Dreams do come true…well, almost. As the whirl of horse hooves clipping and clopping resonate off the stone walls of the castel, my visions of a swarthy Italian Prince are life-like (in 3-D and in Technicolor) and I am hard pressed to realize I am not in the 13th century with my ample bosom bared and posterior bound in sweeping damask and lace, but rather in the 21st century with my anterior and posterior bound in a cotton stretch skort and polo shirt. And the only potential prince in sight is Francesco, who is enthusiastically showing me the barred hole in the stone floor just steps across the time worn courtyard from the resident living quarters where prisoners were thrown by his ancestors and kept screaming or stoic until they were rescued, somehow made their escape down the seventy foot high sheer walls, or their cries ceased as the life of the perpetrator ended.
And there have been perpetrators. Since the time of the official papal seal of Pope Leone IX dated 1052, to the passing of the ownership to the Amici family in 1800, the castel has played a role in Piceno history; sacrificial site of Pagan rituals, Bishops’ seat, military stronghold, and finally noble residence. Through it all, Castel di Luco, this romantic medieval fortress has stood virtually unaltered above it’s small hamlet. Today, almost a thousand years later, still far from any commercial/tourist oriented fanfare, Francesco and Laura, the young brother – sister Amici owners, have lovingly embraced the castel, carefully rejuvenating the great halls and transforming the original home of the resident craftsmen, the stable and hay-lofts into four charming suites of exposed travertine walls, beamed ceilings and brick paving stones, the perfect backdrop for eclectic furnishings and old Italian iron beds.
Combined with views out over the surrounding fields and forests, for history and nature lovers, Castel di Luco is a dream come true. Show an interest and Francesco, after shooing away the rock climbing goats and free grazing sheep, will walk you around to the far side of the fortress walls to an almost hidden opening… encouraging you to take a chance and step with him down the stone steps into the old caves… wine caves, that is, buried deep underneath the foundation of his 11th century castel. It is cold and damp but spellbinding as you look upon remnant equipment and wine bottles that poured forth crisp Italian bounty, quenching the thirst of those whom only our peeked imaginations can conjure. Emerge back into the fresh country air and go around and up, up, up the ancient stone entry through the exposed courtyard, past the open doors and windows of the kitchens to the frescoed dining rooms of Laura and her mother where many a soul has been dazzled and fed with castel specialties. No frozen pizzas or pastas here! But rich rustic dishes of wild boar, spiced lamb with truffles, buttermilk curd crepes, Chatelaine cake, and a secret farmer’s liquor of cooked wine. A true gourmet’s heaven. The old souls flying around us now, know an authentic kitchen -- and they are not leaving anytime soon!
…And other escapades near your doorstep at the Castel di Luco? Artistic and architecturally compelling Ascoli Piceno, “City of towers” might be next on the agenda or, if you are really lucky, perhaps Francesco will lead you to one of the diverse trailheads of the National Park of the Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga. See waterfalls, the uninhabited village of Vallesaggia, chestnut plantations, natural caverns with stalactites and stalagmites, or take the ancient pathway “fonte vecchia” to the tiny travertine village of Paggese, dating back to the Middle Ages…all depending on your level of fitness and desire for something a bit ‘out-of-the-ordinary’.
Adventures…Nature…History…and delectable homemade cuisine…all at Castel di Luco.
1) WARNING! THIS IS NOT A 5-STAR BOUTIQUE HOTEL set in the country, but a wonderfully unique experience set in Italy off-the-beaten trail…
2) Locals from Rome and Ascoli Piceno stream to Castel di Luco relishing the recipes of the Middle Ages with dashes of local rural traditions, so you must reserve to get a chair in this dining room.
3) Use as a base to explore the Marches with its Romanesque churches, Renaissance art, Medieval Towers, and home of the Templar Knights,
4) Beautiful laces and Italian tiles and pottery can be found throughout the area.
5) Rome is but 175 km west.
www.casteldiluco.com 63040 Acquasanta Terme, Ascoli Piceno, Italy
t: +39.0736.802319 f: +39.0736.802319