Live The Quintana of Ascoli Piceno: a short introduction
The medieval festival of the Quintana is the most spectacular historic commemoration of the Marche Region. In 1955 a group of persons in love with Ascoli Piceno and its history decided to relaunch an important moment of popular participation which origins sank in the antiquity: the Quintana. From that moment on the historic commemoration of Ascoli has grown more and more, affirming itself in this circle (it has gained the Recognition of the Office of the Tourism in 1986 with the assignment of a special certificate on the 6th August 1986; it has also gained insertion in the list of the Prime Minister as cultural initiative of National interest). Furthermore, the Quintana is a member of CEFMH (Confederation European Fetes Manifestation Historique), of the FIGS (Federazione Italiana Giochi Storici) and of the AMRS (Associazione Marchigiana Rievocazioni Storiche) sitting in the last directive councils of the last two for many years with a role, obviously, of great importance. With its 1500 “figuranti” , that parade in the suggestive frame of the historical center of Ascoli Piceno wearing 1400 splendid outfits, the Procession of the Quintana of Ascoli Piceno stands out for charm and beauty; the beauty of the dames, the gait of the armed ones, the knights and the Magistracies immediately catch the eyes of the public, increasing their emotions. The latter are not represented by actors but from administrators in charge: from the Mayor in the shoes of the “Magnifico Messere”, to the Town Aldermen, to the representatives of the Provincial and Regional administration, until reaching the representatives of the “Camera di Commercio”, of the order of the doctors, of the engineers, of the lawyers and of arts and professions; inside the procession, besides all the “figuranti” belonging to the six ancient city “Sestieri“: Piazzarola, Sant’Emidio, Porta Romana, Porta Tufilla, Porta Solestà and Porta Maggiore – the representatives of the ten Castles of the lands of the territorial committee are also present. They have made the “corteggio” stand among the richer and suggestive historical shows of the world through time.
A walk through the Sestieri of the Quintana
In the summer period Ascoli Piceno becomes flooded by magic medieval atmospheres and the colored cloths hoisted in the main streets tell us that the city is ready to face the warmest period of the year: that of the “Giostra della Quintana”. It will be suggestive to admire the parade of the “Corteo” from strategic points of the city. Thanks to the charm of the “Corteo” and the charming chivalrous “Giostra” in the “Campo de’ Giochi” (what an average of 10.000 presences in every edition), the Quintana reaffirms itself year after year for its cultural and touristic relevance, its role of ambassadress, not only of the city of Ascoli Piceno, but of the whole Marche Region. Therefore, during its history, the Quintana has participated with representations of “figuranti” to prestigious events all over the world; for example: the 1960 Olympiads in Rome; in 1965 in Florence, for the “Celebrazioni Dantesche”; to Geneva in 1966; The Expo in Montreal, in 1967. For the ones who visit the city for the first time, we suggest one more itinerary to cross the heart of the historical centre and the places of cult of the “Giostra della Quintana”, to visit both afoot and by bike or by car. If we come both from Rome or from the A14 it will be without a doubt easier to park the car near the district of Piazza Immacolata or in the parking lots. We then take a mini tour among the boundaries of the city, to admire its towers and its battlements, the medieval buildings and the Sestieri of the historical centre starting from the Sestiere of Porta Maggiore. The black-green Sestiere (these are the peculiar colors of the sestiere of Porta Maggiore) is the most eastern point of access to the city. Passing on an ancient bridge in masonry, we delve in the Sestiere that hosts the “Campo de’ Giochi” in which the “Giostra” is ran. To our left we can admire the Forte Malatesta, a small medieval fortress that currently holds numerous contemporary art exhibits together with the permanent Museum of the High Middle Ages.
We continue together on the pedestrian road and we cross all Corso Vittorio Emanuele to arrive in the heart of the historical centre. We are in Piazza Arringo: to our left there is the imposing Cathedral of the city while to the right there is a baptismal source as suggestive as the Cathedral, the Baptistery, recently restored. Reached Piazza Roma, we decide to ascend on Via Pretoriana to reach the ancient Sestiere of the Piazzarola, that still preserves the aspect of an ancient medieval borough. There, after walking past the typical shops of the artisans, we are spellbound by the austere Church of Sant’Angelo Magno, realized in 1292 in Romanesque style. It is here that it could happen to us to listen to a ”chiarina” trying their own performance since the headquarters of the Sestiere are really there, behind the Church.
Coming down again by the street, maybe after having purchased a souvenir of the city in the shops of artists and potters, we reach the intersection of Via del Trivio with Corso Mazzini. From there we continue to discover the Sestiere of S. Emidio. Continuing on Corso Mazzini and passing by Piazza S. Agostino we take a typical “rua ascolana”: here we find the red-green centre of the Sestiere of the golden Griffon on our left. In the inside courtyard of Palazzo Sgariglia, recently restored, there is in fact the centre of the Sestiere that welcomes all the residents in the heart of the city. Just in front of it, there is one of the most important group of museums of the whole province. We find a space dedicated to art, the Osvaldo Licini Contemporary Art Gallery. Behind it there is Piazza San Tommaso, ancient scenography of “neumachie” in which you will also find the Museum of Ceramic Art open, celebrating the ancient tradition of the maiolica picena. It is now up to you to decide whether to continue by bike, by car or on foot to discover the other outer sestieri like that of Porta Romana or whether to take a break for a refreshing appetizer!
What to do in Ascoli Piceno? Choose Caffè Meletti!
Among the points of artistic historical interest of Ascoli Piceno, the historical Coffee Meletti is surely a place that should not be lost for an anisette or an appetizer and a dive in the past. The Coffee Meletti, one of the symbols of Ascoli Piceno, leans out in ”Piazza del Popolo”, the real heart of the city, on the west side, close to “Palazzo dei Capitani”. It is born as center of the picket of the customs, transformed subsequently (1881 -84) from the engineer Marco Massimi in Palazzo delle Poste e dei Telegrafi.
The true turn happens in December of 1905 when Silvio Meletti purchases the building in a public auction. After two years of works made by the engineer Enrico Cesari, on May 18th 1907 Coffee Meletti is inaugurated. With a light pink neoclassic façade, it has three floors of which the last makes room for an elegant balcony that leans out on the plaza.The ground floor is characterized by a porch with five decorated arcades from 1883 by Giovanni Picca with symbols that reminded the postal functions, serving as a memory of the function the building once had. The frescos were covered with plaster in 1906, during the transformation wanted by Silvio Meletti and brought to the light only with the restauration in 1998. Entering the place is like diving into the past. The inside in Liberty style is perfectly preserved and the formula is still the original one, with a space destined to the consummation on the bench, another one organized with small round tables of white marble and support in worked cast-iron, thonet chairs and small couches in green velvet to consummate while sitting. A whole bench is devoted to the confectionery. The ceiling decorated by frescos with calls to the theme of the anise of the ascolano painter Pio Nardini, is illuminated by chandeliers in brass and glass of Murano. On the right the elegant and light spiral staircase in carved wood stands out, not used today, that originally allowed access to the next floor. The specialty of the place is undoubtedly the “Anisetta Meletti“, a liqueur based on green anise still produced today following the original recipe of Silvio Meletti, excellent if drunk cool and accompanied by a grain of coffee, the so-called “mosca.” However, you can also choose Coffee Meletti as an ideal place for an appetizer or, if you have chosen to sleep in the historical center, for a delicious breakfast. Among 1990 and 1996 the Coffee has been closed but, thanks to its purchase from the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio of Ascoli Piceno and to interventions of modernization, it was returned to the city together with the restoration of the gallery which access is in Via del Trivio, directly behind it. The findings of Roman epoch are also interesting and made enjoyable to see by a glass protection, situated in the basement. Great names of Italian culture have sat on Meletti’s tables: Mario Soldati, Beniamino Gigli, Mario del Monaco, Renato Guttuso. Carlo Alberto Salustri, better known as Trilussa, writes: “Quante favole e sonetti m’ha ispirato la Meletti” (How many stories and sonnets Meletti has inspired me to write). The place has also been the setting of prestigious films: “I delfini” in 1960 by Francesco Maselli with Claudia Cardinale and “Alfredo Alfredo” in 1972 directed by Pietro Germi with Stefania Sandrelli and Dustin Hoffman. In 1981 the Ministry of Cultural Heritage has declared Ascoli’s Coffee Meletti a place of historical and artistic interest.
Archaeological itineraries in Ascoli Piceno: the Roman Theatre
The Roman Theatre of Ascoli Piceno is surely, among the places to be seen, the one which infuences us more, thanks to its historical meaning. It represents another piece of Ascoli Piceno’s history. In ancient times, the ones who followed the consular road Salaria, which originated from Rome and entered in Asculum through the arcs of the city door, would immediately notice on their right a particular building: the theatre. Sitting along the northern slopes of the “Colle dell’ Annunziata“, the structure exploited the inclination of the slope to support the staircases of the cavea on which the spectators sat. Below there is the orchestra, in which the people of highest rank sat, positioned in front of the proscenium, the stage, place in which the representations took place and the actors acted; in the background there was the façade of the stage building, incorporated in part in the medieval church of Santa Croce. The representations that unwounded there from the 1st century B.C. were numerous. However, besides the shows, perhaps it was in this place that the Ascolanis, reunited during public celebrations, slaughtered the Romans , arrogant representatives of a power that became too much bulky and intrusive. Perhaps, in the theatre,the spark that fired up the peninsula, with the burst of the social war between Rome and the italic league. In 89 B.C. Rome triumphs on the Ascolanis and destroys the city. The reconstruction that followed up also concerned this building: the theatre that we have in front of the eyes is the result of numerous historical events and a large number of restaurations and modifications. The architectonic decorations, in the Augustan Era, should have been incredibly elaborate, with staircases in travertino and ample use of marble, statues and columns on the stage, inserted and modified during the restructurings that followed for the whole First Imperial Age. However, the theatre was destined, as many other public buildings, to suffer an inexorable decadence with the end of the central power in Rome: in the Middle Ages the structure is systematically dismantled and the plates, the statues and the columns are taken and re-used elsewhere as construction materials. The nature does the rest and little by little the ground crumbles and collapses on what remains of the building. The structures remain completely buried up to 1935, year in which the construction site for Via Ricci opens. Today the only things that remain of the main building are the radial support walls of the staircases, a great apse to the west and some low small wall of the stage and the scenery. With the 2008 excavations the “Euripo”, the channel of outflow of the water under the cavea and the preparation of the flooring of the orchestra were individuated, but above all it has been possible to restructure the theatre that ,returned to live again, acts as splendid frame of numerous representations.
Between an anisetta, a trip with the tour train, a visit to the museums and a romantic tour by bicycle, these are the top 10 places you should definitely visit.
1) Cathedral of S. Emidio – Have you just arrived in the historical centre and are looking for the correct place for the first selfie? Put yourself in the centre of Piazza Arringo with the back to the Cathedral of S. Emidio, patron of the city, or take a seat on one of the two travertine thrones that stand out on the fifteenth-century façade of the cathedral: you will dominate the whole square! In the center of the square, there are the two elliptic fountains of Giorgio Paci, again in travertine: drinking some fresh water from the mouths of bronze sea horses will be an experience that you just cannot miss!
2) Palazzo dell Arengo – Do you want to communicate to everybody that you have arrived in this marvelous town? Put your feet on the mosaic of the town emblem, that you can find in front of the door to Palazzo dell Arengo, geolocate your photo and share it on Instagram and the other social networks with the tag #visitascoli! If you don’t want to take a photo of your feet you have many other choices: look upwards and continue in the garden of the town hall, where a small patch of green in the heart of the historical centre will serve as scenography for your pictures!
3) A ride on the tour train – From the same Piazza Arringo a “tourist tour train” departs at a regular pace. It will conduct you for the streets of the historical center of the city, crossing plazas and historical districts. Ascoli Explorer will allow you to choose between two panoramic itineraries, lasting about 45 minutes; a guide in Italian and English will accompany you through all the way to discover the particularities of Ascoli Piceno. It will be a simple and amusing way to visit the city!
4) Piazza del Popolo– Got off the tour train? Now take a deep breath and lean out on Piazza del Popolo. You could remain breathless. Enjoy this moment and make yourself at home in what is known all over the world as the “Living room of Italy”: choose one of the bars that surround the square, either an historical one or one of design, for a delicious appetizer based on fried olives and local salami, naturally combined to a good glass of DOP wine (DOP stands for Denomination of Protected Origin) of local production!
5) A coffee in the Meletti – An advice: listed between the 150 Historical Coffees of Italy, once you reach Piazza del Popolo you just cannot pass up on tasting a coffee or an anisetta (digestive based on anise) in what has been the scenery of numerous films, the Coffee Meletti. Inaugurated in 1907,it still perfectly preserves all the insides in Liberty style.
6) Civic museums – After eating it will be perfect to take a walk towards one of the many city museums: from the Pinacoteca Civica, one of the most important museums in Italy, to the Archaeological Museum, where you can find artifacts that tell the history of Ascoli Piceno , until reaching the Museum of the High Middle Ages passing by the Museum of the Ceramic art, the Museums of the Cartiera Papale, the Gallery of Contemporary art “Licini“, the Diocesan Museum and the Museum-Library “Marcucci“.
7) Rua delle Stelle – We have reached the late afternoon, sunset time. The historical centre of Ascoli Piceno is an enchanting place, where every angle makes every moment romantic and so…go! Take a romantic walk: landscapes such as those offered by Rua Delle Stelle or suggestive panoramas such as that one visible from the Colle dell’ Annunziata will leave you breathless and you just won’t wait to continue embraced to your beloved. If you have come with a bike with you, or you have rented one, wander around: a comfortable cycle path will help you to quickly cross the city, but you will also easily succeed in reaching the other characteristic points of the centre.
8) Church of San Francesco – Among these we recommend to you the Church of San Francesco, and particularly its main façade (on Via del Trivio): the central portal is enriched by a series of mullions sustaining column-bearing lions and pinnacles with statues of S. Francesco and Sant’Antonio; in the lowest part there are mullions shaped like organ reeds that show worn-out parts because of the use of the ascolani to make them make sounds. Don’t lose the occasion to try them yourself!
9) The Carnival of Ascoli Piceno -Are you in Ascoli in the period of the Carnival? Then you cannot do anything else other than to live it! Yes, because the Historical Carnival of Ascoli Piceno attracts in a vortex of fun whoever happens to be in the principal plazas of the centre, giving everyone unique moments of involvement! Furthermore, during the Carnival, you can taste the typical dishes and sweets of the period in the principal restaurants of the city.
10) The Giostra della Quintana – If you are in the city for the Quintana instead, become “sestieranti” for one day: assisting to the suggestive historical procession, with the “figuranti” in prestigious fifteenth-century suits, and to the chivalrous Giostra that makes the knights face the mythical Saracen will make you make a fascinating dive in the past. We suggest you to also visit the center of the Quintana office, a real museum devoted to the historical ascolana commemoration.