Sunday, March 6, 2011
Le Marche, in particular, held great fascination for us, in part because of the recommendations of our new friend from Washington, DC (by way of Le Marche) Fabio Trabocchi. Before departing on our trip we had lunch with Fabio and got a list of places to see, things to do, wines to drink and foods (and restaurants) to eat. Fabio kindly supplemented that list as we travelled about.
One place that Fabio raved about, and which others we have spoken to, both in person and online on the Slow Travel website similarly raved about was a town in Le Marche called Ascoli Piceno. To a person, everyone commented on its unparalleled beauty, especially that of its main piazza, the Piazza del Popolo. And so off we headed for a brief, overnight visit.
We arrived outside Ascoli Piceno in the late afternoon, and we could immediately see that what had been told to us was true, not when we arrived in the piazza, but even as we descended from the highway toward the town, its historic buildings visible from the hillside above, beckoning us to hurry. We did so, but with some difficulty, as the historic hotel Palazzo Guiderocchi Hotel had been cleverly hidden in a maze of alleys just wider than our car. Score it 1 for Italian urban planners - 0 for GPS designers.
But our brief stroll around the town showed us that the Piazza del Popolo is not an isolated eruption of beauty and good architecture and planning. The tidy streets of this town are simply lovely, with other inspiring piazzas popping up here and there, as well as a number of beautiful civic and religious buildings. We made plans to wake up early the next day and explore this town in depth before heading south to Abruzzo.
But fate intervened. I will not go into the details, but our sons' travel plans to meet a school group in Paris got waylaid, the way travel plans often do. We spent the better part of the evening and the morning doing what we could to lend moral support or to make alternate arrangements, a thing made more difficult by different time zones, incompatible cellphone carriers and general difficulty dealing with multiple groups. In the end they all arrived, but at a small cost - our visit to Ascoli Piceno.
While Ascoli Piceno may be best known for the ascolana olive, a meat stuffed edible olive that is lightly fried (and delicious, I might add), for now it will be more like a truffle to us - a lovely aromatic scent that we have gotten into our nostrils but which we have had to leave behind, longing to return.
Bill and Suzy