Cooking in the Marche is deeply rooted in peasant tradition and remains impervious to the arrival of frozen bastoncini di pesce (fish fingers). Here the home cook rather than the professional chef rules and even the smartest restaurants seek to produce food just like nonna, or grandmother, used to make.
The use of fresh, top quality materials assembled with the minimum of fuss marks marchigiano food. But as dishes are strictly based on tradition and local produce, each local area has its distinctive cucina tipica.
As with any rural diet, much use is made of food gathered from the wild; funghi, game, nuts, field herbs and - the area's greatest culinary treasure - truffles are an important feature in the Marche.
Waste, too, is frowned upon, and many of the now most fashionable dishes were first developed to use up such things as stale bread or the less appealing parts of the pig.
Not surprisingly, the best food is still to be had in Marche homes rather than in restaurants. The arrival, however, of tourists in smaller towns and villages has often raised the standards in local restaurants and led to the "rediscovery" of long lost traditional dishes.
The old labels ristorante, trattoria and osteria have become somewhat interchangeable in recent years; many of the smarter, and most expensive places, call themselves osterie and take pride in reinterpreting strictly local dishes with great flair. Many restaurants also double as a pizzeria, but note that pizzas are usually only available in the evening when the wood-fired oven is lit.
Generally, though, a ristorante will at least have a written menu and a broader choice of wines. In trattorie, particularly in country areas, you will often have to cope with a menu rattled off at your table by the proprietor - at your blank looks a son or daughter with a smattering of English or French will often be brought out from the back to assist.
Avoid the temptation just to order dishes whose names are familiar to you from back home - you will frequently be missing the best the house has to offer. If you are touring in summer or early autumn, look out for posters advertising the local sagra - a festival dedicated to a town's particular speciality where you can try the food in question in every guise imaginable. We've put a few of the more curious sagre in Marche Voyager's calendar of events.
Eating - have a look for ...
The marchigiani eat more meat than the other Italian people. In many rural areas having a meal in a restaurant is the same as eating huge amounts of grilled meat on charcoal - grigliata mista di carne. But moreover you can get the best fish from all over Italy, there are a lot of excellent restaurants at the Adriatic coast.
The best starters (antipasto) are cured ham and lonza (raw salted fillet of pork). If you see it, also try ciauscolo (a soft, cured pork salami). The classic primo is a generous plate of tagliatelle coated with sugo or meat sauce. The region's unique pasta dish is vincisgrassi, a rich baked lasagna without the usual tomatoes.
Urbino is also famous for passatelli, strands of pasta made from breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, and egg cooked in broth.
Besides the ubiquitous grilled meat from the charcoal grill, as a real specialty of marchegiani cuisine There are tasty stuffed pigeon (Piccione ripieno) and rabbit with fennel (Coniglio in porchetta). In some areas stewed snails (lumache) occasionally are on the menu.
By the coast, particularly around Ancona, please try brodetto, a fish stew which must be made with 13 species of fishes, no more, no less. Thin "spaghetti vongole" with baby clams, or "spaghetti allo scoglio on the rocks" with sea fruits are always very tasteful.
In the northern Marche have a look for piadina, a flat, unleavened bread often served with cold meat at roadside snack-bars. The excellent local pecorino (cheese from sheeps milk) is best eaten in spring time with young raw broad beans or fave. Also look out for formaggio di fossa (a strong-flavoured cheese aged in a limestone cave).