My personal favorites...
This weekend we are headed south to Santa Maria di Castellabate and I thought I would look back at my personal selections for the best of what Ascoli Piceno has to offer.
Caffé: This is a hard choice as I have developed good relationships with several barista and they all make a good cup of liquid gold. That said, my consistent favorite is made by Gianluca at Café Pretoriana, lui e un maestro.
Paste: This means pastries and you will find many of the same pastries from one location to the next here in town and unless the bar or pasticeria has a warmer on the counter they are served cold. There is no comparison between a cold and warm pasta. My favorite is the cornetto integrale at Café Melleti, served scaldato, warm. This whole grain pastry is filled with honey and lightly brushed with butter…no holds bared on the calories.
Gelato: I prefer Yogi which is located in Piazza Arringo. Their specialty is cioccolato, everything chocolate, and they make a chocolate gelato that is extremely rich, so rich I have to balance it with fiordilatte to not go into chocolate shock.
Olive all' Ascolana: I am not a fan of olives but when you stuff them with meat, coat with batter and fry them who can not like them. Grottino del Nonna Franca makes the best in town.
Bar atmosphere: This is another hard choice as there are different bars for different reasons. Café’ Melleti with its historic interior, sharply dressed staff and notable characters is the place to see and be seen in town.
Stuzzicchini: For those not in the know stuzzicchini are the snacks you get along with your drink when you order an aperitivo in the evening. Some bars give you no more than peanuts while others give you enough to make a meal. Some of the bars vary seasonally in the quality and quantity of their stuzzicchini but the one that is consistently the best would be Café Kursaal. If we are just looking for a light dinner for the price of a glass of wine we can always count on Dante at Café Kursaal.
Pizza: I mean pizzeria pizza, not the pizza al taglio where you get a slice to go. Part of having pizza is having the patate frite and a good birra Italiana. For this I prefer Il Menestrello where he will make the pizza how we want it, even if that means bringing our own green chile for a topping.
View point: If you are looking for a place where you can get a good view of the entire city you will be disappointed as the places that would have the best view are obstructed by vegetation. For a good view of the centro storico that highlights some of the towers then go just across Ponte Solesta and you will find a great location for photos.
Church: The Cattedrale is unique and has some beautiful artwork inside but for simplicity my favorite is Chiesa San Tommaso that occupies the piazza of the same name. This Romanesque church is made of the local travertine and has a simple interior with some interesting architectural aspects.
Place to eat: What one restaurant, osteria or tratoria in Ascoli Piceno exemplifies the food of this city? This is a tough choice as there are several places in town that we frequent and for different reasons - but for a good selection of local fare I prefer Trattoria Arengo in Piazza Arringo.
Piazza: I will have to agree with most of Italy and say Piazza del Popolo, this travertine covered piazza is the place to see people and be seen. There are few experiences like sitting at one of the cafes sipping a drink while you watch the parade of locals and their children go by.
Vino: The wines of the Piceno area tend to be strong, 14% is the norm and there are several that I think rival the more famous vintages of other parts of Italy. My favorite for its flavor, color and that it is unique only to this area is Vino Pecorino.
Event: There are many events during the course of a year in Ascoli Piceno but for the sheer magnitude, color, pageantry and the history involved my favorite by far is La Quintana. This medieval festival lasts four weeks and includes over a thousand costumed figuranti, jouste competitions, archery, spandetori and knights in armor. You do not understand the magnificence of this event until you actually witness it.
Museum: I tend to think of the entire city as a museum as there is so much history visible as you walk around. The museums in town are relatively small and you can easily see any one of them in about an hour but they do tend to have good exhibits. My favorite for the quality of the artwork is the Diocese Museo that is located near the Cattedrale.
So next time you are in Ascoli Piceno check out my favorites and see if you agree, Ascoli is a great place to visit for a day, a year or even a lifetime.