24th May – 2nd June
Marche (also known as Le Marche or more simply The Marches) is often referred to as one of Italy’s best kept secrets.
This tour concentrates on the southern part of the region before traversing the Apennine Mountains into the magical Piano Grande of Umbria.
Sandwiched between the Adriatic Coast to the east and the Apennines to the west, Marche’s undulating landscapes are dotted with charming hilltop towns overlooking deep river valleys. The steep slopes offer wonderful vantage points across rich farming terrain of crops, olive groves and vineyards.
Our first base will be a villa near the picturesque town of Ripatransone, with wide-reaching views across the rolling hills. A number of equally photogenic market towns are within easy striking distance along narrow roads which wind their way up and down the valleys. The regions capital, Ascoli Piceno, is famous for its elegant travertine buildings and lively piazzas. It's probably the busiest place we shall visit but well worth it for its wealth of photographic opportunities amongst the cobbled streets and historic buildings. Beyond the grandly decaying architecture, these medieval towns and villages also offer delightful vignettes of daily life.
We then head inland to the Sibillini Mountains to stay on a private estate between the beautiful medieval towns of Amandola and Sarnano. From here we will explore this mountainous area of peaks, gorges, forest, streams and waterfalls. Spanning 70,000 hectares across Marche and Umbria, Monti Sibillini National Park is a treasure trove of biodiversity. The alpine plateaus are rich with wildflower meadows which give way to expansive panoramic views. In contrast, hidden gorges such as Gola dell’Infernaccio (Gorge of Hell), are surprisingly lush with towering holm oaks and hornbeam forest.
Our last two nights will be staying in one of the highest settlements in the Apennines. Castelluccio di Norcia is 1,452m above sea level, perched on a hilltop surrounded by the Piano Grande. One of three limestone (karstic) plateaus in the area, the underground water reserves, fertile plains and climate have long made it ideal for the cultivation of lentils. This verdant bowl, the drained bed of a mountain lake, is enclosed by mountains including Monte Vettore which is the highest in Monti Sibillini National park at 2,476m. When sunlight caresses the rolling landscape it can create countless graphic images of the field and furrow. Hopefully our visit will also coincide with the annual blaze of colourful wild flowers spreading across the bowl.
While the beauty of this landscape remained unchanged, sadly Castelluccio and many of the villages in the area were badly damaged by earthquakes in 2016. Due to the extensive impact of the quakes, restoration is ongoing today but the residents of this area have been remarkably resilient and businesses have adapted and continue to operate despite the circumstances.
The rolling countryside and charming medieval towns bear some similarity to Tuscany, its better known cousin. But Marche has a far greater variety of landscapes. Best of all we are unlikely to see other photo tourists, meaning we can make photographs at amazing locations without the distraction and frustrations of working around other people. This region has so much to offer photographically and I'm really looking forward to guiding a group through its many wonderful sights.
Transfer from/to Rome Airport
All transport during workshop
Full board accommodation
Photo tuition from David Ward
£3,000 for single occupancy
£800 fee payable at time of booking