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ON THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE ANCIENT ROMANS

Starting from Fano, you follow the ancient “via Flaminia” that was laid down in 220 B.C., visiting FOSSOMBRONE, a Roman and Medieval charming town with the interesting museum “Quadreria Cesarini”, passing across the impressive and breathtaking FURLO GORGE to get to CAGLI, a delightful Roman town where you can see an outstanding exemple of one of the Romans bridges that still stand.

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You carry on over the CONTESSA PASS to reach GUBBIO, one of the most celebrated Medieval towns of Italy.

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TO THE FRASASSI CAVES

The Frasassi Caves are some of the most dramatic caves you are ever likely to see and an ideal jaunt for a rainy day.

From Fano take the motorway (green signs) to Ancona, get out at the Ancona Nord exit and take the direction to Jesi, a splendid old town belt of massive 14thC walls (above), built on Roman foundations, strengthened with buttresses and impregnable towers, and topped by houses. The main streets of the walled historic centre run along a narrow ridge. Piazza Federico II lies at the north-eastern end of the town where the Roman forum of Aesis once lay. Its name recalls the birth here of the fabled Medieval Hohenstaufen Emperor Frederick II in a tent on 26 December 1194. Frederick, known as Stupor Mundi for his stirring deeds, endeared himself even more to the city when he later called it his special city, its very name seeming to recall that of Jesus.The 18thC face of the Duomo, the robust caryatids on the palace to the left of the church and the obelisk in the centre give the square a decidedly Late Baroque tone.A few steps down Via Pergolesi and you will be in Piazza Colocci and in front of Jesi’s most handsome building, Palazzo della Signoria. Vist the City Art Gallery(Pinacoteca Comunale), where is kept a small group of some of Lorenzo Lotto’s finest works – The Judgement of Santa Lucia, a Visitation, an Annunciation and a restless Deposition.

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Then head south-west to the small medieval hill town of Staffolo. This sturdy fortified medieval town stands among olive groves and vineyards and commands fine views out over the hills and mountains of the central Marche. Large stretches of the intact walls now have houses built on top – a miniature version of the great walls of Jesi.

From here drive through the typical gently rolling Marche landscape amidst the Verdicchio vineyards to Cupramontana, one of the most important centres for wine production and a good place to stock up with a few bottles. During the second week of August the town gives itself over to the Festa del Verdicchio, a colourful festival dedicated to the local incarnation of Bacchus.

Make a short detour to Maiolati Spontini. This small aristocratic village was the home of the composer Gasparo Spontini (1774-1851). He is buried in the church of San Giovanni, under an august neo-classical monument carved by the great Canova. The small Spontini museum, opposite the church in the house where he died, contains a collection of his manuscripts and possessions. The village also boasts balcony views over the valley below.

Back on the main road west follow the many signs for the Grotte di Frasassi to visit the Frasassi Caves, amongst Europe’s most spectacular caves. Some 13 km of limestone caverns have so far been explored and it is reckoned that they may run for up to 35 km. Only one and a half km of this crystalline wonderland is open to the general public. Equipped with walkways and theatrical lighting, it includes the awesome Grotta Grande del Vento, Europe’s largest single cavern, so vast that Milan Cathedral would fit comfortably inside, and some of the most extravagantly fanciful stalagmites and stalactites you are ever likely to see. Even claustrophobics shouldn’t find it too challenging.

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Leaving the dramatic Frasassi Gorge, take the back road to the thriving town of Fabriano, journey’s end. Even back in the 14thC, Fabriano’s paper mills were producing a million sheets of paper a year and it was here that watermarked paper was invented. Its paper is still used the world over for banknotes and quality art paper.

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So proud is the town of its traditional industry that it has dedicated an interesting modern museum to it – you’ll find the Museo della Carta in the former monastery of San Domenico. You can also buy Fabriano paper here.

ANCONA AND THE CONERO PARK

Ancona is the administrative capital of the Marche and the largest city in the region. The oldest part of town straddles Colle Guasco, the hill above the port. On its peak, high above the agitation of the modern city, stands Ancona’s finest church, the Medieval Cathedral of San Ciriaco, an extraordinary pleasing mix of Romanesque and Gothic. Ancona hosts some beautiful medieval palaces and the interesting Museo Archeologico delle Marche.

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Monte Conero

Just south of Ancona rises the solitary limestone peak of Monte Conero whose steep slopes slide down to the sea and the prettiest beaches on the whole of the Northern Adriatic shore, such as Portonovo, Sirolo and Numana. Sirolo also boasts the Conero Golf Club, the Region’s fine course for golfers.

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ANCONA

HISTORY

Ancona is the busy administrative capital of the Marche and the largest city in the Region but it may not seem an obvious tourist centre. Give it time, though, and you may, like us, acquire a taste for the salt and spice of this restless sea port.

Built on two hills that form an amphitheatre around the harbor, it was settled in the 4thC BC by Greek colonists from Syracuse.

Later, the Romans exploited its sheltered anchorage and in 115 AD, under the Emperor Trajan, the present harbou walls were raised; the stately ceremonial marble arch standing at the end of the docks marks his achievement.

In the Middle Age the forces of the German Emperors, the Church and the Venetian Republic each made sure that Ancona was never able to establish itself as a powerful maritime republic. In 1532 it slid compliantly into the hands of the Papal State, where it remained until the Unification of Italy.

VISIT OF THE TOWN

Start your walk from the bottom of Corso Stamira down by the ferry docks. After noting the Venetian-Gothic facade of the ruined church of San Agostino cut across to nearby Piazza della Repubblica where Corso Garibaldi and Corso Mazzini start (the other two Corsi that complete the city’s trinity of parallel main streets).

The 19thC Teatro delle Muse that boxes in the square has now been re-opened after a long and thorough restoration. From here take a brief detour up Corso Mazzini to see the 16thC Fontana del Calamo, a regimented row of 13 masked spouts.

Next to the fountain is our favourite port of call, the Chiosco di Morena, that sells oysters and other fresh shellfish to be eaten standing up with a glass of dry white wine or sparkling prosecco – a great restorative!

Back down in Piazza della Repubblica, amble along Via della Loggia to see the statue-decked Loggia dei Mercanti, an outstanding example of florid Late Venetian-Gothic (the influence of Venice is never very far away here). Further on is the singular 13thC front of Santa Maria della Piazza, rows of blind arches and plenty of fidgety carving. Inside, a glass panel in the pavement allows you to see the remains of the even older church below.

From Via della Loggia walk up to Piazza del Plebiscito ruled over by a resplendent statue of Pope Clement XII. Over his shoulder is the Neoclassical Church of San Domenico with a Titian Crucifixion above the high altar.

As you climb up from the square on Via Pizzecolli you are in the heart of the oldest part of the city. Palazzo Bosdari ,at n.17, guards the Ancona’s Pinacoteca; paintings to look for here are Crivelli’s chilly Madonna and Child, Titian’s Virgin with Child and Saints, and Lorenzo Lotto’s Sacra Conversazione.

Further up you can rest your legs as you admire the bird’s eye views of the port from Piazza Stracca. A few paces on is Palazzo Ferretti, home of the Museo Archeologico delle Marche, an outstanding collection of antique nick-nacks – black and red Attic vases, Etruscan bronzes, Iron Age jewellery. The extraordinary Bronzi Dorati, a group of gilded bronze statues dating back to 1st century AD, are also on part-time display here when they are not at Pergola.

As you wind onwards and upwards through deserted Piazza del Senato with its beautiful palace and up Via Giovanni XXIII you will catch glimpses of the ruins of the Roman amphitheatre behind. A last effort and you are on the summit of Colle Guasco, with breath-taking views out to sea.

On its peak, high above the agitation of the modern city, stands Ancona’s finest church and its most obvious landmark, the Medieval Cathedral of San Ciriaco, a pleasing mix of Romanesque and Gothic.
The austere interior is picked out with exotic Byzantine touches, a painted wooden roof in the form of an upturned boat, and a soaring 12 sided cupola – a place to linger in out of the summer heat. In the crypt you can glimpse the remains of an ancient pagan temple that provided the foundation for the church.

Now take a sprightly walk back down for a fish lunch or oysters by the fountain!

Just south of Ancona rises the solitary limestone peak of Monte Conero whose steep slopes slide down to

the sea and the prettiest beaches on the whole of the Northern Adriatic shore, such as Portonovo, Sirolo and Numana.

Sirolo also boasts the Conero Golf Club, the Region’s fine course for golfers.

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IL VERDE ATTORNO A VILLA GIULIA

Le valli del Metauro, del Cesano e del Misa con il Montefeltro e i parchi naturali del Monte San Bartolo e del Monte Conero sono le mete naturalistiche che si raggiungono facilmente in auto dal Relais Villa Giulia. Tutti spettacoli naturali da vedere e da vivere con trekking e passeggiate anche in bicicletta.

Le valli dei fiumi e le colline offrono innumerevoli itinerari enogastronomici dove apprezzare la ricchezza di prodotti tipici marchigiani: la Gola del Furlo sulla via Flaminia, il Tartufo di Acqualagna, celebrato tra tavole e fiere, le dolci colline delle Terre di Frattula, tra il fiume Cesano e le colline di Fano, che accolgono il Relais Villa Giulia tra viti e ulivi e che danno ottimi oli come l’extravergine di oliva dop di Cartoceto e i doc Colli Pesaresi bianco e rosso tra i vini.

Villa Giulia ha pensato anche agli appassionati di cicloturismo che desiderano scoprire questo angolo delle Marche in bicicletta lungo itinerari per bici da strada e trekking bike. Per chi arriva all’hotel in bicicletta, Villa Giulia offre un ricovero biciclette ampio e sicuro e un’officina attrezzata con utensileria per le manutenzioni e riparazioni nonché molti itinerari mappati, descritti e tracciati con GPS. Gli itinerari sono stati studiati e provati da cicloturisti esperti che hanno curato anche con particolare attenzione i luoghi di interesse naturalistico e culturale, le curiosità e i punti di ristoro tipici, dove fare una sosta con specialità marchigiane e buon vino.

 

Gradara_by Antonio Giustini

BORGHI ATTORNO A VILLA GIULIA

Villa Giulia è letteralmente circondata da piccoli e grandi borghi medievali, perfetti per gli appassionati di storia e soprattutto di gesta di “donne, cavalieri, armi e amori”.

Malatesta, Montefeltro, Della Rovere sono le famiglie di Signori e condottieri che si avvicendarono in terra marchigiana dal medioevo al Seicento.

In questi secoli, guerre, cultura e arte dei Signori hanno creato borghi, rocche e città, alcune arrivate a noi praticamente intatte come il malatestiano castello di Gradara dei versi di Dante per Paolo e Francesca, a mezz’ora dal Relais Villa Giulia, oppure la rocca di Mondavio (a 30 km) dei Della Rovere, che vollero come direttore dei lavori Francesco di Giorgio Martini, il genio dell’architettura militare rinascimentale.

Notevoli anche le mura possenti di Corinaldo (a 38 km), e la Rocca di San Leo e quella di Offagna, che si raggiungono percorrendo qualche chilometro in più.

 

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MARE E SPIAGGE

Il Relais Villa Giulia è situato a poche centinaia di metri in linea d’aria dalle spiagge tra Fano e Pesaro, nelle Marche, spiagge che ospitano stabilimenti balneari adatti a tutta la famiglia. Gli ospiti hanno dunque la possibilità di raggiungere il mare anche con una passeggiata di pochi minuti. Chi invece volesse scoprire altri angoli balneari del territorio ha solo l’imbarazzo della scelta.

Ci troviamo infatti in quel tratto di litorale chiamato Riviera delle Colline per i declivi che scendono al mare tra paesaggi dolcissimi ma anche con spettacolari falesie strapiombanti.

Seguendo la costa adriatica partendo da nord infatti, le Marche sono la prima regione in cui le colline si tuffano letteralmente sul mare, dopo centinaia e centinaia di chilometri di litorale completamente sabbioso. A parte la spettacolarità del panorama, ne risente in positivo anche la limpidezza delle acque.
Il Parco Naturale del Monte San Bartolo (distante 11 km da Villa Giulia) tutela la spiaggia selvaggia di Fiorenzuola di Focara mentre gli stabilimenti balneari con ogni attrezzatura e comodità sono a Gabicce Mare (24 km da Villa Giulia), a Pesaro (7 km) e a Fano (3 km).
Dal relais la Riviera del Conero, incastonata come una gemma candida tra il verde del Parco del Conero e il mare turchese, dista un’ora di auto. Qui troverete le bellissime spiaggette delle Due sorelle, dei Sassi neri (in verità bianchissima) e dei Gabbiani; il trekking nel Parco con viste panoramiche e mozzafiato, sono assolutamente da provare in una vacanza al mare nelle Marche.