The Langobards (or Lombards) were a Germanic tribe that began in southern Sweden and worked their way down into Italy by the 6th century. There they established permanent German rule in Italy, but became Italians in the process. This movement from Sweden to Italy was gradual, taking some four centuries.
Their original name, Longobards, refers to their long beards and when they descended on Italy in the 6th century, they had to deal with several earier waves of German invaders (particularly the Goths) as well as the resurgent Eastern Romans. However, twenty years after the last of the Eastern Romans were expelled from Italy (751 AD), the Lombards were stomped on by the better organized Franks. But it also marked the completion of the Germanization of Italy. The Lombards, unlike earlier Germans, had not maintained the ancient Roman forms of government during their domination of the Peninsula, nor did the Lombard duchies which survived the Frankish onslaught in the South. The political landscape of Italy was given a German overlay by the Lombards. While everyone eventually spoke Italian and became Catholic, Italy became another Germanic area.
Perhaps most importantly, the Lombards got involved in political arguments with the Pope, and this was what caused the papacy to call upon the Franks for aid. The papacy was a prize every Medieval magnate wanted to possess. But the popes knew that they could not long survive if they were the creature of one king or emperor. The Moslems had conveniently removed the authority of the Eastern Roman emperor from Italy, but someone was needed to keep the Germans in Italy (and elsewhere) from controlling the papacy. For several centuries the protector of the papacy became the Franks (and later the French). Out of all this came a papacy that became an arbiter of Medieval politics. While the papacy controlled extensive lands in central Italy, the pope was never much of a temporal power.
Fondest memory: The papacy created a balance of power between the various German kings that provided the Church an independence it would never have had if there were an effective Holy Roman Emperor.
The last remnants of Lombard independence in Italy, the numerous duchies which they had established in the south, eventually fell to the Normans, who had originally come into southern Italy to serve as mercenaries for the Lombard dukes.
Lombards, Longobards etc. etc. Why can't we just use one name and stick to it. I'm on a bit of a theme here as I don't understand why the English should have corrupted Firenze into Florence either. Now I've got that off my chest, back to the exhibition.
As you can see from my ticket stub, the exhibition was for 7 months in 2004 but they have many items from Longobardian times as permanent displays.
This particular one had a video (in Italian, which I don't understand, but the pictures were nice and the man insisted I view it) which gave you some idea of where they were from (Germanic tribe) and how much of Italy they controlled (two fairly substantial regions from coast to coast in the middle and northern part of Italy).
Thus it was that I learnt a great deal more about them than I previously knew and saw some of their artifacts, such as that shown on my ticket stub (no cameras allowed). Their artifacts were limited in number from simple necklaces made of simple things (such as shells) to detailed the items pictured which tended to be of similar patterns to those shown.
Their clothing wasn't far removed from the stone age with a heavy reliance on animals and plants.
If you read this before it finishes, are in Ascoli Piceno and speak Italian, it's worthwhile.
Since the founding of Ascoli Piceno as a free city-state, this is the square where public assemblies were held. The word "arengo" means just that and so the corruption to Arringo.
Fondest memory: The buildings look like they were erected just recently and the splendid Cathedral of S. Emidio is a fine example of just that. On its left is the octagonal Baptistry of S. Giovanni. Somewhat sadly, I felt, some young urchins were bounding their bikes up and down the steps while I took the photo but, that's life!
If you've ever wondered about the geometrical significance of the Baptistry, wonder no more. The square plant of the bottom part represents the terrestrial world, the dome is the sky; in other words, the immensity; the central octagonal part represents baptism as the mediation between the earthly and the divine.
The saint after whom the cathedral was named came from Trier in Germany and was the first bishop of Ascoli. After his martyrdom in 303AD, St. Emidio became the patron saint of the city and this is celebrated annually on August 5th. He is also invoked in all of Italy as protector against earthquakes.
Out of sight to the right is the Arengo Palace, seat of the town hall.
It is here that the Municipal Art Gallery can be viewed and, while I was there, an exhibition featuring the Longobards was on.
Allan and I have found that when we visit a town in Italy, we always check out the location of the Post Office. Yes, I use the Post Office as most of you do...to mail my post cards. However, we also use the post office to exchange our dollars into Euros.
We learned this in 1997. The exchange rate is just a "tad" above the going price, and the commission rate is very low, regardless of how much money you convert. This time, it was about 2 Euro.
We were impressed with the changes in the post offices since we first started coming to Italy. In 1997, they were very slow and inefficient. Today, they are automotized and much faster.
What to do when you arrive at the Post Office:
1. Take a number.
2. Check to see that the number is for the proper activity.
3. If you are exchanging money, that activity will have a code letter such as B.
4. Wait until your number is called or flashed mechanically above the teller who is ready to serve you.
5. Then proceed with business. Sometimes, if the person does not speak any English, then you have to improvise and use as much Italian as possible. Hand signals and pointing also work.
6. This procedure is the one you use for mailing post cards also. Except the code letter will be different.
Fondest memory: The Post Office in Ascoli Piceno was very beautiful and quite massive on the outside.
The people who worked there were very patient and understanding of we novices.
Craftsmanship is traditional in and around Ascoli Piceno.
Able stone cutters from Ascoli and Acquasanta Terme use travertine for decorative applications. The Majolica tiles are made in these areas. It is the processing of majolica ceramics that is done here. The making of stringed instruments are made by a few of the skilled craftsmen also.
Lace Making on a lace pillows is practiced in Offida, Tronto, and Castignano. This pillow lace or spindle lace is made using hemp or linen or cotton yarn. The wok is cone almost entirely by women. Some of these laces have alleries of mythology!
The little town called Force is known as the "town of coppersmiths". Force is a small mountain village in the Sibillini territory. But copper is also worked with in Ascoli. I learned that Ascoli Piceno was "known in the Middle Ages for its metalwork: arms, armous, helmets, etc. Forged iron is another craft of this area, but practiced by only a few smiths.
Fondest memory: It was so good to know that craftmanship still survives in and around Ascoli Piceno!
In 2003, Rosemarie and I rocked up here at night en route (lost as usual) to a B&B near Gubbio. Since we had left from Rome in the morning it sort of begs the question if you are at all familiar with Italy - "Like, what on earth were you doing that far off course?"
Well, it was my first time in mainland Italy and I was scarred by my experience in Sicily. That's my excuse, pathetic though it is!
Fondest memory: Anyhow, we decided to stop for a short time and eat. Strolling through the piazzas at night in the glow of the floodlights the place had a kind of magic to it.
The wonderful aura wrought by the false light on the stone buildings was entrancing.
It was also the cleanest town by far of any we had thus encountered in Italy. We found our wonderful trattoria (see opening page), ate, and vowed to return for a full day. We never did fulfill our vow.
That had to wait for my solo experience the following year when I discovered that Ascoli Piceno is worth visiting in the daylight as well.
If you have a town and rivers, you inevitably have bridges. The Ponte di Cecco is a reminder of the town's Roman origins, along with the Augustan bridge, the caves of Annunziata, ex-temples of S. Gregorio Magno and S. Venanzio and the ruins of the Consolar Salarian Road.
There are also Roman artifacts in the Archeological Museum, located in Piazza Arringo.
The most splendid Roman artifact of all though, a magnificent aquaduct, was tragically and meaninglessly destroyed by the Germans as they withdrew during the Second World War. Need I add, yet another senseless act of war.
Seeing this is the page with government house on it, time to give you a potted history. The town is situated at 154 m. above sea level on an alluvial terrace near the confluence of the Castellano and Tronto rivers, about 30 km. from the Adriatic coast. It was founded by the Piceni and conquered by the Romans in 286 BC. However, a rebellion broke out in 91 BC. at the time of the Social Wars, but was quelled two years later. After the fall of the Roman Empire, Ascoli Piceno was ruled by the Lombards until 774, when the Franks gave it to the Church. During the Middle Ages it was ruled by the Bishops and later (12th century) became a free municipality. In 1242 Frederick II of Swabia conquered Ascoli, but a few years later it again passed under Papal rule, although the power of the Church was only a nominal thing as the town was governed by various local lords. Only in 1426 did Ascoli become definitively part of the Papal States and share their fortunes until 1860, when it was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy.
The town's medieval urban structure is mainly based on the ancient Roman orthogonal plan and is still clearly visible. Modern suburbs have developed this century beyond the rivers and, as it has a university, there is plenty of youthful exuberance about the place.
Fondest memory: Palazzo del Governo is situated on Corso Trento E Trieste
On my way out of Ascoli Piceno I passed this column. The dazzling light issuing forth from the golden statue begged me to take a photo. I had to throw all my filters on just to suppress the sparkle.
It's a dedication to the Virgin Mary.
Favorite thing: The evening passeggiata in the Piazza del Popolo. The gracious and attractive citizens of Ascoli come out to stroll in the evening, like Italians everywhere, but the piazza is so perfect that it's like magic. The white paving stones have been polished by centuries of feet so they reflect the light like a sheet of ice, the odd assembly of surrounding buildings hanging together in harmony, and above it all hover the mountains.