Connoisseurs' Italy
Ancona - Terni - Rieti - L`Aquila - Sulmona - Chieti - Pescara - Teramo - Ascoli Piceno

Ancona - Cathedral of S. Ciriaco

This excursion starts from Ancona, where history has left many notable munuments: the superb Roman Arch of Traian on the harbor, the mediaeval Church of S. Ciriaco and S. Maria della Piazza. The Palaces - Ferretti (National Museum of the Marches), degli Anziani, Bosdari and Loggia dei Mercanti (1451-59) date from the time Ancona was a Maritime Republic. When Pope Clement XII made tha city a free port (1732) a great many secular and religious building were adde : Vanvitelli's Arch, the Churches of S. Domenico, S. Francesco delle Scale, and Gesu`, the Fontana dei Cavalli (Horse's fountain) and the baroque Porta Pia (Porta Pia gate). The city's most beautiful monument is the Romanesque-Gothic Cathedral of S. Ciriaco (11th-13th c.) overlooking the sea from on high, with its many Byzantine features (richly decorated door, polygonal dome, palaeo-Christian crypt, and museum).

Abbey of S. Pietro in Valle

After leaving Ancona we will drive to Chiaravalle, Iesi and Cingoli and try a glass of renowed Verdicchio wine at Cupramontana we reach Fabriano to gaze on its mediaeval beauty set off by the Palazzo del Podestà, the Church of S. Agostino, and the Cathedral. Entering Umbria at Fossato di Vico, we drive trough Gualdo Tadino and Nocera Umbra (interesting picture galleries in both towns), via Foligno, Trevi and Spoleto to Terni, where we must visit the Churches of S. Salvatore, S. Francesco, S. Pietro and S. Lorenzo, the Cathedral and the nearby ruins of the Roman amphitheatre. There are two pleasant Detours from here : one to the splendid Abbey of S. Pietro in Valle (25 kms) and the impressive Marmore Falls, and 14 kms along the road of Rieti the poetic Lake Pediluco.

Greccio (Rieti) - Franciscan Shrine

Rieti has a great deal of artistic and historical treasures for us to see: the Cathedral, the Bishop's Palace with its ground floor Gothic vaulted ceilings, the Baroque Palazzo Comunale, and the mediaeval town walls. Nearby are the four charming Franciscan Friaries: Fonte Colombo, della Foresta, Poggio Bustone and the friary in which S. Francis is said to have built the first Crib on Christmas Eve, 1233, at Greccio. After driving through green valleys by wooded hillsides, we pass Antrodoco to enter L'Aquila.

L`Aquila - Church of S. Maria di Collemaggio
This is the main city in Abruzzo's historical and cultural past, and has two of Italy's most beautiful churches: San Bernardino (15th-18th c.) and S. Maria di Collemaggio (13th c.). Up the typical via Sassa, lined with mediaeval, 16th century and Baroque buildings, we can stop and see the fine 13th century "Fontana delle 99 Cannelle" and the church of S. Giusta, before continuing upwards to the well fortified Castle built by the Spaniards in 1535 , from where we can enjoy the splendid view of the Gran Sasso d'Italia mountain , and visit the National Museum of Abruzzo (archaeology, sculpture, paintings, miniatures, wrought gold, ceramics) . From L'Aquila we will head for Paganica and Assergi (cable car to Campo Imperatore, 3,400 meters a.s.l., or go down to Bominaco (Romanesque Churches of S. Pellegrino and S. Maria), Popoli (14th c. "Taverna Ducale") and Torre dei Passeri and the nearby 12th century Abbey of S. Clemente a Casauria. We will then turn back to Popoli, and turn off towards the ancient town of Corfinio and the Romanesque Basilica of S. Pelino (or Valvense).

Sulmona - Porta Napoli
16 kms on is Sulmona Ovid's birthplace, famous for its confetti (sugared almonds) to see the Cathedral, the Churches and Palace of Annunziata (municipal museum), the interesting Piazza del Carmine with the Renaissance Fontana del Vecchio. From Sulmona we will drive up to the summer and winter resort of Rivisondoli, Roccaraso, Pescasseroli and Scanno, and possible go in the Abruzzo National Park. Up to "rampa degli Abruzzi" panoramic road around Monte Maiella, we reach Guardiagrele (Churches of Santa Maria Maggiore and S. Francesco), and Chieti.

Roccascalegna (Chieti) - Castle
Chieti is one of the oldest cities in Italy. According to legend, its origins go back to the Greeks. There are numerous monuments, especially of the classical age, along the streets of the historic centre: the Cathedral, Roman remains, Museo Nazionale di Antichità, with the "Capestrano Warrior", the best existing example of archaic sculpture. Among the religious buildings, they deserve a visit the Church of Santa Chiara, the Church of Sant'Agostino and San Domenico and San Francesco al Corso. In the Church of the Cappuccini are preserved some precious paintings of the school of Paolo Veronese.

Atri - Cathedral cloister
Pescara is 19 kms away, the modern capital of Adriatic Abruzzo, and a popular seaside resort. Gabriele D'Annunzio was born here in 1863. Leaving the coast for the interior, let us stop at Loreto Aprutino (Galleria Acerbo has a collection of antique Abruzzo ceramics), and Penne (a delightful little town with mediaeval and Baroque buildings), Atri (one of the finest cathedrals in central Italy - 13th, 15th c. ) and Teramo.

Morro D'Oro (Teramo) - Abbey of S. Maria di Propezzano
with its superb Cathedral (Gothic doorway, 15th century silver altar frontal by Nicola da Guardiagrele, and polyptyc by Jacobello da Fiore, 1450) . Near the village of Morro D'Oro, in the province of Teramo, there is the impressive church of Santa Maria di Propezzano, late Romanesque-Gothic church, which was a reference point for pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land following a path along the Adriatic. After tasting Teramo's simple, refined cuisine we will return to Marches and stop at Ascoli Piceno.

Ascoli Piceno - Piazza del Popolo
Ascoli Piceno
If it happens to be the eve of the first Sunday in August, we are lucky, because we can see the Quintana tournament in 15th century costumes . If not we can stroll around the central square, Piazza del Popolo, surrounded by its magnificient buildings, such as Palazzo dei Capitani del Popolo (12th-16th c.) and the Gothic Church of S. Francesco, and the adiacent Loggia Dei Mercanti (1509-1513). Wandering around the many narrow sttreets such as Via delle Torri, Via dei Soderini, or Via di Solestà that leads to Roman Solestà bridge, we will eventually see the Palazzo Comunale (with the municipal painting gallery) in Piazza Arringo, the Cathedral (with a polyptic by Carlo Crivelli) and the nearby 12th c. Baptistery. There is also the Romanesque Church of SS. Vincenzo and Anastasio, the 16th c. Palazzo Malaspina and Palazzo Bonaparte, and the Roman Gemina Gate. Before return to Ancona , we will call on Tolentino to see the Basilica of S. Nicolas of Tolentino (15th c. doorway, 16th c cycle of frescoes and a superb cloister ), the town of Camerino from which you can survey the surrounding countryside, and San Severino Marche, with its interesting secular and religious buildings.
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