The capital of the Marche region of Italy is the town of Ascoli Piceno.
It lies on the ancient via Salaria or salt road. One source attributes this name to the salt transport route from the Adriatic coast where salt was produced and transported to Rome. A story I like better attributes the name to the route the Sabine tribes of the mountainous parts of what is now Lazio, Umbria and Abruzzo took in the other direction; obtaining the salt from the marshy parts of the opening from the Tiber to the sea. In fact, some historians believe it was the salt that led to the formation of Rome.
Back to Ascoli…
Alex Polizzi’s series ‘Secret Italy’ featured Ascoli in episode 2. Take a peek. She liked the shoes. Marche is the leather goods and footwear production region of Italy.
It has the most amazing cathedral.The facade we see today was built around 1530 of travertine. However this disguises a much more interesting past where restorations have uncovered the remains of a pagan temple dating back to the 4th or 5th century and some remains of the civil basilica of the Roman Forum lying within. The interior has the most vividly painted frescos by Cesare Mariani. The beautiful intense blue and deep reds and golds are captivating. If you go be sure to find the stairs down to the rooms beneath with the most exquisite mosaics.
It was a bit drizzly when we set out but fined up as the afternoon went on. Look who I was there with! Some other kiwis that knew the place well and showed me around. 🙂
Ascoli Piceno has another claim to fame and that is that it is the home of the amaro Meletti. An amaro is a bitter herbal liqueur drunk in Italy after dinner as a digestif. It is usually made with herbs, roots, flowers, bark and citrus. The Meletti version is aniseed flavoured and delicious. http://www.meletti.it/UK/home.html
Another interesting but austere church was the church of San Francesco with a second world war stained glass window depicting scenes of a WW2 Nazi concentration camp.
The seeming organ pipes in the middle picture above were outside the church of San Francesco and are really columns. Through the decades due to their sound locals have worn away the stone playing them so now not only do they make a resonant sound but also look the part.
There is lots of lovely shops we didn’t have time to browse but looked good along with pretty piazzas, fountains and alleys.
The pinacoteca has a garden with a sculpture gallery of busts representing eminent men of Ascoli that looked like a museum of facial hair styles through the ages. Here is just one of the many looks.
And finally, I visited in September 2016 missing both the August and October earthquakes. However Ascoli was hard hit through this time and lost the lives of over 60 of it’s own. Accetti le miei piu profonde condoglianze.