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Any thoughts about Macerata as a base for Le Marche?

We are heading back to Italy in mid-October for 16 nights. Two years without a vacation is not ideal! Unexpectedly found business class reward flights on Flying Blue so this has been rather sudden.

The plan is Venice for 4 nights, Bologna for 4, Le Marche for 5, and Rome for the last 3. We have accommodations for all but Le Marche. Initially, we were thinking about staying near Urbino, but we’d like to see some towns further south. Yes, we could stay near Urbino and then somewhere closer to Ascoli but prefer not to split the stay. I don’t mind some drives. (My wife just came across Palazzo Cortesi which seems lovely.)
No experience of Macerata, Urbino or indeed Le Marche myself, but looking at the map / logistics, it's certainly a sensible location, with the small caveat that Bologna to Macerata, plus Macerata to Rome, will effectively be half day transfers (3.5-4.5 hours on trains, plus the faff at either end). Not awful, but I always see if I can find short transfers, which can influence the locations. Hence I see the logic of staying in Urbino, which reduces the transfer time from Bologna, but makes the train transfer to Rome a 5+ hr journey including backtracking to Bologna! Once all the faff is factored in, that's effectively the best part of a day wiped out.

My only other thought will be in finding a location that feels very different to the cities that you'll also be visiting:
- Venice is a unique experience, but with heavy tourism;
- Bologna will mostly give you a break from other tourists, being a functional city that can still appeal to tourists, especially those who have a passion for food
- ?
- Rome: A large capital city, with all the bustle that carries, plus a heavy concentration of tourist interest (and tourists in those locations)

Thus I might be looking for something rural / coastal for that 3rd trip, something to break the pace a little and provide a little tranquillity and/or somewhere to hire a car allowing easy exploration and really getting out into countryside.

Have you been to Ferrara? It's on the rail route from Venice to Bologna, which would massively improve the transfer times. It's also a proper charmer of a place that's surprisingly under-touristed. The centre is mostly pedestrianised, with cars mostly excluded, so walking and cycling are the ways to get around, and it's flat so both are supremely easy. There is a lovely evening passeggiata, a weekly central street market, castle with moat (and large fish in it), good food, and a lovely gentle cycle ride around the historic walls that are mostly intact still, along leafy cycle paths. If chosen, this easily slips in between Venice and Bologna bringing your train transfers down to 60-80 mins, followed by 2 hrs (plus faff at either end), which buys you another 4-5 hours of proper holiday time.

Montepulciano may not be as good logistically, especially as the train station is nowhere near it (Chiusi-Chianciamo Terme can often be more convenient than Montepulciano Stazione, as there's a decent bus service for the former). It's the classic Tuscan hilltop town, with charm in the centre, plus super wines (to my tastes). There is tourism, but not excessively so. There are some decent day trip options by bus, but hiring a car here would be a good option, albeit if doing this I'd probably look for an agriturismo near to the town, rather than in it (but ideally walkable, or at least in range of a taxi, so you can enjoy an evening or two in the town itself)
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Pesaro in Le Marche is a good destination and travel from there to Urbino by bus is about an hour. By train you can easily go to Rimini, Ancona, Ascoli Picino. I don't know about train access to Macerata. There is also a wonderful town, Santarcangeli Romagna that is well worth a visit. By mid-October the beach goers will have thinned out and Pesaro is a lovely town.
Thank you all. I should have given a little more background. I spent about two and a half academic years in Italy in the late 70’s, mostly in Puglia and Abruzzo.

In 2007, my wife and I honeymooned in Italy. The upcoming trip will be our 12th.

Despite the crowds, Venice is one of our favorite places. This will be our 6th or 7th time there.

We’ve made some friends in Bologna, one of whom has had some health issues, so we’re going back to see them. We want to see Ferrara and Ravenna again (those mosaics are really something) and we will try to go back to Hostaria Giusti in Modena for lunch. As far as trains go, Bologna is very convenient.

For the next 5 nights we agree with Ian about a more rural stay. Our initial thought was the Urbino area but, as he noted, the time needed to get there and then to Rome is quite off-putting. Now we are looking at other options - Tuscany or Umbria. We’ve been to both before but there is still so much to see and do.

I’m even looking at Abruzzo. That entails a 3 hour train ride from Bologna to Pescara. Then, if we are in more central parts of Abruzzo, perhaps an hour and a half drive to Rome. Not horrible, but I’d have to pick a rental car drop off location outside of the Centro.

Well, isn’t planning a trip the fun part?
Abruzzo does look like a nice option and in many ways it's not the length of the train journey (we really enjoy traveling intercity and especially on the freccia- fleet in Italy), but more avoiding having to change trains with heavy bags. A 3 hour direct journey is arguably ideal, as it allows time to kick back and relax, take in the scenery and maybe have a little picnic. Such journeys can in themselves be enjoyable, such that it's not wasted transfer time.

The planning is indeed fun, with a building sense of anticipation, and for someone like me who goes a little OTT on research, really helps get me in the mood for the holiday. However the big reward is on arrival, of not feeling lost, but rather like the experience of meeting an 'online' friend and finally getting to meet them face to face. There's already some familiarity, but it's that much more vivid an experience in person.
We had to pause our search for awhile due to work and other demands. Our search now is centered in the Val D’Orcia, mostly looking for an agriturismo near Montepulciano or Pienza.

We would probably take the train from Bologna to Arezzo and pick up a rental car there.
Certainly, Macerata is centrally located in the region and is also a beautiful town worth visiting for a couple of days. However, Macerata has few hotels, and I would recommend choosing something along the coast. If you want to stay in the area, you'll find nice places to stay around Fermo, Civitanova Marche, Recanati, Loreto. The Marche region definitely has a lot to offer, but a car is essential. If you're based near the coast, I believe it's more convenient than staying in Macerata.
Sorry to have abandoned this thread. We ultimately decided to simplify our trip due to lack of planning time. Much of our free time during the summer was spent outdoors on a DIY project. My wife and I put up a 12 x 14 foot gazebo. That was the easy part. Removing the stones and leveling the ground was beyond our skill level. After many hot and sweaty weekends we finally had to face up to reality and hire a pro to put down a concrete pad.

In any case, our trip is simpler. No car rental. All familiar locations. Venice for 5 nights, Bologna for 4, Florence for 3, and the last 4 in Rome.

Abruzzo and Le Marche will have to wait. Thank you all.

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