Excursions and Sorroundings
The Province of Fermo was established in 2004. It stretches from the Sibillini Mountains to the Adriatic Sea and spans on an area of nearby 862 square kilometres, with 40 Municipalities. Gentle hills and sea characterise its territory.
The seaside is linear, flat and mostly sandy while the Sibillini Mountains are largely dominated by U-shaped valleys.
The area produces top quality footwear and leather goods, as well as important agricultural products like fruit, grapes, olives and truffles, very appreciated by tourists.
Cavalcata dell’Assunta (9km from Villa Montanari Rosati)
Fermo has very antique origins: the oldest human rests are funerary remains from the 9th-8th centuries BC, belonging to the Villanovian culture or the Proto-Etruscan civilization. The ancient Firmum Picenum was founded as a Latin colony in 264 BC, as local Headquarter of Rome.
Fermo was very powerful in the Middle Ages: in the 10th century it became the capital of the Marchia Firmana and later, in 1199, it became a free city and remained independent until 1550, when it was annexed to the Papal States.
In the 18th and 19th centuries its territory was divided and united several times; finally, with the Unification of Italy in 1860, it was incorporated in the province of Ascoli Piceno. However, the actual province of Fermo has a different territory from the original one.
Thanks to his story full of important events, Fermo has a charming medioeval structure and very interesting monuments and buildings.
Don’t miss a walk along the narrow lanes of the old town. Then, arriving at the main place, you’ll find nice shops under the arcades, the beautiful Palazzo dei Priori and outdoor cafés and ice-cream shops to have a pleasant time.
Palazzo dei Priori
Its structure results from the fusion of two buildings: an aristocratic edifice of the 18th century and the Church of San Martino, that gave its name to this main place in the 6th -8th centuries. The open fan-shaped facade of the actual building dates back to the 17th century.
It houses the Municipal Art Gallery; the Archaeological Museum with the permanent collection “From the Villanovians to the Picentes”; the Globe Room (the name is due to the big globe placed here in 1713), and many ceremonial rooms: the Cabinet of the Mayor, the Red Room, the Coats of Arms Hall, the Ancient Dresses Hall, the Council Hall and the Portraits Room. At the ground floor there are some operational offices: Municipal Police, Tourist Office and Ticket Office of the Civic Museums.
The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta in Cielo: it is the main church of the metropolitan Archdiocese of Fermo.
It is located in a garden on the highest point of the town and has a wonderful view on the sea and on the land.
Excavation undertaken in 1934-35 under the Church pavement brought to light remains from the age of Antoninus Pius (2nd century AD) and a Palaeo-Christian basilica dating to the 6th century AD. The original basilica was destroyed by order of Frederick Barbarossa in 1176 and reconstructed in 1227 by Giorgio da Como.
Today the cathedral has an asymmetric Gothic facade made of Istrian stone, with a central rose window dating 1348 and a bell tower of the same age.
The interior has been modernized in Neoclassical style. Of the original mosaic decorations only those in the apse are visible, depicting two peacocks near the kantharos surmounted by the chrismon, two typical examples inspired by the art of Ravenna.
The Roman Cisterns
Built around 40 AD, these cisterns are a gigantic and well-preserved example of Roman architecture.
The construction is about 98 by 230ft, consisting of 30 underground rooms, that provided water to the city, probably through public fountains.
Until 1980 six of these rooms were still used to this purpose, taking water from the Sibillini Mountains.
The underground pipe network above the cisterns was connected to a canal around the external walls. From the canal, small pipes brought water into the cisterns: water inlets are still visible inside the rooms. The cisterns are made of Opus caementicium, a waterproofing old Roman concrete.
You can visit the cisterns independently or with a guided tour.
Historical events in Fermo - Cavalcata dell’Assunta: it is an historical horse race among the ten contrade (city wards) of Fermo, held in honour of the Assumption of Mary the day of Ferragosto (15th August). Its origin goes back to the year 1182. The race is preceded by a fascinating parade in ancient costumes, medieval tournaments and a show of flag flyers.
TORRE DI PALME
(8km from Villa Montanari Rosati)
A tiny medieval town with very ancient origins going back to the 6th century BC.
With the Roman conquest of the region, in 268 BC, Torre di Palme played a crucial role: its position on top of the hill had a strategic importance for maritime safety.
In the centuries it has maintained the ancient structure and many buildings of the ancient village.
Moreover, it has a breathtaking panoramic view on the Adriatic Sea and on the valley and extremely charming narrow streets.
In the Church of Sant’Agostino you can admire a polyptych by Vittore Crivelli and a panel by Vincenzo Pagani.
(60km from Villa Montanari Rosati)
The town lies at the confluence of the Tronto river and the small river Castellano and is sorrounded on three sides by mountains and two natural parks: the National Park of the Sibillini Mountains and the National Park of the Monti della Laga.
Ascoli was founded by the Italian population of the Picentes and became a civitas foederata of Rome in 268 BC. It was an important commercial town on the Via Salaria, the “salt road” that connected Latium with the salt production areas on the Adriatic coast.
Ascoli has an enchanting historical centre, mostly built in a kind of marble called travertino, a grey-hued stone extracted from the surrounding mountains. Its central Renaissance square, Piazza del Popolo, is considered one of the most beautiful of Italy.
According to the tradition, in the Middle Ages Ascoli Piceno had more than two hundred towers; today only fifty of them have survived.
On Piazza del Popolo you can admire not only the beautiful Palazzo dei Capitani del Popolo, seat at first of the people’s captain and later of the Papal governor, but also the Gothic Church of San Francesco with its beautiful portal, one of the finest examples of local travertine decoration.
Near the church there is the Loggia dei Mercanti, built in the 16th century, in the Bramantesque style of the Roman High-Renaissance.
Always in Piazza del Popolo, don’t miss a degustation of the famous “Anisetta Meletti”, a typical liquor created in 1879 by Silvio Meletti. Sitting outdoor at the ancient Caffè Meletti, you can taste the delicate aroma of this liquor, coming from the aniseed (Pimpinella Anisum), a plant carefully cultivated in certain areas of clay soil around Ascoli Piceno.
Another important point of the town is Piazza Arringo, the most ancient square of Ascoli, where you can admire the Battistero of San Giovanni; the Cathedral of Sant’Emidio with an important altarpiece by Carlo Crivelli; the Palazzo Vescovile and the Palazzo dell’Arengo, that houses the Municipal Art Gallery.
During a walk through the narrow streets of the medioeval town center, you’ll discover beautiful buildings and enchanting views.
Other important monuments in Ascoli Piceno are: the Roman Solestà Bridge; the ruins of the Roman Theater; the Malatesta Fortress and the Palazzetto Longobardo with its Ercolani Tower. In the neighbourhood don’t miss a visit of Castel Trosino, a very ancient Lombard fortress built up on a hill on the small river Castellano.
“Macerata Opera Festival” (42km from Villa Montanari Rosati)
The historical city centre is on a hill, at an altitude of 313mt, between the Chienti and Potenza rivers.
It was founded by the Picentes with the name Ricina in the 2nd century BC and later called Helvia Recina by the Romans, who first colonised the area at the time of Augustus and Tiberius.
After the destruction by the Barbarians, the inhabitants took shelter upon the hills and began to rebuild the town, first on the top of the hill, later descending and expanding. The new town had the name of Macerata and became a Municipality in 1138.
The rests of the Roman Theater (2nd century AD) with its 2.000 seats let us think that the town should have a medium dimension.
The theatre was probably covered by marbles, used in the Middle Ages to build other constructions. Some parts have survived, like the scene with its wall.
Other monuments from the same period are an ancient Roman street; the Roman bridge on the Potenza river and some ruins of Villas decorated with ground mosaics.
The 16th century was with no doubts the golden age of Macerata: during the Renaissance the central Piazza della Libertà was restored and the Loggia dei Mercanti was built on it. Many old houses and churches were demolished or renovated and new buildings were constructed: Palazzo Legatizio and Palazzo dello Studio, at that time part of the University and nowadays seat of the Municipality. Noble and rich families built their beautiful palaces, such as Palazzo Floriani, Palazzo Ciccolini, Palazzo dei Diamanti, Palazzo Marchetti and Palazzo Mozzi. Also the religious architecture participated in the Renaissance, erecting the Church and Convent of Santa Croce and the churches Santa Maria delle Vergini, San Liberato and San Rocco).
Among the most important monuments of Macerata there is the Sferisterio di Macerata, built in the 1820s.
It is a huge open-air arena in Neoclassical style erected as a stadium for a form of handball by the architect Ireneo Aleandri.
The orchestra pit is so wide that musicians at each end cannot hear each other. However the acoustic is perfect and opera singers and music directors are proud to perform here: as a matter of fact the Sferisterio housed not only very important ballets with Carla Fracci and Nureyev, but also operas with great international artists like Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, Montserrat Caballé, Ruggero Raimondi, Katia Ricciarelli, José Carreras, Renato Bruson and Raina Kabaivanska.
The first opera performed at the Sferisterio was Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida in 1921. Since that year every summer has taken place the “Macerata Opera Festival”.
Fiastra Abbey Natural Reserve – Chiaravalle Abbey
(42km from Villa Montanari Rosati)
The Fiastra Abbey Natural Reserve was established in 1984 to protect the large area given to the Cistercians by the Duke of Spoleto in 1142.
The lands stretch from the river Chienti to the river Fiastra and were once inhabited by wolves, bears, deer and rabbits. When the monks arrived at the end of the same year, they immediately started to work on the construction of the monastery, using material from the ruins of the nearby Roman town of Urbs Salvia, destroyed by Alaric in 408-410 AD. They also began reclaiming the marshy woodland.
The main rule of the Cistercians was “Ora et labora” (Pray and work): they organized their agricultural land and the monastery was actively engaged in encouraging the economic, social and religious development of the area. Its influence grew to the extent that it incorporated 33 independent churches and monasteries. The history of the abbey is recorded in the collection of 3.194 manuscriptes known as the Carte Fiastrensi, now in the State Archive of Rome.
In 1442 the abbey was partially destroyed. Subsequently the Pope entrusted it to a group of cardinals, then in 1581 it was assigned to the Jesuits. In 1773 the whole area was handed over the noble Bandini family. The last heir of this family, Sigismondo, left the area to the present Giustiniani-Bandini Foundation, that set up the Fiastra Abbey Natural Reserve to protect the lands, advance scientific research and environmental education activities, promote the development of agriculture in accordance with the development of tourism and safeguard the ancient abbey, the Prince’s palace and all the surrounding buildings.
In addition to the lands, the forest and the Cistercian Abbey, Fiastra Abbey Natural Reserve provides other interesting attractions: the Farm Museum, the Wine Museum and the Archaeological Collection, presenting fragment of statues, columns and capitals of the Roman town Urbs Salvia.
Chiaravalle Abbey: the Church is dedicated to Santa Maria di Chiaravalle di Fiastra. Its architetture is in Romanesque-Burgundian style, characterized by simplicity and austerity. Building materials for its construction were taken from the nearby Roman settlement of Urbs Salvia.
The most important elements of the abbey are arranged around the cloister, that is the heart of the monastery: here the monks were contemplating and meditating while walking or sitting under the arcades.
The Church was built on the north side of the cloister. Its plain facade is adorned with a rose window and a complex portal. It was further embellished with a three span narthex in the 15th century. The interior is Latin cross in shape, divided into one nave and two aisles by pilasters, crowned by Romanesque capitals.
The Monastery, which is next to the church, still functions as a Cistercian community. It boasts a beautiful cloister rebuilt in the 15th century. All around the cloister it is possible to see the lay brothers’ refectory, the cellar, the chapter house and the grottoes.
You can visit the Fiastra Abbey Natural Reserve and the Chiaravalle Abbey independently, or book a guided tour.
Abbey of San Claudio al Chienti
(33km from Villa Montanari Rosati)
This pretty abbey is located in the Valley of the Chienti river, not far from Macerata. To reach it, you drive down a beautiful cypressed-lined lane and arrive in a secluded place inspiring devotion and silence.
The abbey is one of the most notable example of Romanesque style, with two cylindrical towers flanking the front, recalling the Byzantine style of Ravenna.
It was built over the rests of a Roman Villa in the 11th century, with a Greek cross plan. Actually it is composed by two churches in one structure: the lower church, built with brick cross-vaulted arches, and the upper church, that was the primary worship hall in Romanesque style.
In the lower church there are two frescoes of San Rocco and San Claudio.
Attached to the main structure there was once the monastery, that has been transformed in a hotel and a restaurant.
This abbey is considered the first of a series of churches in Romanesque style built in this territory, like San Vittore alle Chiuse and Santa Maria delle Moje.
Regional Park Gola della Rossa e di Frasassi – Frasassi Caves – Abbey of San Vittore alle Chiuse (nearby 1 hour by car from Villa Montanari Rosati)
By car: on the Railway A14 to north, take the exit Ancona Nord, continue on the SS76, direction Rome. Then take the exit Genga.
The Regional Park Gola della Rossa e di Frasassi is the green heart of the Marches: established in 1997, it is the largest regional protected area of the region.
It has a surface of 10.000ha and it is a natural oasis, offering the possibility to go along several paths and to admire the floral and faunistic beauties typical of the pre-Apenine environment. The natural attractions go from sulphurous water springs to karst phenomena, amongst which the suggestive Gola di Frasassi ant the Gola Rossa,dug by the waters, which have shaped these places creating rocky cliffs and a wonderful subterranean world: the Frasassi Caves (Italian: Grotte di Frasassi).
The fauna of the park highlights some species of considerable naturalistic interest. First of all the golden eagle, which represents the top of the food chain.
Among the wild species there are wolves, lanners and peregrines, while in the small lakes of the caves there are very rare and tiny crustaceans.
The great variety of ecological conditions of the territory allows the development of very different kinds of flora and vegetation.
The Frasassi Caves are a remarkable karst cave system in the Municipality of Genga and among the most famous show caves in Italy.
The caves were discovered by a grouo of Ancona speleologists in 1971.
The artificial entrance tunnel brings the visitors into the “Abisso Ancona”, a huge hall that could house without problems the Cathedral of Milan. The stalagmites in this hall are typical palm trunk stalagmites: the water falling from the high ceiling has a high energy, which results in this different shape of the stalagmites, looking like palm trunks. In the middle of the hall a group of millenary stalagmites called “the Giants” dominates: with a diameter from 2mt to 5mt they are certainly the most impressive of the cave. Then, at the end of the hall, there is the “Niagara”: a white flow of pure calcite, with notable dimensions.
In the “Sala delle candeline” (Hall of the tiny candles) a number of rather small, slim and pure white stalagmites stands in a calm cave lake. At the bottom, the formations are covered with dogtooth spar, calcite crystals that grew in thousands of years under water in a clear, absolutely undisturbed cave lake. The upper boundary of the crystals is absolutely horizontal, as it marks the water level of this ancient lake.
In the cave system, some small lakes are still existing, while some have crystallized or evaporated, and tourists can see only a white concretion.
Other astonishing chambers: the “200 Hall” so called for its length (about 200mt); the “Hall of the Grand Canyon” with its clefts; and the final “Neverending Hall”, where the tourists can admire labyrinths and windings with low ceiling and different concretions.
All year round the temperature in the caves is nearby 14° Celsius, with a humidity of 100%. For this reason we suggest to wear heavy clothes.
The Abbey of San Vittore alle Chiuse is the most important Benedectine Monastery of this territory.
It is located in the Municipality of Genga, 3km from the Frasassi Caves.
Church and monastery rose in the last decade of the 10th century from the initiative of a society of secular vassals.
Later the abbey reached its main importance and power in the 13th century, when it governed more than 40 churches, feudal castles, land properties, in the territories of Fabriano. Genga, Sassoferrato and Roccacontrada.
After the last restructuring in our century, the abbey appears as a beautiful genuine Romanesque building, which recalls paleochristian architectonic particulars, as well as Lombard and Byzantine. It is perhaps the most impressive Romanesque building of Marches: it appears elegant and slender, and its two towers give the idea of a beautiful fortress. The walls are made of travertine bricks and mixed materials, while the plant is admirably simple and geometrically harmonious.
Regional Park of Mount Conero
(50km from Villa Montanari Rosati)
Mount Conero is the only relief (572mt) overhanging the sea from Trieste to Gargano, and it’s the heart of the homonymous Regional Park.
The entire area is a nature sanctuary extending for 5.800hectares, with places of great charm: the Bay of Portonovo, the beach of the “Two Sisters” (Due Sorelle), the northern view-point, Pian Grande, Pian dei Raggetti and many others, for a total of 18 hiking routes developing among strawberry trees, brooms, pines, in the magic Mediterranean vegetation.
The two small lakes of Portonovo – the Lago Profondo (Deep lake) and the Lago Grande (Big Lake) – close to the sea, contain brackish water: a water with more salinity resulting from the mixture of seawater with fresh water. The seawater enters the lakes by storming weather or infiltrating under the sand, while the fresh water comes from small springs or temporary tributary streams. These two small lakes are for this reason full of life and result a very interesting natural habitat: birdwatchers can admire several species, like the Mallard, the Coot and the Moorhen.
Don’t miss during the day a boat excursion or a snorkelling trip to the “Two Sisters”, two fantastic rocky cliffs full of underwater life in the clear blue sea of Monte Conero; while at the sunset and in the evening, stop for an aperitif on the Beach of Portonovo, a white stone bay with a suggestive sea view.