We've just spent a superb weekend in wonderful Autumn sunshine here in Le Marche staying at lovely Villa San Raffaello with its great apartments, amazing views and free organic vegetables.
On Friday we visited the lovely medieval town of Sarnano, ate at the excellent Le Clarrise ristorante in the Centro Storico and then dressed up and joined the locals at L'ex disco for Halloween.
The next morning we had to blow away the cobwebs using the local maps of old mule tracks walking in the fantastic Italian rolling hills, past the heady scent of locals making vino cotto (a cooked wine that was first made by in Roman times), past 13th century churches and a 15th century mill.
On Sunday, fuelled by a desire to eat something local and unpretentious, we hiked into the Sibillini mountains and ate at the rifugio (refuge) at Monte Amandola. This is one of a chain of mountain refuges at around 1500 metres, which walkers can eat, drink and stay at. The food was really tasty and included many seasonal dishes, including strozzaprete (literally priest strangler) pasta with truffle and sausage, and succulent lamb cooked on coals. The bill, including wine, coffee and home made tiramisu, was only €13 a head.
Le Marche's hills roll in from the Adriatic and reach the Sibillini mountains. A national park has been created to protect this awesome high section of the Appenines and its flora and fauna which includes wolves, golden eagles, wild boar and porcupines.
In Spring the area is carpeted in a rainbow of wild flowers. In summer you can swim or eat at tavernas round the shore of a lake; walk through cool gorges that dissect the mountains; and cycle or walk the paths that cross the ridges at 2,000m.
There are an abundance of fascinating medieval hill towns with museums and great ristorante serving up great value meals.
A great base for the area is Sarnano; which has 20 ristorante, a ski resort nearby, a variety of bars and stunning views.
Sarnano is in Macerata region of Le Marche and can be reached via Ancona and Pescara airports.
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