A little bit of history…

… but not too much, I swear! Images are shamelessly taken from other websites.

  • The first settlements in the area date back to the Iron Age. Before the Romans, the area had been colonized by the Picentes (Piceni) and the city was called Ricina.

Ruins of Helvia Ricina

  • The name “Picentes” allegedly derives from the word picus, which means “woodpecker”. The Picentes, “those of the woodpecker”, are said to have been guided by a woodpecker on their way to Ascoli. For this reason, the symbol of the Region Marche is a stylized woodpecker.
Coat of arms of Marche

Symbol of the Region Marche

  • After the Romanization, Ricina was renamed to Helvia Ricina. Ruins of Helvia Ricina, destroyed by the Goths, have survived to these days and lie at Villa Potenza (a district of Macerata) just north of the town.
  • After the destruction of Helvia Ricina by the barbarians, the inhabitants took shelter upon the hills, and eventually began to rebuild the city, first on the top of the hills then they descended again and expanded. The new rebuilt town was Macerata.
  • After the Romans, the town has an on-again, off-again relationship to the Papal States up until about 1859.
  • During the XIV century the Pope took portions of land from Fermo and Recanati and gave them to Macerata as a reward to its loyalty. Later the town kept changing hands: first it was transformed from free, independent Commune into Signoria under the Mulucci family, from the Muluccis to the Da Varanos to the Sforza family (1433).
  • In the XV century Macerata flourished thanks to its strategic alliances: for example, when the Sforza family was defeated by a joint effort of the Papal State, the Duchy of Milan and Kingdom of Neaples, the administration pulled a political turncoat to get in the graces of the Pope and the town was rewarded with an upgrade to political and bureaucratic center.
  • The XVI century was a golden age for Macerata, as the town flourished despite the frequent incursions and pestilences. First of all, the Pope authorized the official institution of the University of Macerata (though the law faculty dates back to 1290). The street layout was updated and improved, the walls were completed and many private mansions were built, such as Palazzo Ciccolini and Palazzo dei Diamanti. Other public works include the Loggia dei Mercanti and Palazzo dello Studio (the townhall, which was later revised by Salvatore Innocenti in the XIX century).

    Palazzo Diamanti (Diamond Mansion)

    Loggia dei Mercanti

  • As all glory is short-lived, Macerata entered a steady decline in XVII century, when the Pope decided to concentrate the administration of the territories in Rome. Business and trade declined as the political interest in the town faded, and public and private constructions dropped. Only religious architecture remained active, thanks to the institution of several religious orders that required the construction of monasteries, churches, etc.
  • The Age of Enlightenment brought a sense of unrest in town: the lack of interest of the Papal State in the situation of Macerata led to bitter recriminations against the government. As the economical crisis raged on, the nobility of Macerata, frustrated by their exclusion from politics, invested in their public image, by building sumptuous mansions like Palazzo Buonaccorsi (1727), Palazzo Asclepi-Salimbeni (1725), Palazzo Torre (1738-1785), Palazzo Costa (1756) and many others. Notable religious buildings are Chiesa di San Filippo, the redesign of the Basilica Santa Maria della Misericordia by Luigi Vanvitelli, the construction of the Chiesa di S. Croce and the restoration of the Dome by Morelli, who later designed also the Lauro Rossi Theatre.

The interior of the Lauro Rossi theatre

  • The century ended with the occupation by the Napoleonic Army of the whole Papal State: the annexation to the Roman Republic stirred hopes of freedom and justice in Macerata, quickly wiped out by abuses of power and tax raises. At first repulsed by the resolute resistance of the town, the Napoleonic Army opened a breach in the walls after extensive gun firing. The subsequent looting, fires and killings caused 360 casualties.
  • The XIX century begins with political instability, after a first restoration of the Papal Government, then more messing around by the French, then back to the Papal State. No wonder the seeds of the Risorgimento blossomed early in Macerata, the first rebel movements dating back to 1817: they culminated with a peaceful occupation of the city by its own citizens in 1831. But then, guess what? The movement crumbled and the city went back to the Papal State!
  • The story repeats all over again a few times, until 1861, when Italy was founded and it proved fatal for Macerata, who lost three faculties and the Court of Appeals to Ancona, along with its army headquarters and some of its territories. More in general, a big town in a small state became a medium sized town in a very big country. Along with its political relevance, Macerata lost some of its original bastions and doors for the sake of transport and progress. Among the public works we can list the restoration of the townhall by Salvatore Innocenzi and of course the magnificent Sferisterio.
Sferisterio by night 1

The Sferisterio by night

  • Art Noveau, but also the revival of other stiles marks the architecture of the XX century in Macerata, as the macroscopic situation (not to mention the deaths) stirred the souls of intellectuals and politicians alike. After World War II and the Liberation, Otello Perugini, elected mayor in 1946, describes the Macerata with these words:

“Everything was destroyed: the power stations were destroyed, the mills stood still – wrecked and burnt down, just like machinery in the factories, the radios were silent and we had no electricity. A full day after the Germans had left […] we already had an embryonic electrical power distribution that allowed us reconnect to life.”

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