Not the case in Ascoli Piceno in southern Marche, where I recently took a press trip with Carolinasusi Italia Tours to write a piece for Luxury Travel magazine. This smallish town sits between the coast and the mountains, built using travertine stone throughout its historic centre, refreshingly free from large, frenzied tour groups.
It was a hard task to squeeze all the highlights of our two-week-long travels through Marche and Emilia-Romagna into my article – here’s a few extras that stood out while I was in town.
The Mini Guide: Ascoli Piceno + surrounds
Snacking on olive ascolane – the local green oliva tenera (‘tender olive’) pitted and stuffed with a mixture of minced veal, chicken, beef, Parmigiano and nutmeg, crumbed and deep-fried – from a paper cone while wandering the streets, or as a moreish antipasto at Ristorante Piccolo Teatro.
People watching downtown at the Piazza del Popolo – or rather, watching people perch on bikes.
Everything for dinner at Le Scuderie, but especially the cipolla caramellata, a miniature caramelised onion tart with cream of Parmigiano.
A little further afield…
Tasting just-pressed olive oil from the new harvest at the family-run Oleificio di Silvestri Rosina. Owner Pietro studied biochemistry at uni, so boasts a ton of knowledge about the nutritional composition of their cold-pressed oils (which can include up to 60 locally grown varieties!), while his wife Isabella ran our tasting that included an oil of single origin oliva tenera.
Heading to Offida, a town renowned for its lace. Talking with lacemakers (like Rosina, below) about their craft, which requires intense attention to detail and can take months to complete a relatively small piece, yet this art also seems to be dying out.
Lunch in the town of Montefortino, with this view overlooking the Sibillini Mountains. The baked rotolo filled with passata, béchamel and the lightest lick of mince, plus lamb chops braised in white vinegar, are worth the trip alone.
Touring the grounds of Borgo Storico Seghetti Panichi with Princess (ahem) Giulia Panichi Pignatelli, a forward-thinking aristocrat who converted part of the property into a boutique hotel to ensure it stayed in the family. As she said, “We are more than owners. We are custodians of this historical monument.”