Ascoli Piceno, a town of just fewer than 5,000 people, lies at the confluence of the Tronto and Castellano rivers in the Le Marche region. Called the "City of Travertine" for the milk and honey piazze and facades, Ascoli's historic center is an architectural gem. Once home to over 200 spindly towers, almost 50 remain. The public squares clatter with activity, especially in the evenings, as folks settle in for a glass of wine, always with little offerings of food, or an Anisetta from the famous Anisetta Meletti, a place that's been pouring since 1870.
If you wish to embrace the spirit of Ascoli Piceno, you might take your lodging, as we did, at the Antico Borgo Piceno, just outside the walls of the center. After what could come to be the best breakfast you've ever had in Italy, you can exit and turn right, walk past the antique public wash basins called Lavatoio di Porta Cappuccina and bear right on the Roman bridge that leads you through the city gate. At night, the view of the city from the hotel, especially during a full moon, is quite evocative.
The facilities at the hotel are top notch. We had an apartment, and chose on some warm evenings to sit on the patio and eat some of the wonderful preserved meats, vegetables, cheese and bread of Le Marche while looking at the ancient city that rose up before us.
As you wander Ascoli Piceno, you'll wonder why they don't make all cities like this. The public squares, piazze, are made for relaxing, people-watching, having a drink, or just sitting back while lost in a blistful thankfulness that your taxes are at work making something beautiful and useful for all.
Let's list the two main piazze, followed by pictures
Ascoli is inexpensive, especially if you're used to the high prices of the tourist cities.
Piccolo Teatro, Via Carlo Goldoni 2, was the perfect introduction to the traditional food of Ascoli. Marked on the map, the restaurant is a single, smallish room (make reservations in the summer) run by Chef Luca and his wife Diletta. You can reserve on the web site, or by calling 0736 261574.
We had a great lunch at Sensi on Corso Vittorio Emanuele 2. It's also a wine and cocktail bar with seating in an inner coutryard. They serve a great fritto Ascolano which includes fried crema, the stuff that comes inside your morning brioce.
Snacking? Well, you can. Grab a bag of the meat-stuffed, giant, deep-fried olives called olive Asoloane at Migliori Olive Ascolane at the west corner of Piazza Arringo. Just down the street is Primitivo, which offers their own production of honey, olive oil, local wine, candy like you've never had before, chocolate, tea, and other staples of modern life.
The climate of Ascoli Piceno is warm and temperate with significant rain, which falls heaviest in September through December. Optimal temperatures occur in May, June, September and October.
You can get to Ascoli Piceno by train. It is the last station on the San Benedetto del Tronto--Ascoli Piceno line, which links to the Adriatic line.
If you can't get into our recommended hotel above, there are quite a few reasonably priced hotels in Ascoli Piceno. Here are three we recommend for value, visitor ratings and top locations.
Our video shows you the path of the little tourist train through Ascoli Piceno.