One square, one heart
Piazza del Popolo is the heart of Fermo. Precise and linear in form, it is bordered upstream and downstream by two imposing 16th-century brick porticoes. The city’s oldest public buildings enrich the history of this square and, although each has its own particular architectural characteristics, they offer a spectacle of rare beauty and rigour.
The first urban configuration of the square was defined in 1442, under Alessandro Sforza, due to the arrival in Fermo of Bianca Maria Visconti, wife of his brother Francesco. The future Duke of Milan, Galeazzo Maria, was born in 1444 from their union.
Before taking its current name, Piazza del Popolo was known as Piazza Vittorio Emanuele and before that, as Piazza San Martino. Its history is inseparably linked to that of the buildings that surround it. Piazza del Popolo, which is 135 metres long and 34 metres wide, has a clear 16th-century style, with buildings that are linear and harmonious in every detail. Walking on the ancient pavement or under the beautiful porticoes, catapulted back in time, visitors will have the sensation of breathing the same air as when it was still under construction.
The square, bordered by two long rows of loggias, with terracotta porticoes, is enclosed on its shorter sides by important historical buildings: Palazzo dei Priori, which was created in 1296 by joining a 13th-century noble palace and an ancient church and now houses Fermo Civic Art Gallery, Palazzo del Governatore, a building dating back to the first decades of the 16th century, begun at the behest of Oliverotto Euffreducci (understandably better known as Oliverotto da Fermo) and completed by order of Pope Clement VII and, finally, the loggia of San Rocco, built in 1528 and home to the small Church of St Rocco, built in turn in 1505 as a religious response to the terrible plague that had been killing people across Europe for two centuries.
The current layout of the square is due to extensive refurbishing that began in 1569 with the construction, on several occasions, of the two large loggias that now characterise the space, opening towards the two main buildings that were joined together – Palazzo degli Studi and Palazzo dei Priori. Palazzo degli Studi houses the Civic Library, the richest in the Marche region and among the top ten in Italy, which houses 128 codices, over 400,000 volumes and 15,000 books dating from the 16th century. The façade of Palazzo dei Priori, built in 1296 and subsequently remodelled, is dominated by one of the city’s main symbols, the bronze Statue of Sixtus V, created by Accursio Baldi in 1590.
The hanging loggia that joins the two palaces was built in 1581 and has beautiful frescoed ceilings. It is one of the most interesting parts of the old town centre. It can be accessed via the Civic Library. Visiting the hanging loggia is particularly charming during the evenings when the Antiques and Handicrafts Fair is held, on Thursdays in July and August. At night too, it offers preferential views of the square teeming with people.