In the hills above Grottammare is the town of Ripatransone. With breath-taking views of the Adriatic it is not only a pretty town with museums, churches and art gallery but also home to the claim of narrowest alley in Italy.
I must admit that the alleyway was our primary reason for going to Ripatransone, to see whether we could easily walk through a gap between two houses that was no wider than 43 cms (I'd seen videos on Youtube of slim people making the passage with apparent ease - I was not convinced I would do the same).
We arrived at 13.00, the start of siesta, the only people in the streets were the children going home from school. The smell of cooking and log fires wafted into the Marche air, but there was little visible sign of life. We wandered the streets, all cobbled, each exuding a different charm, until we came upon the square, Piazza Donna Bianca de Tharolis, with its war memorial and cannon. The cannon was an interesting artefact from WWI with seats and foot rests either side of the barrel. Not a seat I would like to fill.
From there we followed the plaques to the narrowest alley. As we wound our way down I thought we had found the alleyway. A pathway that looked too small, with steps going down between two buildings, met all the criteria except I could walk down it normally. At the bottom another brown sign pointed us in the right direction but if it had not been for the fact that I was looking for it, I would have missed it. The 43 cms relates to the point at which an average man's shoulders would pass through, further up it narrows to about 38 cm. So preoccupied were we with making our way down and taking pictures of Stefano trying to prise me out of the alley at the bottom (I promise I wasn't really stuck) that I neglected to take a picture of the alley itself!
We continued our wanderings around the town which remained as dead as a town of that size can be. All the buildings, even the churches remained resolutely shut - a reminder if one was needed that Italy shuts for lunch. That did mean, however, that we could enjoy the town for its architecture and ambience without interruption. We passed out of the town via the lower roads, beyond the medieval walls towards Le Fonti.
The buildings around the water source (Le Fonti) were created in the fourteenth century outside the boundary walls. The fountains were used as wash houses with the rinse cycle in one area, the soaping in another. Wonderfully they are still being used today; we found recently washed laundry hanging up to dry under the roof of one the wash houses. Above the fountains is an amphitheatre which is used for outside concerts and stage performances.
We wound round the edge of the town, along its medieval walls and headed back down towards the sea. We had been unable to see the museums and art galleries due to being pressed for time but the town was worth the trip for its look and the fun of making it through the narrowest alley in Italy.