Ascoli Piceno: the travertine city

This is an excerpt from the book “Central Italy Marche and Abruzzo

Ascoli Piceno, Piazza del Popolo - Photo Turismo Marche
Ascoli Piceno, Piazza del Popolo – Photo Turismo Marche

The incredibly harmonious and compact appearance of Ascoli’s historical center is due in large part to the use of travertine stone, which from the very origins of the city, has been the principal material used in all types of construction.

From simple dwellings to patrician ones, to churches, to the paving of the squares, this stone – used without interruption for two thousand years, encompassing ever-changing styles and the march of history – has been an epitome of the urban landscape of the city, rendering Ascoli unique and particular.

The art of travertine

Travertine is not an easy stone to model, yet artists and artisans of every epoch have devised ways of extracting enormously intricate decorative elements from it. In the Middle Ages and in the Renaissance especially, the magistri de preta represented an extremely important reality in the arts of the city.

The antique tradition of travertine sculpting continues even to this day in the relatively rare artisans’ workshops and by choice of local sculptors who are conscious of the uniqueness of the history of this art, and are determined to not let it die out.

The Travertine Quarries

Travertine Quarry
Travertine Quarry

The travertine was extracted from the quarries in the city’s nearby vicinity Mount San Marco, Rosara and Acquasanta Terme, the latter two still in activity – This stone was utilized not only locally, but it was exported in various regions of Italy and also abroad. The quality of the stone varies somewhat in regards to texture and tonality from one quarry to another, nevertheless the basic ivory coloration that each has in common tends to form a patina over the course of time, rendering the stone that we currently admire in the city’s streets an appearance that is both solar and severe.

Travertine today

In 1998, to re-establish the use of this stone, the Chamber of Commerce held a competition on a national scale for works of sculptures and furnishings for both urban and sacred spaces using exclusively the travertine of Ascoli. The winning works were put on display in public parks and in other spaces of the city.

Where to stay in Ascoli Piceno

Hotels, B&Bs, apartments and country houses: search and make reservations here.