Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Exploring the Marche region

After a few weeks of visiting places in Abruzzo we've widened our horizons to the state to our north, Marche ( pronounced mar-kay). Thanks to Alessandro, a young man who lives nearby, we are getting expert advice about places to visit. He loves the ancient towns and can tell us about their history; he even gives restaurant recommendations.

As we travel north the terrain becomes less mountainous and there is an increased sense of prosperity. Alessandro tells us that the border between Abruzzo and Marche is also the division between the north and south of Italy. The south is characterized as the land of the farmers and the north as the land of industry, business and education. As we drive further north we see larger cities along the coast, all with red tile roofs contrasting with the turquoise of the Adriatic, and there are areas of factories and industry. But here too we see traces of ancient walls and hill towns perched here and there to remind us of just how historic this land is. And as everywhere in Italy there are ancient churches.

Yesterday we visited Offida, a town of 5,000 people with one of the most amazing churches I've seen. Santa Maria della Rocca is an imposing 13th Century structure built on a rocky surrounded on three sides by ravines, so it appears massive. Both the entry level with its many arches and the tall main hall have areas of intact frescoes still glowing brightly on the walls.

Today we ventured further north to visit another famous church in Loreto, the Basilica of the Holy House. This is an elaborate church built around another smaller church, which is supposed to have been transported by angels from Nazareth to Croatia and then to Loreto. Inside the big church is a smaller building , elaborately carved of white marble elaborate.Peope were lined up to go inside this qholy house of Mary, lighted only by candles (and no photos allowed). Inside was a dim, painted room with an altar featuring a larged bejeweled Madonna and child with black skin.

Millions of faithful catholics come here to visit and take confession and hope for miracles, and the town is set up to receive them with tacky souvenir stalls, restaurants, and shops. While we were inside the church we heard a lot of clapping and and cheering and it turned out to be a wedding, We didn't see the wedding party but we did see this gorgeous young woman who seemed to be on charge of the Maseratti that was waiting for the happy couple. Clearly this is a prosperous place.

There's a lot to experience in the Marche. But after three straight days of touring, we will stay closer to homefor the bext two days as we pack up to head westward to Amsterdam and then home.

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