I have been lucky enough to live in some beautiful places in many different countries, and Macerata in the Marché region of Italy is one of them. The Marché in general, and Macerata in particular, has not been much affected by foreign tourism, so it is still a great place to visit off the well-beaten tourist track of Tuscany.
Macerata is a walled mediaeval city, although the modern city sprawls outside the walls. As you walk though the main gate of the city you find yourself in a square which has an abundance of cafés and ice-cream establishments. It’s a great place to sit and people-watch, especially on a Sunday.
Macerata is probably most famous for its opera festival, held in July and August in the Arena Sferisterio where an ancient handball game was originally played. It is an incredible open-air venue for an opera. When Verdi’s “Aida” was first performed there, elephants were part of the triumphal procession – the audience must have been thankful that they were in the open-air!
The cobbled streets lead to the Basilica della Madonna della Misericorda and the clock tower, Torro dell’Orologio and underneath the city there is a mirror-image city used by the inhabitants when the upper city was under siege. When I was there you couldn’t go down into this underground city for safety reasons.
Shopping in Macerata is quite an experience as there are all the fashion shops you could wish for set against a mediaeval backdrop.
If you go up the hill towards the Basilica you will find some excellent trattoria serving fresh grilled vegetables, homemade pizzas and amazing meat and fish dishes. These smaller establishments are cheap and cheerful and serve good wine by the carafe.
If you peer over the walls, on one side you might see the herd of white buffalo whose milk a wonderful mozzarella is made. There is a farmer’s market in one of the ancient buildings too where you can buy creamy Gorgonzola and other delightful cheeses.
If you poke around the delicatessens you will find black and white truffles, Ferrari champagne and a cornucopia of edible delights. Italian chocolates are very good!
There is a railway station at Macerata so it is easy to visit and if you want to go to the sea, the nearest place is Civitanova, a short journey away. The main city is Ancona, the port, from where you can go by ferry to Greece. This journey involves a trip down the Corinth Canal, which I think everyone should experience as you can almost touch the sides of the canal when you are on the ferry deck! Don’t take my word for it – try it and see for yourself!