First, I had to delete and re-post the Hello Italy! post as the formatting was all screwed up and it was the only way I could fix it. Regretfully, I also lost your wonderful comments, although I think we had read and answered them all. So keep those comments coming! I had a post ready a couple days ago but managed to delete it, and I don’t know how. Ah, the continuing saga of my love/hate relationship with technology. Those of you that asked when you would see more photos will be delighted to know that Larry went out this morning on a photo expedition to add to those he had taken the during our first two weeks. So it won’t be long now.
Before we introduce you to the people of Ascoli (Ascolani), let’s talk about the people we don’t see. We have seen no homeless people. There are pleasant men from Africa selling roses and trinkets (and umbrellas when it rains) to make a living and others, some Gypsies, playing music for the donations – and I truly don’t have a problem with that. There those who weren’t successful at commerce that just ask for money, but they are few. Ascoli has very few criminals and, therefore, little crime. I asked someone about crime statistics and they had no idea what I was talking about. You can walk anywhere in the city late at night in safety, and because the city is so alive, you are usually not alone no matter the time or place. All this at a time when the country is in a deep recession.
This is July and in Rome, Florence or Venice you would be cheek-to-jowl with thousands of tourists everywhere you went. In Ascoli, with all it has to offer, 90% of the people on the piazzas are locals. We saw our first tour groups last Saturday but they were so small that there was no need for the tour guides to hold up an umbrella or flower for the people to follow and we have not yet seen a typical tour bus parked anywhere.
The Italians are very social people who live in relatively small apartments, so their living rooms are the city piazzas, cafes, restaurants and shops. Their social training begins in infancy. We have always thought the evening stroll (passeggiata) was a wonderful Italian custom. About 6:00 PM almost everyone comes outside to stroll their favorite piazza and greet and talk with each other as well as shop. Ascalani of all ages participate in this daily custom. There are young families with baby carriages, toddlers toddling, kids riding bikes and various boards, groups of tweens giggling while licking their gelatos, teens ogling the opposite sex, local studs strutting and beautiful women prancing, and the outdoor bars/cafes are filled with business people discussing the day’s accomplishments over an appertivo or expresso. Doing what they have done all their lives, the “more mature” Ascalani are sitting together around the fountains, under the loggias, against the ancient buildings or standing outside the butcher shop (macellaria) discussing events of the day. About every tenth person has their dog (cane) with them so even they are socialized from puppyhood. This may be why we’ve only seen three cats (gatto) in the city so far. Around 8:30 PM the Italians eat dinner, sometimes at home, but often out. There’s no going to bed at 8 PM for the young or old or canine, as this scene is still going on at 10:30 PM at night. Needless to say, watching all this from our cafe table is a nightly show we wouldn’t miss.
The commune spends a lot of money on free concerts and events June through August, possibly to attract tourists. We have had entertainment of various kinds for the last seven nights in a row and not paid a dime for it. Since arriving here we have enjoyed a ballet (balletto) performance, a female pop vocalist performance, a mixed group doing African music/dance, and even an English group playing The Stones, Aretha and Elvis, and we skipped the rock concert (rock concert – just checking!). We have enjoyed three evenings of Medieval entertainment, marching, music, and good natured flag competition (gara sbandieratori) between the neighborhoods (Sestieri) put on by and with local families in glorious period costumes and last night they added armor and horses. Tonight there will be yet another installation of the Medieval pageant. We just ran out to the street to watch tonights’ representatives from one neighborhood march by and they have added beautiful maidens, archers and antique weapons. These are all part of the annual Quintana that is spread out over a month that Larry will be writing about in conjunction with his photos.