What to see in Ascoli Piceno
Ascoli Piceno is located in the southern part of the Marche region and is 28 km from the Adriatic Sea. Its urban center rises at an altitude of 154 m asl, in the confluence zone between the Tronto river and the Castellano stream, surrounded on three sides by mountains (the Ascension mountain, the San Marco hill and the Flower mountain). Its territory is surrounded by two protected natural areas: the Gran Sasso and Monti Della Laga national park in the south and the Sibillini Mountains National Park in the north-west.
The origins of the city are shrouded in mystery, but it is quite certain that there was human presence from the Stone Age and that the area was already inhabited by the Italic peoples in the Neolithic era. According to Italic tradition, the city was founded by a group of Sabines, who were guided by a woodpecker, a bird sacred to Mars, during one of their migrations. The Sabines would have merged with other indigenous peoples giving rise to the Picenes, of which Ascoli became the main center also thanks to its position on the Via Salaria, which connected the salt marshes to the mouth of the Tiber to those of the Adriatic coast. Ascoli Piceno is one of the monumental cities of Italy, “one of the most beautiful small cities in Italy”: its historical center is entirely built in travertine, extracted from the quarries of the territory, and has Renaissance Piazza del Popolo as its fulcrum the where there are some of the most important buildings including the Palazzo dei Capitani, the historic Caffè Meletti and the church of San Francesco. Another urban fulcrum is the urban space of Piazza Arringo, the oldest square in Ascoli, where the medieval Baptistery of San Giovanni, the Cathedral of Sant’Emidio, contains the crypt, rises. There are also the Bishop’s Palace, the Palazzo dell’Arengo, the seat of the civic art gallery.
Not only the squares, but also the medieval streets and alleys contribute to characterize the historic center (via Pretoriana, via di Solestà, via delle Stelle, via Soderini, via Del Trivio,). The monuments include: the Roman Bridge of Solesta, one of the few in Italy, which can also be visited inside, the ruins of the Roman Theater, the Grotte dell’Annunziata, a gigantic construction from the Roman period, the Fortezza Pia and the Forte Malatesta and the Palazzetto Longobardo with the Ercolani tower, one of the few surviving towers among the dozens that appear in medieval chronicles, in memory of which Ascoli has the nickname, City of the hundred towers. Also worth mentioning are the small temples dedicated to the patron saint such as: Sant’Emidio alle Grotte and Sant’Emidio Rosso and also the church of Santi Vincenzo and Anastasio with its characteristic façade divided into panels.
Near the city is the fortress of Castel Trosino, an ancient Lombard settlement overlooking the Castellano stream, where at the end of the 19th century one of the richest necropolis in Italy was found, whose precious finds are now scattered in several museums worldwide.