A striking itinerary of art, faith and wit touches enchanting villages, nestling between hilly landscapes and lovely resorts and retraces Felice Peretti
’s life, who passed to history as Pope Sixtus V
. The 500th anniversary will be celebrated on 13 December 2021
, through ancient manuscripts, precious relics, sumptuous furnishings, jewels and private collections. Born in 1521 in Grottammare to a family from Montalto delle Marche, the Pontiff’s life was so intense and active and will be celebrated by the Marche Regional Government
with a full calendar of events (www.sisto500.it
) and activities, including an itinerary through strongly identifying places, able to instill his charisma and determination. Indeed he was a 'visionary Pontiff' who, in only five years (from 1585 to 90), left indelible traces in the Marche region as well as in Rome.
The itinerary leading us to discover the valuable heritage by Pope Sixtus V starts in Grottammare, the Pearl of the Adriatic Sea, an elegant resort on the Riviera delle Palme. In this resort, where flies the Blue Flag, awarded by FEEE, and included in the list of ‘The most beautiful villages in Italy’, thanks to hospitality and rich art heritage, you can admire the Church of S. Lucia with its impressive facade overlooking the sea (temporarily closed because of the damages caused by the earthquake , but soon restored by the Marche Regional Government on the occasion of Sistine celebrations), built on a design by architect Domenico Fontana near Sixtus V’s birthplace to celebrate his birthday. Completed by his sister Camilla, now it holds a Baroque organ from 1752, made by the artisan Francesco Fedeli of Rocchetta di Camerino.
Nearby stands the Church of S. Giovanni Battista, where the Pope was baptized, housing a section of the Sistine Museums, boasting two valuable works by Vittore Crivelli and an altarpiece by Vincenzo Pagani, in addition to a portrait of Sixtus V. The collection is enriched by a precious chalice for liturgical celebrations that the Pope bequeathed to the city and the 13th century Christ from the convent of S. Francesco alle Fratte, where he took his vows. Once in Grottammare, you must take a photo in the heart of the village, with its splendid panoramic loggia near the eighteenth-century Teatro dell'Arancio, on whose facade stands the statue of Pope Sixtus V by Stefano Interlenghi. A bike ride along the cycle-pedestrian path on the coast of palm trees, oranges and oleanders, up to Viale Marino is highly recommended. You can enjoy the promenade with marble from Carrara and colorful Art Nouveau villas that date back to the turn of the last century; along with the many palm trees that line the seafront, bright flower beds and well-kept lawns give the place great charm.
Crossing long ridges full of vineyards, you reach Montalto delle Marche, Sixtus V’s homeland", where he allowed the construction of important works, which can still be seen. Once in town you can admire Piazza Sisto V, dominated by the Cathedral of S. Maria Assunta - strongly supported by the Pope that a hill was flattened to build it - and the Palazzo della Most excellent Camilla, which was later used as a Seminary. Just a short walk from it, you can visit the former premises of the Sistine mint, established in Montalto by Sixtus V. Taking the street that runs along Palazzo Paradisi you reach the residence where Felice Peretti lived and the imposing Palazzo del Governor, the former administrative headquarters of the Presidato, including a territory of 17 cities. The most valuable heritage is the Reliquary, a priceless masterpiece of Parisian goldsmith art. Normally kept in the Sistine Episcopal Museum (closed for restoration), it can be admired together with the Papal Planet and other important works at Palazzo Paradisi on the occasion of the exhibition 'Sisto V - The Visionary Pope', open from 16 June until the end of the December. Before leaving the town, you can pay homage to the town’s most illustrious citizen, by observing the bronze sculpture made by the Grottammare born Pericle Fazzini. The monument is truly modern and avant-garde, with a shape that, rotating on itself, projects the sistine profile at 360 ° onto ever-changing panoramas during the hours of the day. Eventually, in the heart of the Valdaso area, the Mill of Sisto V, a rare example of fortified mill, is extraordinarily intact. Active since 1320, it takes its name from the sale made by the Priors in 1567 to the future Pope Sixtus V and to his sister Camilla, beneficiaries of annuities for five years after deduction of the sum lent to the community.
Fermo covers a central role in the itinerary of the Sistine places; it is a town boasting ancient Augustan effigies. Its Palazzo dei Priori rises above the spectacular Roman pools, which comprise thirty magnificently preserved underground chambers built between 41 & 60 BC to conserve and purify the town's water supply, and regarded as the finest example of their kind in Italy. Sansovino's grand statue (1590) of the Bishop of Fermo who was to become Pope Sixtus V tops the main entrance of Palazzo dei Priori.
In the nearby State archive there is still the 'Sistine Bull' with which, just five months after his election as Pope, he allowed the restoration of the university. After plunging in art treasures at the Civic Museums, boasting the masterpiece of the Nativity by Rubens and the scenographic Sala del Mappamondo, you can relax in the shade of the centuries-old cedar of Lebanon that stands in the middle of Piazzale del Girfalco, enjoying a breathtaking view over the valleys onto the sea. The adjacent imposing neo-Gothic cathedral of S. Maria Assunta, with its amazing portal with a round arch holds an early Christian sarcophagus from the III-IV century and the Diocesan Museum, where you can admire the Pastoral of Sixtus V in a tortoise shell and mother of pearl.
The collection of brilliant silver donated by Sixtus V can be admired at the Museum of Holy Art based in San Benedetto del Tronto, an delightful resort to spend an afternoon enjoying an exotic atmosphere, among the 15 km of cycle paths surrounded by 8 thousand palm trees, with gardens, fountains, amusing areas and games for children. You can cycle up to the Sentina Nature Reserve and go birdwatching crossing saltwater and sand lagoons, sighting the Kingfisher, the Crane and the Marsh Harrier, and then visit the Museum of the Sea, holding amphorae, vessels and shells.
Continuing our tour to discover the masterpieces of the Pope, worth mentioning is the exhibition "The gifts of Sixtus V to the lands of Piceno" which includes the Sistine Museums (www.museisistini.it - reservation 347/3804444), spread in the province of Ascoli Piceno: Castignano, Force, Montemonaco, Rotella, S. Benedetto del Tronto, Monteprandone, Comunanza, Grottammare, Montalto delle Marche and Ripatransone.