This ancient proverb is definitely the best way to start a brief but intense journey to the region of Marche and its unknown, charming treasures. The region has a long tradition of craftsmanship and an extremely rich cultural heritage; here nature and human sensitivity blend to make the region, set in center of Italy, truly unique. In fact, if you have already heard of Marche and the emerald sea of Numana, you cannot miss a spot in Sirolo, the so-called “gem of the Adriatic sea.” I would define Sirolo as a true extract of Italy, a synthesis of Italian landscape where the beauty is present in every aspect and detail, where the hillside meets the cliff of Monte Conero, 570 meters above sea level.
Located between the Apennines and the Adriatic coast, Marche is the only Italian region whose name is “plural” because just one place would not define it. In fact, the name of the region derives from the plural name of marca, march or mark, which means “borderland.”
Founded by the Piceni between the IX and the IV century B.C. and then dominated by the Romans, three main marches originally composed this region. The first was the March of Ancona, the frontier of the Carolingian Empire, the second, the March of Camerino, followed by Fermana March.
Today, unified as a region, it is undeniable that Marche still represents a wide and fascinating puzzle of different hills, traditions, dialects, climatic areas and crops which passed through a long history. It is not just a region, but a combination of places and cultures who, to this day, continue to mix and enrich each other.
My family comes from Marche, namely Macerata but also San Benedetto del Tronto. Since I was a child, I thankfully spent every summer in Marche, it’s where I first learned how to ride a bicycle. I also spent the summers discovering new spots surrounded by unspeakable natural scenery, visiting the Sibillini Mountains and also some of the most remote hilltop villages. Thanks to my experience in Marche I learned to appreciate the grace of a rural landscape, the calm of the woods and the poetry behind the rites of work in the fields.
Beyond the unspoiled and charming interior hills, I continue to be surprised by the rocky Adriatic coastline. Although I was used to Numana and its crystal sea, I discovered Sirolo, in the Province of Ancona, just a few years ago and immediately fell in love. This village is probably the least known treasure of Marche and its most precious gem.
Sirolo (125 mts above sea level) is an example of the so-called Italian “borgo”, a piece of authentic beauty located on the Southern slopes of Monte Conero, about 20 kms from Ancona, and next to the more touristic and crowded city of Numana.
Life in Sirolo is based on slow tourism, spontaneity and a strong connection to nature and local history. In fact, it is the beauty of life in Sirolo that reminds us that life in Italy can be simpler than we can imagine. Not yet impacted by the biggest tourism’s networks, in Sirolo people love to take their time and to enjoy the genuine lifestyle you can experience in Marche. The beaches are still uncontaminated and tourism is regulated by strict rules that help to protect the ancient floral heritage typical of the Mediterranean scrub (arbutus, ilex, the Aleppo pine, broom, rate, etc.) and its fauna (Apennine Wolf, foxes, squirrels, partridges, and Jays).
Sirolo is part of the Regional Natural Park of the Conero, which is a protected area of 6,000 hectares established in 1987, and offers panoramic views overlooking both the sea and the hills. For this reason, and many others, it has been awarded the title of Blue Flag of Europe and the “4 Vele” from Legambiente.
But Sirolo is more than this. Sirolo is also known for its theatre season, both in winter and in summer.
The small Cortesi Theater, a nineteenth-century jewel in white stone, and the Theater Alle Cave, with 1,500 seats under the stars, made of the ancient pink stone quarries on the slopes of Monte Conero, animate the summer nights of the coast.
The two theaters are linked to the name of a great couple of artists, the actress Valeria Moriconi and director Franco Enriquez, who, 50 years ago, decided to move to the town that became their “place of the soul”. Thanks to their artistic activity, they made Sirolo a key point of national theatrical production and research. Every year, at the end of August, an event is organized to celebrate the “Franco Enriquez National Award.” This award attracts personalities from the world of international culture and recognizes the artists who stand out for their choices regarding social and civil commitments.
Sunny and windy at the same time, Sirolo is an ancient medieval village built around a fortified castle and immersed in quiet green valleys, facing the Adriatic sea and its secluded bays. Walking through the alleys, the narrow roads and passageways of this borgo, it is easy to get lost and feel immersed in a timeless atmosphere. The unique urban structure of the city, with its towers and ancient walls, is due to the fortress that the people of Sirolo built around the year 1000, in order to defend themselves from the attacks of the barbarians.
In the main square, the church of San Nicola di Bari, built in 1765 on the remains of a previous church dating back to 1230, represents a remarkable example of medieval architecture and also an important point of reference for the local community. The Romanesque Chiesa di San Pietro al Conero and the Baroque Chiesa del Rosario are also worth a visit.
The heart of Sirolo is its “piazza”, Piazza Vittorio Veneto, a typical Italian meeting point where every night families, elderly and young spend time in summer days grabbing an aperitivo at La Drogheria or Il Grillo and shopping in the local boutiques of the city center; maybe even sitting outside and enjoying the endless landscape of the slopes of Monte Conero. Like a terrace, Sirolo’s main square is an open window to the Adriatic Sea and at your back lies undulating hills of wheat, olive trees and vineyards.
This is the secret of Marche: the sea meets always the mountains, and the precious beaches of Marche are the Adriatic’s best-kept secret.
The secret who protects Marche and Sirolo from the devastating consequences of mass tourism is definitely its respect for Nature and all the creatures living in this little Italian paradise. As part of the Conero Park, beaches are preserved as habitats for plants and animals and some of them are only accessible by boat. Departures are available from the port of Numana.
Due Sorelle Beach — Probably the most beautiful and popular beach of the Conero, Due Sorelle is still an uncontaminated paradise characterized by white sand, pebbles and lapis lazuli water. It owes its name to the impressive twin rocks in the sea, in front of the promontory.
Urbani Beach — Set in front of the Conero promontory, Urbani Beach is easily reachable on foot, or by bus or car. Don’t hesitate to explore the picturesque natural cave – the Urbani Grotto. Well equipped with umbrellas and beach chairs, Spiaggia Urbani is plenty of local bars and restaurants where you can take a little break enjoying the view.
Sassi Neri Beach— If you are looking for an experience in contact with nature, you cannot miss Sassi Neri Beach. Completely immersed in vegetation, Sassi Neri Beach owes its name to the dark gravel on the shoreline. Rocky and untouched, Sassi Neri Beach is not probably suitable for non-expert visitors. No facilities are available to reach this beach, you can arrive on foot from the adjacent San Michele Beach.