Marche Region Town of Mercatello sul Metauro:
Mercatello sul Metauro is a market town on the Metauro River in central Italy's Marche region. The town is about 18 kilometers west of Urbania (shown on this map), in the northwestern part of the region near the borders of Tuscany and Umbria. Although no trains travel to this part of Marche, the town can be reached by bus from Pesaro, on the coastal rail line, but the area is best explored by car. It's about an hour and a half from Rimini or Ancona airport.
Mercatello was founded in 1235 when Pieve d'Ico invited seven noble families, who lived in small castles in the hills, to make their homes in the new town, then named Pieve d'Ico. Each of the seven families built a palazzo, or mansion, around the main square. 50 years later, walls were erected around the town and its name was changed to Mercatello sul Metauro.
Where to Stay and Eat in Mercatello sul Metauro:
One of the ancient mansions on the square, Palazzo Donati, is a vacation rental for small groups. Staying in the palazzo is like taking a step back in time. Guests have use of the rustic kitchen with fireplace and a more modern kitchen near the dining room. Upstairs is a grand living room with frescoes. Three bedrooms have private bath while others share baths. There's a large private garden where guests can relax or eat in nice weather.
Also in the historic center is Locanda Sacchi, a renovated 16th century palazzo with four guest rooms. Ristorante da Uto is a good restaurant in the inn's ground floor where you can eat typical foods and taste wines of the region. There's also a pizzeria in town and several bars.
In nearby Borgo Pace, Antica Locanda la Diligenza, a renovated 19th century carriage stop, has rooms and suites with period decor and vacation apartments. La Diligenza has an excellent restaurant with intimate dining rooms and a seasonal menu featuring local specialties. (review)
What to See and Do in Mercatello sul Metauro:
One of the best things to do is to sit at the bar's outdoor tables next to the cathedral in the main square and enjoy local life. Around the square you'll see the palazzi of the founding families and shops under an arcaded walkway. Then wander around town exploring the small medieval streets and houses. As you walk toward Porta Metaura, the town gate that leads to the river, look for the small door of the dead on one of the old houses.
The 13th century San Francesco Church is the Marche region's oldest Franciscan church. The interior was once completely covered in frescoes but only a few remain. One interesting fresco depicts the world with only three continents. Each of the town's major families built a tomb inside the church and the church's windows show family crests. A crucifix from 1309 was the first example of the Rimini school, influenced by Giotto's work. In the former convent is a small museum with paintings, religious objects, and a stained glass from 1300 that was the first representation of Saint Francis done in glass.
Mercatello sul Metauro Events:
One of the most unique events in the Marche is the Good Friday procession. An ancient leather figure of Jesus with moving parts (only one of two in existence) is nailed to a cross on Thursday night and taken from the small church of Santa Croce to the cathedral in a solemn procession. On Good Friday the Jesus figure is taken down from the cross, put in a casket, and carried in a procession, along with the cross, back to Santa Croce. He is then put back on the cross where he remains for a week so people can come to pray.
Music festivals are held during summer at San Francesco Church. In December, a competition of presepi, nativity scenes, is held amongst neighboring towns and the display is set up in the town center.
On the night of San Lorenzo on August 10, people walk from Mercatello to Castello di Pieve, a small hill top hamlet famous for being the place where Dante's exile was decided, for a dinner and concert. The path follows an old Roman road up the hill, about a one hour walk.Sant'Angelo in Vado, a nice town a few kilometers away, is famous for its truffles and truffle fairs are held three weekends in October. Even when it's not truffle season, it's a good place to visit. There are several restaurants and cafes, many shops, and a wine bar. Outside town are some Roman ruins, including remains of a villa with mosaic floors.
Places to Visit in the Area:
The mountains and countryside are ideal for walking, hiking and mountain biking.
Carpegna is an interesting mountain town famous for its proscuitto. In town is one of the few remaining artisan producers of fabric printed by hand.
Urbania is a lively walled medieval town that has long been an important center for ceramics. Urbania's Ducal Palace was the vacation home of the Duke of Urbino and the palace is now an interesting museum. Don't miss the unusual Mummies Cemetery in the Chiesa dei Morti or Church of the Dead.
Another 17 kilometers east is the beautiful Renaissance hill town of Urbino, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its Ducal Palace houses one of Italy's most important collections of Renaissance paintings.
Amicizia Experiences offers guided tours and services in Mercatello and beyond.
See this Metauro Valley Map for more about places to go nearby.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary accommodations at Palazzo Donati and dinner at la Diligenza for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. See our ethics policy.