When I set out to research the region of Le Marche, Italy, I knew to immediately contact my dear friend Lori! She and I are kindred spirits, and share a passion for all things Italy, as well as a 20+ year friendship. After she returned from an amazing Marche Region cooking class, her descriptions of the delicious food made my mouth water!!!! Today, Lori is sharing her amazing experience at La Tavola Marche, her favorite of all Marche Italy destinations.
Le Marche, Italy
“Just saying the name of the agritourismo La Tavola Marche, immediately drops my by blood pressure by at least 30 points! What is an agritourismo? It’s a farm, that invites tourists to stay overnight, and participate in the day-to-day workings of the farm. The folks at Travel + Leisure advocate agritourismo as a way to experience Italy more authentically!
In Italian, La Tavola Marche means ‘of the Marche table.’ Le Marche is a hidden gem of a region east of Umbria, below Emilio-Romano, bordering the Adriatic Sea. La Tavola Marche is located near the town of Piobbico, Italy and is owned and operated by Ashley and Jason Bartner. This hardworking dynamo of a couple fell in love with the Le Marche region during their honeymoon trip over 10 years ago. They basically quit their jobs in New York City, bought an old farmhouse, and began the adventure of a lifetime!
I’m so glad that Ashley and Jason followed their dreams and, along the way, have made many of their guests’ dreams come true as well. I recently returned for a second time, to celebrate my fiance’s birthday.
The Marche Region
From Bologna, we rented a car and made the easy 2-hour drive south along the coast, turning inland at Fano. The coastal drive itself is beautiful, but once you enter the Apennine Mountains, the road takes you through towns where time seems to stand still. The same shutters on the same houses along the same road welcome me every time. Along the way, we drove through teeny, tiny Acqualaina, world-renowned for their very exclusive white truffles.
Upon arriving in the sleepy town of Piobbico, we continued until we reached THE dirt road. A quick left and a right and an occasional “La Tavola” sign, and I knew we were on the right dirt road. Owner Ashley laughingly says is, ‘when you think you’ve gone too far, you’re almost here!’
Three miles later, we are thirsty for the sparkling Bolla Rosa that Ashley and Jason had waiting for us! After many hugs and kisses and lots of giggles and introductions, I took in a deep breath and take in the 500-year-old farmhouse called Ca’ Camone. La Tavola Marche will be our home for the next 5 nights.
Three flights of stairs up to a cozy room with a huge stone fireplace and some of the best views in Italy. Ashley’s warmth and genuine hospitality is evident everywhere. From the freshly starched linen bath towels, to the baskets of onions sitting on the bench outside the farmhouse, every second here is begging to be slowly savored and enjoyed.
There’s an outdoor wood burning pizza oven, an enormous vegetable garden, a mineral spring-fed swimming pool (that water will pretty much cure anything) and a large patio surrounded by beds of herbs and the reddest geraniums ever! The colors are so brilliant here; every yellow seems more yellow, every green, more green.
Cooking Class in Italy
The theme for our week was Basics of the Italian Kitchen, and we learned to make pastas, sauces, pizza, and tempura fried elder and zucchini flowers. Other dishes included sausage stuffed aubergine, peaches poached in white wine, limoncello, grilled eggplant with peppers, capers and mozzarella de Bufala, and Sole with potatoes in the oven. Oh, also panna cotta with a drizzle of dark Italian chocolate? Ok, I’m hungry all over again!
Our amazing cooking class in Italy was led daily by Chef Jason, a classically trained chef. He has become a master at teaching and preparing local Italian recipes for guests.
We begin making two pastas, which had a deep yellow hue from the rich orange color of the fresh egg yolks. One of the great things I learned at this cooking class in Italy, is that freshly made pasta, freezes well, making dinner on a Wednesday night just as yummy as a Saturday lunch!
We made the sauce for the tagliatelle combining olive oil, lemon zest and fresh tomatoes. This fresh pasta sauce is, truly, one of the most heavenly things I have ever eaten. My friend, Jan, who originally talked me into coming to La Tavola Marche nearly 10 years ago, would always say, ‘SOOOO, THIS is what a tomato is supposed to taste like!’
We did lots of cooking, which was almost always accompanied by a glass or two of wine, lunch, a nap, a swim, a little reading, followed by more cooking classes and then dinner! Although Jason is the chef in the duo, Ashley is the maker of the digestives and aperitifs. A small glass of limoncello really does seem to calm the overly full tummy and bring on the sleepy eyes.
Things to Do in Le Marche, Italy
Within an easy thirty minute drive, are the towns of Urbania and Piobicco. Fano, Senagalia and Urbino, which is a World Heritage Site & ancient walled city. There is much to be discovered in the immediate area.
One of my favorite parts of our visit to La Tavola Marche is the local market in Apecchio. Jason started our tour at the local purveyor of meat and cheese, where we all sampled the prosciutto and cheeses. A short walk took us to the center of the local market brought us to the traveling ‘porchetta’ truck. Porchetta is a whole de-boned pig stuffed with herbs and ‘goodness’, retied and roasted.
Five days flew by. During our last night we enjoyed a magnum of Bolla Rosa and my favorite potato, Rosemary, and goat cheese pizza, straight from the wood-burning oven.
As we left, Jason said, ‘I have a feeling we’ll be seeing you sooner than later!’ Jason and Ashley, I am ready for another round!”
OK, I don’t know about y’all…but I am 100% ready to book a flight to Italy!!!!! Thank you Lori for such a lovely, and hunger-inducing, description of La Tavola Marche, and the Le Marche region!
Italy Travel Tips from Lori and The Curious Cowgirl
- Florence is two hours away, and Rome is four hours away from Le Marche.
- Lori recommends to only bring a carry-on. You really can live out of a small carryon suitcase for 3 months (or 10 days!) After hauling even the tiniest carryon suitcase up stairs of lodges, into and out of small aircraft, down train steps, across (what felt like) miles of cobble stone roads and sidewalks, I learned my lesson.
- Don’t over think it.
- Take a travel journal. Jot down what you did, where you went, what you ate—it’s for you (and your memory!)
- Give yourself a break. You’ve been on an airplane for HOURS, you’re traveling in a country where, most likely, you don’t speak the language and YOU ARE on vacation!
- Love and absorb the culture. Most shops, especially in the small Italian countryside, are closed in the mid afternoon, so take advantage of it! Don’t be one of those Tacky Tourists!
- Take personal business cards with you listing your name, phone number and email, to share with new friends.
- Travel with a BIG smile, an open mind and open heart.