The main reason to watch Dustin Hoffman’s movie Alfredo, the 1972 Golden Globe-nominated comedy directed by Pietro Germi, is the town it’s entirely shot in – Ascoli Piceno
While not one of Germi’s best movies (for that, watch Divorce Italian Style), it’s still a masterly exploration of marriage and expectation, and Hoffman makes a more than passable Italian giovane.
My first sight of Ascoli Piceno leaves me stunned. With its luminous piazzas and elegant streets, it feels like I’ve wandered across the film set of a particularly swoonsome costume drama. Whether rain or sunshine, light bounces off Ascoli’s white Travertine stone as though it’s trying to shine a spotlight on the buildings. Key to the town’s beauty are its numerous towers. In early medieval times there were more than 200 here, 50 of which still remain in the town – some refurbished, some original.
Reflecting the town’s historical and architectural heritage, the elegant 100 Torri hotel uses one of the towers as its centre piece. Of course, you wouldn’t expect a decent-sized hotel to fit inside a small medieval tower, and 100 Torri doesn’t. Instead, its 14 air-conditioned rooms and suites have been created from the stables of an old 17th century palace.
Although it may sound like a dark and gloomy space, rest assured, the 100 Torri is filled with bright light and open areas, thanks to secluded private terraces with rooftop and courtyard views. A sympathetic conversion includes skylights and a central atrium to flood spaces with warm white light and makes use of natural materials, while the interiors are dowsed in rich, soft furnishings and delicate, antique pieces to create feminine rooms and suites.
What Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan (the stars of recent Italy-set BBC travel show – The Trip) would make of such girly surroundings we’ve no idea, but there’s no denying the wondrous sense of calm we feel as soon as we enter the hotel. This begins in the foyer, where honey-coloured floors, white stone walls, oak beams and lofty ceilings make us feel like we’ve entered a designer chapel. In the stable room, we sink deep into comfy sofas and enjoy aperitifs that are perched on nearby side tables. Best of all, we check out the winter garden, an interior courtyard filled with lush plants and a marble fountain, the ideal spot for breakfast.
Just a few minutes’ walk away from the hotel is the Piazza Arringo and Piazza del Popolo, the latter a serious contender for the loveliest square in Italy. The Romanesque cathedral and Baptistry of San Emidio, baroque and gothic churches and the striking Arengo Palace are just some of the highlights. Meanwhile, operas have been performed for almost 200 years at the neoclassical Ventidio Basso theatre.
Eating and drinking: The 100 Torre only offers a buffet breakfast, but it’s a top-notch one, filled with a range of colourful (red and green) cakes and pastries. There are numerous eating options within minutes of the hotel; try Desco (Via Vidacilio 10) for classy modern European dishes in keeping with the stylish elegance of your accommodation. The Ascolan fried stuffed olives at the art deco Caffè Meletti are particularly sumptuous and perfectly preserved.
Prices: Rooms start at around £80.
Address: Via Constanzo Mazzoni 4, 63100 Ascoli Piceno, Italy, www.centotorri.com, +39 0736 255 123.
Radio Times Travel rating: 9/10. If you’re visiting Ascoli Piceno, the 100 Torri will make your stay perfect, not least because you will feel like you’re at the very heart of the action.