The beguiling town of Ascoli Piceno is the southern
Marche's major centre and, as its tourist brochure says,
it is a place you can see in a day yet never forget.
Along with its breathtaking main square, it has other
outstanding sights that manage to leave their mark on
even the most blasÚ of tourists. Although it is a fairly
large town with a population of some 60,000 people, the
historic centre can easily be seen on foot.
Start at the Piazza del Popolo, the traffic-free,
travertine-paved main square. This beautifully
proportioned outdoor meeting place must be one of the
most elegant provincial squares in all Italy. To one
side of the square stands the Palazzo del Popolo, a
splendid 13thC building guarded over by a monumental
statue of Pope Paul III. Look inside to see the arcaded
Closing off one end of the piazza is the great Gothic
church of San Francesco, a sober but pleasing building
both inside and out.
The other main square, Piazza Arringo, is almost as
impressive as its big sister and is flanked by the Duomo,
or cathedral, and the town hall, or palazzo Comunale.
Inside here you will find the Pinacoteca Civica,
Ascoli's art gallery, a carpet-bag collection of minor
works by major artists and major works by minor artists.
Best of all is the 13thC cope (piviale) of Pope Nicholas
IV, a dazzling piece of embroidery work made in England.
Inside the Duomo look out for the colourful polyptych
with the Madonna and Saints by Carlo Crivelli.
Wander round the old quarter of the town that stretches
from the banks of the Tronto river to the city's main
street, Corso Mazzini - best streets are via Soderini
and via di SolestÓ.