Tolentino in the heartland of the southern-central Marche is a thriving medieval town set in rolling hills. Pilgrims come from across Italy to visit the
shrine of St Nicholas of Tolentino.
Even if you don't have any favours to ask of him, visit his handsome Basilica to marvel at the grandiose Giottoesque frescoes in the gothic Cappellone di San
Nicola - vivid masterpieces of the 14th century, one of the most striking works of art in the Marche. Spare time also to linger in the tranquil Romanesque cloister alongside the church.
A Marche saint through and through, San Nicola da Tolentino was born at Sant'Angelo in Pontano near Fermo in 1245. He became a friar in the Order of St
Augustine and in 1275 entered the monastery at Tolentino where he died in 1305. Although a noted preacher and pastoral worker, his fame rests on the numerous miracles attributed to his intercession.
History was made in 1797 at Palazzo Parisani-Bezzi in Via della Pace when Napoleon Bonaparte forced Pope
Pius VI to sign the Peace of Tolentino in the wake of his successful invasion of the Papal States.
If you enjoy riddles, make for the splendid central Piazza della Liberta' to figure out the multiple clock faces on one
of the Marches' oddest Medieval clock towers, including one for the phases of the moon.
If the draw of flying saints, Bonaparte and chronological puzzles are not enough, Tolentino boasts The International Museum of Caricature and Humour in Art in
its new home, Palazzo Sangallo. Here you can see some 3,000 works by artists from across the world. The city also hosts the Biennial International Festival of Hunour
in Art, one of the most prestigious events of its kind.
There are plenty of other interesting corners to explore in this lively town with no shortage of places for good, simple marchigiano food.
Just east of Tolentino, the swallowtail battlements of the Castello della Rancia come into view by the main road.
This solid, square castle was built as a Benedictine abbey in the 12th century and transformed into a castle in 1357 for the ruling Da Varano family.
It has been the scene of many battles, the last of which was the defeat of Giocchino Murat, the King of Naples, whose first 19th century bid to unify Italy was thwarted
by Austrian troops in May 1815 - the battle is re-enacted each May in a colourful event with hundreds of extras. The castle has been restored and opened to the public.