Good morning on Friday 26th February with another weekend just around the corner. It's been a week of coffins floating in the sea in Liguria, Mount Etna erupting daily in Sicily and Coronavirus cases continuing to rise. We can now add to that list Lady Gaga, currently in Rome to film a new film about Gucci but beside herself with worry after her dog was 'napped' back home in Los Angeles.
I would dearly love to avoid the subject but we simply can't ignore the Covid 19 situation at the moment. Yesterday the sharp increase in new cases continued with the figure rising by 19,886, roughly 3,500 more than the day before. At a time when there are all sorts of preventative measures in place around the country, these numbers are quite unexpected and unwanted. The colour-coded zones are due to be reviewed today and we can expect a number of regions to move towards the stricter measures of orange and red zones. Strangely though, there is some talk of opening up cinemas and theatres, while Sardinia provides another chink of light as it's about to become the first region to move into the white/no restriction zone.
Today's temperatures are hovering somewhere between puberty and adolescence with Genoa the coldest at 9° Celsius and the three cities of Bari, Catania and Bologna sharing top-billing with 15° Celsius. Almost everywhere will be sunny and those temperatures should gradually creep up over the next week or so.
In the absence of any quirky news stories to link to I'll just briefly talk about another region that I haven't mentioned so far in my blogs. For the purposes of putting this website together I've divided Italy up into four areas: Northern Italy, Central Italy, Southern Italy and the Island Regions of Sicily and Sardinia. Within that Central Italy section I've included the six regions of Tuscany, Lazio, Abruzzo, Umbria, Molise and the focus of today: Marche.
Italians will call it either Le Marche (pronounced close to "Lay Markay") or simply Marche without the Le, and its English translation is "The Marches". It occupies an area of Italy's eastern, Adriatic Coast, with Abruzzo to the south and Emilia Romagna to the north. Inland it shares small borders with Tuscany and Lazio, while a much larger one separates it from Umbria along the Monti Sibillini National Park. The Adriatic coastline is huge, with some stunning locations in the southern region of Puglia before it reaches Molise and becomes one endless, at times featureless beach all the way through Abruzzo and much of southern Marche.
It's at Marche's Conero Peninsula where it starts to dazzle again with a rocky coastline punctuated by white, powder-puff beaches. Starting with the beach resort of Marcelli, it continues north to Numana, Marche's standout seaside town of Sirolo, up to another beach resort called Portonovo and finally on to the expansive Mezzavalle Beach. It's then just a short distance north from the Conero Peninsula to the regional capital of Ancona; an important port city from where you can catch ferries across the Adriatic to Croatia and Greece.
Other notable locations along Marche's coastline are the historic towns of Fano, Senigallia and Pesaro which is the capital of the two-pronged Pesaro and Urbino province. That second prong of the province is one of Marche's jewels: Urbino. Aside from being the birthplace of Raphael, its links with the Renaissance are held firm by the city's Palazzo Ducale, made great by the humanist Federico da Montefeltro for whom the phrase "Renaissance Man" is a well-deserved epithet.
If you plan to visit Italy by car one day then it's definitely a good idea to consider Marche as a place to drive through. Heading south from Urbino you cover an enormous area of rolling fields where farms and vineyards create some memorable landscapes. Each season offers something different but the vivid autumn colours are particularly beautiful and provide an endless set of real-life Cézanne landscapes. The vineyard landscapes are interspersed with dozens of gorgeous hill towns, all the way through Marche's three other provinces of Ascoli-Piceno, Fermo and Macerata. Among the prettiest of those hill towns are little Corinaldo and Ripatransone but there are too many others to list.
Back up towards Urbino there are a couple of quirky sights; one man-made and one very natural, with both bearing the same name. The Frasassi Caves with their stalagmites and stalactites provide a fascinating day-out, no matter the weather outside, while just a short drive from there is the Santuario di Madonna di Frasassi, a tiny sanctuary built in a cave.
I could say much, much more about Marche but there are lots of pages on the website where you can discover the region in more depth if you wish. For now I'll leave you with a few impressions of what Marche can offer and I'll be back again on Monday.
Have a great weekend!
My name is Dion Protani, founder of Italy Review. The Italy Review blog is designed to provide ideas and inspiration to visit places in Italy you might not have heard about, as well those you have.