Italy
The Marches

Here you’ll find travel reports about The Marches. Discover travel destinations in Italy of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.

46 travelers at this place:

  • Day212

    Petritoli

    January 24, 2017 in Italy

    Driving towards Petritoli we rose up to nearly 300m above sea level and began to encounter the damage caused by the heavy snow that still lay at the sides of the road. The most common sign was the mass of broken tree branches, lying on the ground or hanging on by not much more than a splinter. The weight of the snow followed by high winds had wreaked havok with the olive groves, whose trees retained their leaves throughout the year. Firs too had taken a battering, but there were also a lot of smaller branches snapped from deciduous trees. Out of those that hadn't broken, many hung low over the road and we had to be careful not to drive into them. The authorities had obviously done a lot of work, cutting back and clearing to make safe, but it was a consequence of the weather that we hadn't often heard reported and it testified to the severity of the conditions. Aside from the trees, the rooves of a barn and an abandoned factory looked as if they had recently collapsed.

    The route we followed took us along a ridge and it felt very freeing to be up high and away from the smog and crammed development of the coast. The countryside undulated all around us and characterful rustic towns, each with a church and spire, featured frequently, silhouetted on the hilltop horizons.

    Petritoli stopover was on the gravel car park used by a primary school, sports centre and local houses. It had trees all around but didn't feel crowded. As soon as we arrived we set about cleaning the water tank and pipes and replacing the water pump. Just over an hour later we had a fully operational system that turned off when it should! What a relief!

    Up a steep hill from the van was the walled old town. Its cobbled streets linked near derelict terraced houses with flaking plaster, to recently renovated bright and clean communal buildings like the town theatre.

    Every shop was shut for lunch but a few small cafes were open. We chose one that looked as if it catered for locals and took our drinks and pastries into the back room where about 9 white haired men were gathered around a corner table, partaking animatedly in a game of cards. They raised their voices and slammed their cards down on the table. Although we couldn't understand their impassioned expressions we could tell that nothing was said with malice. Once the game was over a few strode out but others turned to us to apologise. There was no need; we'd loved looking in this window on local life! There was a pack of cards out on our table too, but we spent our time examining them instead of playing. They were European cards with only 10 in each suit and quite different to the ones we're used to.

    The person behind the bar was brilliant, she told Vicky what the cakes we ordered were called and helped her improve her pronunciation. It turned out she had been mispronouncing the word for 'pay' and it sounded as if she was asking people if we could 'kiss' instead!
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  • Day207

    Senigalia

    January 19, 2017 in Italy

    We read this morning about the avalanche that crushed the mountain hotel less than 100 miles south of where we were. We'd previously planned a mountain drive close to the area, albeit at a lower altitude, but it really brought it home to us how close the danger had been.

    Vicky's trapped nerve in her neck had got worse so we didn't want to travel too far on the bumpy Italian roads. We chose to go to Senegalia, just a little way down the coast. Despite being close to the sea, there weren't sea views on the journey because the main coast road was a corridor through hotels and apartment blocks, most of which looked shut up for winter. As we approached the stopover it looked as if it might be raining up ahead but it turned out to be a smog haze. The stopover was just off the busy road and close to the train tracks that ran parallel. It wasn't the nicest setting but it was free because it was winter (€10 in summer!) and it was somewhere to rest the night before moving on in the morning.Read more

  • Day208

    Portonovo, Happy 63rd Will!

    January 20, 2017 in Italy

    It was Will's 63rd birthday today. We'd decided to do a few nice things but leave presents and the birthday meal to another day when Vicky's neck was better and she could look after him instead of it needing to be the other way round.

    We'd read about the Conero Riviera, a particularly beautiful stretch of coast backed by towering white cliffs. The plan was to stay somewhere along there and go for a walk on a beach. Unfortunately, in order to reach it we needed to pass through the busy port town of Ancona; the source of pollution we'd seen yesterday. As we approached, the film of dirt on everything thickened, dampening colours and the light. We passed through a tunnel and it was only once we were half way through that we realised there were supposed to be cats eyes marking out the lanes. It caught in our throats while we tried to navigate through the narrow streets, inconsiderate parking and one way systems, dodging potholes, cracks in the concrete and having no choice but to roll with the undulating road surface.

    It was a breath of fresh air for our lungs and eyes when we emerged the other side, climbing above most of the smog on a road that ran between open fields and had glimpses of coves bordering the vast blue ocean below. We climbed, descended, climbed then descended the 200m high cliff, through woodland to the small resort of Portonovo. Finding a light yellow gravel car park in a quiet woodland clearing, we checked whether we could stay and found again that it was free this time of year (it would have been €18 in high season!). Leaving the van and winding our way down single track roads framed by forest, we found the rocky shore. The sound of the waves crashing on the shingle and the seaside smell made us smile. The hotel, campsite, most restaurants, canoe hire, cafes and beach side bars were closed and there was hardly anyone in sight. The peace was wonderful! After walking along the pebble beach for a while we found a restaurant that opened on Fridays and weekends. We had a glass of wine and decided to return later when they'd be cooking pizza in the authentic woodfired oven!
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  • Day209

    Porto Potenza Picena

    January 21, 2017 in Italy

    Continuing down the coast we came across Sirollo, a resort with a long sandy beach and easy parking. Pulling up, we took a stroll and even got to feel the warmth of the sun as it broke free from the clouds for 5 minutes. There was hardly anyone on the beach, but you got the feeling it would be packed in summer.

    Further south, we parked up at the free van park in Porto Potenza Picena. It had all the basic facilities plus toilets, a wood oven and electric hookup, for which it asked a voluntary contribution of €2 per day. A couple of tall palm trees grew on the strip of grass that separated it from the road and it was backed by a ploughed field that sloped upwards. The area seemed friendly and we decided to stay for a couple of nights.

    The beach was only 500 metres walk away and flanked by a raft of closed tourist orientated buildings. It was a blue flag beach but unfortunately, like many other coastal resorts we'd been through, there was a grey haze of pollution in the air. The beach itself was lovely but there was a lot of rubbish. At one point there was a localised area where the waves were black, possibly from a surface water outlet pipe whose contents had picked up particulates from the air. It made us think of how clear the water had been in Croatia, just the other side of the Adriatic. Still, it was interesting to see and good to stretch our legs.

    We had an indulgent day in the van the next day to celebrate Will's birthday. Pressies, relaxing and good food and drink were followed by watching the first film since we came away.

    One disadvantage of being on the road is that it is difficult to buy presents without the other person knowing about it! We rarely know where we are going to be able to find shops that sell things we want and can't order things on the internet as we aren't in any one place long enough to guarantee they will arrive.

    On our second morning we set about fitting the water expansion tank in an attempt to fix the problem with our water pump. Unfortunately the tight space under the bunk next to the main water tank made it impossible to install the new one and the length of pipe needed to make an airtight connection with the system. We decided we needed to get a new water pump after all and so set off to find a camper van shop.
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  • Day211

    Piane di Falerone

    January 23, 2017 in Italy

    We'd looked up the location of a shop that sold water pumps called 'OK Camper' just 10 miles away, but when we got to the street there was no sign of it. Entering the address of the second closest retailer, we persisted on our mission and came across another OK Camper store on the way.

    After waiting a good 5 minutes for someone to ring it up on the till, we came out with a new water pump and looked up a nearby stopover in our book. We'd come inland and our overnight spot was a few hundred meters above sea level. As we approached, there were signs of snow that hadn't yet melted at the sides of car parks, in verges and on fields.

    Piane di Falerone turned out to be a stretch of gravel between a very minor road and a ploughed field. It doesn't sound very nice but we enjoyed the quiet and being away from a town and other vans.
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  • Day213

    As it had been 8 days since the heavy snow we thought it would be worth seeing if the roads were clear enough to drive the road from Sarnano to Ascoli Piceno. This main road skirted the border of the Sibillini Mountains National Park and was supposed to be very beautiful. As we climbed, the evidence of snow damage became more extreme. The weight of snown on corrugated iron barn roofs had caused the timber frames of about half a dozen to collapse. Not only large branches had broken from trees but trunks had snapped and an electric pilon had fallen.

    Snow was piled up to 2m at the side of the road but the route itself was clear and the temperature safely above freezing so we carried on. In towns, people shovelled snow from their drives and JCB type diggers deposited huge piles into the back of trucks to be taken away.

    Despite the destruction, the hilly landscape was beautiful under its blanket of snow. The skies had cleared and we passed field upon field of virgin white snow, radiant in the sunshine. After a while we had our first glimpse of the Sibillini Mountains, their pointed peaks looking somewhat unreal but enchanting under their smooth snowy veil.

    Upon arriving in Sarnano were relieved to see there had been space cleared in the car park for vans. All eight or so caravans and motorhomes there hadn't moved since the snow fell and probably belonged to locals.

    On our way to get a slice of pizza in town, we saw the army had been deployed with snow shovels to clear the streets alongside civic employees. The shopping area seemed to be returning to everyday activities. However, we climbed up to the mainly residential old town and although the cobbles peaked through small snow-free passages between houses, it seemed like a ghost town. We needed to be careful to avoid snowfall from the angled roofs, as the bottom layer melted, causing large chunks to slide off the side. There was even a section of concrete, complete with a topping of clay tiles that had fallen.

    Overnight the temperature dropped. Slicks of water from the melted snow transformed into treacherous black ice. We thought we might drive on early in the morning but given the conditions, were more than happy to see signs of a market taking place just up the hill from us. Unlike many Italian street markets we've encountered, this one had a big focus on food, with only one clothes stall and one shoe stall in sight. The array of cheese truckles, cured meats, fish, seafood, fruit and veg was mouthwatering and locals had come out in force, bustling between the traders to get the best deals.

    By the time we'd stocked up, the sun had melted the ice and we were raring to see what views our drive along the eastern perimeter of the Sibillini Mountains National Park had in store.
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  • Day205

    Fano and the earthquake

    January 17, 2017 in Italy

    Having abandoned our plans in the mountains we headed for the first coastal town with a free stopover; Fano. We had to take the long way round and go back up north to Rimini because only one road was being cleared of snow.

    Fano had a medium sized car park with plenty of grass for Poppy. It was one of the few places that allowed caravans to stay and there were about half a dozen pitched up alongside 5 or so motorhomes and locals' cars.

    The temperature had climbed to 7°C as we'd descended, but strong winds and heavy rain buffeted the van. We breathed a sigh of relief and sat down to lunch, exhausted from the stress of the snowstorm.

    Later that afternoon the rain had stopped and we set off to look round. Poppy needed her annual boosters and we'd seen a vet ambulance parked in our stopover, so had our eyes peeled. Luck was on our side because the first business we came to, just 200m away was a 24hour vets and yes, they could see Poppy! She'd been an angel throughout all the stress of the mountain and was pretty tired now but we weren't going to pass up the opportunity of a vet seeing her, so we walked her round and they took us straight through. Poppy is often anxious at vets but the nurse fell in love with her and gave her so much fuss that she forgot about many of her worries. The only difficulty was the language barrier. All the previous foreign vets we've visited have spoken excellent English, but being so far away from the UK, the vet only spoke a little and Vicky had to use all her linguistic skills to make us understood.

    We decided to stay two nights at Fano so were just relaxing in the van the next morning when it started rocking. Being on wheels we're used to movement from either of us or the dog shifting our weight or the wind blowing us. However none of us was moving and the wind had died down. It felt as if someone was outside pushing the side of the van back and forth. We both looked to the wing mirrors to see if we could see anyone. Not being able to explain it, we decided to ignore it and go for a wander.

    On the sandy beach the wind had whipped the waves up to over 6ft and there were a couple of kite surfers zipping up and down the shoreline making Will jealous. However, the wind chill made it bitterly cold so after watching for a while from the concrete pier, we retreated to the shelter of the walled town, where we found market stalls packing up. We got a chunk of Parmesan from one of these, then went to a bakers for bread, some hollow spaghetti called bucatini, a slice of pizza and the regional desert of Frappe; fried leaves of pastry covered in icing sugar.

    It was only later when we returned to the van and read the UK government alert email saying there had been earthquakes that we realised that's what the rocking we felt earlier must have been! It explained the recently fallen lampost we'd seen in town.
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  • Day61

    Crossing the Apennines

    September 29, 2016 in Italy

    After a little hesitation about heading into the mountains we found one of the quietest and most spectacular roads of our journey. Not only was the road up a nice constant gradient, but the new dual carriageway half a mile away meant no one was on it. We then had 25 miles of blissful and mostly uninterrupted downhill!! A brief inner tube change was all that we paused for. (And a caprese salad for lunch!) One of the best days yet.Read more

  • Day62

    Goodbye Italy

    September 30, 2016 in Italy

    After 1 month, 800 miles, 45 pizzas, 65 bowls of pasta, 30 caprese salads and a spectacular wedding we say goodbye to Italy......and hello to a luxurious (in comparison to the last three!) cabin on our ferry to our next destination.

  • Day326

    Day 327: Urbino

    January 7 in Italy

    Last site for this leg of the trip! In the car at the usual time, heading south-east into the mountains for the hilltop city of Urbino. This site was a flourishing centre of arts and culture during the Renaissance (thanks largely to one particular Duke), and then abruptly became a back-water. But what's interesting is that because of that, it's extremely well preserved. So we had reasonably high hopes on the hour-long drive, despite the heavy mist and fog outside.

    Eventually we arrived and parked in a large parking lot underneath the town walls. Or at least that's what I think they were - it was heavily fogged in and we couldn't really see anything. But we left Schnitzel in the car and headed upstairs into the fortress town (like many Italian cities it has access-controlled central areas for local vehicles only, and heavy fines for non-compliance).

    The two main things to see here were the Ducal Palace, the Cathedral and then the home of Raphael, famous Renaissance artist. We checked out each one in turn, though much of the Ducal palace was given over to an art collection which wasn't super interesting. But there were a couple of interesting rooms, and a Raphael painting similar to the Mona Lisa.

    Had a look around the rest of the streets - it was quite atmospheric with the fog, but also kind of uninspiring as well sadly. It definitely looked like a Renaissance town though - aside from the street lighting and signage it felt very immersive and old. Not much to see at Raphael's birth house other than a plaque and a locked door (it's a museum that was closed on Sundays), so we went for some lunch and then headed back to the car.

    Drove up to an apparently cool looking fortress on the edge of the town, but again we couldn't see anything but fog. Supposedly fog and mist is pretty common here - probably the altitude of the mountains and the warmth of the sea which isn't too far away. Maybe we just got lucky yesterday at San Marino! Drove back home, fairly unimpressed with the site sadly. Though I guess it would've been better with different weather - some of the photos we've seen look great!
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Marche, Marken, The Marches, Marcas, ماركي, Марке, les Marques, Μάρκε, Markio, Las Marcas, Markak, مارکه, Marches, Mârches, Marchis, Marke, As Marcas, Mâ-ngì-khái, מארקה, Մարկե, マルケ州, მარკე, 마르케 주, Marchia Anconitana, Markas, Markė, मार्के, Marchas, ਮਾਰਕੇ, Markés, صوبہ مارچے, Marchi, Marky, แคว้นมาร์เก, مارکے, 馬其, 马尔凯

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