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The Native | Ester Mocchegiani shows us around Le Marche

Travelling is always risky business – get stuck in a touristy area and your meals are terrible as will be the rest of your stay. Ester Mocchegiani shows us the places she recommends to hang out like a native.

rachelzc
Rachel Zammit Cutajar
26 December 2017, 9:00am
Le Marche, Italy
Le Marche, Italy
Travelling is always risky business – get stuck in a touristy area and your meals are terrible. The same can be said of sightseeing, hotels and nightspots. Travelling to a place where you know people to recommend the right places makes your stay all the more enjoyable.

Ester Mocchegiani
Ester Mocchegiani
Ester Mocchegiani, was born in Corridonia, Le Marche and lived in there for 27 years. If you’re visiting Le Marche, these are the places she recommends to hang out like a native.

Best spot for sightseeing

The Conero Riviera is characterised by intense blue seas and the green cliffs on the Adriatic coast
The Conero Riviera is characterised by intense blue seas and the green cliffs on the Adriatic coast
If you decide to visit Le Marche region, the Conero Riviera cannot be missed. One of the most peculiar and stunning area which definitely deserves to be mentioned is the Conero Natural Park. Characterised by the intense blue of the sea and the green of the cliffs, this park is an excellent representative of the famous Adriatic coast. Il Conero, a 512-metre high mountain, is also abundant in stunning stone caves. 
My memory of this place always brings back long days walking down to the stone caves crossing labyrinthine natural passages and catching glimpses of the sea between century-old trees.
There are also many other corners to uncover: from cities like Ancona, Camerano, Sirolo or Numana to the various paths that venture into the flora and fauna of the park, up again to the Portonovo and Due Sorelle bays with their uncontaminated shores, crystal water and the historic jewels like Santa Maria of Portonovo Church or the Bosis Tower.

Best place to eat

Dine at the Fortino Napoleonico, an ancient Napoleonic military fortress situated in a magnificent position among the green woods and the blue sea
Dine at the Fortino Napoleonico, an ancient Napoleonic military fortress situated in a magnificent position among the green woods and the blue sea
In the most panoramic and peaceful place of the Conero’s park, my favourite place to go and eat is the restaurant Fortino Napoleonico which is situated in a magnificent position among the green of the woods and the blue sea, created by an ancient Napoleonic military fortress. This corner of Marche is one of the most beloved and unique in the Adriatic coast and enjoying a meal in this spectacular military structure is definitely an unforgettable experience. Fresh local fish, homemade pasta and more traditional courses are only few amongst the numerous delicacies you can find here. The menu is characterised by simple ingredients and soft flavours: the best way to taste what the sea gives us! Wines are also carefully curated by the maitre d’ who will guide you through this magical dining experience. Just decide if want to eat outside, sitting on the panoramic terrace overlooking the Bay of Portonovo or inside, in the oldest room presided over by a large fireplace in the centre column and embrace the charm of Conero. Buon Appetito!

Best place to stay

I Cucali is a restored family house in the centre of Porto Recanati, a marvellous bed and breakfast facing the sea
I Cucali is a restored family house in the centre of Porto Recanati, a marvellous bed and breakfast facing the sea
If an authentic and poetic way of showing love of one’s own origins exists, we can learn it from the owner of I Cucali, a restored family house in the centre of Porto Recanati, a marvellous bed and breakfast facing the sea. A distracted eye may mistake I Cucali for one of the holiday houses on the seafront, with its Italian-style door always open and some chairs outside to sit and engage in chitchat with the neighbours. But an attentive eye would notice immediately the sophisticated taste used to decorate every single corner of the rooms, like the faded map or the unique vintage frames hanging on the beautifully pale-painted walls. More charming details and unexpected pieces will catch your attention in the bedrooms like the retro bedspreads, the handmade armchairs or the curtains swelled by the wind revealing glimpses of the Adriatic. And then, that sweet smile of the host, as sweet as the atmosphere surrounding her when, in the morning, she prepares you a fresh and organic breakfast. Buona permanenza!

Best spot for shopping

The true fashion-addicts must visit Il Castagno Brand Village
The true fashion-addicts must visit Il Castagno Brand Village
When in Marche… do like us “Marchigiani”! Italians love their fashion but when it comes to buy the best quality leather goods - especially shoes! - there is no better shopping factory district in Italy than the one in Marche. You can spot small shoe and bag factories everywhere and each of them has got its own “punto vendita”, which is basically a shop within the factory. And if you are a size 37 (UK 4) the magic will just happen: thousands of artisan crafted shoe samples are waiting for you at bargain prices! The true fashion-addicts must also visit Il Castagno Brand Village, an incredible outlet which stands out for its wide range of leading luxury brands like Prada, Miu Miu, Pollini, Tod’s or Cruciani. Sergio Rossi’s famous stilettos are also ready for you to buy from another outlet just around the corner as well as the genuine Italian handmade shoes, Fabi.

Best local thing

Le Marche is known as the ‘Shoe District’ of Italy
Le Marche is known as the ‘Shoe District’ of Italy
In Le Marche region there is no shortage of local products: handcrafted leather goods (Le Marche is also called the “shoe district” of Italy and shoes drive the regional economy), olive oil, wines (Rosso Conero, not to be missed out!), salami (have you ever tried the unheard “Ciauscolo”?), furniture (our Frau sofas are renowned all over the world!), ceramic and majolica with medieval renaissance decorations, straw hats (hats are a €260 million-a-year business in Italy. Sixty million of them — 70 percent of domestic output and half of Europe’s — are made in Montappone and in six neighbouring towns. If you are at all interested in headgear, this district should definitely be on your list), the ancient art of “Merletto a Tombolo” (a unique lace made from linen thread using wooden bobbins) and last but not least the accordions of Castelfidardo, the town where these musical instruments have been assembled for over two hundred years.

Best adventure activity

The Frasassi Caves offer tours that, like skiing, are colour coded blue and red to identify how hard each trail is to complete
The Frasassi Caves offer tours that, like skiing, are colour coded blue and red to identify how hard each trail is to complete
One of the most exciting adventure you can do in this area is the Speleo-Adventure inside the Frasassi Caves, Genga. Discovered in 1971, they are among the most famous show caves in Italy and they are characterised by a long cave system particularly well endowed with stalactites and stalagmites. There are two paths to choose between: the Blue and the Red. Much like skiing, the blue one is considered to be the easy path whilst the Red Tour has more difficult and narrower passages. The tour includes climbing, drifts and slides. During the Red Tour for example, after just few metres from the starting point, a 30m chasm called "Falconara wall" opens up: you will be secured with a climbing harness and ascend the long rope until you find yourself at "low drift" and you will find a 30-metre tunnel to be crossed on hands and knees! Are you ready to get dirty?

Logistics

How to get there:

By plane: Airport Falconara-Ancona (AOI). From Malta the easiest way to get to Riviera del Conero, Marche is flying to Rome and then get the direct train to Ancona station.

By trains: Direct trains to Ancona station from all the main Italian cities.

By car: Highway A14 - from Bologna to Ancona or from Pescara to Ancona or follow Highway A24 and then A14 from Rome.

By ferry: Ferries are available from Croatia (ZARA/SPALATO/DUBROVNIK > ANCONA) or from Greece (PATRAS > ANCONA)

Currency: Euro

Best time of year to visit: May, June, September. You can also enjoy Le Marche during the winter months if you are passionate about skiing as there are numerous ski resorts in the Appennini Mountains.

Visas: Visa permit is required for non-EU citizens only.

rachelzc
Rachel Zammit Cutajar graduated in economics from the University of Malta...
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