This morning the group woke early to the city in an oven-like state after a restless night due to the high temperatures. Unlike home, we’ve noticed, sun streams through the windows with the gusto of high noon at only six o’clock in the morning.
We made our way to breakfast at about eight to scarf down dry cereal and (to Chef Mullen’s horror) none of our usual espresso and steamed milk. The bus chartered for us by the city of Ripatransone to take us to the city of Ascoli Piceno, was waiting for us at eight thirty at the school where we had made gnocchi with Chef Cappeci the night before. The bus ride took about an hour in which most of us slept or admired the countless sunflower fields that zoomed past our windows.
When I first saw the city skyline from afar, it immediately struck me how closely it resembled Ripa except for much larger, and in the end I was not too far mislead. We were dropped off in an area of the city called Gioli (which was easy to remember as it sounded like “Jolly”) and walked to what seemed to be the city’s central piazza, standing in the shadow of a large cathedral not dissimilar to those we have encountered in Ripa. The group was immediately drawn to large fountains spouting ice cold water that was fit for drinking, as demonstrated by city residents. Ascoli Piceno had the same historic background as Ripatransone, paved with cobblestone and buildings displaying architectural wonders that can not be found in modern-day construction. Then again, we did drink in the air conditioning that graced the scores of shops and restaurants that lined the city’s streets.
Despite the ever-present heat, we enjoyed going through the outdoor clothing and produce markets and bouncing from store to store purchasing the best of local wares.
Forthcoming, there is, to the best of our Italian-language-lacking skills, a festival named something along the lines of ‘beef meat celebration’. Knowing that we are in town, the local butchers invited us to their arbotoir to see, and assist with, the breaking down of four whole cattle. The facility is rather primitive, but the intent is clear – we are in for one heck of a celebration in the next twenty-four hours. Some of the students swooped up some the primal cuts, knife in hand, and further butchered the cuts for use tomorrow. Ciao, for now!