It might look like I am falling asleep with a glass of wine in my hand (although this has happened on a few occasions!!) but here I am actually swotting up about the area we were staying in – Le Marche. It is still not a very well known area and not at all touristy. On this occasion I was not on a press trip but on holiday with my husband Martyn. We have started to rent properties now when we have holidays in Italy. Not only is it cheaper than hotels but you are able to get a much more authentic Italian experience going off the beaten track. We use Owners Direct and I thoroughly recommend doing it this way. Most of the owners are from the UK and are really friendly and helpful. When we do it now we alternate going out for a meal with stopping in and cooking with local ingredients. It is part of the fun going down to the local shops and having to use what Italian you know.
We were staying in Montalto delle Marche a hill town in southern Le Marche. The place where all the social life of the town took place was the ” Bar Fanny ” apparently named after a rich women landowner from past centuries! Le Marche consists of a long coastal strip along the Adriatic called the Palm Riviera which has a selection of holiday resorts. Grottamare was one we visited and the seafood was just so good! Our base Montalto was one of the hundreds of hill towns dotted around central Le Marche. To the other side of us were the Sibillini mountains which were beautiful and I definitely want to go back to explore them further.
However it was Ascoli Piceno we were going to explore thoroughly as I had been commissioned by Italia! magazine to write an article about it. Ascoli is the capital of the Southern Province of Le Marche. On the way there we stopped off in Offida, a small town famous for its lace making. As you walk along the street there are lace makers sitting in their doorways busy working on their small wooden bobbins. There is also a fascinating Lace Museum which we looked round. Hungry after our exploring we decided to try the local speciality chichi ripieno which is a flat bread stuffed with tuna, anchovies, artichokes in oil and pickled peppers and very good it was too. We were then offered one of the local cakes, which are called funghetti because of their mushroom shape. They are made of flour , sugar , water and aniseed. I passed on these as I don’t like aniseed but Martyn said his was very good.
Onwards to Ascoli , our main destination. The centre of Ascoli is particularly beautiful. The main square , the Piazza del Popolo is known as the “drawing room of Ascoli”. the travertine tiles that the Piazza is paved with positively gleam and it is full of stylish shops, cafes and restaurants.. The ideal spot for people watching is the famous Art deco Caffe Meletti which was founded in 1907 and is famous for its Anisetta liqueur.
The main speciality of Ascoli is olive all’ascolana. Local olives are stuffed with a paste , made from pork, chicken and beef then coated in breadcrumbs and then fried. In the spring there is a festival dedicated to this local speciality. The olives are grown locally in a very chalky soil. They have a soft, mild tasting flesh and an extremely small pit so they are particularly suited to stuffing.
I will certainly return to Le Marche when I can, to explore and try out more of their local food and wine and enjoy the wonderful scenery and the friendliness of the people.