Although Italy has long been a popular destination for vacationers, so many spots remain untouched by mass travel. Among these is Ascoli Piceno, a town in Le Marche that has managed to maintain a low profile despite all of its splendor. It embodies the essence of la dolce vita, with its slow pace of life and an impeccably preserved centro storico. I have a particularly strong connection to Ascoli Piceno, as my family originates from a nearby town.
Many describe this town as elegant, which may be attributed to its medieval architecture and extensive use of travertine stone. Emanating peaceful energy, the town can almost seem sleepy by day. But once la passeggiata is in full swing, the town becomes lively with locals looking to enjoy the night out. After reading this article, I’m sure you’ll start planning a weekend getaway to this tesoro da scoprire.
What To Do In Ascoli Piceno
A passeggiata in Ascoli Piceno’s historic centre is obligatory. You can choose a self-guided tour at your own leisure or hop on the Ascoli Explorer. Commencing at Piazza Arringo, this sightseeing tourist train offers tours in eight languages. This piazza features the Cathedral of Sant’Emidio and a beautiful seahorse fountain that dates back to 1884.
Just a few steps away is Piazza del Popolo, an architectural marvel and the beating heart of this town. It’s considered to be among Italy’s most beautiful piazzas and often called il salotto d’Italia — the living room of Italy. With stunning mountain views, the Basilica di San Francesco, restaurants, and shops, this is the place to be!
While Ascoli Piceno is beautiful by day, it has a certain magic to it by night. Illuminated by the starry sky and all the decorative lighting throughout the town, it’s no wonder that the locals love to enjoy the evening out. Teatro Ventidio Basso is an elegant neo-classical theatre that hosts many performances, including operas, concerts, musicals, and more. This stunning venue is a great place to enjoy evening entertainment, especially in the colder months. Be sure to purchase tickets online ahead of time!
Finally, what would a visit to Le Marche be without wandering into the countryside and delving into this region’s culinary traditions? Just a short drive out of Ascoli Piceno lies Villa Cicchi, an agriturismo where one can enjoy true zero-kilometer dining. Better yet, you can enjoy local culture by joining a cooking class or a wine-tasting experience. Learn how to make fresh egg pasta, pizza, or the traditional fritto misto all’ascolana, a deep-fried delight!
Where To Eat In Ascoli Piceno
The ascolana tenera is a green olive varietal grown in the province of Ascoli Piceno and the star ingredient of the famous olive ascolane. Lots of patience goes into preparing them, from soaking the olives to carefully pitting them. Next, they’re stuffed with a filling of finely ground meats. Finally, they’re breaded and deep-fried, resulting in an undoubtedly addictive treat.
Not only are olive ascolane present at every special occasion, but luckily they’re also on menus across the region. Located in the center of town, Migliori Olive Ascolane is a favorite among the locals. I can confirm that they are in fact tasty, and sampling them momentarily transported me back to my childhood. A flood of fond memories came into my mind of my Nonna Vincenza’s olive ascolane, which were made with much love for our family.
Despite my love for olive ascolane, I recognize that they won’t keep you full for the entirety of a weekend visit. Fortunately, for such a small town, Ascoli Piceno has many dining options to choose from. La Nicchia is a popular option that has gained recognition from the prestigious Gambero Rosso. Here you’ll find their famous pizza along with local dishes. Try the pappardelle with porcini mushrooms, or roast rabbit stuffed with seasonal herbs.
Another great spot is Pizzeria Bella Napoli, which offers more than 50 varieties of pizza, all of which can be made gluten-free! It’s accredited by the AIC, which means it’s safe for diners with Celiac disease. My personal favorite here was their pizza with artichokes. Both of these restaurants serve olive ascolane so be sure to order some fried appetizers to start.
Finally, no visit to Ascoli Piceno would be complete without a stop at Caffè Meletti. With a front-row seat of Piazza del Popolo, this historic venue rose to fame for its production of Anisetta liqueur. Since it opened in 1907, it has hosted a number of prolific artists and aristocrats, including King Vittorio Emanuele and Ernest Hemingway.
Today, this establishment appears in the Michelin guide. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a morning cappuccino e cornetto or an evening aperitivo. There’s also a terrace upstairs where you can dine overlooking the square. I recommend you visit twice so you can experience all the ambiance this spot has to offer, both inside and out.
Where To Stay In Ascoli Piceno
Palazzo dei Mercanti is an ideal accommodation option, offering an unbeatable location and no shortage of historic charm. Just steps from Piazza del Popolo, this elegant four-star hotel is equipped with all the amenities needed to enjoy a weekend of pampering. It has a beautiful spa that features a sauna, Turkish bath, massage therapy, and more! But in true Italian fashion, the show stealer is its restaurant, CiBo, which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Set in the countryside, Il Poggio Resort is a short drive from the historic center of Ascoli Piceno. Offering breathtaking views from its swimming pool, this is the perfect choice for anyone looking to relax and recharge! It’s also a popular wedding venue, largely because of its exquisite restaurant, which offers indoor and outdoor dining. The guest rooms and suites have all been designed in a manner that perfectly juxtaposes rustic charm with modernity.
Where To Shop In Ascoli Piceno
The shopping scene in Ascoli Piceno is quite enviable, especially for a small town. Strolling through the streets, stylish window displays are sure to delight any shopaholic. One can find anything imaginable from clothing, to linens, and other home decor items. Even if you’re not a shopping fanatic, most of us like to bring home a typical souvenir of the destination we’re visiting. Ascoli Piceno is known for its painted pottery and, fortunately, there are a number of shops selling hand-painted maiolica.
If one wants to purchase true, authentic ceramics, then a visit to Maiolica Ascolana Caponi is a must! If you stop to ask locals where to find great pottery, the overwhelming majority will recommend you visit Luciano Caponi’s shop. He is the artisan behind these beautiful and unique pieces, all hand-made using the traditional methods of la maiolica ascolana. Despite being the pride of Ascoli Piceno’s art scene, he offers reasonably priced pottery, so be sure to make a stop here and support a local artist.
Bottega Degli Artisti is a bright and airy shop selling all sorts of hand-painted pottery, all depicting scenes and landmarks of Ascoli Piceno. Shoppers will first be drawn into the store by its display of hand-painted Christmas ornaments. Once inside, there is a wide array of treasures to choose from, including tiles, plates, table lamps, and so much more! These works of art are hand-painted in the town of Castelli, in neighboring Abruzzo. The shopkeeper can also frame the maiolica tiles in beautiful rustic frames made from local wood.