A sunny welcome to the summer issue of the Marche Voyager newsletter with - among many other things - old ruins, something blue, something Baroque, salty onions...all topped-off with a figgy pudding.
Fig in pig's clothing
One of the region's oddest "salami" is lonza di fico or salame di fico, actually not a salami but a mixture of minced dried figs, almonds, walnuts, mistrà, or aniseed liqueur, wrapped in a fig leaf and shaped to resemble a salami.
This Marche speciality, boasting its own Slow Food "presidium", or official mark of recognition, is best served with some of the region's excellent mature pecorino ewe's milk cheese and a glass of dessert wine. It's made in Ancona province but on sale throughout the region.
On the road to ruins
Le Marche has some 34 important archeological sites, including outstanding ruins from Ancient Roman times. This summer the remains of the Roman theatre in Ascoli Piceno is set to be re-opened to the public after a recent facelift.
The imposing theatre, first unearthed in 1932, stands on Colle dell'Annunziata in via Francesco Ricci and has been dated to the end of the 1st Century BC - if you can't visit it in person check it out on Google Street View.
Other Roman sites worth visiting in the region include the Roman remains at Falerone and Urbs Salvia - both host to Classical theatre festivals in high summer - the Roman triumphal arches at Fano and Ancona, and the Roman tunnel and cutting through the Furlo Gorge (see photo above).
True blue beaches
Le Marche has again been awarded a healthy clutch of Blue Flags - the leading awards given annually to well-kept beaches and marinas across Europe by the Foundation for Environmental Education.
Beaches and marinas in the following 16 towns have been nominated for 2010 (from north to south): Gabicce Mare, Pesaro, Fano, Marotta di Mondolfo, Senigallia, Ancona Portonovo, Sirolo, Numana, Porto Recanati, Porto Potenza Picena, Civitanova Marche, Porto Sant'Elpidio, Porto San Giorgio, Cupra Marittima, Grottammare, and San Benedetto del Tronto.
Marche Voyager beach guide
There are plenty of opportunities for activity holidays in the region - from kite-surfing by the seaside to cooking in the country, from hiking in the hills to learning Italian in a hill town - and a liberal use of internet searches should help you find what you're looking for. Here are a few links to get you going (some are only in Italian but do provide links to local associations who may be able to help by email).
For athletic pursuits up in the high Sibillini try this website
To find professional guides for tailor-made visits start here
Watersports lovers should try this page for useful leads
For italian language courses see this list of schools
All that jazz
Jazz provides a key note across the region this summer with four jazz and world music festivals, all featuring top-class performers.
The well-established Ancona Jazz Summer Festival takes place in the splendid outdoor setting of the Mole Vanvitelliana in the Marche capital and runs from 2 to 12 July. Meanwhile Fano Jazz by the Sea runs from 25 to 31 July and mostly takes place at the Marina dei Cesari on a stage built out over the water. In the south of the region the Jazz di Marca festival features a series of concerts between 27 June and 26 July at Fermo, Porto San Giorgio and Sant'Elpidio a Mare. Finally in Macerata province the Musicamdo Jazz Festival runs from 1 to 30 July.
Ancona Summer Jazz Festival website
Fano Jazz by the Sea website
Jazz di Marca website
Musicamdo Jazz Festival website
Last call for the opera
If you're planning to visit Le Marche this summer, Macerata's spectacular 2010 open-air opera festival in July-August includes Gounod's Faust and Verdi's La Forza del Destino. Pesaro's prestigious Rossini Opera Festival in August includes Rossini's La Cenerentola and Sigismondo. But hurry if you want tickets as they sell out fast.
Marche Voyager opera page for details.
An unholy anniversary?
The statuesque hill town of Castelfidardo celebrates the 150th anniversary this year of a celebrated battle in the fight for the Unification of Italy, when the Piemontese army routed the "crusaders" of the Papal forces. The Battaglia di Castelfidardo took place on 18 September 1860 and saw some 150 troops killed from both sides; it was to be one of the last battles ever to be fought by the Papal States.
Baroque around the clock
The beguiling town of San Severino Marche in Macerata province is the setting for a major exhibition this summer celebrating Baroque art in Le Marche. The show, entitled Meraviglie del Barocco nelle Marche, features around 90 works from the 1600s including pieces by Bernini, Guercino and Pomarancio.
The exhibition is being curated by celebrated Italian art critic Vittorio Sgarbi and runs from 25 July until 12 December in three of the town's finest buildings.
See this page on the Marche Culture site for more information (in Italian).
Know your onions
One of Le Marche's more curious folk traditions is the use of onions at Urbania in Pesaro & Urbino province to foretell the coming year's weather. On the night of 24 January twelve onion sections - one for each month - are sprinkled with salt and left outside; in the morning the way the salt has dissolved is examined and the weather forecast made.
The the secret of reading the onions of Urbino is said to date back to Medieval times and is currently guarded by Signora Emanuela Forlini, a local teacher who inherited the skill from her father and grandfather.
You can watch a video here with Signora Forlini giving her forecast for 2010 (in Italian).
There are over 30,000 hectares - around 75,000 acres - of vineyards in Le Marche; enough to make around 24,000,000 bottles of high-quality wine.
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