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A couple weeks ago we had our first party which was an opportunity to thank some of our new friends who have gone out of their way to be helpful to us. Attendees were: Italian angel Cinzia M. (in case you’ve forgotten she handles public relations for the Comune of Ascoli Piceno, and it appears for us) and Roberta (who also works in her office); Grace (a ESL teacher) and her partner, Maurizo (who is an ESL teacher by day and an Alto singer, actor and dancer by night); Italian angel Cinzia V. (our agent immobilare and geometra); Mario (our unofficial food critic who also works in the comune office) and his wife Giovanna (a teacher), Giampaolo (Mario’s brother and our authority on all things Ascolani); David and his mother Antonella (who are our upstairs neighbors, David is a geometra); Avril (doctor of holistic medicine as well as the wife of Mike, the British artist) and her good friend from London, Allison (a physical therapist who has also been active on our equivalent of the school board). Everyone seemed to enjoy each other’s company and it we shall consider it a success for our first effort. We feel so very fortunate to have such an incredible and varied group of acquaintances that are quickly becoming our friends. I told Cinzia M. that if she ever doubted what her kindness to us had accomplished, well look around. We would not know any of the people at this party or be in this wonderful apartment if she had not befriended us.

Of course we will never be able to pay them back for their generosity because they all brought plants, flowers, gifts for our home and spirits of all kinds including a homemade coffee liquor and a traditional dessert wine made form an ancient recipe. Since we have been in this apartment we have been gifted over 20 bottles of wine – who wouldn’t like friends like that!

Thankfully, our social life is ramping up as winter approaches. We were invited to Grace and Maurizo’s annual Halloween dinner. (See Food blog for menu.) Cinzia M. offered to pick us up and take us home, which was incredibly sweet. Two of Grace’s friends we had met before, but we made several new acquaintances that I hope we will see again. We had great fun and wonderful food.

The next evening we had invited artist, Mike, to come to dinner since he missed our party. His wife Avril had already gone back to London and he was now packing up his exhibit, with the help of Sarah who graduated from the same art school. We had also invited Mike’s neighbors, Laura and Sergio, who are also the people who previously owned and renovated our apartment. Laura works for the Chamber of Commerce (no surprise she knows Cinzia) and Sergio is an engineer and CEO of his own firm involved in commercial water systems – and they both speak English. Understandably, they were very interested in seeing how their renovations had held up over the last seven years and, I think, were pleased with what they saw. They are all wonderful people and we hope to have the good fortune to be in their company again. Laura and Sergio promised that we would be invited to their home and we would cook together. (See Food blog for menu.)

Cinzia M. had invited us to join her for a walking tour of the city on Saturday afternoon at 3:00 in Piazza Arringo. We didn’t ask a lot of questions and agreed. While we were waiting in the piazza for Cinzia, we noticed there were many “tour groups” forming. When she arrived she explained that we were participating in the annual “Urban Trek.” Once per year the people of Ascoli take a walking tour of their city and learn what has been, what is going on now and often get to view historical places that are normally not open to the public. This year’s theme was “water.” I guess having a theme allows the tour to focus on specific sites since they have so many historical sites to choose from. She then introduced us to Massimo, the Director of Tourism, who explained to us that this idea began in Sienna and now every year on the same day the residents of 35 Italian “art cities” participate in these tours. Yes, the tour was in Italian but Massimo and Cinzia did some translating for us. The group grew as we walked through the city and there must have been 30+ people in our group before it ended. We entered a church that is only open for ceremonies. As we were entering Cinzia told us that this is the church she was married in. It is a 12th Century church built on the ruin of a 10th Century church. They took us down some steps and below the alter by flashlight, however, I do not think it was a crypt. They showed us ancient frescoes on the low ceiling as well as the place where a spring spontaneously bubbled up through the floor in the Middle Ages. The spring was considered a miracle and the water to have the power to heal things such as leprosy. I LOVE this stuff! Of course, Larry asked the logical question “Did it work?” which was promptly ignored as no one wanted to consider reality at such a magical moment, so we shall never know.

After three hours of touring, it was time for aperitivo! So off to Soremidio four of us go, but it was not open yet. There are no shortage of bars, however, so we went to the bar next door for our glass of wine. Meanwhile, we were trying to think of where to go for dinner since it is Saturday night and you’ve got to know every person on those tours is doing the same thing we are. So most places were booked with reservations already but we decided that if we ate early we might get in somewhere. So Cinzia started calling around to the places she likes she a friend of her’s walked by and joined us for a glass of wine. She had introduced Cinzia to a new restaurant the evening before so she called and made us a reservation for 7:00. Grace joined us after work so we were now five for dinner. Taverna di Cecco, ended up being an incredible experience and after all that food we were glad we had a bit of a walk before we reached home. (See Food blog for review.) After partying three nights in a row, we were wasted and spent Sunday on the couch blogging.

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