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The town of Fabriano is rather ignored by the tourist guides, but actually has quite a few places of interest and buildings of interest to see in its historic centre and is very pleasant to visit. Certainly if you are visiting the fascinating Frasassi caves nearby we suggest you take the time to explore Fabriano while you are here.
The surrounding region is also rich in natural beauty, with highlights including the gorges of the Gola di Rossa.
The town itself has many monuments, churches, picturesque piazzas and palaces of historical interest to enjoy. Your visit to Fabriano can start from the triangular square in the town centre - this piazza was known in the 13th century as "High Place" because at that time it was the centre for administrative life in Fabriano.
The square is overlooked by the Palazzo del Podestà and has a beautiful round fountain in the center dating from the same period known as “Sturinalto”. Also in the square you can see the 18th century Town Hall and Bishop's Palace.
The Palazzo del Podesta is the oldest of the surviving buildings in Fabriano in the local romanesque-gothic local style, and is unique in Italy for its shape that incorporates a bridge.
Built in 1255 in white stone, then later altered several times, it consists of three buildings with the central one having the characteristic ogival "big-vault" and some elegant three-light windows.
Note: the shape of the building was designed in memory of an ancient river that once flowed underneath. Under the arch there are some interesting 13th-14th century frescoes which represent scenes of battle and a "wheel of fortune" driven by a female figure.
At the centre of the square stands the Fountain, which is the symbolic monument of Fabriano and also an important work of art that was built in 1285 by Jacopo di Grondolo. Its shape recalls that of a famous fountain in Perugia that had been completed a few years earlier.
The popular name of the fountain, Sturinalto, comes from the height reached by the water jet.
The fountain has three concentric superimposed basins, the highest of which is circular and in bronze, supported by a cylindrical column also of bronze. The two lower basins are of polygonal limestone, with sides formed by mirrors separated by columns.
The Municipal Palace, former seat of the lordship of Chiavelli, dates from the 14th century and traces of the original structure are visible on the ground floor. In the courtyard you can see the “lapidarium” with stones and inscriptions from neighbouring Roman municipalities.
Another important building in Fabriano is the Bishop's Palace, once the residence of the Priors of the city. This palace was destroyed by the collapse of the tower and then rebuilt. Since the mid-18th century it has been the seat of the local Bishops.
The 17th century façade is flanked by the clock tower and consists of a portico with seven arches.
Fabriano Town Art Gallery
The Palace now contains an Art Gallery which has five rooms of art works classified by subject, with frescoes and paintings dating from the 13th - 16th centuries. There are works by local artists such as Allegretto Nuzi, Antonio da Fabriano and Domiziano Domiziani and also of Umbrian painters such as Rainaldetto da Spoleto, Ottaviano Nelli, Bicci di Lorenzo and Neri di Bicci (1418-1492).
One of the finest paintings of the collection is "San Giovanni Battista and San Venancio" by Allegretto Nuzi, which was once part of an altarpiece in the church of St. Mary of the Apennines, near Cancelli. The art critics consider this painting one of the masterpieces of Allegretto Nuzi, both for the solemn composure of the figures, and the attention to detail.
Next to the Fabriano art gallery you can see the Portico of Saint Francis , a reconstruction of a 15th century portico. The current version, with 19 lodges, was built in the late 17th century. In the Loggia there are some remains of the portal of Saint Francis Church, built between 1291 and 1398, and a 14th century fresco.
Across from the this church you will find the Oratory of Charity, which was started in the late 16th century and is the seat of the Confraternity of Charity. Rectangular in shape and with a trussed roof, inside there are fourteen boxes decorated with stucco and gilding that depict frescoes by Filippo Bellini (active in 1594), with subjects from the Bible and the Gospel, focusing on seven "Works of Mercy".
Leaving the “Piazza del Comune”, and continuing along Via Castelvecchio you can see more buildings of artistic value, such as the Church and Monastery of St. Catherine of the Olivetani, erected by Guido Chiavelli. It was here that Guido and Chiavello Chiavello, lords of Fabriano, were buried. In the temple there is also a copy of the Holy Shroud, a polychrome wooden crucifix carved by Fra’ Innocenzo da Petraia (1592-1648) that is considered miraculous, and a 17th century carved canopy.
Next you come to the Church of San Onofrio, which was built on the site of the Franciscan Church of St. Jerome in the early 14th century. Inside you can admire some woodwork such as a late 14th century crucifix by the German school (characterized by strong realism) and a 15th century fresco attributed to “Maestro di Staffolo”.
Near the Fabraiano city walls you can see the Church of St. Augustine - this complex was once decorated with frescoes that are now kept in the “Pinacoteca Civica”. The two gothic chapels decorated with 14th century frescoes by the school of Fabriano and Rimini are particularly important, and the church cloister holds a 15th century work by Lorenzo Salimbeni da San Severino Marche.
Also very impressive here is the Church and Convent of Saint Dominic and Saint Lucia. These were paid for by the Chiavelli family, who erected the chapel in 1373. The church of St. Lucia Novella is in the gothic style, and the chapels and sacristy contain decor and frescoes by Allegretto Nuzi. The monastery, which houses the Museum of Paper, is embellished with decorations by Antonio da Fabriano.
Another place worth visiting in Fabriano is the Piazza Garibaldi, where the "Portico of Vasari" that dominated the square in medieval times gives you a pretty good idea of the economic strength of the medieval guilds.
The Portico still retains the façade of stone emblems of the 'Art of Cobblers' and a 14th century fresco by a student of Allegretto Nuzi depicting the “Madonna and Child with Saint John the Baptist and St. Venanzio”.
Finally in Fabriano old town you reach the Cathedral of San Venanzio, founded in the late Middle Ages. Towards the 14th century the church was rebuilt in the gothic style and inside there are some frescos by Allegretto Nuzi showing events from the life of San Lorenzo. The new church, consecrated in 1663, became the cathedral in 1728 when Fabriano became the regional Diocese and acquired the title of 'city'.
The cathedral contains valuable paintings, among which we should mention the paintings of Gregorio Preti (1603-1672), Salvator Rosa (1615-1673), and Giovanni Francesco Guerrieri (1589-1657). Another great painter, Orazio Gentileschi (1563-1639), was the author of the “Stories of the Passion and Crucifixion”, probably from the first two decades of the 17th century.
See also history of Fabriano
Where is Fabriano?
Fabriano is situated near Jesi towards the western edge of the central Marches region, at the foot of the Apennines.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Marche guide.