The name Marche derives from the plural name of Marca, originally referring to the medieval March of Ancona and nearby marches of Camerino and Fermo. Except for river valleys and the often very narrow coastal strip, the land is hilly and mountainous and the nature of the region, even today, makes it very difficult to travel north and south. It wasn’t until the nineteenth century that a railway was constructed from Bologna to Brindisi along the coastline of the entire territory.
Approximately 30 years ago, Marche was considered a rather poor region, although economically stable. Today, the contribution of agriculture to the economy of the region is less significant and the gross value generated by this sector remains slightly above the national average. The main products are cereals, vegetables, animal products and grapes. Olives are also produced and managed by various harvesters. In spite of the marine impoverishment, the sea has always furnished a plentiful supply of fish in Ancona, San Benedetto del Tronto, Fano and Civitanova Marche.
In the last 30 years, the economy of the region has been radically transformed. Many of the small craft workshops scattered throughout the rural settlements have modernized and become small businesses, some of which have become major brands known all over the world (Indesit, Tod’s, Guzzini, Teuco). The region continues to draw tourists, whose increasing numbers have been attracted by the rich and broadly distributed heritage of history and monuments, as well as by the traditional seaside resorts.
Most Italians know and love the stuffed olives from the Marchigiano town of Ascoli Piceno, fried until golden in a crispy robe of egg and bread crumbs, but many outsiders have yet to discover the wealth of classic recipes from this region. Thick, chunky seafood soups or grilled meats imbued with wood smoke and aromatic herbs are highlights of Marches cuisine. Sheep’s milk cheeses aged in caves for months lend a unique flavor to favorite dishes, and griddle-cooked flatbreads accompany most meals in this little-known Italian region. The Marchigiani cherish every inch of the pig. Ciauscolo, a type of spreadable pork, is traditional in this part of Italy. This specialty is made from the belly and shoulder of the pig and flavored with salt, pepper, fennel, garlic, and orange rind. Other pork specialties include Carpegna Prosciutto, Soppressata da Fabriano, and Fegatino, a liver sausage.
One of the region’s signature dishes, Vincisgrassi is a special recipe that reflects the Marchigiani attitude toward life. Handmade with care, this festive dish is a type of lasagne layered with a sauce of chicken giblets, mushrooms, veal brains and sweetbreads, ham, bechamel, Parmigiano Reggiano and, in season, truffles, preferably white. Legend has it that a chef made the dish centuries ago for an Austrian prince who fought in the war against Napoleon in 1799.