There are two types of people who have a dog: there are those who take it on vacation and those who don’t; those who find solutions to leave it at home and those who prefer to enjoy the tranquility without having to think about the animal for once. The number of people traveling with dogs in recent years has increased, also because it is increasingly easier to find accommodations that accept them.
But there are regions that are more welcoming and others that are less: as regards open spaces such as beaches and parks, the rules depend on regional or even municipal ordinances. Liguria, for example, is generally not tolerant of dogs, perhaps also due to the conformation of its beaches, while in Tuscany but also in Umbria, Abruzzo and Marche it is much simpler.
Our journey in the company of the dog begins in the inner part of the Alte Marche, the most hidden, in a hinterland rich in wild nature and architectural wonders.
After leaving the provincial road that connects Rome and Ancona, and having turned towards Genga, it is enough to travel a few kilometers to feel light years away from civilization. If your dog, like mine, suffers from the car, it is better to go slowly and enjoy the view. The road turns between the vertiginous cuts of the mountains, while fragments of blue rivers can be glimpsed at the bottom of the valley.
We entered the protected area of the regional natural park of the Rossa and Frasassi gorge, an area little known except for the famous caves, a must on this itinerary. Before visiting them, however, it is advisable to make a small detour and walk up to the temple of Valadier. The car is left on the slopes of the slope, right above the Sentino river, where in summer you can swim in the pools of freezing and clean water (and where, going early in the morning or in the evening or on midweek days, can let the dog go for a swim).
At this point you walk up for about 700 meters, which in winter seem many more, because the walls of the mountains are so bristling that the sun hardly ever shines on the paved road and is therefore often covered with ice. However, your dog will care very little, he or she will fare better than humans who must be equipped with good hiking shoes. However, the effort will soon be rewarded by the unpredictable magic of this place: the octagonal temple built in 1828 and dedicated to Pope Leo XII is literally set in a huge cave, all overlooking the gorge.
In the cavity next to the temple there is the hermitage of Santa Maria infra saxa, a tiny church whose interior is partly excavated in the living rock. The first written records of the hermitage date back to 1029 and speak of a cloistered monastery inhabited by Benedictine nuns. Today it remains a very powerful place of peace and spirituality even for non-believers and your pets will enjoy the tranquility of the place.
Returning on the way to the Frasassi caves, we pass by the small agglomeration of San Vittore where, half hidden by the few houses and an ugly spa hotel complex of the sixties, there is a very pure jewel of the Romanesque era. The abbey of San Vittore alle Chiuse has an almost Nordic air and, in fact, the essential Greek cross structure is mysteriously similar to some churches in Normandy or Germany.
If it is a beautiful day, here you can take a stroll on the ancient Roman bridge and have a coffee in the only bar, Da Evasio, which also has tables at the back, on a terrace as unsafe as it is beautiful, perched on the river. But do it at your own risk, especially your dog, since inside the bar there is a huge cat that sleeps perpetually in a basket, under a sign that leaves no doubt: “Do not disturb the sleeping cat” .
To visit the various routes of the Frasassi caves, all equally spectacular, it takes at least an hour and a half. The complex is made up of a series of grandiose underground karst cavities, sometimes enormous, such as the Ancona Abyss. This cave is so large – over two million cubic meters in volume – that it could contain the Duomo of Milan. Small dogs can be carried in a kennel or in your arms, while larger ones are not allowed, but they can be left in a well respected dog parking at the entrance.
The Path of the Eagle
For lunch we move a little, in the romantic village of Pierosara, to the Da Maria restaurant. It is said that Pierosara is named after two unfortunate lovers, Piero and Sara, who lived their misfortunes here. We limit ourselves to eating the famous wild boar tagliatelle and a plate of stewed snails.
Pierosara can also be reached via a path called the Eagle Path, a ring route of about seven kilometers, with a maximum difference in height of 300 meters. If the health of a territory is measured by its fauna, the park is doing very well with 105 nesting species including the golden eagle, the goshawk, the lanner falcon and the peregrine falcon.
The following day, from the province of Ancona we move to the northernmost one of Pesaro and Urbino, cutting the region horizontally and along a provincial road much loved by motorcyclists: the landscape here becomes gentle and hilly, in winter it takes on tones amaranth and dark green, while in summer the yellow of sunflowers prevails.
Halfway between the Marca Anconetana and that of Urbino, you can make a short detour to Fossombrone and stop at the Zanchetti tavern, which is located in one of the ancient houses that housed the wayfarers of the Via Flaminia along the Metauro river. It is a refined tavern in its own way, which offers traditional dishes revisited by the chef and patron Luca Zanchetti. Dogs are allowed, naturally on a leash.
Alternatively, you can detour to Piobbico, in particular for the tiny village of Bacciardi, which has only seven inhabitants. Here you leave the car, walk a few minutes and arrive at Slowcanda, a small and delightful farmhouse with very few tables to sit but where it is worth having lunch and possibly even sleep. Dogs are very welcome here. In the rooms you can bring small ones, while for the adults there is the possibility of having them sleep in a stable next to the farmhouse.
The final stage of the journey is Urbino, one of the most important centers of the Italian Renaissance and today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Urbino is majestically beautiful and, despite having only 15 thousand inhabitants (but many university students), it has the structure and buildings of the big city.
The imposing Palazzo Ducale was built in the second half of the fifteenth century by Federico da Montefeltro and houses the National Gallery, the most important museum in the region with works by Titian, Piero della Francesca and Raphael. Dogs cannot enter here, but small ones are at least allowed in the Raffaello House, the old house where the young painter began to paint and which still houses some of his works today.
However, your dog will be very happy to go to the Albornoz fortress, with an uphill but relatively short walk. The fortress is inside the Resistance Park, normally populated with students, which however thin out over the weekend or in the summer season. Here the dogs can enjoy their freedom, while the owners enjoy a 360 degree fairytale panorama.
Frescina farmhouse and wellness center
Cozy village surrounded by greenery in Cagli, almost halfway between a campsite and a spa, Frescina is an ideal place for dogs, both in summer and in winter, in particular the villas allow a freer and more independent stay.
Farmhouse and trattoria in Piobbico with few seats. Creative cuisine and self-produced ingredients, including bread, cheeses and yogurts.
Country house Ca’ Balsomino
Four kilometers from the center of Urbino, this renovated farmhouse offers the peace of the hills for the owners and the great outdoors for their dogs.