Italy's Marche region offers the visitor such a feast of culinary delights it really is difficult to know where to start. Food and wine is almost a religion in Marche, as well as it is in Italy. And to enjoy the vast range of traditional flavours on offer you are advised to take your time and do the job thoroughly.....Aaaaah.
Eating out means encountering a wonderful variety of Italian dishes, usually divided into three courses (antipasti, primo piatto and secondo piatto) followed by dessert, coffee and the choice of a mind-boggling array of "digestive" (and usually very potent) liqueurs. If done properly the whole thing can easily last two or three hours!
You will probably notice different names for restaurants apart from ristorante, such as osteria, trattoria, agriturismo and pizzeria, but rest assured that all serve up a range of great Italian flavours to savour. Pizzerias generally open only in the evening because they use large wood ovens, but pizza can be bought by the slice from take-aways at lunchtime as well.
Seafood is excellent along the Adriatic coast, while in the upland areas traditional cooking of local organic produce (especially lamb and suckling pig) is very much to the fore.
Local sheep cheeses produced predominantly in mountain areas include casciotta and pecorino. Wild boar is also often found on the menu in local restaurants and the tasty local salami is called cia¨scolo.
Highly prized white and black truffles are found in several areas of Marche and form an important part of many Italian dishes, while stuffed olives (olive all'ascolana) originate from the Ascoli Piceno area.
Lentils are grown on the huge expanse of the Piano Grande in the heart of the Appenines and are a staple part of the diet in that area, typically eaten with zamponi (stuffed pig's trotters).
Wine is highly prized in Marche and well known local labels include the red wines Rosso Conero and Rosso Piceno, and the white Verdicchio. Vino cotto, a strong and sweet wine boiled down from normal strength wines is normally only found under the counter !
Marche Holiday Homes now offers a wine tasting and tour at the Umani Ronchi distillery in Osimo, central Marche.
Umani Ronchi owns 110 hectares of vinyards in Marche and Abruzzo and is a leading exponent of the wines of these two regions, such as Rosso Conero and Verdicchio. It is also at the forefront of experimentation with foreign grape varieties such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot, producing wines from these and their more traditional grapes that have won international acclaim.
Many towns and villages in Italy's Marche region have their own food and wine events. Here is a small selection of them:
. Pianello (near Cagli) - Sagra della Lumaca (snails)
. Apiro (near Cingoli) - Sagra del formaggio pecorino (pecorino cheese)
. Sefro (near Camerino) - Festa della Pizza
. Matelica - Sagra della Rana (frogs)
. Ostra Vetere (near Corinaldo) - Festa della trota (trout)
. Montemarciano (near Senigallia) - Sagra del pesce (fish)
. Castelplanio (near Jesi) - Sagra della crescia sul panaro (stuffed flat bread) - last Sunday of July
. Ostra Vetere (near Corinaldo) - Sapori ed Aromi di Casa Nostra - local food and music
. Monte Vidon Combatte (near Fermo) - Sagra delle quaglie (quails)
. Sassoferrato - Sagra del Cinghiale (wild boar)
. Cingoli - Sagra di prosciutto e melone
. San Severino Marche - Sagra del cece (chick peas)
. Staffolo (near Cingoli) - Festa del Verdicchio (verdicchio wine festival)
. Fermo - Sagra delle vongole (shell fish)
. Serra San Quirico (near Fabriano) - Sagra del coniglio in porchetta (roast rabbit with fennel)
. Monteprandone (near San Benedetto del Tronto)- Sagra delle olive fritte (fried stuffed olives)
. Pedaso - Sagra Nazionale delle cozze (mussels)
. Massignano (near Ascoli Piceno) - Sagra delle frittelle (omelettes)
. Venarotta (near Ascoli Piceno) - Sagra della vitella allo spiedo (spit-roast veal)
. Loro Piceno - Sagra del Vin Cotto (a sweet "cooked" wine)
. Apiro (near Cingoli) - Sagra della polenta
. Montecassiano - Sagra del pesce (fish)
. Cupramontana - grape festival in the heart of Verdicchio wine country in September.
. Piandimileto (near Urbino) - Mushroom fair
. Lapedona (near Fermo) - Sagra del Vino Cotto (the Marche version of Vin Santo)
. Fermo - Sagra della Polenta
. Arcevia - Sagra dell'uva (grape festival)
. Acqualagna (near Cagli) - Fiera nazionale del tartufo (truffle fair) - last weekend in October and first two weekends in November in the town that calls itself the "truffle capital".
. Acquasanta Terme (near Ascoli Piceno) - Festa d'autunno (autumn produce)
. Montemonaco (near Amandola) - Sagra della Castagna (chestnut)
. Castelsantengelo sul Nera (near Visso) - Sagra del Marrone Castellano (chestnut)
. Sant'Agata Feltria - White Truffle fair
. Sant'Angelo in Vado (near Urbino) - Mostra del tartufo bianco (white truffle show)
. Talamello (near San Leo) - Formaggio di Fossa cheese fair
. Acqualagna (near Cagli) - truffle fair continued