Lonely Planet Le Marche: Ascoli Piceno
We were thrilled when Lonely Planet Magazine voted Le Marche as number two on their regions to visit in 2020. Of course, as we live here and restore vacation homes for a living, we have been shouting about the beauty of Le Marche for years, so it’s nice to have our undiscovered part of Italy on the tourist map!
In the first part of a series where we explore some of our favourite highlights in Le Marche, we kick off with some of the cities which we love to visit, and that also offer both tourists and home owners alike an authentic Italian experience.
The jewel in the crown of Le Marche’s larger towns, Ascoli sits at 505ft above sea level and looks over deep valleys and medieval hilltop towns, with the Sibillini mountain range as its backdrop.
Visit the Renaissance centre, Piazza del Popolo to witness Italian life – families strolling at night, young people enjoying coffee or aperitivo in its cool cafes, shoppers sampling hand made products from the cities numerous boutiques, and local people shopping for fresh produce at the Saturday market.
The 16th century gothic Chiesa di San Francesco, named after St Francis, towers over the travertine paved piazza and took 300 years to complete, whereas the Palazzo dei Capitani del Popolo once served as the seat of the city’s Pontifical Governors for centuries and today houses municipal offices and temporary art exhibitions. The statue of Pope Paul III above the main entrance was erected in recognition of his efforts to bring peace to the town.
The birthplace of Italy’s much-loved olive all’ascolana (meat-stuffed fried olives), wherever you go in Ascoli Piceno you’re never far from a tempting takeaway or trendy bar.
Enjoy a local pizza at Il Cavallino, or indulge in a medieval dining experience at Locanda del Medioevo, Stop off at Caffè Meletti for a taste of luxury, where Art Deco features rub shoulders with beautifully painted ceiling frescoes, enjoy a cappuccino al fresco at Backstage Caffè, and tour museums and churches that tell the unique history of the city ‘of 100 towers.’
For lovers of Italian hand made goods, shop for uniquely crafted travertine wall hangings at Cave Cavam, visit the monthly open air antiques market or explore one of the numerous ‘regale’ boutiques that sell local gifts.
Fans of culture can take in a large scale theatre production at the Neoclassical Teatro Ventidio Basso, or if you’re visiting during summer then the Quintana, where three weeks of medieval events including jousting, parades and sports are a must-see experience.
February sees the town filled with carnival goers, complete with acrobats, street acts, food stands and fireworks displays, or visit during winter for dazzling Christmas lights and markets.