MARCHES, THE (It. Le Marche), a territorial division of Italy, embracing the provinces of Pesaro and Urbino, Ancona, Macerata, and Ascoli Piceno, with an area of 3763 sq. m., and a population of 1,088,763 in 1901. It is bounded by the Emilia on the N., the Adriatic on the E., the Abruzzi on the S., and Umbria and Tuscany on the W. The four provinces follow one another in the order given from north to south and have a certain amount of coast-line. The chief rivers, all of which run into the Adriatic eastwards and north-eastwards, are the Metauro (anc. Metaurus, q.v.) and the Tronto (anc. Truentus), the latter forming the southern boundary of the compartimento for some distance. Except for the river valleys and the often very narrow coast strip, the general level is more than 500 ft. above the sea. The lower hills are very largely composed of loose, clayey, unstable earth, while the Apennines are of limestone. The province of Pesaro and Urbino falls within the boundaries of the ancient Umbria (q.v.), while the territory of the other three belonged to Picenum (q.v.). The railway from Bologna to Brindisi runs along the coast-line of the entire territory. At Ancona it is joined by the main line from Foligno and Rome; at Porto Civitanova is a branch to Macerata, San Severino and Fabriano (a station on the line from Ancona to Rome and the junction for Urbino) ; at Porto S. Giorgio is a branch to Fermo and, at Porto d'Ascoli, a branch to Ascoli Piceno. But, with the exception of the railway along the coast, there is no communication north and south, owing to the mountainous nature of the country, except by somewhat devious roads.
Owing largely to the mezzadria or metayer system, under which products are equally divided between the owners and the cultivators of the land, the soil is fairly highly cultivated, though naturally poor in quality. The silk industries, making of strawplait and straw hats, rearing of silkworms and cocoons, with some sugar-refining, tobacco, terra-cotta manufacture, brickworks and ironworks, furnish the chief occupations of the people next after agriculture and pastoral pursuits. Another important branch of activity is the paper industry, especially at Fabriano. Chiaravalle possesses one of the largest tobacco factories of the Italian regie. Limestone quarries and sulphur mines supply building stone and sulphur to the regions of central Italy; chalk and petroleum are also found. As regards maritime trade the province possesses facilities in the port of Ancona (the only really good harbour, where are also important shipbuilding works), the canal ports of Senegallia (Sinigaglia), Pesaro, Fano and other smaller harbours chiefly used by fishing boats. Fishing is carried on by the entire coast population, which furnishes a large contingent of sailors to the Italian navy.
For the early history of the territory of the Marches see PICENUM. From the Carolingian period onwards the name Marca begins to appear first the Marca Fermana for the mountainous part of Picenum, the Marca Camerinese for the district farther north, including a part of Umbria, and the Marca Anconitana for the former Pentapolis. In 1080 the Marca Anconitana was given in investiture to Robert Guiscard by Gregory VII., to whom the countess Matilda ceded the Marches of Camerino and of Fermo. In 1105 we find the emperor Henry IV. investing Werner with the whole territory of the three marches under the name of March of Ancona. It was afterwards once more recovered by the Church and governed by papal legates. It became part of the kingdom of Italy in 1860.
The pictorial art of the Marches from the 13th century onwards has become the object of considerable interest since the important exhibition held at Macerata in 1905, when many interesting works, scattered all over the district in small towns and villages, were brought together. The result was something of a revelation, for, though the influence of Umbria was always considerable, there were many independent elements (see F. M. Perkins in Rassegna d' Arle, 1906, 49 sqq.). (T. As.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)