Travelling through the ancient Via Salaria

Arquata del Tronto, Ascoli Piceno, Offida, Grottammare

Among the most ancient roads built by the Romans, the Via Salaria was originally a communication channel connecting Reate (Rieti) and the Sabina with Campus salinarum, the current town of Porto d’Ascoli. In the latter was once produced salt, a fundamental resource for for preserving foods. With the decline of the ancient world, the Salaria was deserted until it was reduced to a small trail. Statio of the via Salaria during the roman era, Arquata del Tronto became a great stronghold, frequently disputed in the Middle Ages between Ascoli and Norcia. As the only european municipality with a territory included in the perimeter of two national parks, Arquata owes the name from its Medieval Stronghold. The latter, dating back to XII century, is characterized by a tower and a high donjon both with protruding brackets and merlons. In the main square rises the civic tower with a XVI century bell, around which is located the parish church safeguarding a polychrome wooded crucifix from XIII century. Of ancient origins, Ascoli Piceno’s main feature is of being an open-air museum holding the styles of different eras: from the Middle Ages until the Renaissance. There are many great references of the roman period within which the city soared in importance and prosperity. The main one is probably the ambitious Solestà Bridge, dating back to the augustean period and composed by an arch terminating in the pictoresque green river’s banks. Other main examples of romanesque architecture can be admired in the ruins of S. Venanzio and S. Gregorio churches. The church of S. Venanzio, erected on the area of an ancient pagan temple during XII-XIII century, safeguards canvases such as  Virgin with child (Nardini) and Virgin with saints (De Magistris). The church of S. Gregorio built on XIII century, includes the remains of a roman temple wrongly attributed to Vesta, dating back to the last years of the Republic or the first ones of the Empire (I century b.C). In its proximity rises the Townhall, majestic construction incorporating two medieval buildings of the Arengo maggiore and the Arengo minore palaces.
In the rooms is located the Municipal Gallery, displaying the artworks of a great quantity of representative artists of the modern era. Here, in the heart of Ascoli Piceno, two main squares expand: piazza Arringo and the close piazza del Popolo. The first and most ancient square of the city, occupies the Roman Forum and for the whole medieval period was the center of the civil life, hosting monumental buildings such as the Townhall, the Cathedral with the neighboring Palazzo Vescovile (Bishop Palace) and the close Battistero (baptistery) and the Panichi building. On the peaceful piazza del Popolo, together with the line of 1500s palaces, rises the majestic Palazzo dei Capitani del Popolo (palace of the people’s captain) and, on the back, the church of S. Francesco, one of the most beautiful in the city. Located on the crest of the wide hilly belt divind the Testino river from the Tronto, Offida is small hamlet rich in environmental values. Of ancient origin, Offida was originally populated by the Picens and later conquered by the Romans. However, the hamlet’s golden period was during the Middle Ages, when it became seat of a land agent. Within the central nucleus can be found the Rocca remains, squared stronghold with two cylindrical towers, began in 1488 and finished in 1492. Following the main street one reaches the Townhall, one of the most beautiful of the region. Inside the building there is the Serpente Aureo’s Theatre, dating back to 1700s. Leaving the square, one reaches the sanctuary of S. Agostino, majestic clay-brick of XIV century, safeguarding canvases such as The Magi Adoration by Allegretti and S. Tommaso from Villanova by Trasi.

Since the Middle Ages Offida has been renown for the lace pillow manufacturing, to which every year from mid July to mid August is dedicated the Lace Pillow Exhibition, displaying the best of the production. Continuing towards the coastline direction north, one reaches Grottammare, also named the “Pearl of the Adriatic”, located  in the middle of the Riviera Picena delle Palme. Driving along the five kilometers-long promenade, one of the most suggestive in Italy, one understands why this place is named the Palms Riviera; with a line of  7000 palms, alternated between oleanders and flowers. Grottammare is composed by two main urban wards, the higher and ancient Borgo Antico that lies on the hill overlooking the sea, and the Marina, a downtown area that spreads to the southern coast for 4 km. Exiting the hamlet is located the romanesque church of S. Martino where every year on the first Sunday of July takes place the religious and civil event of the Sacra Giubilare. The award of European Blue Flag, assigned to those places that distinguish themselves by the respect for nature and by the quality of their sea and services, has been assigned to Grottammare in 2015 and for 15 years in succession.

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