Piazza del Popolo is Ascoli Piceno’s masterpiece. It is the heart of the town and is considered one of the most beautiful squares in Italy. This impressive Renaissance square houses the majestic church of San Francesco, the Palazzo dei Capitani del Popolo and the historical liberty-style Caffè Meletti.
The Church of San Francesco is considered one of the finest examples of the Italian Franciscan architecture and one of the most representative monuments of the transition period from Romanesque to Gothic. It is the heart of a historical complex that includes two cloisters, the Chiostro Maggiore and the Chiostro Minore. The Chiostro Maggiore is situated in a spacious quadrangular area between Via del Trivio and Via D’Ancaria. A XIV-century portico featuring Gothic arches supported by columns and by octagonal and quadrangular based pillars extends along the western side of this area. The cloister was built by Lombard masters between 1565 and 1623. The XV-century Chiostro Minore, once connected to the church, is attached to a building in Via Ceci n° 7 and is composed by twenty-two round arches. The Loggia dei Mercanti was commissioned by the “Corporazione della lana” (“Corporation of Wool Manufacturers”) based on a project attributed to the architect and painter Nicola Filotesio, known as Cola dell’Amatrice for being a native of the small village of Amatrice.
Palazzo dei Capitani del Popolo, former residence of the people’s magistrates, was built during the XIII and XIV centuries and partly rebuilt by Cola dell’Amatrice. The façade and its portal are preceded by a big staircase. On the top of the ample portal is the monument dedicated to Pope Paul III who is sitting and blessing with his right hand.