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Trip Report Le Marche and Rome - Part 4 - Ascoli Piceno

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Sorry for the delay in getting to this portion of the trip. Christmas has taken up my time!

We left Recanati and headed for the coast, on our way to Ascoli Piceno, where we were staying for 3 nights. Our first stop was Fermo. Once again, I had trouble getting into Centro - found myself going down a one-way street the wrong way, on a steep hill (with my manual transmission car [not my "first language"]). People started honking and flashing their lights. I knew I was in trouble. I did manage to turn around on the hill (no easy feat) before any serious damage was done. So we abandoned Centro and went up the hill to the main Cathedral overlooking the city. It was a beautiful place and well worth the trip.

After that, we headed for the coast and San Benedetto del Tronto. This is a port town with lots of docked small pleasure boats. This pretty beach community was rather deserted and, once again, we were looking for a restaurant. We asked a local woman for a recommendation and she sent us to da Angela, Trattoria di Mare, where we had one of the best meals of the trip. Seafood was the obvious choice since we were about 50' from the sea. We had pasta with mixed seafood with a lovely white wine. There were 2 older men with "their nieces" at the next table and the TV was on (no sound, thank goodness) with a soap opera centered around a woman on her gynocologist's table. It was an interesting lunch - and the food was superb!

After lunch, we headed for Ascoli Piceno. Now this is a real gem of a town. Once again, it was not easy to find our hotel, Palazzo Guiderocchi. There were a number of signs but at a certain point they just seemed to stop. We drove around and around and found ourselves in a pedestrian piazza. A man on a bicycle warned us that we had to move and he tried to give us directions - and finally just gave up, said "follow me" and he brought us to the hotel. We gladly surrendered the car to the porter.

The hotel is lovely and the town is a real find. It's a beautiful and lively city, with lots of stores, restaurants, people, lots of pedestrian piazzas, lots of sidewalks, etc, etc, - all the things that Recanati was not. We stopped at a bar in Piazza del Popolo and had our first "ulivi Ascolane", apparently a rather well-known specialty - green olives stuffed with meat and deep fried.

We had dinner at a terrific restaurant, Desca. It was close to the hotel, beautiful, and food was great. We had fabulous lamb chops and sea bass al cartoccio (baked in parchment).

The next day we decided to stay in Ascoli and not drive anywhere. It was November 1st, All Saints' Day. Many stores were closed and people were out in droves, just walking around. There are two main pedestrian piazzas that pretty much bisect the town. (This is handy information to keep in mind for later)

We had lunch at a place called La Locanderia. We got the last table - the rest of the place was filled with a family party in the back and families all around us, celebrating. We ate lightly and continued out exploration of the city.

We had dinner at Nonna Nina (Grandma Nina). There was a menu and the owner took our order. But it was clear that there were certain things he was "pushing". We "held our ground" and ordered what we wanted. We had barley and porcini mushroom soup, a salad, spiedini of calamari and shrimp, and scallopine marsala. And a bottle of Rosso Piceno (a local wine) - very good.

The next day, we drove up into the Sibellini Mountains - this is a beautiful part of Italy. Most of it is a National Park. We drove to Castelluccio. To get there, you drive through a "piano grande", a large open plain surrounded by mountains. Unfortunately, that day was a bit cloudy, but I can only imagine what it must be like in the sunshine. There were horses, sheep, cattle - people hiking through this large, flat plain playing with their dogs. At the far end is Castelluccio, the Lentil capital of the world! It's a teeny town (1 street really) with a few shops selling touristy stuff, including every type of lentil you could imagine.

From there, we drove to Norcia, another lovely, lively town that was having a Prosciutto Festival (how fortuitous!) - and there were lots of restaurants (I think that Recanati made us fearful of being anyplace where we would have trouble finding a place to eat).

We stopped in to see a hotel, Palazzo Seneca, a Relais and Chateaux in this small town. It was pretty extraordinary. [as you can see, I really like hotels...]

We had lunch at Granaro del Monte - under a tent adjoining the restaurant. The food was quite good - smoked salmon trout and tomatoes with mozzarella, tagliarini with cinghiale (boar) and ravioli with vegetable sauce. Walked around the town some more.

There was an exhibition of items related to Prosciutto, i.e, scales and slicers. One of these beautiful machines had a fabulous sign that only the Italians can master: If you want to live, do not touch! It sounds so beautiful in Italian!

The ride back to Ascoli was very easy - pretty much a straight shot. But then the fun began. As I mentioned, there are 2 pedestrian piazzas that bisect the town. And apparently the one-way streets change direction every so often. We drove around and around, left the town and came back in, We knew how to get to the hotel on foot, but could get nowhere near it with the car. This went on for well over an hour. Finally, we found our way to Nonna Nina, the restaurant from last night, and called the hotel for directions. Every street she told us to take was closed. Finally, we were told to just park and they would send someone to get us. (This was obviously not the first time they had heard this...) Sure enough, 5 minutes later, Louis showed up and drove our car to the hotel. And it took him a good 20 minutes to get there... Luckily he arrived or I would still be driving around that town...

Dinner was at Del Corso. The only thing on the menu was fish. We shared an antipasto della casa, with all different types of fish, rombo (turbot) with rosemary, and another fish (never did find out what this was) with tomatoes. All very good.

Our last night in Ascoli Piceno - would return in a minute. Tomorrow on to our last stop - 4 days in Rome...

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