Located between the Monti Sibillini and the Adriatic, ASCOLI PICENO is Le Marche’s greatest hidden gem and lies well off the tourist trail. This seems odd considering it has plenty of grand architecture and a lovely café-lined central square that’s among the most pleasant in the region. At Mardi Gras it hosts Le Marche’s most flamboyant carnival and in August its streets are given over to the Quintana, a medieval festival that incorporates a spectacular joust. If that wasn’t enough, Ascoli’s restaurants and food stalls are the proud purveyors of olive all’ascolana (deep-fried breadcrumb-crusted olives stuffed with veal), the closest Italy comes to the Scotch egg, but much tastier.
Ascoli has a compact centre, surrounded by largely intact walls. Piazza del Popolo is the place to get the feel of the town, while its small number of Roman remains and its churches and museums are scattered throughout the old centre.