It’s no secret I like lesser known, off-the-beaten-path places and the region of Le Marche Italy makes the cut. It’s in these areas that a very authentic experience can be had. The area shares a border to the west with Umbria and to the east, you’ll find a lovely coastline along the Adriatic sea.
Photo Credit : Flickr
Recently, I was invited to learn more about a province in Le Marche called Ascoli Piceno (As-koh-lee Pee-chay-noh) and its food and wine. I got the opportunity to hear first hand from a Consigliere Provinciale, a type of local councilman and ambassador who hails from the area, as he talked very passionately and proudly about his home.
Today, I’ll talk a bit about the area and I’ll follow up with posts about the food and wine.
Ascoli Piceno is the southernmost province in Le Marche. Not only is it the name of the province, but it’s also the name of the capital town within the province. I know, the name is hard enough to pronounce – so why not make it even more confusing, right?
Photo credit : Flickr
Why visit Ascoli Piceno?
Other than the food and wine (which of course always tops my list of reasons to visit a place) Ascoli Piceno has
- medieval towns
- Roman ruins
- many historic churches
- charm and authenticity
- a perfect combination of green mountains, little towns, sandy beaches and rocky coastline
- two natural parks, Sibillini National Park and Gran Sasso-Laga National Park
- local craft artisans; goldsmiths, leather, terracotta, majolica, pillow lace
- hardly any tourists. And it’s inexpensive compared to other popular areas of Italy
- convenient to nearby Umbria and Rome – about 2 hours from each. Abruzzo is even closer.
Things to do
The town of Ascoli Piceno itself has both a new town and an old town. In the old town, you’ll see plenty of travertine marble, ancient facades, ruins and tiny mazes of streets. It once held about 200 towers, but today only about 50 are visible.
– Spend time in the Piazza del Popolo, the location of the old forum and one of the most beautiful squares in Italy.
– Visit the 15th century Duomo in the Piazza Arringo and the Crypt of San Emidio, which has wonderful mosaics.
– The Pinocoteca, the 2nd-largest art gallery in Le Marche, housed in the 17th century Palazzo Comunale, is worth a visit.
– Visit any of the more than 14 churches. The Church of San Pietro Martire, a 14th century Gothic church, is said to hold a thorn of Christ’s crown.
– If you like ruins, make sure you see the Porta Gemina, an old Roman twin gate, Porta Tufilla, a tower gate, and the Ponte Tufilo bridge.
– Relax in the Botanical Garden.
– Take a break under the old porticos at the historic Caffe Meletti, founded in 1907, where literary greats like Hemingway once sat.
-Shop at the monthly Antiques Market, which is held on the weekend surrounding the third Sunday of the month.
Coastal towns worth a visit in Ascoli Piceno province
- Cupra Marittima
- Grottammare (has cute windy streets and panoramic views of the sea)
- San Benedetto del Tronto (the place to pick for a sandy beach)
- Aquata del Tranto
- Aquasanta Terme (site of a Roman thermal spa)
Photo Credit : Wikimedia
Offida is another lovely nearby town in the province worth a visit. I’ll be doing a separate post on Offida.
When to visit
Ascoli Piceno can be a lovely year-round destination, but keep in mind that since it is near mountains, it gets snow. So if you’re a ski bunny, winter might be a good time. If not, spring, summer or fall are all nice. Or you may want to time a visit to coincide with these fun events:
- La Quintana – The first Sunday in August, a historical Renaissance parade takes place where everyone dresses in costume. It’s followed by La Quintana, the town’s version of a palio, where six knights compete for each of the six neighborhoods.
- Carnavale – It’s not just for Venice! In February, Ascoli Piceno and Offida both have their version of Carnavale. Locals dress in costume and masks and take to the streets to dance, party and perform.
How to visit
The nearest airports would be Pescara in Abruzzo or Ancona in Le Marche.
As with most smaller regions in Italy, it’s best visited by car, so you can explore all the nooks and crannies and discover your own little secret treasures. That said, Ascoli Piceno is on the San Benedetto del Tronto–Ascoli Piceno railway, which is a branch of the Adriatic railway. There is local rail service to some towns in the province. For rail stations and schedules visit Trenitalia.com
For more information on toursim to this area visit the Ascoli Piceno official website.
Have you been to Ascoli Piceno? Share your tips and experiences in the comments.
- Need help planning a trip to the Le Marche region? Click here to see how I can help.