Ecco Le Marche

Elke and Otto ventured on a pre-dinner walk back in November when, surprisingly enough, the weather was still nice and not so chill was the evening!

Mondolfo in the hinterland and neighboring Marotta on the coast have merged into one municipality. We have already reported about many of the attractions of the place, such as the bell towers, the Bastion Sant’Anna or the Municipal Museum in a previous article; and this is what our favourite German couple has experienced!

Walk through the village, meadows, ravines and along the Valle dei Tufi

We park in front of the mighty, well-preserved city walls below the historic center in Via Guglielmo Marconi.

The wide square in front of the wall is also called Sferisterio: this is a stadium for the ball game Pallone col Bracciale, which was popular all over Italy from the 16th century. During the mid-20th century interest in this sport vanished and many of the sferisteriums in the region were rededicated, such as the famous Sferisterio in Macerata, which is now an open-air opera stage. The sferisterium here in Mondolfo is still being used! On the wall are panels dedicated to the most successful players, among them Antonio Agostinelli, a top Italian player of the 19th century.

We follow Via Marconi, which becomes Via Cavour and then Via Gramsci and after a total of about 500 meters we turn left to continue following Via Gramsci.

From afar we can already see the magnificent San Sebastiano church with the adjoining convent. It was built in 1479 as an ex-voto, in gratitude for surviving the plague, and was initially inhabited by Franciscan monks. In the 18th century it was occupied by Napoleonic troops and then reopened.

Shrine of Our Lady of the Caves

We turn right before San Sebastiano and then right again and follow Via San Sebastiano. After a short stretch the road forks and we choose Via Coppa, which is largely car-free. This leads us along meadows, ravines and fields down to the Sanctuary of the Madonna delle Grotte from the 17th century.

In 1679, Clemente Briganti, a member of the Confraternita della Misericordia (Confraternity of Mercy), erected a small chapel with a terracotta image of the Madonna delle Grotte. This brought about so many miracles and graces in a short time that the chapel was replaced by today’s church: outside in the elegant Renaissance style and inside around the altarpiece lavishly baroque. Unfortunately, the church is currently being restored, so we cannot go inside to see the miraculous image of the Madonna.

By the way, next to the church there is a picnic meadow, which is gently shaded by tall pine trees. Hikers, mountain bikers, horse riders and pilgrims who cross the so-called Valle dei Tufi (named after the predominant sandstone formations, the Tufi) can take a break here in front of the church.

But dinner is waiting for us on the coast and so we continue walking until a small fishing pond appears on the left. Our hike would actually have meant a small circular route to the village of Stacciola, but the path was so under water due to heavy rain that we would not have gotten dry feet through it.

So we decide to turn around and take the small footpath on the left back to Mondolfo. From a little further up we look back at the Santuario and continue towards the historic center.

Historical center of Mondolfo

Once at the top, we stroll through the small streets of the old town and enjoy the wonderful view all the way to the sea. The place, first built around the year 1000 as a castle in the Duchy of Urbino, is rich in palazzi and fortifications.

Art in the open air

But what particularly strikes us is the presence of many different works of art: large-format photographs, murals, sculptures and even lace decorations on railings.

These are part of the Galleria senza Soffitto, a “roofless gallery” that has been transforming the site into an open-air museum since 2020. We only discovered a fraction of the works by accident, but you can find an overview on this website.

The place lies in the golden evening sun and we treat ourselves to a small café in the bar opposite the 20th-century Municipal Palace, the seat of the municipality, which towers majestically over the square. We realize we’ve only seen a fraction of the Castello di Mondolfo, but dinner on the nearby Adriatic coast is calling…

More information about the hike and sights

For those who want to know more about the sights of Mondolfo, I can recommend our previous blog article about Marotta-Mondolfo.

You can watch our short, four and a half kilometer walk around Mondolfo with a detour into the Tufi Valley directly on Komoot:

Here you can also simply download the corresponding GPX track


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