After record-breaking snows this winter - almost two metres around Urbino - almond and hawthorn blossoms herald the arrival of spring. The priest has passed to bless both the house and the eggs to be eaten on Easter morning. The circle turns, and once again it's time for the spring issue of the quarterly Marche Voyager newsletter. Buona Pasqua!
The stars shine bright in Senigallia
The smart seaside resort town of Senigallia in Ancona province boasts not just one Michelin two-starred restaurant but two.
At the northern end of the long "velvet" sands stands Mauro Uliassi's perfectly understated restaurant Uliassi, while to the south of the town, overlooking the rather anonymous beach at Marzocca, is Moreno Cedroni's more showy La Madonnina del Pescatore.
Both of these outstanding restaurants feature fish and neither are cheap, but for committed gastronomes they promise a meal to fondly recall in years to come.
Mauro Uliassi's website
Moreno Cedroni's website
Fair squares #6
This month's image of one of the region's piazze, or town squares, features one that only exists in two dimensions - it's the celebrated painting in Urbino's Palazzo Ducale known as La città ideale, or The Ideal City. Nobody really knows who painted this enigmatic image and its two companion paintings that are nowadays on display in Baltimore and Berlin.
From 6 April visitors to Urbino will have a rare opportunity to see two of the three "Ideal City" paintings in an exhibition set to run until 8 July. The show also includes some 50 other important works illustrating the utopian vision of Duke Federico's glittering court in Urbino, and is open daily in the Palazzo Ducale with full-price admission at €9.
La città ideale exhibition English-language website.
Tourism beats the crisis
The region played host to 2,599,314 visitors in 2011 - an increase of 3.98% on 2010 - with the number of foreign tourists increasing by a healthy 8.3%.
Visitors to Le Marche spent some 1,991 million Euro and stayed for an average of around 6.5 days.
The lion's share of the foreigners who visited Le Marche in 2011 were the 66.760 German visitors, followed by 33,921 Dutch, 28,784 French, 24,194 Swiss and 22,306 British.
Marche region full 2011 tourism statistics (in Italian)
Raise your glasses, please
The prestigious Italian food and wine magazine Gambero Rosso has given eighteen of its celebrated annual Tre Bicchieri awards for Italy's finest wines to Marche producers this year.
And the overall winner for Italy's best white wine went to Marche producer Umani Ronchi for their Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore "Casal di Serra Vigne Vecchie" 2009.
A wing and a prayer
Ryanair now fly to seven destinations from the Marche regional airport at Ancona - Alghero (Sardinia), Brussels, Dusseldorf, London, Madrid, Stockholm and Trapani (Sicily). You can also fly to Munich with Lufthansa or to Rome with Alitalia.
Ancona Airport English-language website.
Two wheels good...
The celebrated Giro d'Italia, one of the world's most famous annual cycle road races, once again includes stages in the Marche this year. On Thursday 10 May riders will cover nearly 200 kilometres heading south from Modena to finish on the coast at Fano. The following day they head inland from Urbino to finish after 207 kilometres at Porto Sant'Elpidio. On Saturday 12 May they then ride from Recanati to struggle over the mountains heading south to Rocca di Cambio in Abruzzo region. The 2012 race runs from 5 to 27 May and starts in Denmark.
The official Giro d'Italia website.
The three G's...
Macerata's spectacular open-air opera festival from 20 July to 12 August returns this year under the new artistic directorship of Francesco Micheli, and features a popular trio of operas - Verdi's La Traviata, Puccini's La Bohème and Bizet's Carmen.
Marche Voyager opera page for details.
Palio della rana
The first Sunday after Easter sees an unusual race at Fermignano near Urbino when the different quarters battle it out running with frogs on wheelbarrows. The Palio della Rana also features plenty of medieval costumes, flag-waving and abundant refreshments. Well worth hopping along to...
Palio della Rana website in Italian.
Buy, buy, buy...
If you're coming to the Marche this summer, you might want to buy a copy of our excellent - well, we would say that wouldn't we - guide to the region. Le Marche: an insider's guide by Peter Greene is available as both a paperback or as a downloadable ebook.
Marche Voyager buy the book page.
Around 25% of the Marche's population will be non-Italian by the year 2050, according to predictions by ISTAT, Italy's national statistics office.
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