The Marches are like a handbook for Italy. All the things that can be found in Italy are concentrated in around 9,400 km², from nature, with the peaks of the Apennines, the flat and sandy coastline, the rolling hills, to the architecture of its cities of art and small villages. There are the illustrious literary and musical legacies left by Leopardi and Rossini, and the treasures of the region’s authentic artisan expertise which has survived in the numerous workshops. The work ethic of the Marche people has created businesses out of age-old traditions like paper, lace, woven straw, wicker, bamboo, ceramics and, last but not least, musical instruments. The Marche is a highly diverse region, whose identity is also reflected in a multi-sector production activity. For this reason, in 2005, Il Paesaggio dell’Eccellenza (The Landscape of Excellence) was founded, a cultural association that has put together a network of companies, public institutions and economic and cultural realities in the Marche region to promote the local area, spread the culture of business and enhance the industrial heritage of the region. In order to create synergy between industry, culture and territory, Il Paesaggio dell’Eccellenza recommends visits to the leading companies in the Marche region through thematic itineraries on the website, grouped under the themes of Paper, Future, Play, Lifestyle, Light, Flavor and Sound.

The production of musical instruments – especially the accordion – is one the key manufacturing areas in the Marche. Local accordions are highly prized at international level and their production is underpinned by a tradition and level of expertise with few equals on the national scene.

Paolo Soprani and the accordion

It is true. The ancient tcheng, the forerunner of the accordion, does in fact, come from China and the first patent for the accordion was filed in Austria by Cyrill Demian in Vienna in 1829. However, it was in Italy that this instrument, with its intricate structure and complex mechanics, underwent greatest evolution. Some people believe in chance and others in destiny. The fact is that the birth of the accordion industry in Italy came about quite by chance. In 1863, an Austrian pilgrim returning from Loreto sought hospitality from the Sopranis, a family of farmers who lived in the countryside between Castelfidardo and Recanati. The pilgrim had a music box with him, a sort of rudimentary accordion that fascinated and intrigued the farmers’ son, Paolo. The then eighteen-year-old began to take the device apart to study and understand its components. He set up a workshop in the barn and, with a few tools, assembled his first melodeon. He later built others, which he sold in the markets of the nearby towns, especially in Loreto, a meeting place of peoples and cultures. Demand increased and Paolo Soprani was forced to expand his workshop and hire outside help. That is when he moved to Castelfidardo and opened a factory. The instrument was quite successful and spread first outside the Marche region, then outside Italy. A visionary inventor and tenacious entrepreneur, Paolo Soprani changed the way of life of a district in the Marche region that had previously been devoted solely to agriculture, transforming it into an economic reality that was open to the world.

Castelfidardo and the International Accordion Museum

Upon entering the town, you are greeted by the bronze monument to the Victors of Castelfidardo, with General Enrico Cialdini on horseback, his outstretched arm pointing to the site of the battle in 1860 between the Savoy and Papal forces – a decisive confrontation that sealed the fate of the Kingdom of Italy. Castelfidardo is also the Italian capital of the accordion, an industry that took off towards the end of the 1800s. Production slowed down during the Second World War and then restarted in the initial post-war period, when dozens of accordion companies sprang up. Later, at the end of the 1960s, popular tastes changed and rhythmic music pushed melodic music into the background. Many entrepreneurs turned to other musical instruments, and smaller businesses folded. However, the production of high-quality professional instruments in Castelfidardo still represents a prestigious niche in a very vast market. The International Accordion Museum, housed inside the town hall, bears testimony to this.  Visitors walk among over 350 accordions, harmonicas and other free-reed instruments, including those from the fine Giuseppe Panini collection (the Panini of the football stickers, no less, was a great fan of the instrument). The walls are adorned with photographic panels and works by Marc Chagall, Tonino Guerra, Silvia Bugari and Rodolfo Gasparri. There is also a lovely letter from Federico Fellini, Pietro Deiro’s first accordion recording and the original score of “Adios Nonino” by Astor Piazzolla.

Algam Eko and Pigini Accordions

It is clear that music played an important role in the industrial development of the Marche region. In 1946, the Ancona Chamber of Commerce recorded Filippo Pigini’s company in its archives. Thanks to his experience in the family carpentry business, Filippo Pigini was well versed in woodworking techniques. He studied different types of wood, experimented with them to find the lightest one with the best sound, and he also collaborated with artists and sculptors to perfect the visual impact of his accordions. He immediately started exporting to the USA, Canada, Sweden, Denmark, Argentina, Egypt and Pakistan. Today, having a Pigini accordion means owning a unique, exclusive, high-quality, indestructible instrument. This is why the company’s value is now recognized all over the world, so much so that its 200 accordion models are sold in 42 countries.

At the end of the 1960s, when pop-rock and beat were becoming increasingly popular, the visionary Oliviero Pigini created the first guitar prototypes and founded Eko. It did not take him long to achieve success: the factory became one of the largest in Europe and its guitars spread like wildfire among artists all over the world. In the 1970s, acoustic guitars from the Ranger series were played by Stealers Wheel’s Gerry Rafferty, Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, and Genesis’ Mike Rutherford. Today, the recent merger with the French colossus Algam has combined the history and experience of the two great companies, which had already shared many brands in their distribution catalogues over the years. Today, at the new Algam Eko headquarters, on the outskirts of Montelupone, visitors can appreciate an extensive collection of historical guitars and a workshop where they build numbered series. While you are there, be sure to stop off in Montelupone. The town, which was awarded the Italian Touring Club’s Orange Flag, bears clear traces of its medieval past, with its walls, watch towers, embrasures, and monumental gates. You will also be surprised by focus on ecology, the well-tended green areas and clean streets, the result of the work and enthusiasm of voluntary associations and businesses that help the village’s prosperity and well-being.

The surroundings: from Offagna to Conero

There are several places worth seeing around these business areas. About 15 kilometers north of Castelfidardo lies Offagna, an Italian Touring Club Orange Flag town. Perched on a limestone cliff and dominating the village is the imposing and perfectly preserved Rocca, a magnificent example of medieval military architecture: with a square plan, towers and a fortified tower, it has 50 canon positions and a patrol path running along its walls. Inside it is the Museo della Rocca, which hosts a collection of ancient weapons and is also an exhibition venue. The town is made up of a network of alleys and cobbled streets from which the beautiful hills of the Marche can be admired. The Conero promontory lies further towards coast, rising a surprising 600 meters above sea level, abruptly breaking up the flat and sandy coastline before plunging into the sea with its limescale cliffs. The Conero Regional Natural Park alternates very different landscapes within just a few square kilometers: woods, vineyards that produce the full-bodied Rosso Conero, paths overlooking the sea, the charming towns of Numana and Sirolo, the caves of Camerano and the enchanting beaches of Portonovo, Due Sorelle and Gabbiani. The park has many beautiful sights to offer in a small area, spoiling travelers for choice.

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