the marche region of italy
Marche is an affluent zone with little crime and full of the warm welcome for which central and southern Italy is renowned - even the most basic attempt to speak Italian will guarantee you a warm and friendly reception.
Divided into four provinces, Marche's regional capital is Ancona, a port which came to prominence in the sixteenth century and is second in importance only to Venice on the Adriatic.
Other historically important places include the university towns of Urbino, Camerino and Macerata. Urbino boasts the Galleria nazionale delle Marche, probably the most important of Marche's 234 museums.
Marche has two national parks, the Monti Sibillini National Park and the Gran Sasso Monti Della Laga National Park.
The Monti Sibillini National Park actively promotes and protects wildlife habitats and has played a key role in building a stable population of wolves and other creatures such as the golden eagle. Wild boar abound and with the help of active re-introduction programmes there are also now signs of the return of the Marsicana brown bear from its stronghold in neighbouring Abruzzo. There are even signs of the return of the secretive and shy lynx.
Eating out means encountering a wonderful variety of Italian dishes, usually divided into three courses (antipasti, primo piatto and secondo piatto) followed by dessert, coffee and the choice of a mind-boggling array of "digestive" (and usually very potent) liqueurs. If done properly the whole thing can easily last two or three hours!
There is a tremendous amount to see and do in Marche - from indoor and outdoor theatre and concerts, to horse racing, boat trips, hunting, trekking, mountain biking, riding, or simply strolling through the many historic piazzas, soaking up the atmosphere.
The area is rich in Roman and Etruscan archaeological sites and there is an abundance of fine art and architecture to absorb.