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Sassoferrato Visitors Guide

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sentinum photo

Sentinum

© by Martha Bakerjian, licensed to About.com

Sassoferrato Location and Information:

Sassoferrato is in the center of central Italy's le Marche region, about 45 kilometers west of Jesi, 60 kilometers south of Urbino and 70 kilometers inland from Ancona (see Map of the Marche). It's along the ancient Roman Road, Via Flaminia, that runs from Rome to Ancona and was an important city along the route. During the Middle Ages the town developed on the hill around a small castle and its churches house important items from that time. A modern town developed below the medieval center.

You will need a car to get to the town and explore the area. Be sure to see the Roman Gilded Bronzes in nearby Pergola also.

How to See the Sights in Sassoferrato:

Sassoferrato has an array of interesting places to visit (see below) but it will take some advance planning. Most of the town's churches, museums, and sights are open only by appointment. By making a reservation ahead of time, you can also ask for an English-speaking guide, provided at no charge. To arrange your visit and ask for an English speaking guide, you can call or email (probably best if you don't speak Italian) the Proloco: proloco@sassoferratoturismo.it or (39) 338 403 3204.

Sentinum Roman City Excavations:

During its Roman days, Sentinum grew to be a wealthy city following the Battle of the Nations in 295 BC that allowed the Roman empire to reach clear to the Adriatic Sea. Founded in a place where three rivers come together, the city expanded outside its walls in the first and second centuries BC.

At the site you can see remains of an iron foundry, city walls, a good section of the Roman road, and two large Roman baths built outside the walls, unusual in that there was one for men and one for women. Much of what has been excavated has been covered for protection and much of the original city is still below ground.

Museums in Sassoferrato:

The Archeological Museum, in the medieval Palazzo dei Priori on Piazza Matteotti, houses finds from the Roman excavation including marble busts, oil lamps, vases, and parts of two mosaic floors. There's a recreation of the best mosaic piece because the original was bought by the Prince of Monaco. The Pinacoteca, in Palazzo Oliva also on the main square of the old town, houses important art works of the 15th - 18th centuries. Visits daily 9:00 - 12:00, 3 euro each, ask at Proloco.

To visit the Museum of Traditional and Rural Crafts, reserve through the Proloco.

San Pietro Church:

San Pietro Church, a church of the Knights Templar, has a fresco from 1290 of Christ and Mary Magdalene (used by the Knights Templar instead of the Madonna). There's an ancient crucifix showing the crossed feet with only one nail (more modern ones show a nail in each foot) and a Black virgin from Loreto. Across from the ancient church entrance is the church store room that houses books of records, dating from as far back as the 16th century. The highlight is the small jail where priests who committed misdeeds were imprisoned. Near San Pietro is the small Longobard church of San Michele Archangel.

San Francesco Church:

San Francesco Church has an altar dating from 1362 with the remains of a priest, go behind the altar to see the bones. Near the altar lies the body of a priest whose death is said to have stopped the plague. There's an interesting fresco that was painted over three times and you can see parts dating from 1245, 1320, and 1500. You'll also see a controversial painting showing a circumcision (that caused the church to be closed) and a marble basin for holy water with 2 fish inside it that was a well covering in the ancient Roman city .

Santa Croce Abbey:

Santa Croce Abbey, a little way outside of Sassoferrato, was founded in 1000 and is another Knights Templar church. In the middle ages there was a pilgrim's hospice nearby. Remains from the Roman city were used for the altar and in the building and below the church was a Temple of Mithros. Inside the abbey are stunning frescoes dating from 1300, an altar dating from 1600 with a fresco painted in 1524, and 18th century paintings. Open Sundays, 16:00 - 19:00 or by reservation.

Sassoferrato Tourist Information:

To visit the above sites, make advance arrangements with the Proloco. Their office is in Palazzo Oliva on the large main square of the upper town, open 9:00 - 12:00 and 17:00 - 19:00 (16:00 - 18:00 in winter). They have tourist literature, mostly in Italian only, and can open the two museums in the square. To see the other sights or ask for an English-speaking guide, contact them by email or phone: proloco@sassoferratoturismo.it or (39) 338 403 3204.

Places to Eat and Stay:

Villa di Monterosso Restaurant and Country House is in a beautiful setting in the hills above Sassoferrato. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner and serves a variety of regional dishes. There are also six rooms with bed and breakfast.

Right in the old town there's a restaurant and bar on Piazza Matteotti, the main square.

The Farrotecca, about half an hour drive, serves dinners based on farro and has vacation apartments on a hill at Borgo Roncaglia.

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