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Published on Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Marching through Marche

 Heralding a new wave in tourism and a tale of three magnificently authentic natural hotels

It was pouring with rain when we arrived in Urbino   but that only seemed to add to the mystique of this atmospheric golden stone hilltop citadel city. That and the fact that at almost every street corner there were adverts for good local bio/organic food. Plus the glittering shop windows were a delight - filled with all kinds of delicious local produce. Add all that to the traditions, art and architecture of this beautiful historic area and it appeared a treat of great  food was in store heralded by the superb little free snacks provided by local cafes at aperitif hour.

Urbino Resort  is 360 hectares of rolling hillside and woodland carefully acquired over the years by the major local employer Antonio Bruscoli who started an upmarket furniture manufacturer

So the attention to detail and authentic Italian style are evident everywhere from the lakeside restaurant with trees growing from the floor and through the roof to the delicate bedrooms suites (the resort has just 32 rooms all individually created).

The sensational restaurant is set beside a group of lakes and it relies primarily on locally-grown organic ingredients from which chef Stefano Giotti creates simply magnificent dishes (see below recipe for pumpkin cappuccino with gorgonzola ice cream!). Even the bread and pizza doughs benefit from the presence of Eleanor - a 75-year-old yeast lovingly kept in good health by the kitchen staff. Fine dining is superb surroundings with the minimum of fuss and the maximum of service.

Eleanor, by the way, was present at breakfast in the shape of delicious croissants and brioches.

Just down the road, through the pretty little town of Urbania (summer castle and hunting lodge of the magnificent 15c Montefeltro family) and up to the top of another rolling hill  is the warm and friendly agriturismo hostelry of Pieve del Colle which takes local and organic to its ultimate. Amazing home-grown food includes hams, vegetables, pastas and an enormous range of home made very drinkable spirits.

Pieve del Colle is run by the whole of the Silvestrini family, mums, dads, aunties, uncles and bambini - all take a part. And it shows in the complete wholesomeness and kindness and multi-generational warmth of the establishment!

Further down the Marche road (a very long drive or train ride) sitting right on top of a hill with commanding views and quite close to the sea is a very unusual thing. Here sits a brilliantly successful dream.

You've got to hand it to Luciano and Patrizia. Professionals with steady jobs - he in management, her in health. They see a ruin on a hill and say that's for us. Both are well versed in alternative therapies and the Biodynamic teachings of Rudolf Steiner.

They must have dreamed "If we bought this ruin - we could create a real holiday re-creation and wellness centre along the lines of Feng Shui, biodynamic gardening, almost zero kilometer food, environmental and energy use excellence, music and harmony - the whole darn shooting match of truly holistic and organic principles - and the food will be so good and fresh, and the beds so warm and comfortable, and the spa would be so pretty and the service and hospitality so generous and unselfish that people will come again and again and tell their friends. Even better that there will be only six rooms - it will be just like having friends and family to stay."

The Relais del Colle would the realization of this dream

And, unlike many people who dreamed the dream, Patrizia and Luciano chucked in their jobs, bought the ruin and made their dream come true. More importantly, they are well on the way to making many other people's dreams come true too - both guests who experience their hospitality and as a centre of excellence to inform others that this is possible. It is not too much to say that they are simply re-defining the nature of hospitality. Above all they show that it is possible

Claudia in the kitchen is a key part of this grand dream - using the best and the freshest ingredients to turn out triumphal meals that are sure to deliver health and happiness to diners.

So three superb establishments in Marche - not the best known of Italian destinations. And three superb, but very different interpretations of modern holidays, specializing in authentic local food, good healthy air, wellness, culture, history, art and architecture. They may not be the first to offer much more fulfilling tourism experiences but they are certainly all in the new holiday wave!

Valere Tjolle

With thanks to Marche Tourism and Maraviglia Travel

New offers on sustainable tourism information HERE


By Stefano Giotti

Ingredients for the yellow pumpkin soup

500 gr yellow pumpkin

1 lt vegetable broth

20 gr shallot

50 gr butter

olive oil, salt and pepper



Brown pumpkin with shallot and olive oil

Add vegetable broth, let it cook for 10 minutes

Whip the mixture with butter

Add salt and pepper


Ingredients for the Gorgonzola ice cream

200 gr fresh milk

2 gr bean seeds flour

15 gr honey

200 gr Gorgonzola cheese




Warm tyhe milk then add honey, bean seeds flour and salt

Let it cool down

Add Gorgonzola cheese and whip

Put the mixture in the machine ice cream maker and whisk


Pop a good lump of ice cream in the soup and enjoy!





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