Ascoli Piceno is a stunning medieval town by a river in Le Marche, just outside _Gran Sasso National Park_ in the neighboring Abruzzo region. Its main square is known as one of the most beautiful in Italy and the historic Caffe Meletti, on the square is famous for its Anisetta liquor. Ascoli Piceno makes a good base for visiting several pretty villages and the mountains of the Gran Sasso park. There’s lots to see in the town itself so you could easily spend a few days here.
Start your visit in the elegant main square, Piazza del Popolo. Choose one of the bars and have a coffee while you soak in the beauty. Unlike in big cities, you won’t pay much more to sit at a table outside. On the piazza you’ll see the 13th century Palazzo del Popolo, the big church of Saint Francis, and several shops and cafes including Caffe Melitti (you can have your coffee here or save this stop for evening).
Next go to Piazza Aringa, another elegant square where you’ll find the tourist information office. Pick up a map showing the Romanesque monuments and churches in town. Also on the square are the Cathedral, interesting fountains with horse heads, a small but good archeological museum, and the tourist train that runs mainly on weekends.
From Piazza Aringa, walk out of the old town toward the Forte Malatesta, a small castle with an interesting medieval museum. On the way back into town, stop for lunch at Sensi Ristorante, Corso Vittorio Emanuele 2, where you can dine on creative pasta dishes in a peaceful courtyard.
In the afternoon, follow the map from the tourist center to see the Romanesque buildings and visit the Cathedral, archaeological museum, and Saint Francis Church. Your gelato stop should be at Caffe Meletti where they make a gelato flavored with anisetta (as well as other good flavors).
Picolo Teatro, Via Carlo Goldoni 2, is a good place for dinner. End your evening with an anisetta after dinner drink at Caffe Meletti.
Where to stay: Antico Borgo Piceno is a very nice bed and breakfast in a restored convent with both vacation apartments and rooms. It has a large terrace for guest use with tables, lounge chairs, great views (as you see in the photo), and even a small jacuzzi tub. It’s just a short walk across the river to the historic center.
Offida is a charming village known for its traditional lace making and you can see it in several shops as well as the museum and its Romanesque church with beautiful frescoes.
A short walk outside the center of Offida takes you to the remarkable 14th century Church of Santa Maria della Rocca. Don’t miss the chance to go inside (it’s best to go in the morning to be sure it’s open) to see the vibrant frescoes.
Going back into town, visit the small museum complex where you’ll see the lace museum, archaeological museum, popular traditions, and a picture gallery. Then walk around town to see the lace shops where you may see someone making lace in their shop using the traditional tombolo method, called bobbin or pillow lace in English. There’s a special lace making festival at the end of June, too.
Head to Offida’s main square, Piazza del Popolo, to admire the architecture and visit the tiny 19th century theater. Have lunch at Osteria Ophis. This is a rare chance to try the local specialties that would normally be served on holidays or some Sundays (offered on their special fixed-price menu) that includes local appetizers, coratella di agnello (a traditional dish made of lamb parts), pasta with ragu, and roast lamb. They also have a regular menu from which you can order.
Since you may not be hungry for dinner after your big lunch, when you return to Ascoli Piceno shop in the food stores for local cheeses and cold cuts for a picnic dinner.
More Things to Do:
Wine tour day trip: If you prefer to take a guided wine tour, book a wine day tour that includes transportation, winery guided tours with wine tasting, and lunch in a restaurant along the wine road.
Pottery Lab: Take a half-day interactive pottery lab workshop in an artisan workshop with introduction and a chance to make your own piece of pottery to take home.