The itinerary, about 20 km in length, goes from Montefiore dell’Aso to Monterubbiano, passing through Moresco.The hills of the interior of Piceno are dotted with many villages, several of them fortified and in scenic positions which were chosen so that they could control and defend the territory.
These villages were set up at the time of the process of fortification, which came with changes in feudal power from the late ninth to the twelfth century.
The purpose was mainly defensive, in view of the political and military instability at the time.
Over the centuries, the uses to which the castles and fortified villages were put gradually changed, and now they are peaceful places with the most splendid views.
The itinerary takes visitors on a journey through history, discovering splendid walled villages and military constructions that have maintained all their charm, offering picture-postcard views of the countryside all around.
The beauty of these places brings to mind the immortal verses of the great Recanati-born Giacomo Leopardi: Mirava al ciel sereno, le vie dorate e gli orti, e quinci il mar da lungi, e quindi il monte (“He viewed the cloudless sky, the gilded roads and the gardens, and then the sea from afar, and the mountains”).
Montefiore dell’Aso is a village perched above a sheer cliff between the valleys of Aso and Menocchia, with an ellipsoidal ring of walls all round.
It commands the most splendid views of the territory, offering stunning sunsets over the hills behind, for the panorama stretches all the way from the Monti Sibillini to the sea, just a few kilometres away.
Its origins are lost in the mists of time, and tradition refers “Montefiore” – Mons Floris – to the cult of the godless Flora, the rural divinity venerated by the ancient populations of Italy.
Even so, it really grew under the Romans and, especially, during the Middle Ages.
The old part is well preserved, and many sections of the walls have remained, with the gates and six towers dating from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
There are also several seventeenth- and eighteenth-century buildings in the village.
From the Belvedere De Carolis, an enchanting scenic location, the Porta Aspromonte leads into the old part and to Piazza della Repubblica, the real heart of the town, which is dominated by the Collegiata di S.
Lucia, a truly ancient church (3rd-5th cent.) that was completely rebuilt in the neoclassical style.
Then one comes to the church of San Francesco and its adjoining convent, where a new museum complex has recently been opened.
This contains a number of displays, including a section devoted to the important local artist Adolfo de Carolis, who illustrated the works of Gabriele D’Annunzio, and to the Domenico Cantatore Collection.
Monterubbiano is one of the fifteen municipalities in the Marche that flies the Bandiera Arancione – the “orange flag” awarded by the Touring Club Italiano for inland localities that meet criteria of tourism and environmental excellence, and that promote their cultural heritage, protect the environment, and provide hospitality, as well as access to and use of the land.
The view from the village stretches from the Adriatic to the Monti Sibillini, with the rural landscape of the fertile Valle dell’Aso in between.
The earliest remains in Monterubbiano date back to Roman times, when it earned the title of urbs urbana (260 BC).
But its history is even more ancient, like that of the people in the various areas of Piceno.
And it is back to the ancient Italic peoples that the Sciò la pica, one of the traditional events of Monterubbiano, appears to be linked.
During the festivities to celebrate Whit Sunday, a procession of zappaterra (“earth-digger” peasants) dressed in traditional working clothes (a white apron called lu guazzarò) bear a “pica“, or woodpecker, creating the air of a country f�te.
The celebration pays tribute to the origins of the Piceni who, after a sacred ritual (the ver sacrum) to the god Mars, abandoned their homeland and followed the picus, a bird that was sacred to the god.
This certainly pagan tradition is accompanied by another from mediaeval times, the Armata di Pentecoste – the “Whit Sunday Army” that commemorates the fight to secure the freedom of the town.
The most significant period in its history was during the Middle Ages, when it was constantly at war with the powerful Fermo, which had its eye on its formidable strategic position.
It lived through periods of great splendour (in the fourteenth century, its population reached more than seven thousand), and of great crises (in the sixteenth century).
The town has many notable buildings, for as well as several beautiful churches, there is the neoclassical Teatro Pagani, dedicated to the sixteenth-century artist, Vincenzo Pagani of Monterubbiano, and also the panoramic gardens of San Rocco.
Moresco is near Monterubbiano, and has shared much of its history.
The town dominates the Valle dell’Aso, with a lovely view that ranges from the Adriatic Sea to Monte Conero and the Gran Sasso, and all the way to the coast of Albania.
It probably takes its name from the Mori family or, possibly, from the dialectal word morrecine, literally a “pile of stones”.
There were important settlements here in Roman times, and after the Longobard invasions, monastic curtes and castra were built: Moresco was the most important, and became the dwelling place of the population from the surrounding area.
The town has maintained its original fourteenth-century walls, and these are dominated by an unusual but imposing twelfth-century heptagonal tower with more recent Ghibelline battlements.
Moresco has an elliptical ground plan, and the mediaeval castle has maintained its original shape, built up around an internal courtyard (the piazza).
In the thirteenth century, the castle passed under the jurisdiction of Fermo, where it remained until the Unification of Italy.
In 1869 it became an outlying ward of Monterubbiano, but in 1910 it once again became an independent municipality.
The beautiful council chamber of the town hall contains a large altarpiece painted by Vincenzo Pagani, who also created the fresco beneath the portico in the square.
This was formerly the left-hand aisle of the church of SS. Lorenzo e Niccolò, which was demolished to make way for the square.
The church was rebuilt outside the walls.
Santa Sofia, a deconsecrated church near the clock tower, the Torre dell’Orologio, was built (15th-16th cent.) to commemorate the death of a young Moresco girl, Sofia Amati, who was brutally murdered.
Outside the walls, the Santuario della Madonna della Salute and the church of Santa Maria dell’Olmo, which was enlarged in 1521 by incorporating an ancient Gothic shrine, are of great interest.
The Moresco area is well known for its fruit and vegetables, and organically grown Val d’Aso peaches are much sought after.