It looks like the understudy is finally ready to take centre stage. Though the main roles usually go to its superstar neighbour, Tuscany, the Le Marche region of Italy has just as wide a repertoire.
“Street food in Ascoli Piceno means olive all’ascolana (fried olives stuffed with minced meat). These crispy bite-size snacks are a long-standing local speciality and you’ll find no end of takeaways and bars serving them. Food apart, Ascoli is an animated provincial town with an elegant historic centre punctuated by majestic churches and photogenic piazzas such as Piazza del Popolo and the nearby Piazza Arringa. To catch Ascoli at its most festive, come in April for the fried food fest Fritto Misto all’Italiana.”
It can do higgledy-piggledy hilltop towns, gloriously gluttonous food festivals, resplendent Renaissance palaces, winding countryside and inviting beaches with equal panache, but with the added bonus that its attractions are much less well known. In 2020, the spotlight will shine brightly here as Urbino, Le Marche’s most picturesque city, leads the celebrations to mark the 500th anniversary of the death of the great Renaissance painter – and local boy made good – Raphael.