Overlooked but never disappointing is one of Italy’s lesser-known regions: Le Marche (aka ‘The Marches’).  Here, thanks to About.com Italy travel, are three of the special Hill towns of Le Marche…Urbino…Jesi…Ascoli Piceno…

Urbino_LeMarche

Urbino is a beautiful Renaissance town and the birthplace of the painter Raphael, whose house can be visited. Urbino’s fine historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The National Gallery of the Marche has one of the best Renaissance art collections in Italy and the Ducal Palace is one of Italy’s most beautiful Renaissance palaces. There is also a botanical garden and archaeology museum. Urbino holds a festival of ancient music in July.

Jesu in Le Marche

Jesu in Le Marche

Jesi is the center of the Verdicchio wine region, one of Italy’s most famous white wines. Jesi has an elegant historic center surrounded by huge 14th century walls built on Roman foundations. Jesi has many fine buildings and squares, both Baroque and Renaissance. Teatro Pergolesi holds the fall opera season and there are other cultural and music events in Jesi.

Ascoli Piceno in Le Marche

Ascoli Piceno in Le Marche

Ascoli Piceno, the southern Marche’s major town, is a beautiful town surrounded by rivers. Ascoli Piceno has an imposing main square, beautiful architecture, and a good historic center. Ascoli holds a historic jousting tournament, La Quintana, the first Sunday in August. The tournament, one of the best medieval festivals in the Marche, is preceded by a huge parade with people dressed in fifteenth century costume.