If you hang around folks that write about travel in Italy and mention Ascoli Piceno to them, the inevitable response, more often than not will be, “Is Caffè Meletti still there?”
They mean this:
It happens to be occupy the corner of a Piazza I find far more compelling than Campo San Marco in Venice: Piazza al Popolo. Sorry, Venice lovers. It’s really a square for regular people. You don’t pay 10 euro for an ounce of coffee in the Piazza del Popolo, and the popolo are very nice as well.
The Caffè Meletti is indeed a special place. It faces out upon a piazza floored with gleaming, foot-polished travertine tiles you could eat off of. People stroll. Kids play. The little tourist train winds through.
You can rush through the piazza like the little train, but you know you want to slow down and just take it all in. Piazza life is part of what Italian culture gives to each tourist. Lots of them refuse the gift. Pity.
If you’re alive to the vibe, your brain may be hopping with all the Romanesque and Renaissance architecture that surrounds you. Slow it down. Head for the caffe, built in Italian Liberty Style.
Have Silvio Meletti’s Anisetta. That’s the ticket. Have it as the sun goes down.
You can “correct” it by adding some coffee beans. Try three. An even number is bad luck. You don’t want to give yourself bad luck.
If you come earlier in the evening, you can try the Anisetta as aperitivo with the addition of some sparkling water. Any time of the day you can step up to the gelato window and get a scoop of anisetta ice cream. It’s good, really good.
You see, Silvio Meletti’s Anisetta is special. He studied French distillation techniques. He knew the most aromatic anise grew in the dense clay around Ascoli. He labored to produce the very best anisette he could. Production is still in the family.
He is not a modern man, this Silvio, or he would have made something half-decent and sold it to a humongous corporation so that they could take the flavor out of it and make billions from it.
In any case, I implore you to try this city, Ascoli Piceno, this piazza, Piazza del Popolo, this Anisetta: Silvio’s. You will be centered in the entire universe, right smack in a town known for stuffing fat olives and deep frying them.
Read the whole history of this liquor, then plan a trip to Ascoli Piceno.