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Ascoli Piceno - Museums and Churches

Valerie Schneider (Valerie)

Museums

Purchasing a ticket for one museum garners you half-price admission on the others.
Tip: Hit the cheaper-priced Archeological Museum first if you want to tally up bigger savings!

Pinacoteca Civica

Admission: 5 Euro
Open 9:00am - 1:00pm and 3:00pm - 7:00pm. Closed Monday.
Located in the beautiful Palazzo del Comune (also known as the Palazzo dell'Arengo), the Civic Art Gallery displays an impressive array of paintings, sculptures and tapestries, as well as a collection of violins. Frescoes ceilings and windows overlooking the piazza add interest, as well. The courtyard of the palazzo is a pretty, tranquil spot, too.

Archeological Museum

Admission: 2 Euro
Open 8:30am - 7:30pm. Closed Monday.
Across the piazza from the civic art museum lies this villa-turned-museum containing a slew of artifacts scattered about three floors. From the pre-historic Piceni people to the Romans, there are more than 3,000 years' worth of treasures represented here. Also noteworthy is the exhibit on the Roman Forum that formerly occupied the site of the Piazza Arringo. Funerary jewelry recovered from burial sites, mosaic work, and more let you travel through prehistoric eras. Special exhibits are frequent occurrences.

Diocesan Museums (Museo Diocesano)

Open 9:30am - 1:00pm; Saturdays 9:30am - 1:00pm and 3:30pm - 7:00pm.
Next door to the cathedral in the Bishop's Palace is a small but impressive collection of sacred art gathered from area churches, some of which were destroyed or deconsecrated. Frescoes, paintings, sculptures continue to inspire awe.

Cartiere Papale

Admission: Free
Open 10:00am - 1:00pm and 3:00pm - 7:00pm.
Elegant Renaissance structures alongside the Castellano River housed a prestige paper mill that turned out paper for the popes, until the early 1900s. There is a museum dedicated to the mill's past, and the complex also contains the Orsini Museum of Natural History, displaying rocks, fossils, fauna and shells in the naturalist's original 19th century showcases.

Next to the Cartiere Papale is a restaurant and from here, a trail along the river leading you to little waterfalls and cool, quiet spots. It's a great place to escape the heat if you visit in the summer, or if you just want a nature walk.

Churches

Piazza Arringo at night

The city seems awash in churches, and boasts no less than sixteen that were done up in Romanesque style. There is also an impressive cathedral and a monumental Franciscan church that will make you gape.

Duomo – The Cathedral of Sant'Emidio

Dedicated to the city's patron saint, the Duomo's foundation rests atop a Roman forum. First constructed in the 4th century, it has been expanded and enhanced throughout the centuries, most significantly during the late 1400s. The original cupola mimics the upper octagonal portion of the next-door Baptistry. The impressive interior is resplendent with lofty, vaulted ceilings from which hang elegant chandeliers. The vaults contain vibrant frescoes. Scalloped bays line the side aisles, and the columns are each topped with differently-carved capitals. On the right is the chapel containing a famous polyptych (still in its original frame) by Venetian painter, Carlo Crivelli. Unfortunately, Napoleon's troops made off with the gemstones that had originally been embedded into the painting.

In the spacious crypt you will find a forest of columns, Roman ruins and a memorial to the saint for which the church is named.

Baptistry

The unique, detached structure built in the 4th century almost appears to be a tempietto. A solid, square base cradles an octagonal, columned crown. It is rarely open, so if you see the door ajar, run, don't walk, to view the simple interior which preserves the ancient central baptismal pool, and a more recent free-standing font.

San Francesco

Constructed in phases beginning in 1258, the enormous structure forms the northern boundary of Piazza del Popolo, but its main and elaborate Gothic entrance fronts via del Trivio. Elegantly carved travertine alternately looks delicately lace-like and solid, with roaring lions and towering columns, of which no two are alike. Inside, the modern stain-glass windows tell tales and filter the light in the vast, austere interior.

The sacristy holds several important paintings. The newly reopened cloister has been recently renovated to its original, simple splendor.

Loggia dei Mercanti

The stately, vaulted loggia attached to the south side of San Francesco was built by the powerful wool merchants' guild. It is a favorite gathering spot for the citizens, and also hosts a daily flower market.

Other Noteworthy Churches

  • San Gregorio Magno (Piazza Sant'Agostino): A first century temple turned church with ancient Corinthian columns embedded in the exterior facade. The interior is rarely open.
  • Sant'Agostino: Important Romanesque church dating from the 14th century, it contains a fresco called the Madonna della Pace, which has played an important role in Ascoli's history; it continues to be revered as a peace-making icon. The former cloister has been converted to a cultural center and contains a public library, contemporary art museum, and exhibit space.
  • Santa Maria della Carita (Piazza Roma): An example of what happens when high is Baroque unleashed in a small space. This church has a very devout congregation.
  • SS Vincenzo e Anastasio (Piazza Ventidio Basso): Unique rendition of Romanesque style, the facade contains 64 square panels (echoed in the wooden doors). Interior is rarely open.
  • San Pietro Martire: An airy, sun-drenched interior gives off a golden glow, the church is lined with eight altars hung with massive paintings. Compare the two vastly different entrances.

Valerie Schneider (Valerie) is a freelance writer, who lived in New Mexico for twenty years before trading the high desert for the medieval hill towns of Italy in May, 2006. She is a regular contributor to Slow Travel, pens travel agency newsletters, and has written for Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel. She and her husband, Bryan, currently reside in Ascoli Piceno where they conduct small-group tours called Panorama Italy. Read about her Italian adventures in her monthly Slow Travel column, Living Slow in Italy, and on her blog, 2 Baci in a Pinon Tree. See Valerie's Slow Travel Member page.

© Valerie Schneider, 2007

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