We advise reading as much as possible about Le Marche before making a visit, as the region is full of unexpected treasures and is criss-crossed with ancient and medieval paths.
Here's a dish from Ancona with the main ingredient being dried cod fish recipe. Its origins are lost in the seafaring tradition of the city but we took it from 'Marche da Mangiare' produced by the Regione. To avoid confusion our Collins Italian Dictionary describes 'stoccafisso' as stockfish or dried cod, while 'baccalà' is dried salted cod.
dried cod already prepared to cook, olive oil, chopped garlic, onion, celery, carrots, sliced potatoes, salt and pepper, red tomatoes, origano, thyme and rosemary
This dish of Stuffed Olives Ascolana serves 6 people and requires a strong heart.
60 large green olives, 150g flour, 3 eggs, 150g pork loin, 100g mince beef, 3 spoons grated parmigiano reggiano cheese, 150g grated bread, 2 lemons, 2 spoons tomato pastes, 2 slices stale bread, olive oil, 100g chicken livers, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, pepper
If there is an area of Italy which deserves a greater profile it must be the hinterland of Ascoli Piceno. Inhabited by the Piceni from the 10th century BC, who were eventually joined by the Sabines, Romans etc, this is a zone of incredible social history.
As the Provincia di Ascoli Piceno states 'peculiarity is the keyword for this land, that has been shaped with passion and shrewd adaptability during a 3000 year long history'.
The definitive guide for discovering the area on foot is available in a slim, glossy guide called 'Itinerari Piceni' produced by the same Provincia. The 14 routes are presented with colorful photos and nuggets of information and written in Italian, English and German.
A number of interesting tales are attached to Rosso Piceno wine. The best involves Hannibal on his way south from the Alps. The General apparently needed to refresh his troops and found an aged 'rosso piceno' was the perfect 'pick me up'.
Pliny the Elder also mentioned the widespread fame of the Picenum vine and reminds us that the wine pre-dated Roman times having been extensively cultivated by the Piceni tribe.
The slopes of the Monte Sibillini are where the grape grows best. Its longevity and popularity might also be attributed to Sibilla who was given the gifts of immortality and the ability to be in a number of places at the same time by the god Apollo.
Delicious Italy met Peppe Cotto for the first time when we took the film crew producing the Channel 4 Feast with Heston Blumenthal series to Loro Piceno, Le Marche, in 2008.
Peppe is the rising star of the Italian gastronomic media circuit and has recently featured in such local shows as 'Sereno Variable' on RAI and 'Il Gastronauta' on Radio 24.
Peppe runs the Macelleria Giuseppe Dell'Orso in Loro Piceno, sadly one of the last in this classic Le Marche hill top town, which was once a beacon for the local tradition of cattle rearing. The sepia photos in his butcher's shop remember a different time.
Le Vie del Romanico nelle Marche' is a presentation of more than 130 late medieval churches, cathedrals, abbeys, priories and monasteries dotted across the Marche region.
Produced by the by Regione Marche as part of the 'Marche Museo Diffuso' project, the booklet and accompanying map are the defintive guide for discovering a 200 year period from the 11th to 13th centuries through its architectural heritage.
This was a time when Le Marche was an important land of passage for pilgrims, traders and cultural exchange through the Apennines between Rome and the Adriatic coast. Also included are hermitages, chapels, baptisteries and even doorways, each grouped according to classic Romaneques, town Romanesque and the lesser Romanequse stlyes.
This one is new to us; the Farmhouse Route in Marche. Promoted by the CIA or 'Confederazione Italiana Agricoltori', the route passes links 40 farms from as far north as Pesaro to Appignano del Tronto in the south and Sassoferrato in the west. We will let the brochure introduce itself:
'Traveling through the Farms Road you can taste old flavors (the fig sausage, the 'cicerchia', the sheep-cheese and the fossa cheese, the Urbino caciotta and the fried olives from Ascoli which are brought to life again thanks to great activity by farmers ... the chance to rediscover the culture and history of the countryside, of its values, of its essential role for the safeguard of the environment and 'typicalness'.
Similarly, the territory of Urbino and Montefeltro is marvelously rural and can be traversed by wide open and sweeping roads. The rich, pastel colors are at their best in September as Summer gives way to Autumn.
The sea off the Marche coast is especially rich with crustaceans and all types of squid, shrimps and cuttlefish. In fact, the region produces some 10% of the country's total fish catch and although much is for export and for sale elsewhere in the country, the local cuisine is not short of a few seafood recipes.
'Brodetto' is the most typical and, as the name suggests, is a type of soup made from the left overs and unwanted scraps that couldn't be sold in the market. Traditionally, it was the daily meal for many workers in the ports and was considered a complete meal.
Does the word 'ostracized' have any link to the town of Ostra in Le Marche? We don't know, but we do know that this small city of approx. 6000 people has always enjoyed the protection of the burghers of the port of Ancona, which is itself 35km away.