Italian culture and history: Ascoli Piceno
- WTI Magazine #163 May 20, 2023
Ascoli Piceno is a beautiful Medieval city in Italy’s Marche Region: its skyline is punctured by domes, spires and bell towers and filled with the golden hue of its travertine architecture. The city is surrounded on three sides by the courses of two Rivers, the Tronto and Castellano.
The Middle Ages are the focal point of the Marches's history, and Ascoli Piceno is no exception: just witness its splendid Medieval architecture. Ancient capital of the Picentini people, it was conquered by the Romans, along with the entire region, in 286 B.C.E. It was later dominated by the Barbarians, the Franks, Frederick II and Francesco Sforza, who put in place a cruel dictatorship in 1482.
It is also said that Alaric I, King of the Visigoths, was so charmed by Ascoli's beauty (and aware of its strategic importance) that he preferred not to raze it to the ground, as he did with other cities.
Together with Fermo, the city was the Region's capital until 1860.
Ascoli Piceno's old center is bursting with public and religious buildings ranging from the 1000s to the 1800s.
The most important edifices line the magnificent Piazza del Popolo, among which are Palazzo dei Capitani del Popolo (13th Century), the historic Caffè Meletti, the Church of St. Francis (13th-16th Centuries), and the Loggia dei Mercanti.
Be sure to see Piazza Arringo, the oldest in Ascoli, and site of the Baptistery of San Giovanni; the Cathedral of Sant'Emidio, the city's Duomo, dedicated to the Patron Saint; Palazzo Vescovile and Palazzo dell'Arengo, seat of the City Painting Gallery.
Highly-characteristic are the Churches of the Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio (11th-14th Centuries), and that of Sant’Emidio alle Grotte (18th Century).
Ascoli Piceno is a city to be lived in full: stroll its Medieval heart, with its ancient Roman roads and Renaissance-era piazzas, the most lovely in the Marches. Enjoy evening aperitivo under its porticoes, drink a coffee and indulge your sweet tooth in its pasticcerie. And do not hestitate for a second when offered the olive all'ascolana, fried, stuffed olives invented here. Finally, if you happen upon Ascoli Piceno the first Sunday of August, you cannot but observe the Torneo Cavalleresco della Quintana, a typical procession in 14th-Century costume.
The city of Ascoli Piceno was decorated with Italy's Gold Medal of Military Valor for its resistance to the Nazis in WWII.
San Benedetto del Tronto is Ascoli's outlet to the sea; ancient fishing and merchants' village, its beaches boast seaside establishments oft-frequented by locals in summer.