Macerata is a much bigger town than I expected, lots of students and university buildings. The streets are sloping rather than hilly, and it's easy to walk around, even in the rain. Which prevailed for two out of three days. The hotel, Hotel Lauri, sent a taxi to pick me up at the train station (€8). There are buses, but the rain was daunting. As I walked through the Centro Storico, I overheard a group of college men talking about what to cook for dinner - it was 9:15am! I love Italian priorities. It is exam week, meaningful for me because I teach at a small college. Students are studying in every corner. In bocca al lupo! (Good luck!)
Found a good restaurant, Centrale Eat! In the main piazza. You can watch the chef cooking in the open kitchen. Best bucatini all'amatriciana ever! I blew a kiss to the chef, who enthusiastically blew several back.
The next day I took the bus to Recanati, because I saw a photo of Lorenzo Lotto's Annunciation in a brochure. This is how my travel,plans evolve. I had always dismissed this painting, but decided that since it was so close, I should give it a chance. Reproductions do not do it justice, it is beautiful. It shows the angel bursting through the door of Mary's room, God the Father hot on his heels, and Mary facing the viewer; she seems to be considering fleeing from the Good News, but puts up her hands in a gesture of acceptance. Meanwhile a cat runs across the floor. Le Marche is Crivelli and Lotto country. Lots of music and culture events going on as well.
The town of Recanati spreads across a hill. Toward the center, from the road one sees a massive tower, and I thought, that must be some big castle! But no, the tower simply rises from one of the prettiest piazze in Italy. It's a long walk down the Main Street, but difficult to get lost.
I wondered if I would get to Ascolu Piceno from Macerata. At the station in Civitanova Marche, I overheard the dreaded word "scioppero", and three out of four regionale trains to Ascoli Piceno were cancelled. Particularly annoying was the habit of posting late notices in 5-minute increments every 90 seconds, until the cancellation became obvious. I called the B&B in Ascolu Piceno to let them know I might (!) be late, and was told to take the train to San Benedetto del Tronto or Porto d'Ascoli, which had more certain connections, and they would pick me up there (30 kilometers away). Fortunately at Porto d'Ascoli a train for Ascolu Piceno appeared, so they didn't have to drive for half an hour to meet me! The B&B is Palazzo Migliani, in a 13th-century building in the Centro Storico. The family is wonderfully kind and helpful, homemade treats for breakfast.
Ascoli Piceno is almost entirely built with travertine, which gives it a harmonious look. Main piazze are separated by a street or two. Ancient churches, very good museums, great food (those olives!). A cocktail in Piazza del Popolo will also get you a little tray of small sandwiches, enough for a hearty snack. On the ride back to the train station, Carlo stopped so I could see the Fortezza Malatestina and the water cascade under the Devil's Bridge, which was built in one night! Not really, but it's a cute story.
It was difficult to say goodbye to Ascoli Piceno, but I know I will return.