Marche (Ancona, Ascoli Piceno, Macerata, Pesaro, Urbino) Attractions
SituationThe region of Marche (the Marches) in Central Italy covers mountainous country, consisting partly of inhospitable terrain (Monte Vettore, 2,476m/8,171ft) but mostly of very fertile uplands, which extends between the rivers Foglia and Tronto down the eastern slopes of the Appennino Umbro-Marchigiano to the Adriatic coast.
The capital of the region is Ancona, at one time one of Italy's most influential towns.General informationThe people earn their living from agriculture and horticulture (wheat, barley, maize, fruit, vegetables, vine) and from stock raising (cattle and pigs). Along the coast fishing and shipbuilding are of some importance. The production of majolica is a traditional industry, particularly at Pesara and Urbino and new industries are being developed including both light and heavy engineering. Tourism makes a major contribution to the economy in the seaside resorts along the Atlantic coast. While in the past a small number of towns in the region, particularly Urbino and Ancona, gained prosperity and influence, the entire region of the Marches which already first in the records in the 10th century, was without any notable importance.
Apart from the towns along the Adriatic coast and Ascoli Piceno it is well worth visiting the provincial capital of Macerata (314m/1,036ft; pop. 44,000), which occupies a commanding situation on high ground between the rivers Chienti and Potenza. The central feature of the town is the Piazza della Libertà, in which are the Palazzo Comunale (statues of toga-clad figures and inscriptions from Helvia Ricina in courtyard), the Prefecture (in a 16th century Gonzaga palace), the beautiful Loggia dei Mercanti (16th century) and the Theatre. From the Piazza della Libertà the Corso della Repubblica leads to the Piazza Vittorio Veneto, with the Biblioteca Comunale, which contains the municipal collection of pictures (including works by the local painter Paganini, Carlo Crivelli, Allegretto Nuzi da Fabriano and Lanfranco). Also of interest are the cathedral and the Sferisterio Festival Theatre (theatrical and operatic productions). There is also a small university.
South of Macerata is the town of Fermo (319m/1,053ft; pop. 35,000), the see of an archbishop, with churches containing a number of fine pictures. At Porta San Francesco are remains of the town's ancient cyclopean walls. In the Piazza del Popolo, reached by steep lanes running up from the Porta San Francesco, are the Town Hall and the Palazzo degli Studi (library, museum, picture gallery). On the commanding Rocca is the 13th century cathedral, in the porch of which is the Gothic tomb of Giovanni Visconti (d. 1366) by Bonaventura da Imola. Nearby are remains of the ancient theater. Under the church of San Domenico, below the Piazza del Popolo, is an ancient cistern (first century A.D.). Also worth a visit are the churches of San Agostino (13th century) and San Francesco (13th-15th centuries).
In the north of the Marche, 30km/19mi southwest of Ancona, is Iesi (96m/317ft; pop. 42,000), birthplace of the German Emperor Frederick II of Hohenstaufen (1194-1250) and Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710-36), composer of the "Stabat Mater". The main features in the town, which is still surrounded by medieval walls, are the fine Palazzo della Signoria, in Early Renaissance style (1487-98; fine pillared courtyard), a Roman and medieval museum and the Pinacoteca, which contains pictures by Lorenzo Lotto.