Historians have traced the history of Marches back to the Paleolithic era, when it was occupied by the Umbri and the Picentes, settlers from present-day Greece. The Umbri lived in the mountains, while the Picentes settled on the coast.
By the third century B.C., the Romans had taken over and colonized the area. When the Roman Empire fell at the end of the fifth century A.D., Marches was invaded by different tribes coming in from the North, like the Goths and Barbarians. The Lombards controlled the area for about two centuries until the papacy stepped in and installed Pepin the Short as emperor. His son Charlemagne was the first official Holy Roman Emperor, but after Charlemagne's death in 814 the region fell into anarchy.
Emperors and popes fought over control of the region for the next few centuries, so there was no strong central government. As a result, city states flourished and rival leaders clashed constantly. The name "marche," meaning "boundaries," came into use around the 10th century.
The papacy had regained authority by the 13th century, but there were still periods of unrest, with the country controlled by the French, Spanish and Germans at various points. In 1860, Italy was finally unified as one country.
Four rivers flow through the area and provide the lifeblood for the area's primary agricultural activities and industries such as livestock farming, fishing and manufacturing. A handful of commercial and fishing ports occupy the Marches' section of the Adriatic Sea. Ancona is the region's capital [source: Belle Marche].
To find out about the agriculture of Marches, grab a glass and move on to the next page.