Visiting this part of the Adriatic means enjoying the spectacle of two of the very few headlands on the entire coastline, San Bartolo and Ardizio, taking advantage of the tranquillity of small isolated coves or experiencing the more frequented yet just as inviting sandy beaches. Forty kilometres of soft sand stretching from Gabicce to Marotta, with an abundance of hotels, updated and reclassified over the years, and numerous campsites between Pesaro and Fano, where the beach is even wider and where the rocky shore creates safe havens for children, country houses and holiday farms for those who prefer to enjoy the sea while immersed in the green of the countryside. To the north and Romagna lies the more popular resort of Gabicce Mare, where the splendours of the “Riviera” of the sixties still survives.
Pesaro, instead, located at the mouth of the river Foglia, with its approximately eight kilometres of fine sandy shore between the natural park of San Bartolo and Ardizio, offers a more relaxed lifestyle. An ideal place for a family holiday or for those who prefer to take it easy far from the maddening crowd, though without renouncing the pleasures and fun that a holiday resort can offer. In summer, in fact, the entire area is alive with music, markets, food fairs, etc. Further south, Fano has two beaches, the sandy Lido and the longer pebbled Sassonia that stretches as far as the mouth of the river Metauro.
Halfway along the Lido and Sassonia beaches lies Fano’s picturesque fishing port, teeming with boats and the aroma of cooked fish (arrostite di pesce and brodetti alla marinara). Finally, at the southernmost end of the province and completing the “Pesaro and Urbino Riviera” stand the welcoming resorts of Torrette and Marotta. Sports such as sailing, windsurfing and beach volley are possible along the entire coastline, which also has specially equipped play areas for children.
Bordering Romagna, Umbria and Tuscany, the province of Pesaro and Urbino boats an incomparable multicoloured hilly countryside stretching as far as the peaks of the Apennines: an uncontaminated sea of green in which it is possible to immerse oneself and observe the wonders of the changing seasons while enjoying the numerous pastimes available in the area. Cycling at Gabicce Mare, where an international cycling event provides the opportunity for tourists and amateur cyclists from all around the world to enjoy nature. The event has an itinerary that passes through various settings and provides an abundance of wonderful views: from the blue of the Adriatic to the green hillsides and virgin woods of the Apennines. The area also offers many locations where it is possible to hire mountain bikes. Walking from the woods of the “Alpe della Luna” to those of monte Carpegna, just a step away. The itineraries of the Apennine backbone of the province are marked red and blue to indicate the path through nature and the way to inner peace.
The wide selection of paths for those who love trekking and who, complete with backpack, can cross this part of the province entirely on foot, meeting squirrels, deer, foxes and many of the other animals that populate these woods. Here and there, small corners of paradise appear as if forming a living picture: from the woods of Tecchie, with its crystal clear waterfall, to the mountain streams of monte Catria and Nerone. And for those looking for a more educational and challenging itinerary, there is a detailed Spring and Summer calendar of excursions with a guide and overnight stops at mountain refuges.
The parks: monte S. Bartolo, one of the very few headlands on the Adriatic with its yellow broom shrubs and green pastures that overlook the blue Adriatic offering breathtaking views. The winding roads pass through small hamlets and villages that were once inhabited by local fishermen, and which still retain their original character. A perfect example is Fiorenzuola di Focara, home of the maritime museum, as is Castel di Mezzo, with its speciality fish dishes and craft workshops. From monte Bartolo, narrow country lanes lead down to the beaches below, appearing as corners of paradise and blue seas.
On the Apennine ridge instead, stands the park of Sasso Simone e Simoncello, where centuries-old pine, oak and spruce trees lead up to the ruins of medieval fortifications. The park authority provides information and advice on how to enjoy this uncontaminated corner to the full, which leads into Val Marecchia where the beech woods provide a hiding place for churches and castles, real jewels of history and architecture. The walls of a number of rocky outcrops provide the opportunity for mountain climbing, while only eagles dare in the Furlo gorge nature reserve, where there are equipped family picnic areas and canoe hiring to explore the crystal clear waters of the river Candigliano.
ART AND CULTURE:
Urbino is the Renaissance of the new millennium. Its Ducal Palace, built for the grand duke Federico da Montefeltro, with its stately rooms, towers and magnificent courtyard forms a perfect example of the architecture of the time. Today, the building still houses the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche (The Marche region National Gallery) with precious paintings by Piero della Francesca, Laurana and Raphael, whose house has been transformed into a museum. Not to be missed, are the fifteenth century frescoes of the oratory of San Giovanni and the "Presepio" or nativity scene of the Oratory of St. Giuseppe. The city of Pesaro is the home of the precious mosaics of its cathedral, the Pinacoteca (art gallery), the Maiolica Museum and the Oliveriano Archaeology Museum, Villa Imperiale, on the hill of San Bartolo and Villa Caprile. Fano, instead, has its Corte Malatestiana, its Pinacoteca (art gallery) and Archeological Museum, and the tombs of the Malatesta family. Fossombrone houses the Quadreria Moderna Cesarini (Cesarini Gallery of Modern Art). In Pergola, the Museo dei Bronzi dorati (Gilded Bronzes Museum) and the Pinacoteca (Art Gallery).
In Urbania, Palazzo Ducale (the Ducal Palace) houses the Biblioteca storica (Historical Library), the Museum and Pinacoteca (Art Gallery). Pennabilli has its Museo Diocesano (Diocesan Museum). In Apecchio, the Fossil Museum and in Cagli, the church of St. Domenico and its frescoes by Giovanni Santi, father of Raphael. The church of St. Maria d'Antico in Maiolo houses the Madonna delle Grazie by Luca della Robbia.
Saint Leo, with its intriguing Fort, still steeped in the legend of Cagliostro, is perched on a rocky outcrop looking out over the province and, at the same time, back through the centuries. In addition to the castle, there are also medieval churches and other religious buildings. In the hills overlooking the sea stands the still-intact citadel of Gradara, with its fascinating castle evoking the love between Paolo and Francesca, immortalised by Dante in his Divine Comedy. The Castle of Mondavio stands proud, dominating the valleys of the river Metauro and the Cesano. Still today, it is possible to breath the atmosphere of times gone by: the rooms of the castle are “alive” with waxworks of cavaliers and their ladies, complete with costumes and lighting of the era.
The Castle at Sassocorvaro had a very important historical function, in that many of the outstanding Italian works of art were hidden and preserved here by Giuseppe Rotondi during the Second World War. Piandimeleto is the location of the “Castello dei conti Oliva”, while in Carpegna, at the foot of the mountain of the same name, stands the monumental Palazzo dei Principi (Princes’ Palace). Other important fortifications designed by Francesco di Giorgio Martini can be found at Montecerignone and Sant'Agata Feltria. Along the route of the river Metauro stand the three Corti Ducali (Ducal Courts) of Fossombrone, the Palazzo Ducale (Ducal Palace) and the Barco of Urbania, the latter being the hunting lodge of the Montefeltro family, and the Municipal building and tower at Sant'Angelo in Vado. High up the river Candigliano, the Castle of the Brancaleoni family overlooks the small hamlet of Piobbico. The solitary castle of Frontone stands on the slopes of monte Catria looking down on its hamlet.
In addition to the Romanesque cathedrals of Pesaro and Fano, other religious buildings that merit particular attention are the Abbey of San Vincenzo at Furlo, the Abbey of Lamoli at Borgo Pace and the Abbey of S.Tommaso in Foglia, just outside Pesaro, the church of S. Agostino at Cantiano, the church and Duomo of San Leo, the church of S. Sisto at Carpegna, that of S. Cassiano at Macerata Feltria and that of Ponte Messa at Pennabilli.
A meeting place of faith and history is the thousand-year old Eremo di Fonte Avellana. The sanctuary, which stands at the foot of monte Catria, was founded by San Pierdamiani and where the poet Dante was once a guest. Other ancient centres of devotion include the Francescan sanctuary of the Beato Sante at Mombaroccio, the sanctuary of the Madonna del Faggio at Carpegna, the image of the Madonna delle Lacrime at Pennabilli, the Crucifix by Giotto at Talamello, the temple of the Madonna del Sasso, near Pergola, the church of the Madonna del Pelingo, between Furlo and Acqualagna, the Santuario del Crocifisso at Casteldimezzo, the Cristo Morto in the Oratorio della Grotta at Urbino, the Santuario della Madonna delle Grazie in Pesaro, and the Santuario della Madonna del Ponte Metauro in Fano.
FOOD & WINE ITINERARIES:
Pesaro and the Rossinian cuisine
Mushrooms, goose liver, beef fillet, game, poultry, oysters and above all, truffles, are the ingredients that made Gioachino Rossini famous in culinary circles. The great composer from Pesaro created incisive and melodious parabolas in the kitchen as well as on musical scores: culinary creations which have since been adopted by his hometown: Tournedos alla Rossini, beef fillet browned in butter and garnished with foie gras and truffles, or the fancy woodcock soup, or shrimp and wild endive served Rossini style. For Rossini, cooking was a motif to be followed with attention, a score to be read in religious and musical silence, as we are told by the noble Frenchman Fulbert Dumonteuil who describes the Maestro in his piece “Le Macaroni de Rossini”: “… immobile, enchanted, as he observed his favourite dish, listening for the light murmuring as if he were straining his ear to the harmonious notes of the Divine Comedy…”.
The art of butchering pork, the appeal of “casciotta” (a soft cheese produced in central Italy) and the Sliced Steak of the Montefeltro area
The Spit Roasted Pig of Mombaroccio and the salt cured meats of Beato Sante which can be found in shops along the road that leads to the ancient convent, are a culinary introduction to the first hinterlands of the Pesaro region, famous for pork-butchering and the art of curing pork cuts. But, there is more … nearby Monteciccardo is known for its luscious aged pecorino cheese which can be bought from skilled cheese makers just outside of the centre.
Descending the hills, to Montelabbate, the traveller can taste the exquisite local peaches, then continuing on the Strada Statale Urbinate in the direction of Carpegna, into the Montefeltro region, we reach Sassocorvaro. This area is replete with taste tempting flavours: high quality, skilfully aged meats, guaranteed to be from local Marche pastures, naturally leavened bread from Mercatello sul Metauro, and much, much more. Salamis, dried sausages, ham and inimitable cured pork loins are found in the shops along the road that goes from S. Domenico to Casinina. Ricotta and fresh cheeses of extraordinary quality can be found in the Madonna del Mozzicone area, but the pecorino cheeses from nearby Tavoleto are also worth trying and delicious cuts of lamb are available in the S. Donato Taviglione area.
Continuing along the main road of the valley, we come upon Lunano where the Chestnut Festival is celebrated each Autumn; further along, we find Belforte with its refined honeys and a vast assortment of rare fruits: wild mountain cherries, various types of wild pears – lunghina, porcinella, rossina, volpina and sorbo. Here there is a crossroads: to the left, we can go truffle hunting in S. Angelo in Vado, known for the excellent valuable white truffle and for its “historical” vinsanto which can be tasted in the wine cellars in the centre of town; to the right, up to S. Sisto, known for its hazlenuts and mushrooms which are celebrated at a regional exhibition each Autumn. This archipelago of flavours is centred around D.O.P. products (products of Protected Origin) like the Casciotta di Urbino, the delicate, tempting cheese which, according to tradition, Michelangelo Buonarroti had sent to him in Rome while he was working on the decoration of the Sistine Chapel. Instead, nearby Isola del Piano is known for a wide range of organic products, from pasta to legumes, and even meat.
Vernaccia, sour cherry wine and emmer, the grain of the Pharaohs
Travelling south on the Strada Statale which runs along the Adriatic, we reach the Marotta seafront, the outpost of the delicious flavours of the Cesano valley: traditional sweets and bread of an exceptional quality, as well as the traditional hand made fresh pasta shops which still hold fast in the face of gastronomic progress. In Marotta, the last week of April is set aside for the festival of the “garagoi di mare” (sea snails) which are prepared with wild fennel, mint and sweet bay.
Setting off from Marotta in the direction of Pergola on the Strada Statale Cesanense 424, after 25 kilometres we come to S. Lorenzo in Campo, the emmer capital. For here, in the village of Monterosso, the species “triticum dicoccum” – the emmer that the Egyptian Pharaohs were already using seven thousand years before Christ - was rediscovered and patented (the only such patent in the world). The Romans, whose centurions ate this grain before going into battle because it was considered a good omen, brought spelt to the Mediterranean area. Moreover, the qualities of this grain speak for themselves: low in calories, rich in calcium with ten times the fibre of durum wheat and antioxidant properties. And what is the perfect match for emmer? The well-known Suasa onions, with their mild, sweet flavour. S.Lorenzo in Campo is also home to the first “farroteca” (shop dedicated to emmer) where emmer can be tasted in numerous ways; in town shops excellent honey with valued organoleptic qualities can be found, for example sunflower and alfalfa honey, or organically prepared honey. In the surrounding areas fine quality legumes are organically grown – beans, chickpeas and grass peas.
Then, continuing on the Strada Statale Cesanense, we come to Pergola. Here two wines are produced: the delicious sour cherry wine with a rich, sweet and harmonious flavour, the perfect accompaniment to chocolate sweets and to the local ring shaped cake; and the historical local red Vernaccia, a rare wine with intense floral aromas and a persistent wild berry aftertaste. If we continue up the valley for another 13 kilometres, we come to Serra S. Abbondio, known for the mills in which superior quality corn flour is still ground; in nearby Cantiano, the famous Chiaserna bread is produced.
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