The torrid heat of summer has run its course, the grapes are ripening well on the vines and the stars shine brighter in the cooler night skies. Now is the time to be here in Le Marche both for the glorious autumn light and for some of the culinary highpoints in the region's seasonal diet.
Piglets of the mushroom world
Autumn is the season for a host of excellent wild mushrooms that appear frequently on menus across the region. Perhaps the finest commonly found are funghi porcini, known in English as penny bun mushrooms or ceps. The Italian name means "piglets" as younger ones are reckoned to resemble them.
Boletus edulis, to give them their botanical name, along with a few other edible species of "boletes", grow abundantly in the woods in upland areas and are most often used simply to dress a dish of tagliatelle or in a risotto. If you can't find them fresh, look out for packets of dried ones that also make excellent presents to take home as they're so light in your luggage.
Autumn is also the season when many towns hold a sagra, or festival dedicated to a local culinary speciality - from frogs and chestnuts to unheard of varieties of pasta, there's a sagra to celebrate every imaginable piatto. The events are always over a weekend and include plenty of song and dance to go with the food.
Here are a few centered around suitably autumnal fare:
Pesaro & Urbino Province:
Acqualagna - Fiera Nazionale of the White Truffle 25-31 October & 1,7,8 November
Cartoceto - Mostra mercato dell'olio DOP (olive oil), 8-15 November
Sant'Angelo in Vado - Mostra nazionale of the White Truffle second weekend of October
Cupramontana - Sagra dell'uva (grape harvest) 29 September-2 October
Rosora - Festa della sapa (concentrated grape must) 17-19 October
Serra de' Conti - Festa della cicerchia (a local pulse), fourth weekend of November
Appignano - "Leguminaria" (beans, lentils and chickpeas), 16,17,18 October
Amandola - Diamanti a tavola - Fair dedicated to the white truffle from the Sibillini, first weekend of November
Ascoli Piceno Province:
Montemonaco - Sagra mercato della castagna (chestnut), end October
Marche Voyager events page
Before the snows set in on the peaks of the Sibillini Mountains there is still time for a sturdy trek to see one of the region's natural wonders - the Lago di Pilato. This magical lake lies at a height of 1,900 metres and takes its name from the legend that Pontius Pilate's body was dragged here by a team of oxen after Tiberius condemned him to death. The lake is also the only place in the world where you'll find Chirocephalus marchesonii, a pink crustacean that swims belly up.
The hike to the lake takes around 3 hours each way and parts from the village of Foce near Montemonaco. The Parco Nazionale dei Monti Sibillini website (see below) is a good place to start if you want to explore the area.
Sibillini National Park website
Raphael brings in the crowds
More than 140,000 people visited the "Raffaelo e Urbino" exhibition at the Palazzo Ducale in Rapahel's home town of Urbino this summer. The show featured works from his early period and focused on the important influence that the Court in Urbino had on his career.
Visitors to the hilltop town of Calderola in Macerata province have until 12 November to see a striking art show in the splendid setting of the recently restored Baroque Palazzo del Cardinale Pallotta. Le Stanze del Cardinale includes works by Caravaggio, Guido Reni, Guercino and Mattia Preti, and aims to partially recreate the celebrated collection of the palace's creator, the 17th century Cardinal Giambattista Pallotta
Le Stanze del Cardinale website
More than just squeeze boxes
Castelfidardo - as well as being the site of the last battle between the Papal States and the nascent Italian Army in 1860 - is famed for the manufacture of accordions, and players from around the world will again be descending on the town between 13 and 18 October for the Festival Internazionale della Fisarmonica.
The annual event attracts world-class players and enthusiastic amateurs alike, and features concerts by both soloists and accordion groups. The festival closes with a concert featuring the winners of the prestigious annual accordion competition.
For full details in English visit this website
Caught in the web
More and more of the region's local authorities offer tourist information sites in English. Here are a few of the best ones to whet your appetite:
Pesaro & Urbino website
Sibillini Mountains website
Montefeltro (northern Marche) website
The highest peak in the region is Monte Vettore which reaches 2,476 metres (8,123 feet) in the heart of the Sibillini mountains in the southern Marche.
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