Le Marche region – not the New Tuscany!
Many people have written about Le Marche being the new Tuscany. Personally, we find this phrase slightly crass and are only writing about the subject to raise the debate a notch and to shamelessly draw visitors to Le Marche and the wealth of information that we have put together about Le Marche region.
We understand that Tuscany has a particular allure and appeal to the Italiophile and traveller, but surely comparing Marche to Tuscany demeans both Tuscany in having clones out there and Marche in having no identity of its own. The Guardian wrote in 2001
“There are similarities, but the Marche region’s appeal lies in its difference. The Marche is on the same latitude as much of Tuscany and Umbria but has been isolated by geography and history. It is cut off from western Italy by the Apennines, and from the sixteenth to the late-nineteenth century was the private territory of the Vatican. Papal rule had its faults, but it was a wonderful preserver of medieval towns. To anyone who has risked all on the Amalfi coast road or tried to find the hidden parking spaces of Florence, the quiet of the Marche’s interior is an astonishment and a relief”
The Marche can seem very like the the new Tuscany. But in two respects it is distinct. The one developed area is the Adriatic coastal strip – and many in the travel business are snotty about its unsophisticated charms.
The Marche’s resorts are made up of small, family hotels and restaurants which are a hangover from the Fifties, when Italians would move to the beaches for half the summer…..then there are the Apennines which are largely ignored by English mountaineers.
The Sibillini Alps are a wild place draped around the Piano Grande – a gigantic meadow, 16km square, with high peaks on all sides. From May to July it is carpeted with reds, yellows, oranges and purples from poppies and other wild flowers, and the crocuses and lentils grown by the mountain villagers. It’s poetic, sublime, an impressionist painting in nature; it’s every travel cliché you’ve read”
In 2005 the New York Times also wrote a similar lengthy article about Le Marche being a new Tuscany. See how it waxed lyrical about the region…..
“Seasoned travelers have begun casting about elsewhere for that authentic experience. …people are heading to the calf of Italy’s boot, to Le Marche, a small, diverse province rising from the Adriatic Sea to the 6,000-foot peaks of the Apennines.
In between lies a Tuscan-like rumple of lavender fields, sunflower fields and vineyards spread across hills that hump off toward every horizon like a patchwork quilt on an unmade bed. In 2003, according to the Italian National Institute of Statistics, Le Marche had just 7 percent as many visits by foreigners as Tuscany”
A unique Le Marche experience
The years since these articles have seen a steady rise in the number of tourists to Le Marche but most holiday makers still remark on the slow pace of life and the lack of crowds and traffic when compared to Toscana.
For those intrepid visitors who stray east of Tuscany region on the Italian map and find Le Marche, many comment on the wonderful value for money and the friendliness of the locals and of a landscape and people unscathed by the ravages of modern life, consumerism and mass tourism.
Localism Le Marche style
The Marchigiani are a people with a strong sense of “campanilsmo” or loyalty to customs and cultures, they rarely move away from the area and their bonds with the land (many are still farmers or have small-holdings). Look at the objectives of the burgeoning transition town movement and you will find that these attributes have always existed here.
The community keep things local, they share skills and food and commune on the daily passegiata or when chattering in the bar. Most inhabitants shop locally to keep money flowing through the small communities and there is a focus on self-sufficiency and the provenance of food.
In fact, if you go into a butchers, they will often be able to tell you where and when the animal was slaughtered and on which farm it was reared.
The Le Marche focus on tradition has often been at the expense of change and whilst this has affected the promotion of travel and tourism to the area, it has thankfully meant that the Marche region has not slavishly followed trends and the visitor has a unique and different experience in every village.
The Marche region like Tuscany has seen its share of war and hardship and the local people appreciate their new found tranquility, this peace and the harmony with nature lends the locals a certain spirituality and allows them to stop and chat away from the avaricious demands of our modern age.
The New York Times article goes on to say:
Wandering through these towns, barely mentioned in any guidebook, becomes a highlight of the trip, with the midmorning torpor of their tidy town squares, the proud butcher shops hung with homemade salami, the deliciously crooked little streets that lead nowhere that we’re headed – and so we take them.
In every town, matrons in headscarves and support hose and cardigans waddle up the cobbles with grocery bags, as if they’re leaving central casting instead of the negozio di alimentari. Surprised by visitors, they return our smiles with smiles, and a “Salve!”