Offida: lace, bobbins and wine

Offida is pronounced with the stress on the “i”: a name mysterious as it is musical, one that makes an impression and piques your curiosity. You know how Italy strikes you with those explosions of beauty that make your heart beat faster and here you’re aware of it from the moment that you get off the public transport that has taken you to the foot of the town.

You climb the streets, lined with brick buildings, which is the go-to material around here. The light seems warm and reddish, almost heady and inebriating.

Remnants of walls, arches and colonnades. Ruins, buildings and crenellations. This old imperial outpost slowly leads you into its center, and you look around you as you walk, curious. It won’t be long before you’re hypnotized by the magic hands of the women who weave their bobbin lace, threads and spindles spinning through their fingers faster than the eye can keep up with. Where there were once canvases, now there is lace.

Having passed the towers and wandered the alleyways, you come to the main piazza, where you are presented with the sight of the city hall. Its façade dominates one whole side of the square and miraculously blends the opulent, rustic solidity of its masonry with the incredible beauty of its columns, so slender that they almost seem made of lace themselves. But the true surprise awaits when you turn your back on the Palazzo and pick out the church of Santa Maria della Rocca, a monolith that stands undaunted on the edge of a precipice. It beggars belief that a religious building was ever built on such a site, yet there it stands, in defiance of heaven and gravity. It’s a sight that you will never forget, much less the vines that run into the backdrop.

 

Wine is the second, third, or the hundredth soul of Offida. Two protagonists, which couldn’t be more different, share a common allotment on this earth: Rosso Piceno, where the nobility of Montepulciano vies with the irrepressible verve of Sangiovese, and the hyper-local Offida Pecorino, which hinges on the delicate, persuasive vivacity of the white Pecorino grape. It’s not a bad way to finish off with a place and its taste for life: a groaning, noble table, where the everyday and the aristocratic come together. Just like they do with every aspect of this area, which never ceases to amaze.