The region is very beautiful, bounded by mountains to the west and the sea to the east, and there are numerous picturesque towns and villages that make an excellent focus for day trips. These include small towns such as Sarnano and Amandola in the foothills of the Apennines; Ascoli Piceno, a big, busy medieval/Renaissance city built of travertine (similar to marble); elegant Urbino, the famous ‘Renaissance gem’ of Le Marche and the birthplace of Raphael; Macerata, a bustling medieval hill town with an ancient university and its renowned open-air opera festival in July/August; and Tolentino with some fabulous frescoes. Many towns have quirky little museums or art galleries, often containing something amazing and unexpected. Local open-air ‘festas’ take place throughout the summer months. Day trips are also possible to more familiar tourist destinations in Umbria, such as Assisi, Spello, Perugia, Gubbio, Todi, Spoleto and Orvieto. All these take between one and two hours to reach by car. Towns in Tuscany are reachable too: for example Siena is a two-hour drive, Florence three hours or so by coach or car.
In the other direction (east) the coast is about an hour’s drive away. The beaches are excellent, and tend to be of the type where you hire a lounger and sun umbrella for the day. These areas will usually be lifeguard-tended and are kept very clean, so are ideal for children. Some beaches are less controlled, especially out of season (before mid-July/after August). The stretch of coast just south of Ancona is more striking and less developed, being flanked by rocky cliffs which offer views back inland and over the sea. There are lots of interesting towns over towards, or on, the coast, including Loreto, Fano and Jesi. You will also find numerous good, unpretentious fish restaurants.
For wine and food lovers there's a huge amount on offer. The region produces some very good local wines, often using traditional ancient grape varieties, and many producers are now concentrating on quality output. Like most Italian cuisine, Marchigiano cooking uses fresh, seasonal ingredients and is simple and delicious. There are some superb local cheeses, and, in season, porcini mushrooms, truffles and game.
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