A hilltop gem built entirely of a soft-coloured brick, the little-known provincial capital of MACERATA is one of the region’s most attractive and historically well-endowed towns. The comparisons with Urbino are inevitable but what Macerata lacks in Renaissance splendour it more than makes up for with its livelier atmosphere, especially on market day (Wed) when the streets and squares are clogged with stalls and punters. Easy paced and with a large student population, it’s an ideal place to wind down in the evenings after exploring the province. For fans of opera and ballet, the annual Sferisterio Opera Festival from mid-July to mid-August, held in Italy’s best open-air venue outside Verona, is a must.