In the footsteps of Pope Sixtus V between Fermo and Ascoli Piceno in The Marches  

Monday, 10 January 2022 10:34
Pope Sixtus V Pope Sixtus V - Plazzo dei Priori Fermo

In a small area between the Fermo and Ascoli regions, in the central Italian region of The Marches, you can still feel the historical presence of Pope Sixtus V, the pope who completed the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. On this itinerary you can visit many of the monumental buildings that symbolize the pontiff’s attachment to his homeland. 

The pontiff who erected four basilicas in Rome

This amazing journey through sleepy villages, enchanting hilly landscapes and sparkling seaside towns, retraces the tastes and exploits of Felice Peretti, who went down in history as Pope Sixtus V. The 500th anniversary of the visionary pontiff’s birth was celebrated on 13 December 2021, and in just five years, from 1585 to 1590, he left indelible traces both in his region and in Rome.  In fact to symbolically unite the four corners of the Eternal City the pontiff erected obelisks in four of the city’s great square: St. Peter's Square, Piazza dell'Esquilino, Piazza S. Giovanni in Laterano and Piazza del Popolo. 

Grottammare has a cycle path with palm trees

Grottammare is an elegant tourist resort on the Riviera of the Palms and our journey begins at the Church of Saint Lucia (closed since the earthquake but soon be restored) that stands near the house where Sixtus V was born. Not far away, caressed by the sea breeze from the beach below, the Church of S. Giovanni Battista where the Pope was baptized has a museum with many religious works. Visitors should stop to take a photo of the beautiful panoramic loggia near the 18th-century Teatro dell'Arancio with a statue of Pope Sixtus V on the façade. Proceeding along the coastal pedestrian cycle path with its palms, orange trees and oleanders, you then pass colourful 20th-century Art Nouveau villas and the beach.

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Fermo has ancient Roman cisterns

Our itinerary through the places close to Sixtus leads us to Fermo, where the spectacular Roman Cisterns - an archaeological complex of unparalleled hydraulic engineering with thirty underground rooms - are dominated by the Palazzo dei Priori, on which stands a large bronze statue of Pope Sixtus V, bishop of Fermo from 1571 to 1585.  After visiting the Civic Museums, with the masterpiece of the Nativity by Rubens and the scenic Sala del Mappamondo map room, treat yourself to some refreshment in the shade of the centuries-old cedar of Lebanon that stands at the center of the Piazzale del Girfalco square and take in the view that stretches as far as the eye can see over the valleys to the sea.  

The Sentina Nature Reserve is great for bird watching

A handsome collection of glittering silverware donated by Sixtus V awaits you in the Museum of Sacred Art in S. Benedetto del Tronto which has 15 kilometres of cycle paths shaded by 8,000 palm trees, gardens, fountains, relaxation areas and games for children. You can cycle to the Sentina Nature Reserve for bird watching and then visit the Museum of the Sea and, continuing through the region, then take time to visit the Sistine Museums (www.museisistini.it - reservations 347/3804444) which are all the province of Ascoli Piceno.    

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