Offida sits on a hill in southern Le Marche preserving its Old World charm within its ancient brick walls. The first sight of the aptly named church of Santa Maria della Rocca (on the rock) is impressive, with the medieval structure perched on an outcropping at the edge of the city, looking like it sprang up out of the rock itself. The compact historic center is pleasant to wander, with its pretty streets, interesting alleyways, beautiful buildings, and quaint atmosphere.
The unusual triangular-shaped piazza is flanked by the Renaissance-style town hall, decked out with arcades and crenellations, with the the church of the Collegiata and the towns sumputous theater overlooking the piazza, as well. It is a lovely civic space, and scene of the town's big annual party during Carnevale, called the Bove Finto. The festival is a type of "running of the bulls" but using a fake (finto) bull made of wood and carried on the shoulders of volunteers, who buck and charge with it in a riotous affair of man versus beast, until the bull is finally "killed" and its horns lifted ceremoniously to touch the column of the town hall. The whole event is fueled by the guzzling of the local red wine, Rosso Piceno.
The rest of the year, Offida is quiet country town that is famous for the delicate craft of lace. The hand-made intricate designs have been made here since the 1400s, with the tradition of "tumbled" lace using bombins still being passed down to the next generation. So important is lace making that there is a monument to it outside the town walls below the castle. The other 'craft' that Offida is known for is its wines. Local heritage vintages using grapes found only in this region are highly prized throughout Italy - such as Pecorino (because its nose has hints of the cheese of the same name), Passerina, and Rosso Piceno from a local varietal of Montepulciano, are made in the vine-staked countryside all around Offida. Funghetti is a local meringue-like sweet that is scented with regional anisetta liqueur and called funghetti for the resemblance to little mushrooms.
The most interesting sight is the church of Santa Maria della Rocca. It's dramatic position on a rock makes it intriguing and if there is a bit of fog below it, it looks positively mysterious, seeming to "float" in the clouds, separated as it is from town. There are actually two chapels, the upper and lower chapels; there is a forest of columns and vaulted brick ceilings in the lower chapel, once the crypt, while the upper church is in austere monastic style with a few frescoes as decoration. Stand in front of the fresco of Jesus and see how expertly the artist painted it to have the kindly eyes follow your movements.
Offida is the heart of Piceno wine country and hosts a regional wine cellar where you can learn about and sample the area's vintages. Grab some goodies from the Thursday market for lunch and drive around the vine-draped hills for a walk, a picnic and some beautiful scenery, stopping in at a winery or two along the way.
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