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Do you dream of pretty piazzas, white sandy beaches and hilltop towns with views for miles? The come with us to Italy’s largely undiscovered region of Le Marche where you’ll find all this and more. Our guest, local Chantelle Kern takes us on a journey of her home town and region and explains why Le Marche appears on the Lonely Planet and New York Times must visit lists.
Most of us first fall in love with Italy thanks to its historic sights, delicious food and wine, countryside and famous coastal areas. But as you dig a little deeper into its lesser known regions, even more magic unfolds. And you’ll wonder why you didn’t venture off the well worn paths sooner.
The Le Marche region is found to the north east of Rome and south east of Florence and is beloved by Italians for its stunning natural landscapes, rich cultural heritage and regional food and wine. The region borders Tuscany, Umbria, Emilia-Romagna and Abruzzo as well as the Adriatic Sea. So here you find a diversity in the countryside and cuisine that’s hard to match elsewhere on the Italian peninsula.
In this episode, our guest Chantelle Kern from Le Marche small group tour specialists The Italian on Tour, takes us on a virtual trip around the region uncovering its hidden secrets, characters and local dishes. Chantelle shares with us the best places to stay, tips for getting around and her favorite spots in this very special part of Italy. We are very sure you’ll be planning your Le Marche adventures as soon as you can once you hear what this region has to offer.
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What you’ll learn in this episode
- All the reasons why you should visit Le Marche
- Best things to do while you tour the region
- The best places to stay in the region – main cities and picturesque towns
- Typical local dishes to try and where you will find them
- Local wine varieties from Le Marche
- How to get to and around Le Marche
- The best time to visit the region
About our guest – Chantelle Kern from The Italian on Tour
Originally from Canada, Chantelle traveled extensively throughout Europe before attending university in Perugia. She fell in love with Le Marche and Ascoli Piceno on a weekend break from her studies and has never looked back. Chantelle now lives in the city and, with her husband and business partner Giovanni, hosts guests on immersive multi-day tours to discover authentic Italy. No stranger to big bus tours, she wants you to travel deeper so you don’t need a vacation from your vacation.
The Italian on Tour offers you insight on the regions of Le Marche and Abruzzo from Chantelle’s local, yet international perspective of these regions. Deeply passionate about her new home, she helps visitors uncover their own love of this lesser known part of Italy.
Get a sneak peek into how to travel Italy The Italian on Tour style with their free Italy Travel guide
You can find Chantelle on these channels:
Places mentioned in the show
- Ascoli Piceno – main town where Chantelle recommends visitors stay
- Urbino – birthplace of artist Raffaello and a popular place to visit in Le Marche
- Piazza del Popolo – beautiful main square of Ascoli Piceno
- Monte Conero and national park – beautiful coastal region famous in Le Marche and Italy
- Sirolo and Numana – coastal towns near Monte Conero
- Offida – traditional lace making town
- Abruzzo – neighboring region to Le Marche
Food and wine of Le Marche
- Olive ascolane – olives stuffed with meat, then lightly fried
- Fritto misto – fried seafood dish popular on the coast
- Brodetto – seafood stew
- Tagliatelle porcini – pasta with porcini mushrooms
- Castagne – chestnuts
- Nero pregiato – black truffle
- Wine varieties – Pecorino, Rosso Piceno, Passerina, Rosso Conero
- Best time to visit Italy
- How to plan a trip to Italy – our article that takes you step by step through trip planning so you can avoid our mistakes
- Driving in Italy – a practical guide
- Italy Travel Planning – the FREE Facebook group where you can ask questions and get inspiration for planning your trip
- Travel shop where you’ll find items mentioned in the show
Prefer to read along as you listen? Below is a full transcript of our episode conversation. Unfortunately it does not pick up our lovely Australian accents however!
Ciao and benvenuti to Untold Italy. I’m Josie and I’m Katy and we’re here to help you plan your trip to Italy. Between us, we have many years of travel experience and we want to help you uncover your own as yet untold stories and adventures in Italy. Each episode you’ll hear practical advice, tips and ideas to help you plan your own trips to the magical land of history, stunning landscapes, and a whole lot of pasta. We’ll have interviews from experts and focus on local destinations and frequently asked questions about travel in Italy. Thanks for listening and make sure to subscribe to our show. Now let’s get started on your regular dose of Bella Italia,
Ciao, everyone. We hope you’re keeping safe and well. If you’re looking for a little escape to bella Italia, you’ve come to the right place. In this week’s episode, we take you to the region of Le Marche. Found to the Northeast of Rome and Southeast of Florence. This region is largely undiscovered by visitors to Italy, but it’s beloved by Italians. Known for hilltop towns, cultural institutions, rolling green Hills, the Apennine mountains, stunning white sand beaches, and of course amazing food and wine. Le Marche is the undiscovered region of Italy you’ve been dreaming of. Our guest today is my friend Chantelle Kern, who along with her husband Giovanni, runs the Italian on Tour.
The Italian on tour is a small group tour company specializing in the Le Marche region. With a passion for and focus on food, wine, and local experiences they want to help the world discover the region they love and call home. We were so much looking forward to meeting Chantelle and Giovanni in their hometown, Ascoli Piceno in March this year, but sadly that wasn’t to be. However, luckily we can all go there now. Thanks to Shantel’s beautiful descriptions of the places, people, dishes and wine of Le Marche. So on with the show.
Welcome to Untold Italy. Chantelle. We’re so glad to have you here. Before we get started, can you tell us a little bit about how you came to be in Italy and how you fell in love with Le Marche?
Chantelle Kern (02:25):
Well, it’s kind of a bit of a love story. My first time in Le Marche was in 2006. I had actually never heard of Le Marche] and I went to Perugia to study at the Università per Stranieri. And Giovanni (who wis my now husband and my business partner), he grew up in Ascoli Piceno. And so one weekend that I had off from my school in Perugia, I went to Ascoli Piceno. And that was my first time in Ascoli Piceno. It was a beautiful and fun weekend and I fell in love with Piazza Del Popolo, which for me is one of the most beautiful piazza’s in all of Italy. And ever since that first year in 2006 when I went to Le Marche, I just wanted to keep on going back.
It was a very different experience from my first trip to Italy when I was backpacking by myself, which I never really got to have that local experience and really get a feel for Italian life. I had traveled to all the major cities, Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan. I’d been all over Italy before. I’m going to Ascoli Piceno and Le Marche and I didn’t really have that connection with Italy till I got to experience it with Giovanni, a local who grew up in the area. And it was, it was such a different experience from anything I had had before. Before I just kind of felt like I was another tourist and I was just doing the touristy things, but I wasn’t really experiencing genuine Italian life. And after traveling all over Europe, I had my favorites and it wasn’t actually Italy until I came with Giovanni and that’s when I absolutely fell in love with Italy.
Oh wow. That’s such an amazing story. And so what was it about Ascoli Piceno in particular? Like what were some of the things that made you really fall in love? Was it the food? Was it the people or…
Chantelle Kern (04:44):
It was a little bit of everything. When I went to, you know, the major sites cause everybody on their first trip, you know, they want to see Venice and Florence and Rome and that’s expected. And I was like that too. It was the fact that when you come to Ascoli it’s local, it’s, it’s mainly locals and you actually get to see what it’s like. You get to feel a little slice of that la dolce vita. I’m not walking in front of the Trevi fountain and there’s just tourists. Instead I’m walking into the piazza and there’s children riding their bikes and there’s people in the cafes and you kind of, you feel like you become a part of that everyday life rather than being an outsider. You become part of the local, the town, like part of the people. It’s not like you’re just sitting there on the sidelines and you’re just looking at the sites. You actually interact with the locals.
I mean for me I am a local here now, so this is my life. But when you have a local and you travel with somebody who not only is a local but understands you because they’ve traveled abroad and they get what you want out of travel, it’s a very different experience. So with Giovanni, he had spent many years abroad and so he understood kind of like what I wanted to experience out of Italian life and that allowed me to travel deeper and really get a connection with the local lifestyle. And for me that’s like, that’s the beauty of travel is being able to understand different cultures rather than just seeing things as beautiful but not really knowing the culture or the people behind it. It’s just you just touched the surface. So for me, when I was able to really experience Le Marche, Ascoli Piceno and the area and we also traveled to Abruzzo, , and a little bit of Umbria, we used to do, we used to go to Casteluccio quite often. It’s a very, it’s a very different experience and it’s a very rewarding experience. I’ve always felt like when you go someplace and you actually get to experience the place and get a little insight into the local culture, you actually remember that place.
Some people probably think this is crazy, but I actually don’t really remember much of the Coliseum because I don’t have a experience to connect it with. Yes, I remember I went there and I saw it and I saw it with a tour guide. But for me the most rewarding travel has always been experiential travel where you actually interact with the local people. And that’s part of the reason I really fell in love with the area. Of course we have really great food, which is fabulous. And one thing about Le Marche that’s very unique is it really is all of Italy wrapped up into one region. And that also translates to the cuisine.
So in Le Marche you can have amazing seafood that’s right on the coast. And Ascoli is in a really perfect location because you’re like 30 minute drive from the Adriatic sea, and you’re about a 30 minute drive to get to the edge of truffle country. And so you can really have it all in this vacation. You can go to the sea, you can have amazing seafood if you’re in San Benedetto del Tronto , which isn’t too far from Ascoli, it’s a beautiful place to visit in the summer. They have what they call a lungomare or boardwalk. And they actually have a breakwater that goes all the way out and it’s a really nice place where you could go and experience in the summer. And they have all the umbrellas and the traditional, you know, when you think of a seaside beach village that would be San Benedetto.
And then you can basically drive 30 minutes and you can go to places and we call, our area in Ascoli is Piceno wine region. And we have multiple DOC wines. Rosso Piceno, Pecorino, which is actually pecorino wine. The original purveyor of pecorino wine is in the province of Ascoli Piceno. So we have a lot of tradition here in the wine areas, also with the seafood as well. And we also have truffle country. So the truffle country nearby Ascoli is home of nero pregiato. So it’s a black truffle and the main season of the black truffle starts kind of the very end of October and kind of basically wraps up at the end of February, very beginning of March.
So Fall sounds like an amazing time to visit Le Marche?
Chantelle Kern (10:04):
Absolutely. Fall is a stunning time to visit Le Marche for people who want to taste truffles. It’s a great time to come and it’s a great time to visit also because it’s beautiful. You can imagine when the vineyards change color, it’s like a picture and Le Marche is kind of like a patchwork. You have the vineyards and then you have the olive groves. It’s a really beautiful landscape and it’s got these beautiful rolling hills. Actually, most of Le Marche is hilly and the small percentage that is flat is mostly located on the coastline, which you’ll see when you travel there. We see lots of small Hilltop villages around and sometimes they’re not the best places to stay in.
So I do recommend for when people are thinking about visiting Le Marche, Ascoli is really great because it’s a walkable city. So whether you’re coming here with kids or whether you’re staying in the center we have some really cute like boutique hotels. Most of them are family run, which is really nice. A lot of things are family run in le Marche and it’s like an old palace that’s been converted into a boutique hotel. We have a couple of those and they’re all centrally located. So you can just walk out at night to the piazza, enjoy an aperitivo or grab a gelato. And it’s kind of like that slice of life, la dolce vita moment is available to anybody coming to Ascoli. And that’s something I really love about Ascoli compared to other cities that you could stay in, in Le Marche because it really has everything in the center. The restaurants are there so you can visit and you don’t have to get in a car to go anywhere.
Most of Le Marche to be experienced is in the interior besides the coast. So renting a car or taking a small group tour is probably the best way because if you’re going with a big bus tour, you won’t be able to see much of Le Marche. And in general, very few big bus tours go through Le Marche and they only stop at very, very big cities like or Urbino or big cities on the coast because those are the only areas large buses can go. And that’s kind of nice about Le Marche is that a lot of the experiences here, if you really want to see the countryside of the Le Marche require going with a smaller group and that’s a more sustainable way to travel.
And I think, or I know also, that is why the Lonely Planet chose Le Marche as one of the, the top places to visit in Italy this year because they’re all about supporting sustainable travel experiences and Le Marche offers a lot of that. Especially because most of the wineries that you go to – the small little family run wineries where we take guests, you couldn’t go there with a bus. You can, you barely make it there with a van.
So you go to these little places where you can actually meet like the wine makers, the families that run them. And that’s a really special experience when you get to meet the people and you actually get to go where the wine production is. Because if you go on a bigger bus tour and yes, there are a few that stop here in Ascoli and Urbino and the wineries, they take you to, they’re not necessarily the production site. They’re like a tasting room or a cantina. So you don’t actually get to experience the production site. And when you go to bigger wineries that can take these big groups, you don’t actually get to meet the wine makers. And I think it’s so unique whether you love wine or not to get to meet the families because they’re really passionate about what they do. They have a lot of history about how they discovered the wine or how they make the wine. And you learn about their connection, not only with the land, but you also get to do wine tasting with the local cuisine.
For example, one of the wineries we go to, they make wine in amphorae. And they’re a family who started making wine in amphorae like the Romans did because they had found an amphora on their property where they built their winery, and where they started producing wine. They’re actually a young winery.
Sorry Chantelle, can I just stop you there. For people that don’t know, can you explain what an amphora is?
Chantelle Kern (15:09):
It’s like one of those terracotta jars. They’re big. How would I explain? Like, it’s narrow at the top and then it comes out. And you know, they also have Egyptian ones. And then they have the Roman ones and they look like a big vase.
They’re huge, aren’t they? So they have them in the Testaccio district of Rome, there’s a huge hill made out of old amphorae. But go back to this story. It’s really fascinating. I’m really, I’m really interested to hear about this family that decided to make their make this a feature of their winemaking.
Chantelle Kern (15:47):
Yes. So that’s what they decided because they had found amphorae on their property. So that’s what they decided to do. And, I just remember the first time we went there and even like the things that they use to build the building, they had like stones from the river bed that was nearby. Like people really are attached to their territory and their land and every little aspect of it. So that comes to the wine. And what’s really unique also about this winery is they’re one of the few wineries that have braille.
They have a family friend who’s blind and they decided to do all their labels with braille, which is really cool because that allows people who are blind to also have wine. And wine is such a sensory experience. And that’s part of something that’s very unique about that wine or we, we also do have other wineries in the market that have labels in braille. So if you do have any listeners that are are blind that’s pretty cool because they can actually read the labels.
Chantelle, this is really fascinating. Is there a particular type of wine Le Marche is known for? So is it the red varieties or the white varieties? I know you mentioned pecorino, which you introduced to me actually which I really enjoyed, but what are the main varieties that people would experience in Le Marche?
Chantelle Kern (17:19):
So just like all of Italy, the food and wine is very, very regional. And I would even say more than regional. It’s provincial. So near Ascoli, we have Rosso Piceno, we have Passerina, we have Pecorino. Passerina is more like, something you’d have with aperitivo or with olive ascolane. It’s very typically served when you have appetizers. So antipasti we call that in Italian. So they will serve it with the fritto misto and the olive ascolane, which are a typical food of Ascoli. It’s actually a protected product. And every year we do have a few festivals where they celebrate fritto misto, which is the mix fried and the stuffed olives – olive ascolane. So these are the olives that are stuffed with mixed mince meat. They lightly batter them and lightly fry them. They shouldn’t be heavily fried. They should be very, very lightly fried. It’s just to offer like a little bit of that crispy crunch. Not like onion rings but very lightly fried.
If you want real olive ascolane and the artisan made ones, I really recommend going to an agriturismo or trying one of the local trattorias because those are the ones that are handmade. We actually go to a restaurant and his mom, she’s like almost 90, this little lady and she can make like 750 olives an hour. It’s pretty amazing. She’s just this cute, you know, when you think a typical little Nonna. And she just loves doing what she does and it’s a family run restaurant and I think like that’s just, that’s her passion. She loves cooking, so she’s going to be there for the rest of her life. And she loves it too. Giovanni says they’re some of the best.
So are they stuffed with pork or.. ?
Chantelle Kern (19:55):
It’s a mix of pork, turkey. I believe it’s pork and turkey, I’d have to double check with Giovanni but it’s a mix of a couple of different meats and everybody of course has their secret. You know how much they put in – their ratios. Right. Cause everybody’s nonna does it slightly differently.
Of course. Yes, of course. Looking forward to trying those one day for sure. And so that’s the appetizer. What about the main dishes?
Chantelle Kern (20:29):
Well it depends where you are in Ascoli or in Le Marche in general because as I mentioned before, Le Marche is very diverse. Actually, we have some of the greatest diversity. Abruzzo ecologically is the most diverse. But in terms of landscape and food, we are probably one of the most diverse regions in all of Italy. So if you’re on the coast, brodetto is a typical, like a seafood stew. And every single town on the coast has a different one. And there you will find a lot of sagre festivals around the brodetto. So in San Benedetto you have brodetto San Benedettese There’ll be one also for Fano and for Porto Reconati there’s a different one and they’re all slightly different. The one from some San Benedetto is a little agridolce. And if you go to like any of the slow food restaurants that are in San Benedetto, generally you will find that on the menu because it is a traditional dish.
So sagre, just for our listeners, are traditional food festivals in Italy, and let me tell you, if you want an amazing experience, you definitely have to find one when you’re there. Because we stumbled upon one and Lake Como just by accident. And it’s one of the top experiences that I’ve had in Italy so far. What do you think some of the best things about sagre are Chantell?
Chantelle Kern (22:14):
I think it’s one of those what I call the slice of life, la dolce vita moments. You go there and it’s like all Italians and everybody’s having good time. There’s normally music and you know, there’s food of course, it’s all about the food. So especially if you come in fall, if you love porcini mushrooms, you go there and they’ll have tagliatelle with porcini. And there’s lots of festivals around seasonal food. So seafood, you’ll find a lot of the sagre in the summer, the fall dishes like the truffles, the porcini mushrooms also here you’ll find castagne which are chestnuts and you’ll find lots of different dishes made with chestnuts. Things you wouldn’t really think of. It’s a great way to just try traditional dishes, how people would make them in that town that you’re visiting.
So you get to not only mingle with the locals and have a local experience, but you also get to try a traditional dish the way the locals would make it. And the whole sagre is basically about celebrating this food. So it’s really a great experience for people because it kind of checks all the boxes. You get to see Italians everyday life. You get to experience what it’s like to go to one of these food festivals. It is kind of like a, a party around food and you get to taste a local cuisine. So I do think that’s kind of the unique thing about sagre. And they vary in every little town.
Like even if you just go outside of Ascoli, you’ll have the sagre for the porcini or the sagre for the chestnuts. If you go half an hour the other way, you’ll have sagre around the seafood. And if you go up to the coast of Conero, they have, I’m not sure the translation in English, but they’re the soul food – little tiny clams that they do with pasta. And they’re a typical slow food dish from the area of the coast of Conero. So every area kind of has something a little different.
That truly sounds amazing. Honestly, if anyone is thinking they want to go to Italy to eat, you really need to seek out a sagre. It’s really, really one of the top experiences that you’ll have in Italy. Now Chantelle I think we’ve done a lot of eating and drinking. So there’s ways to maybe build up an appetite in Le Marche that we haven’t talked about. And you did mention the coastal areas and I guess people are typically in Italy, they know maybe Sicily, Sardinia and the Amalfi coast and Cinque Terre as the Italian coastal areas. But what can you tell us about the coastal areas in Le Marche?
Chantelle Kern (25:26):
So Le Marche is home to many blue flag beaches and these are beaches that have to meet a certain environmental quality. So one thing that’s great about the Le Marche is basically anywhere along the coast, you’re going to have beautiful, clean coastline. But what is really unique about Le Marche is if you go up the Adriatic coast, you will find Mount Conero.
It’s a national park, so it’s the only mountain that basically comes out on the Adriatic side. It’s this beautiful white mountain and it’s amazing because you have the beach, you have wine country right there, and you can go hiking along the coast. It’s called Passo della Lupo and they do guided hikes, although mostly in Italian, because most of the tourism we do have here is a lot of Italians. But you can take these hikes along the coast there on the coast of Conero. So if you’re an active person, it’s a great place to visit in the summer. They do wind surfing and everything.
If you’re less active and you just want to relax, there’s also boats that take you out along the coast. So you can go up and actually go to the beaches that are not accessible by road, but you have to take by boat. So there’s some really nice secluded spots that allow you to have all that gorgeous coastline, all those beautiful white sandy beaches without the crowds. Which is really hard to find in Italy in the summer. Because not just do you have Italians vacationing, but we have everybody else coming around the world to vacation and enjoy a beach vacation. So the coast of Conero is really one of those hidden gems and it offers some amazing views.
Sirolo is a really nice little little seaside town to stay in. But it’s also important to note that most of the stays along the coast, are a lot of bed and breakfast options. There’s some hotels but there’s a lot of bed and breakfasts. Right inside the village in Sirolo and Numana are two great places to stay and they’re very happening in the summer. I’d say like with any major beach side towns, they’re definitely more lively in the summer. There’s lots of stuff going on. They have things in the piazza. The piazza is kind of always the life of the city or the town you’re visiting. And so it’s a really beautiful little place to visit.
You can also, if you have a car or even by bus, cause there’s a bus there as well. You can go and visit wine country like literally five minutes from the beach. And I’m not kidding you, a five minute drive from the beach. You have the wine country of Rosso Conero. So for wine lovers you don’t just have to have a beach vacation, you can do wine, you can go to the beach, you can go hiking. And of course great food. So it’s kind of like a really nice place for people who are really into the beach. But they also want those other little aspects of Italy because let’s be honest, food, as we’ve talked about, is kind of integral in any Italian experience. So Conero really gives you all that.
It’s also one of the favorite beaches of a big Italian fashion blogger – Chiara Ferragni. It’s called the Due Sorelle, the Two Sisters, and that’s one of the beaches that you have to take a boat to get to.
That sounds amazing. And so what’s the season there, because I know well known coastlines, you probably looking at a May to October season, is that the same in Le Marche?
Chantelle Kern (29:37):
I would say it’s more of a June to September season. Generally June to September would be the big part of the season. And they have lots of events and things going on. So it’s a lot of fun for people. There’s lots of organized events there throughout that time. And then they have a shuttle that takes you down because it is on Monte Conero. So it’s a mountain and a hill to get down. But they do have a shuttle that will take you down to the water, to the coastline and all that kind of stuff runs generally June to September. And the weather here is really lovely in September. I’d in all of Italy, it’s anywhere on the beach is very, very busy if you come in August. And although August is very busy here; in perspective of other areas, it’s not going to be quite as busy. So that’s kind of nice thing about Le Marche because we haven’t experienced a lot of mass tourism. Mostly Italians travel here. So it’s kind of a nice place that you can go and not expect to have to deal with lots of tourists. So that’s kind of something really great about Le Marche. You can have all those beautiful white sandy beaches and gorgeous shots of the coastline with the mountains.
You know, I haven’t been there and circumstances this year are making it so that I won’t be there at least in this first half of the year. But it really does sound a lot like Tuscany in some ways. And would you say that if you were to pick a region that maybe people know more about, would you say that it’s a bit more like Tuscany?
Chantelle Kern (31:26):
I would say a lot of people want to compare Le Marche to Tuscany or Umbria and say it’s Italy’s next Tuscany. Le Marche obviously draws similarities to these regions as these regions border Le Marche. But Le Marche is truly unique and in my personal opinion deserves its own cultural identity. But the wine country, and certain areas are very similar.
If you go to the province of Macerata, you’ll find hills very similar looking to Tuscany around Sienna and a little more open hills and some bigger estates and that sort of thing. You can find that around there. There’s some very big wine estates around there and kind of what you see mostly around Siena. So it’s very similar in that sense.
If you go up near Urbino it borders Umbria and Tuscany. So you’ll find wild boar on the menu and it’s very green and similar. When you think of Umbria, it has the green rolling Hills and that sort of thing. In terms of cuisine, of course there are similarities but I find that it just depends where you are closer to.
Like I was saying, closer to Tuscany, you will find those traditional wild boar dishes because those areas very similar. But then again, you won’t find a lot of big buses whether you’re going through the countryside there and you also find that train travel going to get you through the whole countryside. So if you are traveling and you want to experience the countryside, you actually should consider renting a car, taking a bus or doing a small group tour because the train will only get you along the coast.
How will we get to to Le Marche from say Rome or Florence? What would be the best way Chantelle?
Chantelle Kern (33:35):
So if you’re coming in from Rome, because Le Marche has the Appenine mountains that run through it, there is no train. You want to take the bus. So there’s a bus that leaves multiple times per day from Fiumicino airport and also from Rome’s main station. And that bus takes you about three hours from Rome. So it’s very similar to driving. You won’t want to take the train. I’ve had plenty of our guests ask us when they want to go back to Rome after their tour with us. How do I get back to Rome? It says it’s eight hours by train. So if you were to take the train, it would take you significantly more time because it has to go around the Appenines to get back to Rome. So you want to take bus.
In this case, if you’re coming from Florence, you would take the train and if you’re coming from Venice you can take the frecciarossa down and then you’d switch in Ancona. So, depending where you are going in Le Marche, you would either take a train down the coast to one of the other coastal towns or you could take a bus. I think a lot of people might be thinking about Urbino this year because Urbino is on the New York Times 52 Places to Go. And it’s also the hometown to Rafaello. And this year is the 500 year anniversary of Raphael’s death. So for people looking to have a very cultural experience, who love history, going to Urbino this year is a really great choice because there’ll be lots of events celebrating Raphael. And from there if you’re looking to reach Urbino you would take a bus from Ancona after you take the train down to Ancona you can take a bus in land or you can rent a car.
But the thing to consider when renting car of course, is that all these historical towns, they have a limited zone that is basically only for the locals if you have a permit. So you have to consider that with your parking and navigating. So if you do go to Urbino you have to walk in a bit. You can’t park directly in the center.
My co-host Josie, has had a few run ins with the historic zones – the ZTLs. Unfortunately she’s learned the hard way but apart from driving yourself, which does sound like a good option, especially if you like to be a bit of an independent traveler, but you do also offer tours in the region. Can you tell us a little bit about those?
New Speaker (36:14):
Yes. So our tours are based out of Ascoli Pisceno. This is a really lovely place to stay in Le Marche because we also are able to reach Abruzzo from here and our tours also go into Abruzzo. So what we do is we really give you a backstage pass to experiencing Italy, like a local. My husband, Giovanni and I, we host all our tours and we basically offer itineraries that take you on day trips around the region.
We go up to the coast of Conero of course, and we go to my favorite restaurant with the best view of the coastline all the way up the Adriatic sea of Italy. It’s a stunning view of the mountain Monte Conero. So it’s one of my favorite kind of seaside sightseeing days. We go up there, we visit many of Italy’s most beautiful medieval villages.
We also visit the Piceno wine country. As I mentioned Piceno wine country is the home to pecorino. It’s also an area where we visit Offida and this is home to what they call the tombolo. They are bobbins that make the lace. You can actually see the ladies who make the lace.
We visit some beautiful theaters as well throughout our time. And really cool fact about Le Marche is is that it has the highest concentration of theaters in the world. So it’s very a very cultural region. So it’s really important that people get to see a little bit of that here.
We also go into Abruzzo where we visit the largest medieval fortress in all of Italy. And on our seven and nine day tours, we take people to visit a family farm where they have been producing olive oil since on 1824. And it’s a really, really authentic experience. You’re welcomed into this family’s home. You eat the food that they make for you. it’s everybody from like the great grandmother, which is bisnonna in Italian, to the little children. And it’s really that authentic Southern hospitality feel because the Abruzzo so is what we would consider that the South. So that’s a really cool experience that you just can’t do on your own unless you have an introduction. So that is something we’re really love taking people to. And for some of our guests, it’s their favorite day. It’s something that they always say, “we’re going to remember this for the rest of our life.” So that’s really cool that we’re able to give people that experience.
Chantelle, going back to when we first started this conversation, it sounds to me, that when you created these experiences you wanted to recreate that feeling that you got when you first got to Ascoli Piceno and you felt that you found the real Italy. Is that what you’re trying to recreate with the experiences that you offer?
Chantelle Kern (39:33):
Absolutely. Like for us it’s really, it’s that kind of experience where you come, you are welcomed by your new Italian friends and we’re here to show you the highlights of our region and for you to meet the people, experience and have amazing food in a way that also supports a local community. Because for us, that’s also important. We are locals here living here and we want people to have an experience. We don’t stay in big hotels outside the city. We stay in family run hotels, boutique hotels. We go to places that you wouldn’t find online, like the wineries we would go to. They don’t list online. These are places that we go to because we fell in love with them.
Speaker 4 (40:32):
Giovanni found a lot of them because he did the sommelier course here in Italy. So we’ve discovered these places that are unique. And so it’s really so much very personal for us. We have personal relationships with all these people. So when you come there, you’re getting introduced by a friend. So it’s the kind of thing that you just can’t recreate on your own and you can’t recreate with these big tours because they don’t live here. It’s really a local experience that connects you with the people.
And I think that’s why it’s very close to our hearts and in many ways what we do is our passion. And we love sharing Le Marche and the areas of Abruzzo. These are the places we traveled before; where we would go every summer. We have many friends in Abruzzo and the province of Teramo and these are places that we used to go every year when we would come to Italy for our summer vacation.
So these are places that we’ve been going for years, not just since we started offering tours. These places are places that we’re very connected with and everything from the restaurant owners to the chef that you’ll prepare a meal with on tour with us. These people are not just people we work with, but they’re also friends of ours.
Chantelle it sounds just so special and I’m really hoping that I can be there with you later this year and experience some of this for myself. Chantelle grazie mille, thank you so much for joining us and sharing your passion for beautiful Le Marche. Before we sign off, do you want to let our listeners know where they can find you online and just a little bit more about the tours? So if they’re interested they can get in touch.
Chantelle Kern (42:34):
Absolutely. You can find us online at www.theitalianontour.com. You can also get our Italy insider guide and I’ll give Katy the link for that if she wants to put it in the show notes and that offers some tips for those of you who want to travel Italy like a local.
Wonderful. Thank you so much Chantelle, I will definitely have all the tips and tricks and links in the show notes. And once again, thank you so much for joining us. It’s always such a pleasure to talk about this part of Italy with you and I can’t wait to get there soon.
Speaker 4 (43:12):
Thank you so much for having me and I can’t wait to show you Le Marche when you come and visit.
Speaker 2 (43:19):
We hope you enjoyed our episode featuring Le Marche and Chantelle from the Italian on Tour. This is a small Italian based tour company who like many others are going through an incredibly tough time right now as we all are. If you have dreams of visiting the untold Italy and off the beaten path adventures, do consider joining one of their tours as you plan your future trips to Italy. You’ll get a true backstage pass to authentic Italy and have memories to treasure forever. Ciao for now.
Speaker 1 (43:57):