Tucked away in the winding foothills of a region in Italy called Le Marche, you will find pure bliss or a 300-year-old farmhouse known as La Tavola Marche. This ‘tavola’ is not your everyday Italian table. Unspoiled by the tourism scenes that mob cities like Rome, Venice and Florence, the Le Marche region is the perfect combination of authenticity and the best-kept secret. Settled on the boarders of the well known regions of Umbria and Tuscany, Le Marche truly has the diversity to offer just about anything your dreaming about when it comes to the Italian landscape.
Cypress trees, olive groves, grapevines, and small villages atop rolling hills paint the sky as you drive around winding roads on the way to your home away from home at La Tavola Marche. Ask an Italian from Florence if they’ve ever holidayed in Le Marche and you may get responses like, “Le Marche? Dove é Le Marche?” To me, this is something beautiful and untouchable. And then, just when you think you can keep the secret of Le Marche all to yourself, you step into Jason and Ashley’s farmhouse and you cannot wait to share their story with the world.
We picked up our forks with hesitation. How could we eat something so beautiful? After multiple pictures from many angles and minutes of admiring the flakey crust, we dove our forks into the first dish of the four nights we would spend at La Tavola Marche farmhouse. The farm, inn and cooking school, La Tavola Marche, is run by Jason and Ashley Bartner; two American natives who decided the daily grind of their lives in New York City just wasn’t going to cut it. And why should anything just ‘cut it’? So they took their talents in hospitality and culinary to the next level. To the place where food isn’t just another meal and where conversation over a glass of wine can last for hours. To the place where life isn’t about the 9 to 5 job or the daily rush hour commute. Jason and Ashley took their talents down a dirt road and into a 300-year-old farmhouse far from the sight of a yellow taxi.
Our stay at La Tavola Marche was unique in the sense that we attended a workshop on How to Move to Italy & Start a Business. This was Jason and Ashley’s first consulting workshop, which meet in the cozy kitchen of their farmhouse. Four nights and five days of information, conversation, doses of reality checks, all folded nicely together with some of the most decadent and delightfully crafted meals you may ever taste. From the traditional Italian classics like crostini and bistecca to foie gras and asparagus saffron risotto.
We ate our way through the classic flavors of Le Marche at La Tavola Marche. Between the classes on the visa process and book keeping to the five course meals and the copious amounts of local wine, we were even able to take a quick trip to Fano for lunch, which is settled quaintly along the coast of the Adriatic Sea. Le Marche truly has it all. From the rolling hills to the rich truffle valleys all the way to the fisherman at sea, the farmhouse at La Tavola Marche allowed us to discover another picturesque region of one of Italy’s hidden gems.
Our stay at La Tavola Marche was unforgettable. From the moment we walked in the door I felt at home. With Ashley’s bubbly personality and Jason’s ability to literally cause you to fall in love with food, we never wanted to leave. They create something special for each and every one of their guests. We came to the farmhouse to learn, absorb their knowledge, take the reality of their advice and put it towards our ideas that had walked through their farmhouse doors on the very first night. These are two kind-hearted people who – with a lot of work, dedication, early mornings, and passion – turned their dreams of life without a metro card into morning meetings with cappuccinos going over the daily menus, cooking classes, guests needs, and excursions. Jason and Ashley have created something charming and unique – something that I admire. A dream they had when they were my age, 24, and by 25 – after copious amounts of paperwork, house hunting and Italian bureaucracy – made their dreams a reality. Now, 10 years later, Jason and Ashley sat around their kitchen table telling stories of how fate, hard work, and dedication landed them in the hot seats – teaching new dreamers how to wake up and start living.
If you’re looking for an authentic Italian experience with some of the most hospitable and unforgettable hosts, take a drive down a long dirt road to La Tavola Marche where, as Ashley says, “When you think you have gone too far, you are almost there!” (trust me, she’s not kidding!)