Via Salaria

Arquata del Tronto, Ascoli Piceno, Offida, Grottammare

Among the most ancient Roman roads, the Via Salaria was originally a communication route that linked Reate (Rieti) and Sabina with Campus salinarum, the current Port of Ascoli, where salt, a fundamental resource for food preservation, was produced. Like the other Roman consular buildings, with the decline of the ancient world the Salaria was left abandoned until it was almost reduced to a path.

Statio (=guard post) of the Via Salaria in Roman times, Arquata del Tronto was a strong fortress in the Middle Ages, disputed several times between Ascoli and Norcia, and it’s the only municipality in Europe whose territory is in the perimeter of two national parks: Monti Sibillini and Gran Sasso - Monti della Laga. Arquata and it takes its name from the Medieval Fortress that characterized it, which dates back to the 13th century and is equipped with a tower and a high fortified tower, both with projecting corbels and battlements. In the main square stands the civic tower with a bell from the 16th century, near which is located the parish church that contains a polychrome wooden crucifix from the 13th century.

Of very ancient origins, the peculiarity of Ascoli Piceno is that of being an open-air museum, also thanks to the styles of the various eras it lived, from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. The importance and prosperity to which the city rose during the Roman period are still notable with remaining evidence, first among everything being the bold Solestà Bridge, dating back to the Augustan period and formed by an arch boldly thrown between the picturesque green banks of the river. Other fundamental examples of Romanesque architecture can be found in the remains of the churches of S. Venanzio and S. Gregorio; the first one, built on the area of a pagan temple in the 12th-13th century holds works of art such as "The Martyrdom of S. Venanzio" (Pozzo) and the paintings "Madonna with Child" and "Madonna and saints" by Nardini and De Magistris, respectively. The church of S. Gregorio, however, built in the 13th century, incorporates the remains of a Roman temple erroneously believed to be of Vesta, dated from the last years of the Republic or the first years of the Empire (1st century BC). Near the church of S. Gregorio stands the Town Hall, an imposing construction that incorporates the two medieval buildings from Palazzo dell'Arengo Maggiore and Palazzo dell'Arengo Minore. These were modified and united by a single front in the 16th century, and ultimately completed in the 18th century. The rooms contain the municipal art gallery, which collects the works of a remarkable number of representative artists of the modern era. In the heart of Ascoli Piceno extends the two main squares of the city: Piazza Arringo and, not far away, Piazza del Popolo. Piazza Arringo is the first and oldest square of the city, and it occupies the area of the Roman Forum. Throughout the Middle Ages it was the center of civil life, hosting monumental buildings such as the Town Hall, the Cathedral with the nearby Bishop's Palace and, nearby, the Baptistery and the Panichi palace. On the quiet and harmonious Piazza del Popolo, in addition to the row of 16th century buildings, you can see the majestic Palazzo dei Capitani del Popolo and, in the background, the church of S. Francesco, considered one of the most beautiful in the city.

Located on the crest of the wide hilly strip that divides the Testino River from the Tronto River, Offida is a town rich in environmental values. Of very ancient origins, Offida was first inhabited by the Piceni and subsequently conquered by the Romans, but had its period of maximum splendor during the Middle Ages, when it became the seat of a steward. Inside the inhabited nucleus, you can find the remains of the Rocca, a quadrangular fortress with two cylindrical towers, built from 1488 to 1492. Following Corso Serpente Aureo, you’ll reach one of the most beautiful Town Hall, of the Marche region, with a high portico supported by cylindrical terracotta pillars, followed-up by a crenellated front and a mighty 14th century tower crowned by Ghibelline battlements in the centre. Inside of the Town Hall there’s the Teatro Serpente Aureo, dating back to the 18th century and enlarged in 1862. Moving away from the square, you reach the sanctuary of S. Agostino, a brick building dating back to the 14th century. On the inside, it’s possible to admire its 18th century baroque single-nave interior, where are displayed the canvases "Adoration of the Magi" by Carlo Allegretti and "St. Thomas of Villanova" by Ludovico Trasi. Since medieval times, Offida has been known for the production of bobbin lace, a craft that’s still practiced today by Offida women, for which every year from July 20th to August 20th the Lace Exhibition, takes place, with the best of the production on display.

Continuing towards the coast and heading north, you’ll reach Grottammare, the Pearl of the Adriatic, located in the center of the Riviera Picena delle Palme. Walking along the 5 km of seafront, one of the most evocative in Italy, you’ll understand why this place is called the "Palm Riviera", with its 7000 palm trees, interspersed with oleanders and flowers. Grottammare is constituted of 2 distinct urban centres: the Borgo Antico, a historic nucleus situated on the hill from which it overlooks the sea, and the Marina area, which extends southwards for 4 km. Of great importance is the Palazzo Laureati, where in 1860 the final act of the Unification of Italy took place, when King Vittorio Emanuele II received the Neapolitan delegation that gave him the former Bourbon kingdom and the Crown of Italy. Leaving the city, you’ll find the Romanesque church of S. Martino. Built on the ruins of an ancient pagan temple dedicated to the Goddess Cupra, the Sacred Jubilee, takes place inside, a religious and civil event which is celebrated every first Sunday of July. This event recalls the ditching of Pope Alexander III on the Grottammare coast, which occurred due to a terrible storm in 1175. The greenery and the scent of nature perfectly blend in Grottammare, and stay with you during your long walks on the coastline, among the Art Nouveau villas in the city center and the clean sea with its shallow seabed. Grottammare has continuously obtained the recognition of the European Blue Flag since 1999, which is awarded to places that stand out for their respect for the environment, for the quality of the sea water and for tourist services.

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