Fermo is a hill town to the east of the Marche region of Italy, near the Adriatic coast, well known for the very impressive views in all directions across the surrounding region.
A visit to Fermo can start from Piazza del Popolo where the Palazzo dei Priori is located. This palace was started in 1296 and completed around 1590, and the building now houses the Art Gallery and Archaeological Museum of Picenum.
Art Gallery and Archaeological Museum
In the Art Gallery there are works ranging from the Medieval Ages to the 19th century. Among the works of art preserved in the Pinacoteca note especially those by Jacobello di Bonomo (active from 1375 to 1385) and Jacobello del Fiore (1370 ca.-1439), and several paintings by Vincenzo Pagani (1490 ca.-1568).
Other important works here include an altarpiece by Andrea da Bologna (active in the 15th century); "The Adoration of the Shepherds", by Flemish painter Paul Rubens (1577-1640); "Pentecost" by Giovanni Lanfranco (1582-1647), and other works by local artists, including Francescuccio Cecco Ghissi (1359-1385) and Vittore Crivelli (1440 ca.-1502 ca.).
The Archaeological Museum exhibits some pre-Roman artefacts discovered in Fermo and its surroundings, such as belts, jewellery and urns.
Other Fermo highlights
Close to the Palazzo dei Priori is the Town Library, the richest to be found in the Marches region of Italy. Dating back to 1511, the Library contains over one hundred 'codes', and about six hundred 'incunabula'.
Continuing along the Via degli Aceti ('Street of Vinegar') we can visit the famous Roman Cistern, also called the "pools of depuration", located under the buildings that occupy the east side of Piazza del Popolo.
Thought to have been built by Augustus in the first century AD, the cistern testifies to the construction skills of the Ancient Romans*. The structure consists of thirty rooms, occupying a total area of about 2000 square meters.
* The need for an adequate water supply in Fermo required the building of an ingenious system of collection and water distribution in the city with the Cisterns playing an important role as a reservoir of drinking water.
Along the Corso we can enjoy some of the most important monuments in Fermo, such as the the Church of Carmine, the Vitali-Rosati Palace, the medieval Matteucci Tower, Paccaroni Palace and the Church of St. Philip.
The Carmine Church was built at the beginning of the 14th century: the facade is in brick with pilasters of travertine while the interior has a basilica form with three naves divided by columns and arches. In the apse there is an altarpiece, "The Nativity" by Giambattista Gaulli, called the “Baciccio” (1639-1709).
The Church of St. Philip was probably designed by Giovanni Antonio Dosio (1533-1609). The façade (unfinished) is decorated with an elegant Doric portal in Istrian stone and the interior is in the form of a Latin cross with a transept nave, flanked by six chapels on pillars having the shape of a cross. The altar, of classical Corinthian order, is of Istrian stone and polychrome marble.
Among the religious buildings the Cathedral of Fermo stands out. It was built in 1227 on the site of an early Christian church, called 'Santa Maria in Castello', dating back to the 5th century. Burned in 1176 by Frederick Barbarossa, it was reconstructed in a composite style, combining Romanesque and Gothic elements.
The cathedral façade has three buttresses, with edges of spiral columns. At the center of the façade there is a portal with round-headed arches resting on pillars and columns, which frame the bronze doors by the sculptor Aldo Sergiacomi (1912-1994).
The bell tower dates from 1425 with mullioned windows and polychrome pottery, and is decorated with a double row of arches. The interior has three naves, divided by massive circular columns.
Elsewhere in Fermo
Continuing along the Largo Fogliani we come to Fogliani Palace with its elegant Venetian Gothic windows with its trefoil lancet windows and ornate patterned brick, reminding us of the relations that Fermo had with Venice. The façade is complete with a Renaissance portal, of Tuscan style, with festoons of leaves on the doorposts and lintels.
Nearby, there is the medieval Church of San Zenone, the oldest church in Fermo having been built in 1171 and consecrated in 1186. In Romanesque style, the lower part is in stone and the upper part in brick. The bell tower (13th century) has large arches and mullioned windows above. The interior dates from the late 18th century and is by Pietro Augustoni (1741-1815).
Coming further along Largo Alvaro Valentini we find the Oratory of St. Monica. Inside you can see some valuable frescoes, as an example of the late Gothic style of Fermo. The Oratory of Santa Monica was built in 1425 as a church dedicated to St. John the Baptist and it presents a façade which has the shape of a cabin, while the interior has a nave, with vaulted ceilings.
In Via XXI September there are some important palaces dating from various periods in fermo's history. Note especially Paccarone Palace, with its facade of brick and incorporating an existing tower - note particularly the wood of the portal which mimics masonry.
Leaving the city through Porta Santa Caterina, in addition to an attractive landscape, tourists can admire the Church of St. Augustine, dating back to the mid-13th century. It is of Romanesque and Gothic style, and underwent several renovations in the mid-14th century and later. The church has a façade preceded by a staircase, while in the hall there are two 14th century frescoes, "The Nativity" and a "Madonna and Child with Saints." Inside (XVIII c.), it has a nave, a Latin cross form, and many frescoes dating back to the 13th and 15th centuries.
Fermo, a town of strong traditions
Fermo is undoubtedly an important art city, but today it has also developed, thanks to its proximity to the sea, a tourist industry linked to the beauty of the town and region, and the strong local traditions.
These include culinary traditions offering typical products such as olives, the“maccheroncini di Campofilone” ('Campofilone little-macaroni'), “vincisgrassi", excellent "ciauscolo"; and also cheese, honey and traditional desserts such as so-called “Cicerchiata”.
See also history of Fermo