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Le Marche is one of the most beautiful places in Italy that you never heard of. Wedged between the Adriatic and the Apennines, it's one of the most verdant, unspoiled and civilized places in Italy. Here, you'll encounter classic Italian countryside, vineyard covered hills, medieval hilltop towns, imposing Gothic cathedrals and humble bodegas.
When you travel westward into the hinterlands, away from the crowded coastal resorts, you find Le Marche as we've come to know it at CycleItalia - an unspoiled haven for the two-wheeled traveler or back roads tourist. Tourists in search of the "real" Italy used to go to Tuscany. Later, it was Umbria. Today, they go to Le Marche.
For us at CycleItalia, San Severino Marche is the jewel in this crown (though Urbino's Ducal Palace, San Leo's imposing castello, and Fabriano's paper city probably get more visitors). The town was home to Gothic masters Iacopo and Salimbeni; you can view some of their frescoes at Pinacoteca Tacchi-Venturi, just off the Piazza del Popolo, on the street named after Salimbeni, no less!
We treasure San Severino for its arcaded central piazza, the image of its two-lighted towers in the night sky, the many gorgeous palazzi and the Severini family, part of the town's hotel consortium. Lodging is available at Due Torri, a simple hotel named after the towers. Here, you can sample an authentic Marchegian feast in their spacious ristorante. Mama Severini will likely let you select your own wine from their extensive collection of local treasures, while son Paolo will want to speak English with you and hear about life in America. For more luxurious amenities, try Hotel Servanzi Confidate, carved out of a 17th century palazzo of the same name. It's an elegant four-star property also operated by the consortium and just a minute's walk from the center of town.
From your base in San Severino, it's easy to tour the wine roads of Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, makers of the white wine in the amphora-shaped bottle. There's a museum of wine labels in Cupramontana, and the wine towns of Staffolo and Morro d'Alba are unspoiled. You'll find no traffic or crowds, just expansive vistas and the local inhabitants going about their daily routine around every sweeping turn.
Le Marche is one of our favorite areas for another thing - porchetta. We love to spot a roadside sign advertising this local specialty, usually in a truck parked at a wide spot in the road. There's nothing finer than a panino filled with slices of this suckling pig stuffed with wild fennel, rosemary, garlic and lots of black pepper, then roasted on a spit over a wood fire. Wash this down with some Rosso Piceno Superiore for a wonderful and inexpensive pranzo or spuntino.
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