From exploring beautiful medieval villages and delving into the Frasassi Caves, to truffle hunting in Acqualagna and hiking in Lame Rosse, these are the best places to visit in Marche, Italy.
When it comes to dream trips, I think spending ten days in Italy is definitely up there with the best! Ten whole days of delicious pasta, beautiful scenery and Italian culture. WOW!
The Marche region isn’t one of Italy’s most touristy areas. It’s got an authentic feel and a slow pace of life. It feels worlds away from the crowds of Venice or Rome, or the chaotic roads in Naples! In the Marche region in Central Italy, daily life revolves around family, agriculture and food. As a tourist, I loved it!
This was my eleventh trip to Italy. I’ve visited plenty of touristy cities and regions, in addition to a few very special hidden gems. For this trip I was excited to dive deep into a region I knew very little about.
What is Marche, Italy famous for?
Le Marche (pronounced Mar-kay by the locals) is popular for three reasons: the historic hilltop towns known as borghis, the regional gastronomy which includes fresh truffles and local pastas, and the spectacular Frasassi Caves.
In terms of the landscapes, Le Marche is a really varied region of Italy, spanning 9,344 km². To the east is the Adriatic Sea, along which the majority of people live (which includes the region’s capital Ancona). There you’ll find the sandy beaches and resorts that are popular for summer holidays.
The rest of the Marche region is covered in pretty countryside and rolling hills, with more dramatic mountainous scenery on the western side. Throughout you’ll find rivers, lakes gorges and caves.
Essentially, Le Marche offers the best of Italy in one region! My favourite thing? The fact it’s really not that touristy, so if you plan a trip out of peak summer, you could have some of these stunning places all to yourself!
Where is Marche, Italy?
Le Marche is located in Central Italy. To the north are Emilia-Romagna and San Marino, and to the south is Abruzzo. To the west of Marche are Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio. The region is further divided into five provinces: Ancona, Ascoli Piceno, Fermo, Macerata, Pesaro and Urbino.
How to get to Marche, Italy?
If you’re travelling from outside Italy, the easiest airport for the Marche region is Ancona. Ryanair offers direct flights from London Stansted. There are also ferries from Greece, Croatia and Albania to Ancona.
Alternatively, you can catch a train or drive to the region. The E55 motorway goes right through Marche. This is a huge route which stretches from Helsingborg in Sweden all the way to Kalamáta in Greece!
How long to spend in Marche, Italy?
This really depends on how much you want to do! I’d suggest a minimum of 5-6 days, ideally splitting your time between the east of the region and the west, for a great mix of coast and mountain time.
13 Most Beautiful Places To Visit In Marche, Italy
Now you have a little background on what to expect from this region, it’s time to share the most beautiful places to visit in Marche, Italy! From fortified towns and beaches, to gorges and caves, you’re guaranteed to find some spots that appeal to you.
I’ve visited amazing caves all over the world, but the Frasassi Caves win the award for being the most impressive! They were discovered by a group of young cavers in 1971, and shortly after were opened as a tourist attraction.
To visit, you’ll need to book a ticket for a guided tour. These run throughout the day. Most are in Italian but there are a few in English (our English tour was at 11.40am but check in advance!)
On the tour you’ll learn all about the discovery of the caves, the geology of the formations and plenty of fascinating facts too.
The first room is the Ancona Room which is absolutely vast. It feels cavernous and empty, while paradoxically being filled with huge stalagmites and stalactites. I was amazed to hear that the room is large enough to fit Milan’s Il Duomo cathedral inside! It felt big, but not on that sort of scale. The light definitely plays tricks on you!
There are five rooms you can visit on a guided tour. Another favourite of mine was the Candle Hall, where thin stalagmites sit on top of a natural lake, creating amazing reflections.
The Frasassi Caves also hold special caving tours (think hard hats and practical shoes!) for those feeling more adventurous! I can definitely see why this is one of Italy’s top tourist attractions. The Frasassi Caves are without a doubt one of the most beautiful places to visit in Marche.
As you drive towards the caves, you’ll pass through this amazing gorge. On one side of the road flows the River Sentino, which is a vibrant shade of green. There are plenty of stunning spots for photography in this area, particularly by this bridge.
A highlight in this area is the Tempio del Valadier, a temple which is in a unique location, inside one of the gorge’s caves. It dates back to 1828 and has a unique octagonal-shape. There are also a few places you can go rock climbing and rafting close by, so it’s ideal for adventure lovers visiting Marche!
In the small town close to the caves is the stunning Romanesque church, San Vittore delle Chiuse. This church has a backdrop of Frasassi Gorge, which I thought was absolutely beautiful.
I mentioned that Marche is famous for its spectacular hilltop towns and villages, and Gradara is one of the best. With the nickname, “Capital of the Middle Ages” it attracts tourists because of its 12th century castle and medieval city walls.
I’d recommend going inside Gradara’s fortress as it’ll give you a better understanding of the town’s history. You’ll also find out about the tragic love story of Paolo and Francesca from the 1200s, which is associated with castle.
As a quick lowdown, Francesca married Gianciotto, but fell in love with his younger brother Paolo. Gianciotto found out and killed them both. Then Italian poet Dante immortalised this tale in his Divine Comedy a century later.
There are references to this story throughout Gradara, with osteria’s bearing their names, a ‘lover’s walk’ you can follow through the town, and even the Paolo and Francesca woods just below the castle.
Walking Gradara’s medieval city walls offers lots of amazing views over the town and the countryside. There are a few towers along the route, giving the elevation you need to really take in the majestic size and shape of that fortress. You’ll also get a good view of the clock tower by the entrance to the town.
Lago di Fiastra is another of the most beautiful places to visit in Marche, Italy. This stunning lake is located towards the southeast of the region, within the Sibillini Mountains Natural Park. It’s surrounded by pretty mountain peaks and rugged scenery, with the pristine lake in the centre.
Lake Fiastra’s water is pristine, glittering with a turquoise shade when the sun is shining. In peak summer months, you can rent kayaks and pedalos here. It’s also a popular spot for swimming, sunbathing and fishing. We hiked around the perimeter, stopping to take plenty of photos along the way.
If you’re enamoured by the beautiful photos of Lake Fiastra, you’ll be excited to hear that this is also the starting point for a very special hike. The hike from Lago di Fiastra to Lame Rosse takes you from a panoramic viewpoint by the lake, through woodlands and forests, to the epic russet rocks of Lame Rosse.
Lame Rosse is a collection of rock formations in a shade of orange, that look quite unlike any landscape you expect to see on planet earth! They’d be more fitting on Mars! The view reminded me of others I’d seen in the Atacama Desert in Chile and in Cappadocia in Turkey.
The hike from the car park took us around one hour. It has a few steep sections, in particular the final stretch when you start to see the rocks. Here, there’s a looser scree on the steep ground, making it a challenging final hundred metres!
Lame Rosse is definitely one of the most beautiful places to visit in Marche, and quite unlike anywhere you’ll find in Italy!
If you’re a foodie like me, you’ll have ordered a few truffle dishes over the years. The luxurious fungus is a sought-after delicacy, and adds a rich flavour to any recipe. Acqualagna in the Marche region is known as the truffle capital. There are nine varieties of truffle found in Italy, and four are found in the Marche region.
In the countryside surrounding the truffle-mad town are several cultivated truffle grounds. These are areas where symbiotic plants and trees have been planted, in the hope of encouraging black and white truffles to grow.
We went on a truffle tour with a local truffle hunter named Paolo and his two dogs. He gave such a fascinating insight into how the truffles grow, what they need, and how they’re discovered. The dogs are trained for a year or two, and can sense when the truffles are ready to be dug up.
Within a few minutes of arriving in the truffle ground, the pups had sniffed out a beautiful black truffle. They were so quick! This happened over and over again, until Paolo had a bag of 6 or 7 black truffles.
After learning about the unique ingredient, we simply had to go and try some! We visited Paolo’s family restaurant Lampino and ordered some delicious plates of truffle pasta. I’ve never seen so much shaved truffle on one dish! I guess when you can pop out and find them on your own truffle ground, you can be a little more generous!
If you’re visiting Acqualagna, I’d recommend spending an hour or two at the Gola del Furlo. This is a large canyon with huge rocks either side of a beautiful green river. Alongside it is the ancient Roman road Via Flaminia – a road still in use today!
You can park at one end and stroll along, taking in the views of the water and the huge steep cliffs. It’s worth noting though that the entire walking route follows the road, so it’s not exactly a nature walk as some of the photos might have you thinking!
We visited in autumn when unfortunately a lot of the activities had finished for the season. However, I’d love to kayak here. It’s a stunning spot and I saw some amazing photos of people on the water!
Serra San Quirico
Serra San Quirico is another of the most beautiful places to visit in Marche. This traditional hilltop town is so pretty, with its yellow stone buildings giving the impression of being layered on top of one another. It’s not a place packed full of things to do. It’s just a pretty spot where life moves slowly.
There are picturesque views of the countryside all around too. During the season we visited, there were horse chestnut trees cascading conkers all over the streets and white doves fluttering through the air. It definitely had a bit of magic to it!
I loved exploring the cobbled streets, taking in the views of ancient stone archways and pretty piazzas. For history lovers there are historic churches and towers to admire. But, to be honest I’d just recommend a little stop here to appreciate the beauty of the town!
This pretty Marche town is located right on the Metauro River, with a famous bridge and ancient colourful buildings dotted along the water’s edge.
It’s a gorgeous spot for photos, particularly if you cross the river and walk down to the water’s edge to view the town through the archway of the bridge.
Parco San Bartolo
Have you heard about the Strada Panoramica? It’s a 23.4 km route that leads from Gabicce Mare to Pesaro on Marche’s northern coast. It runs through Parco San Bartolo, a gorgeous area for nature, with sweeping cliffs, pristine hidden beaches and vineyards. The road undulates and features a lot of hairpin bends and is popular with drivers, cyclists and adrenaline-loving motorcyclists!
We went on a beautiful coastal walk in this part of the Marche region, starting just outside the pretty village of Casteldimezzo and walking to Fiorenzuola di Focara. Gazing out at the tranquil turquoise waters, I couldn’t quite believe we had the route pretty much to ourselves. It feels like such a hidden gem in Marche!
Torre Di Palme
Torre Di Palme is without a doubt one of the prettiest villages in Marche. Unlike some of the other gorgeous towns I’ve mentioned (e.g., Gradara and Serra San Quirico), this one is really close to the Adriatic so offers sparkling sea views.
I found this place absolutely enchanting. With its narrow alleys, terraces dotted with traditional Italian restaurants, historic churches and vivid magenta sprays of bougainvillea cascading down the ancient buildings, it has a charm in abundance.
I’d recommend walking to the panoramic terrace at the far end of the town, where you can really admire the sea views. Depending on the time you visit, you could grab a coffee at Restaurant Story and sit out in the square, or enjoy an aperitivo at Le Logge.
La Logge Bar is absolutely adorable, with brightly coloured tables and chairs, and vibrant artworks adorning the walls. It has so much character!
You’ll spot Moresco from miles away before you reach the tiny place itself. It’s another fortified medieval town, perched on top of a hill. It’s absolutely stunning, with a huge octagonal tower at the forefront, and old walls snaking their way around the edge.
Below Moresco are rolling hills peppered with vineyards, farmland and other small villages. After walking through the picturesque town, with its narrow alleys, clock tower and piazza, I’d recommend enjoying dinner at 1083.
For a teeny tiny town, this is a 5* restaurant with an interesting and varied menu, featuring a lot of Marche delicacies. The knockout dish for me was the carbonara. It’s genuinely one of the best I’ve ever tried!
Other things to do near Moresco include a trip to Cantina Di Ruscio winery. You can pop into the shop for a quick taste, or book onto an official wine tasting experience.
You could also walk from Moresco to Monterubbiano, the neighbouring town. This has a cute central area with a main piazza and a great little spot for an aperitivo (Al Piccolo Caffé). I’d also recommend a meal at Pizzeria Coccaro, famous for their deep-fried tagliatelle (similar to fried mac and cheese balls).
Just outside the picturesque town of Sarnarno, on the edge of the Sibillini Mountains Natural Park, are several waterfalls. One of the most spectacular is Cascata dell’Antico Mulino del Piano. The path from the main road to the waterfall only takes around 10 minutes on foot. It’s steep, so go at an easy pace, especially on the way back up!
On the way down you’ll pass the 15th century mill after which the waterfall is named. There are steps to the waterfall itself, and from there you can take some amazing photos!
This is definitely one of the most beautiful places to visit in Marche, Italy, and it’s lovely that it’s so close to the famous ski town of Sarnarno too.
Many people swim here in the warmer months, or follow the Via delle Cascate Perdute trail, which connects three of the towns’ waterfalls.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about some of the best places to visit in Marche. To be honest, after such a lovely trip to the region, it was difficult to narrow this list down to just a few!
If you’re looking for other beautiful places to visit in Marche, here are a few more to add to your list:
- Genga (close to Frasassi Caves)
- Campofilone (famed for its maccheroncini pasta)
- Pesaro (home of Rossini
- Fermo (with its Duomo and Piazza del Popolo)
- Monte Conero (close to Ancona)
- Urbino (a UNESCO World Heritage Site where you can see the works of Piero della Francesca)
- Recanati (with associations to 18th century poet Giacomo Leopardi)
- Monte Vettore (the highest mountain in the Sibillini Mountain range)
For more great travel tips, read my guide to the best hidden gems in Italy. You might spot a few familiar places!
This article was written in collaboration with iambassador for the ‘Viaggio Italiano’ Project (Italian National Tourist Board, Ministry of Tourism & Conference of Regions and Autonomous Provinces).