If you’ve visited the major sites in Italy and yearn for something unique and different, consider Civitanova Marche, a pleasant seaside village with a distinctive local flavor.
The little fishing town and seaside resort in the Marche region of Italy along the Adriatic Sea is unknown to most American visitors to the country. Despite its lack of renown (and tourists), Civitanova Marche offers a quintessential Italian experience: excellent cuisine, long stretches of white, sandy beaches, and a hilltop medieval town offering a panoramic view of the sea.
My first few days staying with a family in this charming little town were marked by gray clouds and showers. But once the skies cleared and I was able to take a lengthy walk around Civitanova, its advantages became apparent. The town's a hidden gem for those who seek a serene, off-the-beaten-path Italian holiday.
The way of life here is relaxed. During the summer, my hosts return home during their two-hour work break for a lengthy lunch of pasta and café with the family. The epicenter of the town’s social life on a sunny weekend is the beach (top). Extended families rent umbrellas in bunches and retain them for years on end. There are also “free” areas where visitors can throw down a towel and claim a spot along the Adriatic. A pedestrian walkway and bicycle path meanders alongside games of beach volleyball and tennis. Restaurants and gelaterias line the walkway, taking full advantage of the seaside atmosphere.
When I visited the town square, Piazza XX Settembre, on a Saturday, a flea market was in progress. Surrounding the square are attractive green public gardens where one can sit and read or people watch. Nearby are clusters of interesting shops and plenty of opportunities for window shopping. A cool summer breeze accompanied me as I strolled the attractive main street, enjoying a gelato and poking in the shops.
Civitanova Marche residents take pride in their local and regional cuisine. The tourist office provides a free book written in English, titled Food and Resources from the Land of Harmonies, detailing the virtues of the local cuisine. Some of the popular local dishes include vincisgrassi lasagna; polentone, a dish with polyps, beetroots, and sometimes fish and tomato sauce; frustingo, a popular Christmas cake with dry fruits, nuts and other ingredients; and brodetto all'anconetana, a fish soup with tomato sauce.
The favored local cheese is Pecorino. I accompanied my new Italian friends to one of their favorite pizzerias along the beach and sampled a delicious pizza with this popular and tasty cheese. My taste buds clearly prefer the cheese in Italy to that in America. Despite all the delicious local cuisine, there is still, inexplicably, a McDonald’s by the local roundabout for those who tire of pasta and pizza and yearn for a Big Mac (yikes!).
Civitanova Marche is not a place devoid of intellectual and cultural pursuits. For those in search of the pleasures of the mind, Civitanova offers an art festival, a dance festival, a theatre season, and an intriguing historical section. The area has produced many notable writers, poets, artists, and musicians.
Towering over the modern community is a medieval hillside town, Civitanova Alta (left), about 4 km inland. It’s worth a stroll down the narrow medieval passageways to admire structures that date back to the 13th century, including a beautifully preserved Romanesque church.
Check out the Annibal Caro theater if it’s open. Named after a highly regarded local writer during the Renaissance, it boasts a spectacular interior.
The Museum of Arts and Popular Traditions is also a worthwhile stop just outside the city walls.
From various vantage points, Civitanova Alta offers panoramic views of Civitanova Porto (the modern town) and Adriatic Sea. My hosts in Civitanova are friends with the owner of a B&B named Parisi, located near the old town with a magnificent view of the main town and valley.
Sit and savor the breeze off the Adriatic. Swim in its warm waters. Explore the old town. Enjoy the local cuisine washed down by a vino rosso or bianco. Bask in the sun and and practice the simple pleasure of doing nothing. Rilassarsi in Le Marche.