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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Two Cities in Le Marche, Italy: Ascoli Piceno and Jesi

There are at least two more cities I wanted to mention worth visiting in Le Marche. One is  the southern city of Ascoli Piceno. It has a most pleasing Renaissance piazzas, including a covered arcade along one side. 

all photos by JS
If Florence wows you with its abundance of everything, it’s worth remembering the many pleasures to be found in the less often visited places of Italy where one can actually discover sights on one’s own, without the company of throngs of visitors

There’s much to appreciate about Ascoli, past and present. It was founded by an Italic population (the Piceni, ergo its name, Ascoli Piceno ) several centuries before Rome was founded. The Piazza del Popolo (People’s Square), is its traffic-free, beautifully designed main square. It is one of the most elegant provincial squares in Italy with its travertine pavement and generous proportions...

The other main square, Piazza Arringo, is flanked by the Duomo/cathedral and the town hall which now houses Ascoli’s historic art gallery, the Pinacoteca Civica, containing a carpet-bag collection of elaborate furnishings and decorative art ...  and some stand-outs, like Carlo Crivelli.

Below are two close-up photos of the fountain in this piazza.  You'll see why I like it so much. So inventive, with lively grace.


Food for Thought
There is one absolutely and deservedly famous dish from Ascoli. And here is where it’s done best. It’s Olive all'ascolana, or olives done in the Ascoli way. These are olives stuffed with pork, beef, chicken livers, tomato paste and Parmesan cheese and then fried! Come on, you are not going to make them at home, are you?  You’ll just have to come here and get take-away. I tell you, for sure, one can get hooked on these tasty little morsels.
Today’s Discovery
I found this window in a church whose name and location I no longer recall. (That’s a plug for putting captions on your photos at the time you take them.) I’m pretty sure it was in Ascoli Piceno, but don't recall in which cathedral/church. 

 Most of the stained glass windows in this church portrayed the expectable variety of religious themes. But this once was modern, and I did a double-take to make certain that I was correct in what I thought I’d seen.
Yes, the central window shows a depiction of Nazi brutality, placed right there among the other church windows. This depiction, amongst the other stained glass (so expensive to create), makes a distinct impact.

This is  a church whose religious leaders and congregation must have thought it significant to include this piece of relatively recent and very painful human history along with the more traditionally evocative scenes related to the life and suffering of Jesus. How remarkable, I thought, and how much courage it must have taken to include this window in a house of worship: to remind oneself in church of the sins we (Christians and others) are capable of committing upon each other in the name of… what?
Today’s Thought

Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.
~Adolph Hitler

There are antidotes to such enduring and often hateful cynicism. There have always been and, I trust, will be,  people who value decency and truth, knowing they are not easily come by, cannot be indoctrinated, and often require both courage and freedom of thought.

As for the courage to search for and uphold truth, I was surprised by this plaque to Girodano Bruno. You might recall that he's the mathmatician and astronomer burned at the stake in 1600 after being found guilty of heresy by the Inquisition for his findings proposing the sun is a star, the earth being only one of it’s orbiters in a vast universe. I found this plaque on the ancient stones walls of of the main piazza at Jesi, another city worth visiting in Le Marche. Of course, it took several centuries before Bruno was so honorably commemorated.

Jesi  is very industrialized and not so lovely in its extensive lower city. But  its upper walled, historic medieval city provides yet another wonderful blast of the past in Italy.An impressive piazza is seen here, too, and some lovely works of art by Lorenzo Lotto are in its Pinacoteca. 

One of the things I love about Italy is how the old is cherished and maintains its use and value, as in this contemporary habitation (below), replete with hanging plants, of the medieval walls surrounding the historic city centre of Jesi.
 Today’s Painting
Animal Memories, painting by Janet Strayer

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