A group of eight talented photographers and bloggers from all over Europe were invited to Marche, Italy for a four-day photography trip of the local area. The aim to was help raise the profile of tourism in the region. Our days were packed solid from morning to night visiting local towns, learning about the culture and history and meeting local people from the region. Marche is one of the lesser-known of Italy's 20 regions. It's located on the eastern seaboard on the Adriatic coast, with Tuscany and Umbria to the west and San Marino to the north. It is very much an agricultural area and as we drove through the countryside and over the rolling hills, the beauty in the simple landscape really stood out for me. It was breathtaking and seemingly untouched by modern buildings and construction.
We arrived at Bologna airport and took a transfer to our hotel which took about two hours. We stayed at the quaint four-star Hotel Le Grotte in the heart of Frasassi. A small hotel of just 23 rooms, which boasts stunning views of the Frasassi Gorge and surrounding landscape. The hotel was clean, the staff were friendly and helpful and more importantly, the hotel had free WiFi, a must for all, especially Instagrammers! What made it really special was the addition of the hotel's spa. A Jacuzzi, steam room and sauna were most welcome after a long day of walking and exploring.
Whilst there, we visited many of the local towns in the region but a few really stood out for me. The first was a town call Arcevia, built circa 11th century, it's situated 500 metres above sea level and has 10 castles surrounding it. The local people are said to live such long lives due to the pure air quality high up in the town. Whilst there, the mayor of the town met us and invited us into his chambers, proud to share the local history with us.
The second was a small town call Serra San Quirico. As we walked into the town's square, I got the sense that time had stopped for this place. The locals sat on their door steps just enjoying the day and catching up with one another and there was a feeling that there really was no rush here. A local council member met us for a tour of the town and whilst walking down seemingly normal side streets, I was surprised that some of the buildings housed elaborately decorated churches that really took my breath away. Such hidden treasures hiding in plain sight.
Everyone we met on the streets we walked had a smile and a few words for us. Always happy to pass the time of day and extremely open and friendly. I think this is something that is certainly missing from my busy life. Time is precious and the Italian people embrace it wholeheartedly.
It was easy to lose yourself in the small streets and alleyways and yet not feel lost or unsafe. In fact, wandering around the back streets is the best way to find some of the hidden treasures Marche has to offer.
I couldn't talk about my trip without mentioning the food and wine. In the U.K., for dinner I normally eat a main course and the occasional dessert on a weekend but in Italy, they know how to eat. Each meal was easily 5-6 courses if not more. I honestly lost count most of the time, falling into a food-induced haze. Fresh pasta, meats and bread were in abundance to satisfy any appetite.
The region produces some delicious wine and we had an opportunity to visit several vineyards to sample them. My favourite was the Moncaro winery and I loved the view of the vines growing in the valleys below us whilst having a chance to sample the wine before buying it. I certainly left with few extra bottles in my bag to take home and will no doubt order more for delivery too.
As a visitor to Italy, I can see how places like Rome, Venice and Tuscany could be favoured over less known places like Marche, but now I know what's here I will definitely be back to explore this beautiful region again.
There is a timeless feel to Marche and if I had to pick one place to just stop and watch the world go by, this would be it.
Head over to my Gallery to see more photos from Marche, Italy.