Why Italians vacation in the Marche instead of Tuscany
No offense to Florence, which is a beautiful city, but if you love food, wine, support the Slow Food movement, and adore saving money...
...Skip Florence. (Am I seriously saying this? Yes, I am.)
Heck, skip Venice, Rome, and Florence altogether. (I know, heresy!)
Instead: Go to the Marche.
Stay near Ancona and go eat at Maiale Volante and all of the other killer restaurants I was lucky to visit while staying in the Marche: Ristorante Da Silvio, Acquamarina, 2 Michelin star chef Moreno Cedroni's Clandestino Susci, Casolare dei Segreti, Osteria dei Segreti, and the list goes on.
|Da Silvio beach from above
Unbelievably, the prices are the same as dining out in Columbia, SC (except for Clandestino, which is priced more like San Francisco restaurants, and rightfully so because it's the bomb).
|Antipasti prices at Da Silvio
Starters are 6-9 euros, pastas are $9-14, and second courses like grilled meats and seafood are $12-$18.
|Pasta course prices at Da Silvio. Total steal for primi of this caliber.
Tip is included in these low prices, so the 20% up charge (as of summer 2012) built into the euro/dollar exchange rate ends up being like leaving a tip in South Carolina, so the price totally evens out.
|The walking path down to Da Silvio beach and restaurant
|Handmade pasta with lobster-like prawns at Acquamarina beach club in Marcelli, south of Ancona. Tied with Da Silvio for best beach restaurant, in my opinion.
|Da Silvio seafood gluttony
|Alici -- little fresh white fishes. Vinegary and brilliant. At Da Silvio.
Not everyone is as lucky as some who get to go to Italy multiple times in their lives. (I got to hit Florence for a day while on a high school trip around France. It was rad.)
If you only get one chance to go to Italy, and you are a big food and wine nerd like me, you're going to get the best value for your traveling dollar by hitting a lesser-known region filled with agriturismos and Slow Food peeps.
|Casolare dei Segreti restaurant, inn and wedding venue in Treia
|Maiale Volante agriturismo farm and restaurant in Cingoli
And cool, random places like the National Accordion Museum in Castelfidardo.
|Castelfidardo, Italy is the accordion capital of the world.
|National Accordion Museum, Castelfidardo
|National Accordion Museum, Castelfidardo
Having had the luck to be invited to stay with friends in the Marche, an area about which I knew nothing before traveling there, I can fully recommend this region as one of the best vacation values in the world.
In Italy, it's known as "Tuscany for Italians."
|View of hills around Recanati from Castelfidardo
Word on the street is that while European tourists have bought up all of the vacationland in Tuscany, Italians go to the Marche for the rolling, rural hills and charming hilltop villages...
Lack of crowds...
Super cool architecture...
|Cynar amaro in a bar in Sirolo
Really fabulous cheeses, meats and liquors at the grocery store for your stay-home cocktail hours...
Cool Medieval festivals...
Casual outdoor dining at said Medieval festivals...
Fabulous multi-course meals...
|Trappist ale gelee over a caramel pot de creme at Maiale Volante
|Scampi al Sale -- giant prawns buried and baked in salt at Da Silvio
|Phenomenal handmade cargiu pasta at Osteria dei Segreti, in Appignano
Beautiful Adriatic beaches...
|The beach at Da Silvio
|Aperol Spritz in a bottle from the beach bar at Da Silvio. O holy magic.
And killer restaurants on or above those Adriatic beaches...
|Acquamarina restaurant in Marcelli, near Numana, Sirolo and Ancona
|Interior at Da Silvio
|Ristorante Da Silvio, like a big treehouse overlooking the sea
|Clandestino Susci bar
When in Italy, go where the Italians go.
|Doublemint moment with two pairs of Italian twins, in the cathedral piazza in Loreto, Italy
If anyone happens upon this blog post on the interwebs while making expensive vacation decisions, I hope you find it useful! Here are a couple other posts I did on the Marche:
Casolare de Segreti, Treia: http://www.yumdiary.com/2012/09/il-casolare-dei-segreti-treia-italy.html
Clandestino Susci, Portonovo: http://www.yumdiary.com/2012/08/clandestino-sushi-portonovo-italy.html