elevation, you can see for miles around and the land is generally clear of trees because it’s so heavily cultivated. It makes for great views and amazing, locally-grown food.
Urbino is a walled medieval city that has its own castle and ramparts surrounding it. You can’t take any cars into the city (unless you’re a resident) so we parked and walked inside after arriving late at our bnb. Because we went in around dinner time on a weekend, the city was very quiet at first. As we walked closer to the center, through twisting alleyways and under stone arches, we found the city center where many people were out in the piazza having drinks and enjoying Saturday night aperitivo. My sister and I were charmed by the smaller city size, cute shops and restaurants, while my Roman boyfriend was wondering how anyone could ever live in a city so small. Before eating, we walked around and visited some of the tourist shops on the main road (Corso Giuseppe Garibaldi) where I found an amazing blend of tea, bits of pottery, and a fabulously helpful shopkeeper who reminded me how nice Italians outside of Rome can be.
What we ate: Cresce, gelato, wine, meats, and cheese
The food in Urbino was absolutely amazing and consistent with the rest of Le Marche. Every meal we had on our trip was tasty and affordable. In Urbino, we asked our shopkeeper friend for reccomendations and she sent us to Il Girarrosto. This was a classic trattoria with great house wine, an open fire for roasting the porchetta and other meat, and a great selection of food. Because we ate a (very) big lunch in Arezzo, we went for a salumi platter, with sides of straccitella cheese, the local piadine and of course a liter of red wine. While of course the salame and prosciutto were amazing, we all really loved the crescie, a flakey, warm flatbread native to Urbino. We topped it all off with a quick gelato to go on our walk back down the hill.
Where we stayed: Ca' Vernaccia B&B
Our Airbnb, Ca' Vernaccia, was charming, with a fantastic view of the countryside. We were only a few minutes outside of the main city and by car it wasn’t difficult to get to. Off of the main road, we took a smaller dirt road down to the bnb where we rfound the guest rooms separated from the main house with the restaurant and breakfast area. While breakfast was included with our room, they also had the option to do a tasting meal at the b&b’s restaurant which is known for its truffle dishes and has a relatively low price for all four courses. The room was nothing special, but it did fit three comfortably and we had a separate bathroom and kitchen if we wanted to cook in the apartment. The only negative note were the two stink bugs we found in our room but with the proximity to the outdoors, some wildlife is only to be expected I guess.
Near the b&b is where we took my favorite photos form the trip because the lighting and backgrounds were so beautiful. I lost count of the times I asked Edoardo to stop the car so I could get “one last picture”.
If you made it this far, you must either really love Italy’s hidden gems, or be a member of my family. But all of this just goes to show how passionate I am about finding off the map places and enjoying all of Italy’s amazing regions.
So, have you ever been to the fabulous region of Le Marche? Or another area outside of Italy's main cities while traveling here?