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Ascoli Piceno, city of a hundred towers and bien vivre

20 July 2022

Whether it is a stopover on a trip along the coast of Le Marche or a destination of choice for a trip to discover the city: Ascoli Piceno is a place where history, art, food and wine all coexist, expressing all the beauty that Italy can be.

Perhaps it is modest small size of the historic centre or the ancient travertine buildings, but Ascoli Piceno still retains the incomparable charm of the villages of central Italy where time seems to have stood still. The stately, elegant squares, the historic churches rich in treasures, the towers and bell towers that pepper its skyline. The culture and popular appeal of Ascoli Piceno are sure to steal your heart.

1. History and interesting facts about Ascoli Piceno

The history of Ascoli Piceno is steeped in ancient origins. Although findings indicate that the area was already inhabited in the Neolithic era, it was in the 3rd century BC that the Romans settled in the Picenian territory, thus making Asculum a key centre, also thanks to its position on the Via Salaria. The city has seen many and varied happenings over the centuries, but the Roman period was synonymous with great prosperity for Ascoli Piceno and the whole of the Marche region.

Ascoli Piceno was dominated by various seigniories, the Malatesta and Sforza to name but a few, and was in the possession of the Papal State until the middle of the 19th century.

The city was awarded the Gold Medal for Military Valour for partisan activity (2001) thanks to the pivotal role of the Ascolan resistance in September 1943 against the German occupation.

2. What to see in Ascoli Piceno: places not to be missed

Where do you start to draw up a list of the monuments in Ascoli Piceno that you absolutely must visit? It’s not easy. In a melting pot of art, culture, architecture, food and wine, there are so many things to see.

Among them, Piazza del Popolo and Piazza Arringo. Palazzo dei Capitani with its medieval crenellated tower, is an architectural symbol of the entire city. Our recommendation for museums is the Civic Picture Gallery housed in Palazzo Arringo, where you can admire works by, among many others, Turner, Morelli, Palazzi, Celentano, Pellizza da Volpedo, and De Carolis.

Be sure to make a stop at the historic Cafe Merletti, which has always been considered the meeting place of the most illustrious personalities, as well as a venue for culture and social life. It’s a good idea to try anisette, a typical liqueur made from green aniseed.

But it doesn't end here; the Roman bridge, Forte Malatesta, the cathedral of San Emidio, the church of San Francesco and the Papal Paper mill with its museums are also not to be missed.

3. 8 ideas on what to do in Ascoli Piceno

Art and culture are not the only things to live for: to make the most of your time in Ascoli Piceno, there are many activities you can plan. Walking tours are perfect for exploring the city, due to the short distances. However, you can also hire a bike from the Tourist Information Office in Piazza Arringo, or take the tourist train.

For food and wine enthusiasts, cooking classes and wine tastings are held almost daily, bringing together the benefits of learning secrets and traditions with those of pleasure.

If you want to see the city from a different perspective, a good tip is to take a stroll along the Via delle Stelle at sunset.

4. What to eat in Ascoli Piceno: 6 specialties

Ascoli Piceno also offers great gastronomic delights, satisfying even the most demanding palates. Let's look at the cornerstones of the local cuisine.

  • At the top of the list are the infamous Ascoli piceno stuffed olives, known as olive all’ascolana, which are exclusively made with Ascoli olives, PDO.
  • Ciauscolo, a sausage that you can't say you enjoy without tasting it, and vincisgrassi, a baked pasta made up of several layers, topped with grated Parmesan cheese and a special ragout made with different types of meat for which each family has a special recipe.
  • For lovers of leavened products, the cheese pizza and the cacciannanze ascolana, a special focaccia from the Marche region with oil and rosemary, will captivate you.
  • Moving on to desserts, the Carnival ravioli eaten in this town are second to none.
  • And now for the bonus. Having satisfied your curiosity about what to eat in Ascoli Piceno, why not end on a high note with an anisette, perhaps with a roasted coffee bean. It's practically a moral obligation.

5. Unusual places to see in Ascoli Piceno

For those who are not fans of the traditional tourist spots, Ascoli Piceno offers valid alternatives. The list of unusual places to visit is by no means short, and includes the magical temple of Sant'Emidio alle Grotte. And in the surrounding area we find Italy's narrowest alley, in the village of Ripatransone, which should be visited strictly before lunch; the maximum width is 43 cm down to 38 cm as you walk along it, or the beautiful Lake Pilato in the municipality of Montemonaco in the Monti Sibillini National Park.

Unusual villages near Ascoli Piceno include Seghetti Panichi, Grottamare Borgo Antico and Offida with its Church of Santa Maria della Rocca.