I came, I saw, I loved it
In 2003, Rosemarie and I rocked up here at night en route (lost as usual) to a B&B near Gubbio. Since we had left from Rome in the morning it sort of begs the question if you are at all familiar with Italy - "Like, what on earth were you doing that far off course?"
Well, it was my first time in mainland Italy and I was scarred by my experience in Sicily. That's my excuse, pathetic though it is! Anyhow, we decided to stop for a short time and eat. Strolling through the piazzas at night in the glow of the floodlights the place had a kind of magic to it.
The wonderful aura wrought by the false light on the stone buildings was entrancing.
It was also the cleanest town by far of any we had thus encountered in Italy. We found our wonderful trattoria (see opening page), ate, and vowed to return for a full day. We never did fulfill our vow.
That had to wait for my solo experience the following year when I discovered that Ascoli Piceno is worth visiting in the daylight as well.
On my way out of Ascoli Piceno I passed this column. The dazzling light issuing forth from the golden statue begged me to take a photo. I had to throw all my filters on just to suppress the sparkle.
It's a dedication to the Virgin Mary.
Romanesque Architecture: Saint John's Baptistery
The Baptistery (known as Battistero di S. Giovanni) is one of the most unique architectual sites in Ascoli. It's located on the left side of the Cathedral. The shape is a square dome with an octagonal lantern that is embellished on its sides by arched 3-lighted blind windows (except for that part that overlooks the eastern part. That part has 2 mullioned windows with two lights.
This Baptistery is one of the best examples of Romanesque architecture in Italy (so say the books). It was here in the early Middle Ages, but it was rebuilt in the last half of the 12th century. It was never open when I was there, but it supposedly has a circular fount for baptism by immersion inside. They say that the interior part is much older and was part of the adjacent Basilica (which is now the Cathedral). The exterior is built of completely different materials, in this case, Travertine from ancient nearby structures (11th and 12th centuries).
Being an English teacher, I love symbolism; thus, when I read that the shape of the Baptistery has a symbolical meaning, I was fascinated. "The square plant of the bottom part represents the terrestrial world, the dome the sky; in other words, the immensity, the central octagonal part represents baptism as the mediation between the earthly and the divine". I say "WOW" to that symbolism!
The world's best restaurant
"Why is it so?"
So, you've eaten in five star or, maybe if you've been to the middle east, 7 star hotels. Enjoy. However, for me, this lady is where it's at.
Trattoria Laliva. A restaurant with a story, a lady who loves cooking and is artistic to boot.
I drove a long way off my schedule to eat here, such were the delights of the previous year.
The fact that I wanted to see Ascoli Piceno in the daylight was also another good enough reason!
However, I digress. Marinella Migliori and I have been introduced. How did that happen? The best way I can explain is to copy you in on the Email I sent home. I believe that explains it all.
"IT'S ALL ENDING UP IN TEARS
Last year Rosemarie and I ate at a restaurant (that's what they're for, I know). It was in Ascoli Piceno. Fate dictated that today I ate there again. It turned out to be an unforgettable experience.
After arriving I made it known that I had eaten here last year. She seemed to remember me, but I couldn't be sure. I placed an order for some of her local food that we had enjoyed last year and, while the food was being prepared I noticed a newspaper article on the wall and started to read it. It was fascinating. This lady is part of a local family that saved the olive. No, not the crap we eat in Australia. This olive, as with our tasty tomatoes, was going downhill because it would bruise when dropped, not like the tough variety. Olive groves were abandoned but this special olive belonged to special people and they weren't about to let it go. It is a fatter, softer olive with more taste and, as I worked out, is one of the reasons we loved the food here so much.
So I went to my car, got my pen and started copying bits of the story. The lady noticed this and came over and pointed to the article next to me that I had ignored. I started reading it. There was a familiar tone to the tale. I said I had something on the internet on "virtualtourist" about her trattoria. It was then I noticed the name on the second article. It was mine!
Incredibly, her daughter had surfed the internet for mentions of the trattoria and come up with my article, added an Italian translation, laminated it and hung it on the wall.
I was flattered and flabbergasted all at once. Not easy I can assure you.
The food arrived. You know how you expect so much but it never quite meets your expectations. This didn't fail at all. Just as good as last year.
In the other article it said that she is an innovative cook and has invented several dishes of her own based on local (Ascoli Piceno) dishes.
Dessert arrived. I cannot believe what this woman did with an apple. If I'd known they tasted that good when I was young I would have eaten more.
I started to pack up but she brought another dessert. Same story, different dessert. I drool just thinking about Marinella's food. (By this time we had introduced ourselves.)
Finally I went to depart, pulled my wallet out and started to pay. She refused, point blank. Couldn't have someone saying all those nice things about her paying for a meal.
We had our picture taken together, but not before she went and got dressed up in her chef's outfit. Thumbs up and arms around the shoulder and the flash went off.
For the third time I put my backpack on and started to leave. We kissed each other on the cheek and both of us had tears in our eyes. I swear it's true. The first time in my life I ever cried in a restaurant.
We'll be back next year."
I hope her daughter keeps surfing the internet, I lost the card with her Email address that she gave me so I could send the photo - help!
I've now been here a third time, 2009, and Marinella might even come to Australia to visit us!