Credits: Marco Fulvi
As one stretches out on the Adriatic beaches in Le Marche region or walks along the S. Benedetto del Tronto shores, it is hard to think that the history of the many picturesque little villages perched on promontories over the sea was so drenched in blood and sacrifice. These villages all have the characteristic of being on scenic terraces overlooking the Adriatic coast, thus revealing their origins as lookouts and defensive sites. They are all protected by village walls and contain an authentic labyrinth of little alleyways that open up, quite unexpectedly, onto the most marvellous views of the Adriatic, which the musician Gabriel Faurè referred to as an expanse of lapis-lazuli. Right from the eighth century, the Adriatic coast was plagued by the scourge of piracy: the villages on the coast were landing points for raids inland by the Saracens and pirates from the coast of Dalmatia. Whereas in other places along the Adriatic coast there were watchtowers, here it was the villages themselves, high up above the sea, that kept the lookout. Like sentinels, the villages would raise the alarm by ringing bells and lighting fires on the towers so that the local population could seek refuge from the danger of pirates. Through the streets of the villages, the cry would go up: Mamma li turchi! “Mamma, the Turks!”, and the expression has remained. The itinerary we suggest, of about 20 kilometres, starts from Grottammare and leads to Torre di Palme, passing through Marano, the upper village of Cupra Marittima.
Grottammare is a well-established tourist resort, with a lush vegetation of palms and oleanders, orange groves and pine woods: the fragrance of nature accompanies the ever-present signs of history. Reference to its mild climate can be seen in the town crest, which contains two oranges. The town consists of two urban areas – the old part on the hill, and the modern area down by the sea, with buildings in the Art Nouveau “Liberty” style of the early twentieth century. Tourism first appeared in Grottammare in the seventeenth century and became established over the years until, in the nineteenth century, it became a renowned centre for curing respiratory and skin disorders. Founded by the Piceni, Grottammare appears in documents dating back to the tenth and eleventh centuries, when the fortress, the ruins of which still dominate the town, was built to defend the port. This was granted by King Manfredi to the city of Fermo in 1259, together with the castle. The history of the town is similar to that of many others on the Piceno coast which were also involved in frequent wars with their neighbours and threatened by pirate raids. Set in the town walls, the Torrione della Battaglia has been restored and is now a museum dedicated to the Grottese artist Pericle Fazzini - the “sculptor of wind”, as Giuseppe Ungaretti called him. In 1868, the world-famous pianist Liszt spent a long time in Grottammare. Enraptured by the beauty of the place, he wrote:
The blue sea, the delightful verdant hills, the mildness of the climate and the perfume of flowers and oranges create a poetry equal only to the celestial harmony of sounds.
Giuseppe Garibaldi, the Hero of the Two Worlds, stayed here, as did the future King of Italy, Victor Emanuel II, who on 12 October 1860, right here in the villa of Marquis Laureati, received the Neapolitan delegation which granted him the former Kingdom of Naples and the Crown of Italy. Built to a design by Bernini on the slopes of the village, the Villa Azzolino gave hospitality to Queen Christina of Sweden in 1665. Nearby, there is the church of Sant’Agostino, with a fortified apse and a bell tower which was truncated, as was the punishment during the Counter-Reformation for those churches which had welcomed Martin Luther, the Augustinian monk who brought about the Protestant Reformation (1517) and who had been a guest in the nearby convent. The ancient village also houses a splendid arcade with a view over the Marina, near the church of San Giovanni Battista, now the Museo Sistino, and the Collegiata di Santa Lucia (1590), which was built by the Pope’s sister over the house where they were born. It contains an organ made by Fedeli in 1751. When 1 July falls on a Sunday, the Sacra Giubilare, or “Holy Jubilee”, is celebrated in Grottammare, in memory of the time when the Pope’s ship sought refuge in the port (which no longer exists). Pope Alexander III was on his way to Venice to organise the fight against Frederick Barbarossa, who was preparing to invade Italy, when his vessel was caught in a storm and forced ashore. The Camaldolensian monks at the abbey of San Martino invited the Pope to stay on until 1 July in order to attend the festivities that the local population celebrated according to very ancient tradition. Pope Alexander was so astonished and moved by the immense participation of the people that he took off his hat, a “camauro”, filled it with sand and announced that “As many indulgences will be granted to each pilgrim as there are grains of sand herein”. Since then, pilgrims have flocked to the abbey of San Martino, just outside the village on the road to Offida, in order to obtain plenary indulgence.
Torre di Palma and Marano villages are coming soon….
Please follow our itineraries across Le Marche region and enjoy our holiday experiences!