Offida: A Gem in Le Marche

If Ascoli Piceno is one of Italy’s top hidden treasures (and it is), then little Offida, population just over 5000, has to be one of Italy’s top villages. It is a town of lace makers. It has one of Italy’s finest churches, its interior awash in frescoes dating from the 13th century. Some of Italy’s best and lesser known white wines are grown just outside the city limits—and the Piazza al Popolo is full of great architecture, including one of those old, 19th century theaters, cute as a bugs ear, responsible for entertaining the population before the discovery of radio waves. There are museums of all kinds, including a lace museum, and they’re all inside the same building! Let’s start at Santa Maria della Rocca:

The picture above combines the two top attractions in Offida: lace and the church frescoes. Here on an altar the shadow of lace falls upon a crucifixion-themed fresco. For more color intensity, there’s this:

The Romanesque/Gothic church was built in 1330 over a pre-existing Benedictine church. What’s interesting is that the crypt is where you find yourself when you enter the front door; upstairs is the church.

Along the Corso Serpente Aureo you’ll find a shop belonging to an association of lace makers where we made a short video of the process of making the local Merletto a Tombolo, called bobbin or pillow lace in English. You can also see evidence of the handicraft at the Lace Museum down the street, marked on the map. We were also able to talk to a person making lace in the doorway of her home. Lace making may be a dying craft, but it’s dying slowly in Offida.

Just down the Corso Serpente Aureo from the association’s shop, there is a great restaurant called Osteria Ophis, serving local specialties. We had the tasting menu and were very pleased with it. You might have caught on by now, but the town is awash in names meaning “snake”, il serpente aureo (“golden snake”) recurs again and again in place names of the town and the name of the restaurant, ophis, is the Greek word for “snake”. It’s likely that the town’s name derives from this word as well.

There are several other churches to visit in town; the Chiesa della Collegiata offers a fine example of a mechanical nativity scene or presepe. Here is a tiny slice of life from it:

If you have a car, I would visit Offida as a day trip from Ascoli Piceno, where you should allocate at least three days, especially if you want to visit a place that hasn’t had time nor inclination to package itself into a tourist trap.

The major event of the year is the carnival:

Today, Offida Carnival takes place every year following a precise programme: the official opening is on 17th January, St. Antonio’s Day, while the two Sundays preceding the last week are respectively devoted to friends and relatives; meanwhile the carnival parties of Saturday evening take place inside the Serpente Aureo Theatre. The last week, the most important and the busiest, begins with Thursday afternoon, since 1950 devoted to the children’s fancy dress parade inside the theatre; Friday is entirely devoted to Lu Bov Fint; on Saturday evening there is the gala party, on Sunday the masked ball and on Monday the party during which the Congreghe meet inside the theatre. On Shrove Tuesday there is the carnival in the square and the procession of Li Vlurd, on Tuesday evening, which closes the carnival. ~ The Carnival

Map showing the location of Offida

Unique: Offida Pillow Lace (museum, shop, and folks making lace in doorways)
Don’t miss: Frescos in Santa Maria della Rocca (pictured)
Major Events: Carnivale, Starts January 17. The week of Lace, La Settimana del Merletto, is held at the end of June.
When to Go: Spring or Fall. Summers are hot.
Region: Le Marche Map & Guide
Days: 1-2. or as a day trip from Ascoli Piceno to the south.
: Train station: Yes.
Parking: Relatively easy, see parking spots on map
Recommended Restaurant: Osteria Ophis Ristorante
Hotels in Offida
Local Wines: DOCG Pecorino & Passerino (white), Vin Santo (dessert wine based on Passerino)

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