Lone Rider – An Adventure in Ascoli Piceno

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A Trip To Ascoli Piceno

Just when I was feeling that there was no hope for me here, I visited Ascoli Piceno for my birthday. We drove into the city centre and tried to navigate our way to the hotel. Ascoli Piceno is not a very large city, but it is an Italian city with pedestrianised areas and this tourist is totally lacking in spatial awareness and navigational abilities – not an ideal mix. After driving around the one way system a few times without coming across the hotel and trying to use the map on the I-phone, I decided it was now time to admit defeat, and return to the old school method of finding our way. I used my rudimentary Italian to ask a cyclist the way. He began to describe the way to me (in Italian), and seeing the perplexed look of confusion on my face, signalled that we could follow him. Excellent! I reminded him that while he was on a bike, we needed to stick with a car friendly route and off we went. Fifteen minutes later, we arrived outside the hotel and he waved and cycled off. I was acutely aware that he could probably have cycled there in only a few minutes if it wasn’t for the car, and we equally, could have spent several hours getting hot and stressed and more lost without his intervention. I did stop to wonder in what other city in the world someone would have taken that much time and effort to help a complete stranger.

Ascoli Piceno Highlights

We checked in at Palazzo Guiderocchi then spent a very enjoyable Summer’s evening wandering around the antiques market, sipping prosecco at Caffe Meletti in the Piazza del Popolo, and then a delicious and very good value dinner at Il Desco. Even now, I think of that experience as my most memorable of that year. All very simple, but an excellent adventure none the less, and helped along by the anonymous man on the bike.

An Englishwoman in Le Marche

So if you are expecting the fanfares to be out for your arrival in Le Marche you might be disappointed – the shops will probably be shut when you arrive, no one will speak English and it will seem as if there is an absent queuing system (or at least one where you are always the last in line) at the deli counter in the supermarket once it has opened. In fact, on first appearances it seemed to me as if the Marchigiani were totally indifferent to my presence as long as I didn’t hold them up in getting their espresso at the bar any longer than is normal. So fanfares, no, but curiosity, yes. After ten years, we still get lingering looks when we walk into our local  bar, and although my Italian is still not anywhere near where I want it to be, I do understand murmurings about “Inglese”. However, for me, the curiosity is mutual – I am as strange and interesting to the Marchigiani as they are to me.

Initially this is an unusual feeling – we Brits are used to travelling to places where people are only too pleased to see us, speak English and will stay open all night if that might please us. I understand now, that the Marchigiani are also only too pleased to see us, particularly between 8am and 1pm and if we speak Italian. And why shouldn’t it be that way? Don’t we always talk about seeking out a genuine experience of another culture? We don’t often verbalise what we have really become used to expecting – a genuine cultural experience available at our convenience and in English thank you very much.

Le Marche most definitely is a rich cultural experience, but make no mistake, it will be on Marchigiani terms. And isn’t that what we really wanted all along?