Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Le Marche - a few fast facts

Le Marche covers an area of 9,693 sq. km. (3,742 sq. miles), making it 15th biggest of Italy's 20 regions. Its borders are the Adriatic Ocean to the east, Emilia-Romagna and the independent republic of San Marino to the north, Tuscany, Umbria, and Lazio to the west, and Abruzzo to the south.

With a population of around 1.5 million, the largest city and capital is Ancona with just a smidgen over 100,000 inhabitants residents. The coast is more populous than inland, with Pesaro (around 92,000) and Fano (about 58,000) on the north coast ranking second and third in the population stakes. (Italy's total population is around 58 million.)

The region is divided into five provinces - Pesaro-Urbino in the north, Ancona in the middle, Macerata just south of that, Fermo wedging in below it and the southernmost province of Asocli Piceno. The capital of each province is the city it's named after.

The central Apennine mountains form the backbone of its natural western border, peaking at the summit of Monte Vettore (2,476m/8,123ft) in the Sibillini range. Between the Apennines and the Adriatic is a magical prospect of rolling hills, craggy outcrops, hilltop towns, and patchwork fields. Over 100,000 hectares are protected, the majority of which are in the two national parks - Monti Sibillini, and Gran Sasso & Monti della Laga, which straddles the Abruzzo border. In addition, there are four regional parks, three natural reserves, 15 state forests, and over 100 floricultural areas.

Le Marche's towns are some of the best-preserved medieval specimens in the whole of Italy, and among its piazzas are some of the country's most beautiful. Art, history, and architecture abound. According to the region's tourist office: 500 piazzas, more than 1,000 significant monuments, a hundred "cities of art", thousands of churches (including 200 Romanesque), 34 archaeological sites, 72 historic theatres, and the highest density of museums and art galleries in Italy (342 spread over 246 municipalities).

Then there's the shopping, the food, and the wine, but that'll have to wait for another time ...