After yet another unseasonably mild winter, spring has come early to Le Marche and the fair rolling hills are looking their finest. In the countryside all is busy as farmers make the most of the lengthening days, and on the coast the lifeguards are adding a fresh coat of ultramarine to the beach huts. Buona Pasqua a tutti i nostri lettori..
A touch of distinction...
Fabriano lends its name not only to some of the world's finest paper but also to an outstanding salame that boasts a coveted Slow Food "presidia".
Salame di Fabriano, much favoured by Garibaldi, is made from the better cuts of the pig mixed with cubes of belly pork, and is ideal as part of the traditional Marche Easter breakfast - the eggs blessed a week earlier by the local priest, crescia di Pasqua - the local rich, cheese bread - and good salami.
Bucking the trend
The region played host to 2,286,839 visitors in 2014 - an increase of +0.34% on 2013, as against a drop of -0.64% in the number of tourists for Italy as a whole. The number of foreign tourists increased by 1.9%.
The lion's share of foreigners who visited Le Marche in 2014 were the 61.480 German visitors, followed by 35,433 Dutch, 29,856 Russians, 25,838 Swiss, 24,135 French, and 19,407 British. Of the total visitors, almost 82% were Italian and 18% were foreign.
The figures in detail (in Italian)
The Great and the Good
After almost 400 years some of the greatest figures from history are returning to Urbino's Palazzo Ducale. Twenty-eight portraits of the greatest thinkers and religious figures from Aristotle to Moses once adorned the studiolo, Duke Federico's glorious study decorated with painstakingly-detailed inlaid marquetry work. But by the 17th century only 14 of the paintings remained in situ. The other 14 languish in the vast collections of the Louvre in Paris.
Now for the first time all 28 portraits have been reunited in the studiolo and are on show until 4 July. Opening times and ticket prices as for the Palazzo Ducale.
The other ducal palace...
It may not be quite up there with Urbino's palazzo ducale, but the ducal palace at nearby Urbania boasts an appealing museum and interesting renaissance architecture. Urbania itself is an attractive small town with an abundance of good restaurants, and a macabre collection of mummies in the Chiesa dei Morti.
Hats off to Montappone...
The little town of Montappone in Fermo province has fewer than 2,000 inhabitants but boasts some 40 hat manufacturers and even a "hat museum". Federico Fellini's signature headgear came from here.
Montappone website (in Italian)
A Glorious concert...
One of the world's most acclaimed tenors, Juan Diego Flórez, will be one of the soloists in Rossini's Messa di Gloria under the baton of Roberto Abbado on 16 and 18 August, as part of this year's Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro.
Rossini Opera Festival website
Home in style...
Two grand Marche family castles give an idea of life in a bygone age. In Piobbico, high in the Apennines in Pesaro & Urbino province, stands the imposing Castello Brancaleoni with some 130 rooms.
Down in the southern Marche in Calderola is the elegant Castello Pallotta, splendidly decorated by Cardinal Evangelista Pallotta in the 16th century.
Castello Pallotta website (in Italian)
Castello Brancaleoni website (in Italian)
Giovanni Battista Bugatti - the longest-serving executioner for the Papal States who performed his grisly duties from 1796 to 1865 - came from Senigallia, in Ancona province.
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