On-Site Report: Italy’s Le Marche

Because of its French-sounding name, some travelers don’t realize Le Marche is a region in Italy. Originally a border zone of the Holy Roman Empire, the name means “marks” in Italian, meaning it served as the far edge of the territory. Italians often drop the le and call it simply Marche (mark-ay).

Because Marche shares borders with Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio, it’s easily reached by car and can be a good stopping point for an itinerary that includes Abruzzo and Puglia. The drive down the Adriatic coast from Civitanova Marche or Ancona is beautiful.

Why go to Marche?

Mountains: The region is two-thirds mountains and offers all the seasonal sports that go along with the terrain.

Beaches: Almost a hundred miles of beaches line the emerald green Adriatic sea, bringing excellent seafood to coastal restaurants.

Shopping: Marche is known for its excellent hat and shoe makers, who produce for the top brands in the world; wine, truffles, décor and accordions come from here, too. This trip we went for the perfect souvenir—handmade, bespoke shoes.

Palazzo Vinci-Gigliucci
The piano nobile at Palazzo Vinci Gigliucci is decorated with frescoes and rich fabrics. (Palazzo Vinci-Gigliucci )

We visited two historic properties that offer private residence apartments in the center of the shoe region and close enough to the sea for fresh seafood dinners or swimming. In the lovely town of Fermo, we discovered the 17th-century Palazzo Vinci Gigliucci, located right on the main piazza at O. Ricci 1. The palace has been restored by owner Enrico Biondi, who purchased it from the Church; the property contains a variety of apartments, from the Contessa Suite on the Noble Floor to what was once the gatekeeper’s house. Over the centuries, it served as a typical self-contained noble palace, with stables, workshops, kitchens, and other nooks and crannies, many of which are now renovated for sleeping or event spaces.

La Bottega di Giacomino was originally the keeper’s house and is now an arched-ceilinged one-bedroom suite. Cozy yet spacious, this suite includes a kitchen, living room, private matrimoniale (double) bedroom, one full bathroom, and an open niche that holds a second matrimoniale-sized bed. This unusual apartment is adjacent to an intimate courtyard open only to palace guests. Note: Although the apartment is spacious, there is only one small bathroom with shower for up to four guests’ use.

The piano nobile (noble floor), traditionally on the second level, is lined with frescoes and rich fabrics. In addition to sumptuously decorated, shared salons, there are several apartments; it’s possible to rent the entire floor for a large group. Our favorite apartment is Le Stanze della Contesse, the rooms of the Countess, which is spread over three floors. The main living room is on the noble floor, while upstairs there are two double bedrooms, one single bedroom and three bathrooms. There is a kitchen and dining room. Frescoes abound, as do views of the nearby Sibillini mountains. This space is designed for five guests, who can use it as a base to explore the countryside, the shoe factories, and the nearby coast.

Palazzo Vinci-Gigliucci
Il Passaggio Segreto at Palazzo Vinci Gigliucci is an intimate loft incorporating the secret passages that allowed noble residents to exit the palace without being seen. (Palazzo Vinci-Gigliucci)

For two travelers, there is Il Passaggio Segreto, an intimate loft incorporating the secret passages that allowed noble residents to exit the palace without being seen. Today, it has a small living area with two sofa beds, a full bathroom, a kitchen and a private courtyard.

The palazzo can organize laundry service, daily housekeeping, and a private driver; there is parking in the inner courtyard for self-drivers. The property has a new professional kitchen and is now offering a full breakfast in the vast dining room; guests may opt for dinner prepared by a private chef. Our breakfast was provided by Chef Amelia from La Spesa Sfusa, 53-57 Via Lazio in Montegranaro, where guests may stop in for coffee and natural fresh foods and beverages. Contact Giacomo Zoppi ([email protected]; +39-391-184-5412) for more info about the Palazzo.

Palazzo Vinci-Gigliucci
Palazzo Vinci Gigliucci has been restored by owner Enrico Biondi, who purchased it from the Church. (Palazzo Vinci-Gigliucci)

Moving on to Montegranaro (within the province of Fermo), we strolled down narrow cobbled streets to find the revered bespoke shoemaker, Doriano Marcucci, who welcomed us into his vintage shop filled with well-worn workbenches and the rich smell of leather.

There were shoes in all stages of construction, including five finished pairs readied for dispatch to a high-profile gentleman in Los Angeles. Dariano has made shoes for Italian singer Renato Zero, a Qatari sheikh, and Pope Benedetto XVI, among others.

Doriano will make an appointment at his studio for measurements and selection or he will come to a visitor’s hotel. The finished product will take three to six weeks. Hint: Don’t miss the ambiance of this evocative workshop. Located in Via Castelfidardo 25, Montegranaro (FM), Doriano an be contacted at [email protected]; +39-328-965-0490.

We visited another, larger shoe fabbrica near Monte San Pietrangeli, where coveted international designer shoes are produced, using 99 percent Italian materials. Silvano Sassetti produces his own private label men’s shoes to order, including a line of totally organic shoes. On his website, hwww.silvanosassetti.it, there are lines of both women’s and men’s shoes. To make an appointment at the factory, call +39-073-496-0430. Silvano Sassetti also has a showroom in Milan.

Palazzo Vinci-Gigliucci
AN intimate courtyard at Palazzo Vinci Gigliucci is open only to palace guests. (Palazzo Vinci-Gigliucci )

Marche became a shoe-producing area for the Italian military during World War II and the business continued, with shoe companies producing in the area including Tod’s, Loriblu, Nero Giardini, Hugo Boss, Calzaturificio Rossi and Valasca, among others.

Hatmakers from this area include Carlo Fonti, whose luxury ball caps are produced for just about every major label in the world. In addition, Carlo’s talented designer, Laura Copponi, is on point with her seasonal fashion looks, which are shown at major markets abroad. Following tradition, a group of dedicated ladies weaves natural hats from gleaned straw, originally designed to keep the sun off the farmers and today seen in places like St. Tropez.

We moved on to a freshly renovated villa, Le Volte (aka Villa Casale Santi) in Cupra Marittima, about halfway between Ascoli Piceno and Civitanova Marche and only one kilometer from the Adriatic Sea. This stunning 17th-century private villa offers multiple apartments, each self-sustaining, with large outdoor spaces to be shared by the guests. If a group of 14 travelers books the entire villa, it’s possible to have a private chef for any and all meals. There is a large infinity pool with a sea view, as well as a driver to the nearby beaches for swimming, lunch or dinner. Owned by Constantino Illuminati ([email protected]), a member of a family of landscape architects, Le Volte is blessed with well-placed mature plantings and limpid water features, which add to a sense of shaded privacy.

Each of the four apartments is designed in fresh whites, taking advantage of natural light.

Le Volte
Le Volte has four apartments; each designed in fresh whites. (Le Volte)

Apartment One is on the ground floor, with two bedrooms and a terrace. There is one bathroom and a full kitchen. Apartment Two is also on the ground floor, with a private courtyard, two double bedrooms, one bathroom, and complete kitchen. Apartment Three is a ground floor space with one double bedroom, one bathroom, kitchen/living with sofa bed and a terrace.

Apartment Four is a duplex. On the ground floor is a double bedroom and bathroom.

Upstairs is a fully equipped kitchen, one full bathroom, two double bedrooms and access to a large terrace overlooking the grounds.

Though Le Volte is on Instagram, it does not have its own website yet. We advise checking out www.oliverstravels.com and, then, if more specifics are needed, get in touch with Constantino directly by email.

The coast of Marche is lined with seafood restaurants, including KoKo on the viale Lungamare Romita in Cupra Marittima, which is near Le Volte. For a lunch pause during visits to the shoe and hat producers, we suggest Agriturismo Pomo d’Oro, Contrada S. Pietro 6, Torre San Patrizio (Fermo) for typical mountain fare. Our guide/driver was Moreno Moretti (+39-339-700-3885), an enthusiastic Marchigiano (translation: a man from La Marche).

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