Wool. In Australia we know about wool. For many years there was a saying "Australia rides on the sheep's back". It was worth millions to our economy but, of course, the sheep came from overseas and, co-incidentally, these days the most expensive bales are bought by Italians.
The Loggia dei Mercanti pictured here represents the commercial side of the city of centuries ago. It was erected around 1500 and financed by the rich Wool Guild. The portico has elegant, slim features which are more evident because it is adjacent the Church of San Francesco. The front part has 27 arches placed on Corinthian columns.
I want to advise every ones to come in ASCOLI PICENO this fantastic medieval town. it's composed in 2 parts . a lower and an higher part.the lower part is modern , with a big and very efficient hospital , lot of services ,office , police stations etc . The higher part is the older one : churches (form 1200 dc to 1760 dc) old places , museum , restaurants and pub in medieval style!
Absolutely fantastic is a pub in a wonderful place with a castle with clock and medieval walls. this pub/bar is called MELETTI. Absolutely to taste a special coffee called NISETTA with a kind of brandy really delicious (It costs about 5 euros).
The Gothic-style church of St. Francis (begun in 1258). The dome was completed in 1549. In the side portal is the monument to Pope Julius II, while the central portal is one of the finest examples of local travertine decoration. Annexed to the church is the 16th century was the Loggia dei Mercanti, in Bramantesque style.
From my email at the time:
" AVE MARIA
That's what the banner said. So we deemed it time to visit yet another church, the Chiesa di San Francesco. I reflected on how many churches I had been in during my life and still I remain unconverted.
There was a service on, the communion so Rosemarie informed me, though I thought that's what the men did on the side of the streets and in the bars.
We sat up the back to soak up the atmosphere, as we do, and I couldn't help but notice that one of the bright stained glass windows featured the holocaust. Fairly obviously it had been damaged during the war, hence the new windows.
The lady then came around with the offerings basket so I immediately buried my head in my notes while she passed, no doubt feeling rebuffed. I also noted on one side wall a red light. Heck, the last time I'd seen one of those was in Amsterdam but I feel confident that similar services were not on offer here.
Indeed, it appeared to be over a confessional box and Rosemarie said people in long frocks inhabited the place so I thought perhaps I might chance my arm and check it out with a "speak Englese" but Rosemarie counselled against this. Perhaps I could have bought an absolution but it seemed that there were none on offer.
Then Rosemarie said it was time to leave and I blasphemed as I tried to get my camera lens back on again. I guess there will be no place in heaven for me."
It is worth a look into this church for the stained glass alone. Fairly obviously less than 50 years old the colour is brilliant still.
You'll see the odd tower or two around the town but, in a way, it's all a bit sad.
The reasons are manifold. There are a reported 50 still there from an original number around 200. However, you'll see a lot less than that as many are only ruins or bits of other buildings.
Also, a pair of the more prominent towers is not as old as the rest.
A third reason is that the public can't access any of them, all you can do is look.
The Convent of Sant Agostino has a chequered history, and not all of that has been recorded. These days it isn't a monastery but is used for artistic purposes. Civica Galleria d'Arte Contemporanea is its official title.
Personally, the thing I found of great interest is the fact that it also houses a library of over 200,000 volumes, one of the most interesting of which is a Benedictine manuscript dating back to the X - XIII centuries.
The library is appropriately named after Giulio Gabrielli (1832 - 1910), an archaeologist, painter and director of the town library from 1861 to 1899.
Much of the building dates from the 19th century.
They are in the Piazza Arringo and, sooner or later the Le Fontane Di Piazza Arringo or the the Twin Fountains of Piazza Arringo will catch your eye. Situated in front of the Information Center in the Palazzo dell'Arengo. The second identical Fountain is located closer to the Cathedral.
Inaugurated in 1884 they were placed next to the new monument to King Victor Emmanuel II. However, if you're looking for that monument these days, it's been moved to the public gardens. These fountains are Renaissance in architectural terms with elaborate dragons and seahorses.
The Fountain is a bit of eye candy with its huge twin seahorses, large fountain with squirting mouths on each side and an elaborate fish at the top.
Should you be wandering around there at night they take on a new face entirely with imaginative lighting giving one a different perspective on the water works.
As we sat in the Piazza del Popolo in the Caffe Melleni that is one of Italy's 150 listed historic cafes we gazed over to the Palazzo dei Capitani, built by the Lombards in 1549. The central seated figure of Paul III Farnese was sculpted by Simone Cioli in 1544 while the adjacent clock, by Giovanni di Martino da Fossato, was done in 1543.
At the opposite end of the piazza is the Chiesa di San Francesco that precedes the palazzo by 30 years.
Directly across from us I count a row of 27 Corinthian style columns that support a cloister behind which shops lurk.
It's a balmy autumn day as sip our lattes and rejoice in the fact of how privileged we are to be here:
Ascoli Piceno is a city with 12th century charm and 21st century amminities. Walk down narrow streets with quaint shops and enter one of the many piazzas. Probably the most popular is Piazza del Popolo, or, "The People's Square". It is the center of the community hosting a number of festivals and activities. Purchase locally-made ceramics, eat the ice cream, talk with the locals, try the delicious deep-fried olives stuffed with meats, practice your Italian and drink the local wine. One of the most plentiful is the Rosso Piceno, a delightful red wine that is very pleasing to the palate. For a quick coffee, pastry, or tasty sandwich, go to Caffe Oscar. Meet Oscar, a young man married to his work. Though he has a family (see pictures of his baby behind the counter) Oscar works long hours.
The Piazza Arringo was named for the public assemblies (Arengo) which have always been located here since Ascoli Piceno was founded as a free city-state. Today it serves as the civil and religious center of the town. This is true because of the Cathedral of S. Emidio, seat of the Diocese; the Arengo Palace, the seat of the Town Hall.
Also of importance in Piazza Arringo is the Cathedral and Baptistry of S. Giovanni, the merchants' Halls in Arengo Palace, the Municipal Art Gallery, the Library, the Diocesan Museum, and the Archeological Museum at Panichi Palace.
This Piazza was one of our first impressions of Ascoli Piceno because we went immediately to the Tourist Center, which is located here. I was much impressed. It contains the Baptistery, Cathedral, Bishop's Palace, Panichi Palace, Town Hall, Fonzi Palace.
Arringo has witnessed important political, religious, and socail events of the city.
One: Fountain and Arengo Palace
Two: Cathedral of S. Emidio with Bell Tower
Three: Baptistry of S. Giovanni
Four: Allan admiring the embellished Fountain in the center of Piazza
Five: Arengo Palace..information center location
Piazza Arringo is perfectly rectangular, and I really enjoyed the Fountain made by Jecini with its elliptic basins and sculptures of seahorses by Giorgio Paci. It was built between 1820-1914.
One of the most beautiful town squares, I feel, is Piazza Del Popolo (People's Square).
During the first half of the 1500's, Piazza del Popolo became a rectangular shape as it is today when the columned porticoes were added. These porticoes kept the "disorderly artisans/ workshops hidden from view". The Piazza is paved in Travertine.
The buildings found in this square are representative of the 3 powers within the city:
The Palazzo dei Capitani represents the political faction.
The Church of San Francis represents the powerful church faction In 1225 Ascoli was visited by Saint Francis who preached peace & set up the 1st convent in Ascoli. This church has its back on the square, but the apse & transepts are really the best part of the building. It has Gothic features, & over the south door is a statue of Pope Julius II. Open daily 9:30-12:30 & 4-7:30
(Please excuse the blurred photo of church. It is the only close-up I have.)
The Loggia dei Mercanti represents the commercial side of the city. It was erected in 1500 & paid for by the rich Wool Guild. This portico has elegant, slim features which are more evident because it is against the Church of San Francesco. The front part has 5 arches placed on Corinthian columns..
During the day, the square is filled with families. We saw darling children playing; mothers pushing carriages; whole families enjoying the sunshine. At night, we saw older children, lovers, lots of young men, & some families.
Piazza Del Popolo is breathtaking in the sunlight as well as it is at night with the moonlight & the artificial lights.
Photo 1 is the famous Captains' Palace
Photo 2 is the columned porticoes that added unity to the piazza
Photo 3 is Church of S. Francesco at night
Photo 4 is the mingling of locals during the morning in Piazza Del Popolo
Photo 5 is people outside the Captains' Palace in the afternoon
In Piazza Arringo, one cannot miss seeing (at least from the outside) the lovely Cattedrale Di S. Emidio (the Cathedral of S. Emidio). This Cathedral was named after Emidio who was a native of Trier, Germany. He was the first Bishop of Ascoli. In 303 AD, he was martyed. St Emidio is the Patron Saint of Ascoli Piceno; his feast day is August 5th. Throughout Italy, St. Emidio is known as "protector against earthquakes.
The most interesting part of the Cathedral is the Crypt.
This present-day Cathedral stands on the site of a Roman public building which was completely rebuilt. It had a single nave in the shape of a Latin cross about the 2nd half of the 11th century and early 12th century. The base of the two front towers still exist from those centuries as do the dome and the crypt. But, in about 1482, this Cathedral underwent tranformations when two lateral naves, a central apse were built. Later the facade was advanced and incorporated the two ancient towers.
The power of this church is enhanced because it is the seat of the Diocese. There is also a Diocesan Museum.
Most memorable of the Cathedral is some artwork by Carlo Crivelli. Crivelli originally came from the Veneto area, but he spent the second part of his life in Ascoli. Here, he painted the wonderful "Annunciation for the church of the Annunziata (which is on display in London at the National Gallery) Fortunately, his masterpiece is the polyptych in the Cathedral.
Open: 7-12 and 3:30-6:30
One: Facade of Cattedrale Di S. Emidio
Two: Crivelli's masterpiece in the Cathedral
Three: Elaborate detail of Cathedral
Four: Part of Crypt of Cathedral
Five: Windows of Cathedral
While you stroll the Piazza Arringo, you cannot miss the Le Fontane Di Piazza Arringo or the the Twin Fountains of Piazza Arringo. Located in front of the Information Center in thePalazzo dell'Arengo. The second identical Fountain is located closer to the Cathedral.
They were inaugurated in 1884 and placed next to the new monument to King Victor Emmanuel II (that monument was moved to the public gardens). These fountains are Renaissance in architectual terms with elaborate dragons and seahorses.
The Fountain is a delight to view with its huge twin seahorses, large fountain with squirting mouths on each sie and an elaborate fish at the top. We were amazed at how different it appeared at night when it was all drenched in lights...it literally "glowed".
It took me the logest time to realize that there were two identical fountains. The one I noticed was the one in front of the Information Center. Now, I'm very sorry that I did not take a photograph that showed both of them, especially at night.
The Baptistery (known as Battistero di S. Giovanni) is one of the most unique architectual sites in Ascoli. It's located on the left side of the Cathedral. The shape is a square dome with an octagonal lantern that is embellished on its sides by arched 3-lighted blind windows (except for that part that overlooks the eastern part. That part has 2 mullioned windows with two lights.
This Baptistery is one of the best examples of Romanesque architecture in Italy (so say the books). It was here in the early Middle Ages, but it was rebuilt in the last half of the 12th century. It was never open when I was there, but it supposedly has a circular fount for baptism by immersion inside. They say that the interior part is much older and was part of the adjacent Basilica (which is now the Cathedral). The exterior is built of completely different materials, in this case, Travertine from ancient nearby structures (11th and 12th centuries).
Being an English teacher, I love symbolism; thus, when I read that the shape of the Baptistery has a symbolical meaning, I was fascinated. "The square plant of the bottom part represents the terrestrial world, the dome the sky; in other words, the immensity, the central octagonal part represents baptism as the mediation between the earthly and the divine". I say "WOW" to that symbolism!
I strongly advice going to Piazza Arringo to visit Palazzo dell'Arengo where the Tourist Information Center is located. In addition to the Tourist Center, Palazzo dell' Arengo also houses a small museum with very interesting information. It is the seat of the Civic Art Gallery and of the Municipality. It incorporates ancient medieval buildings, but the inside is completely renovated. There are two halls and three naves on the ground floor, and it has a vast hall on the top floor.
Allan and I perused the area with displays about the history and the culture. We asked several questions, and the people working there were quite helpful. They also display some of the local gastronomy, the wines, and the places for tourist to visit. We got our information about where to stay at this location. They gave us an easy to read list of all the hotels and pensiones, listed by the number of stars assigned to them. They also gave us a map of the town, and marked the route for us to find our hotel.
One: Outside of the Palazzo dell' Arengo
Two: Display of remains found in and around Ascoli Piceno
Three: Another display of items found in early graves near Ascoli Piceno
Four: Night view of Palazzo dell' Arengo.
I could have spent hours looking at and learning about the beautiful Palazzo dei Capitani (Captains' Palace) in Piazza Del Popolo.
It's important to see it at various times of day and night. It takes on a whole new look in the dark with the lighting.
For centuries, The Palazzo dei Capitani was the residence of the Captain of the People of Ascoli Piceno, then the elders, and then the Papal Governors.
This wonderful Palace was built in the 13th century, and of great importance is the 13th century clock tower. It is surmounted by a 16th century statue. Still today this structure symbolizes the Political element of Piazza Del Popolo. Until I visited, I did not know that the Captains' Palace had a subterranean archeological route.
There was a fire in 1535 which made a radical refurbishing necessary. During that time, work involved the inside courtyard (designed by the architect Merli).
It's worth a visit to Ascoli Piceno just to see this "jewel" of the famous Piazza Del Popolo!
One: Morning view of the Captains' Palace
Two: Inside Courtyard
Three: Night shot of Palazzo dei Capitani