Things to do in Ascoli Piceno: a visit to the historic Caffè Meletti!
Caffè Meletti, one of Ascoli Piceno’s most renowned sights, lies in Piazza del Popolo, in the heart of the historic centre, next to Palazzo dei Capitani. Originally, the building was home to the Customs Office, before Marco Massimi, a local engineer, converted it into the city’s General Post Office (1881-84).
In 1905, Silvio Meletti purchased the building at a public auction and on 18th May 1907, after a two-year renovation designed by Enrico Cesari, the café was inaugurated.
The Neoclassical light-pink façade has three levels, the last of which is a fantastic terrace overlooking the square. The outer ground floor features a five-arched portico, whose vaults were decorated by Giovanni Picca in 1883 with scenes recalling the past of the building as a Post Office. In 1906, during the works commissioned by Silvio Meletti, the frescoes were plastered until 1998, when the latest restoration works carried out on the building brought the decorations back to light.
Visiting the café is like taking a dip into the past. The Art-Deco interior is perfectly preserved and includes a bar area and a pastry counter on the left and a sitting area on the right with little round tables made of white marble and wrought cast iron, thonet chairs and small green velvet sofas.
The ceiling is decorated with frescoes by Pio Nardini depicting cherubs surrounded by anise branches and features fine Murano glass and brass chandeliers. On the right is an elegant spiral staircase made of carved wood that was once used to access the upper floor.
The café’s specialty is, of course, “Anisetta Meletti”, a green anise liqueur usually served cold or at room temperature with a roasted coffee bean in it, the so-called mosca (literally, “the fly”). Caffè Meletti is also an ideal spot for a drink or even a breakfast, if you’ve chosen an accommodation in the historic centre.
Between 1990 and 1996, the café remained closed until the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Ascoli Piceno (the local banking institute’s foundation) purchased and restored the whole building, including the gallery to the back of the café.
During the works, some interesting finds from the Roman Age were discovered and are now preserved in a glass case in the basement.
Over the years, many illustrious guests from the world of Italian culture have visited Caffè Meletti, such as Mario Soldati, Beniamino Gigli, Mario del Monaco and Renato Guttuso. Carlo Alberto Salustri, a writer best known as Trilussa, wrote: “So many stories and sonnets of mine were inspired by Anisetta Meletti”. The café has also been the set of many films such as “Silver Spoon Set” (or “The Dauphins”, 1960) by Francesco Maselli starring Claudia Cardinale and “Alfredo Alfredo” (1972) directed by Pietro Germi and starring Stefania Sandrelli and Dustin Hoffman.
In 1981, the Italian Ministry of Culture included Caffè Meletti in the list of the Italian cafés of historical and artistic interest.
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AUTHOR: Lella Palumbi, expert in art history