Among the arterial roads that cross the historic center, Corso Mazzini tells a long story that starts in the 1° Century B.C.
Corso Mazzini is one of the main streets of the historic center of Ascoli Piceno. The journey starts in 2013 with the archaeological surveys carried out during its redevelopment. It is enough to dig just a few centimeters to meet the mighty walls of the fourteenth century convent of Sant’Onofrio, which was demolished at the beginning of the twentieth century to make space for the buildings of the Carisap Foundation and the public Post Office.
It is enough to dig a little near Palazzo Parisani and Palazzo Gallo foundations to make some magnificent discoveries: a wall from the Roman period (made in the “opus quasi reticulatum” technique) over thirty meters long. Just a little further down, some impressive paving stones and smoothed travertine blocks, show us the road plan of a Decumanus, the classic Roman main road that crossed the city from east to west. Continuing to dig, we finally reach the most important discovery: there is another road, another Decumanus, older than the paved one, which runs even deeper two meters below us. It is a simple cobbled road but rich in history and an invaluable source of information.
The return journey begins in the first century B.C., through a busy stone-paved road. Life goes quiet and busy with daily chores until the rebellion to the Roman power strikes, and then the war, the siege, and the final defeat. The Roman army destroyed the city, citizens were deported, and in some city areas, the road was covered by a thick layer of ruins. Decades later, Augustus started an impressive urban renovation. The heavy paving stones of the new Decumanus, that crosses the city from east to west, were placed on the old road’s ruins, and the south side was delimited by a long wall (made in the “Opus quasi reticulatum” technique), to contain the level’s gap of land as a sort of terracing.
WHAT'S UNDER HERE?
Our journey in the past begins with the 2013 excavations of Corso Mazzini, where superb pieces of evidence of the Roman period, and precious information of the yesteryear Ascoli, have been brought to light layer by layer.
The word indicates the typical main road that ran east-west in Roman cities, structured and orthogonally divided.
Many people and many carts have traveled this road for a very long time, enough to consume it and leave the chariot wheel grooves visible in the travertine. During their gradual restoration, by tiles and crushed bricks, someone, perhaps a careless worker, lost a coin from the mid-4th century. By now, the Roman Empire’s history is coming to an end, with new transformations that undermine the central power, and a sense of general insecurity spreads among the population. The inhabitants flee or die in war or epidemics, abandoning large parts of the city. The same happens to the Decumanus, where carts don’t run anymore; no one cleans the ancient main road, by now covered with a thick layer of dark soil and mud.
For many centuries nothing happens, until a new building fervor comes between the 12th and 13th centuries. It is a sign of a new urban expansion and a great city aliveness, spread all over the Ascoli area. In those years the convent of Sant’Onofrio was built, and large portions of its perimeter wall still stand; a wall which breaks the road surface of the Decumanus, now buried and no longer visible.
Later the Parisani palace will use the ruins of the Roman wall (made in the “opus quasi reticulatum” technique), using it as a foundation. At the beginning of the twentieth century, with the demolition of the convent of Sant’Onofrio, our return journey comes to an end too. So we slowly arrive at our days, right to the beginning of this fascinating story.
A WALK THROUGH HISTORY
Walking through Corso Mazzini in the middle of Ascoli Piceno, you can breathe history and guess how it would have been walking in those streets during the Roman age.