Le Marche has rolling hills, tall sycamores, olive groves and ancient hilltop villages Sounds like Tuscany? Yes, but Le Marche has more: dramatic mountain scenery, steep roads, and the azure waters of the Adriatic Ocean. There are no huge ad boards blocking the vista of an ancient castle, no large, loud tour groups occupying an entire piazza, hardly any tour busses. And the few tourists I bumped into seemed to be quiet types. Le Marche is a bit like travelling back in time to the Italy I remember visiting as a kid. It is one of the country’s lesser known regions, and part of me would like it to remain that way. But… can’t be selfish.
La Tavola Marche
Between the beaches of the Adriatic and the Apennine Mountains, near the ancient village of Piobbico, you’ll find La Tavola Marche, an organic agriturismo and cooking school, run by Ashley and Jason Bartner.
After spending their honeymoon exploring the Italian countryside, Ashley and Jason fell in love with the region. They decided a holiday wasn’t enough, so four years ago they packed up everything and moved to Le Marche. Their passion for the slow life is apparent.
Ashley and Jason Bartner, hosts extraordinaires
A classically trained chef from New York’s French Culinary Institute, Jason has worked at top notch restaurants in New York and San Francisco. Ashley, a vivacious Seattleite, has years of experience in the hospitality industry. So what could be more natural than setting up a country inn and cooking school?
The two young Americans are warm, welcoming hosts and you’re free to participate in the day-to-day work on the farm: picking vegetables, feeding the hens, or come along to the local meat and cheese market. You can learn to cook traditional peasant food with seasonal products fresh from the garden. You can do a tour of nearby wineries with Marco’s Way, perhaps one specializing in Lacrima de Morro d’Alba, a grape indigenous to Le Marche. You can ride horses or hike the countryside. Or – you can lounge by the mineral water pool doing absolutely nothing at all. Be warned – once you’ve settled in, shaken off the stress of city life and adjusted to slow country living, you may never want to leave.
La Tavola at dawn
At La Tavola Marche, you’ll sleep in a large, beautiful 300-year-old stone house, locally known as Ca’ Camone. The five rooms and apartments are all individually decorated and named for the fruit trees surrounding the property. I stayed in Mela (apple), an airy two-bedroom/two-bathroom apartment with very high wood-beamed ceilings and tile floors. The bedrooms are separated by a large, comfortable living room, complete with an open kitchen and a cozy fire place, perfect for a group of friends or a family.
Breakfast in Italy is mostly a quick affair, usually coffee and a pastry. At La Tavola Marche you get fresh seasonal fruits and berries, yogurt, honey, sweet croissants, blood orange juice and good strong coffee; enough to keep you going for hours of exploring.
With one day’s notice, Jason will whip up a five-course feast for dinner. Or perhaps you might like to join other guests and neighbors for the weekly pizza night around a long table in the stone courtyard, nibbling and chatting long into the warm Italian night.
If you go:
61046 Piobbico, Le Marche, Italy
tel +39 331 525 2753
Review and photos by Anne-Sophie Redisch, Sophie’s World
Disclosure: I was a guest of La Tavola Marche, but all opinions expressed are enticingly my own.