In the hills above Grottammare is the town of Ripatransone. With breath-taking views of the Adriatic it is not only a pretty town with museums, churches and art gallery but also home to the claim of narrowest alley in Italy.
If it had not been for the fact that I was looking for it, I would have missed it. It is 43 cms at the widest point, being the point at which an average man's shoulders would pass through, further up it narrows to about 38 cm.
It is fun to pretend to be stuck in such a small place - and the town is a pleasant place to visit.
Follow the brown signs from the Piazza Donna Bianca de Tharolis in the centre of the town.
Google map: bit.ly/WIy5nX
Piazza del Popolo, one of the best proportioned piazzas in the central part of Italy. The piazza took on its rectangular appearance during the 1500s when the porticos were added to keep the artisan shops out of sight.
Ascoli Piceno, Piazza del Popolo is signposted through the town.
The Pinacoteca is home to a number of art works from thirteenth century triptychs to nineteenth century secular pieces as well as sculptures. My favourite saint, Sebastian, was much in evidence and it was interesting to see how his depiction - particularly his hairstyle - changed through the ages. The sculpture of the Sleeping Shepherd in the Shepherd's Room was incredible. Not since I'd first met Bernini in the Piazza Navona had I been so struck by the detailing created in marble.
The Palazzo dei Priori houses not only the Archaeology Museum on the first floor but the Pinacoteca and the Sala de Mappamondo upstairs (the police station is housed in the ground floor).
The Pinacoteca has an impressive display. The minatures telling the life-story of Saint Lucy are exquisite but when we walked into one of the rooms there was one picture that was head and shoulders above the rest, and we thought that before we realised it was a Rubens; but for me the best was yet to come.
When the attendant unlocked the heavy dark doors I was not ready for the assault on my senses - tears pricked my eyes. The scent of aging manuscripts and books filled my nostrils and I looked around a room that was filled from floor to ceiling with books. To one side stood a large globe made in 1713 by the Abbot Amanzio Moroncelli from strips of paper.
I could quite happily have sat in the middle of the small roped area that we were confined to and inhaled the scent of centuries of writing for the remainder of the day.
The cisterns that had supplied Fermo's fountains and drinking water from nearby hill springs.
At the end of a dead-end alley a large metal door was unlocked and we descended under the town via a set of medieval stairs - all very cloak and dagger! The cisterns which are for all intents and purposes a practical construction are beautiful in their way. Thirty connecting chambers laid out in three rows the perspective along the central row is picturesque. The guide provided us with an excellent potted history of the cisterns - how the Romans had used them, how the monks re-discovered them and used them as for wine production and storage, and how in the late 19th century until 1980 the cisterns were used once again to supply the city's fountains (though not as effectively as the Romans had!)
You have to buy your ticket at the touris information office in Piazza del Popolo, Fermo and the tours are accompanied from there.
Tourist Office: (+39) 0734 228738
A 12th century house it has been renovated to showcase the Hispano-Islamic houses of Andalucía and does so very well. The intimate courtyards and rooms exhibit coins, books and a model of the first paper-making machines to arrive in the the West, with a description of how the process worked. Muslim art, decorative tiles and arches combined with the scent of lemons and incense-sticks and soothing Islamic music make this a serene experience. The cellar is not to be missed either. Past the utensils and wooden buckets is a Visigoth mosaic. This is a small but perfectly formed museum and was my personal highlight of my trip to Córdoba.
Calle Judios 12, 14004, Cordoba
+34 957 29 06 42
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