While you drive the road that from the highway exit of Grottammare goes to Castignano, you get closer to the town and you have more and more the impression to get closer to real life, that one made of spontaneous smiles, of slow time in the countryside, of birds singing, of the silences of natural food.
In the last stretch of road, while you clamber the road on the hill to reach Castignano, the centuries old oaks seem to create a sort of tunnel above the hairpin turns and greet happily the strangers who arrive here from everywhere.
As soon as you arrive in the city, looking a bit up in front of you, you can immediately see the bell towers and roofs standing over this medieval town which seems to tell the story of the past centuries with the wisdom of an old philosopher.
This is Castignano, a city of about 3000 inhabitants, at 473 meters on the level of the sea, set like a precious gem amongst the other hills. If you look a bit behind the town you will see the Ascension Mountain (Montagna dell'Ascensione) and the San Marco Mountain (Colle San Marco).
The Ascension Mountain can be reached in few kilometers and offers wonderful naturalistic views. San Marco Mountain, with its modern ski facilities, will give you the needed winter entertainment.
From the main square of Castignano you will have a spectacular view. In addition to the two mountains and the typical hills of region Marche orderly cultivated, in those days when the sky is more clear, you can even see the Conero Mountain (Monte Conero), the sea, the Maiella Mountain and the Gran Sasso Mountain.
The town tells about the past centuries, of monasteries, kings and tyrants and of the Templar Knights that operated from here for several years. Castignano was, at the time of Crusades, in fact, a place of transit for those pilgrims who were going from Rome to the ships that would bring them to the Holy Land. The Templar Knights themselves built the church of Santa Maria del Borgo in the XII century.
Castignano also has the primacy of finding the most ancient italic inscription, the Stone of Castignano, made of sandstone with a bustrofedic writing, meaning that the letters are written from left to write and then they continue from right to left and sometimes even from top down and viceversa with specular letters. This inscription explains the sacredness of the borders limited by the stone itself.
The sight of nature around Castignano amazes you in many ways. The famous "Calanchi" are typical phenomenon of this area. They are portions of sliding down ground due to the waters underneath on clayey rocks. The ground excavate itself and slides down forming odd formations which change continuously.
Two natural tunnels have been found on the Ascension Mountain, one is called Amedeo's Hole (Fossa di Amedeo) and contains rocky formations which recall a human face, the other other one, the Wolf Hole, Fossa del Lupo, contains itself a true internal small lake. Both of them are places of great interest for the speleologists.
In addition to the Church S. Maria del Borgo, you can't miss other monuments of great interest such as the Church of SS Pietro e Paolo, the crypt of the Addolorata and the Church of S. Egidio.
The town is a fascinating labyrinth of alleyways and little stairs. The narrowest house is 154 cm large, the Rua della Pace goes up in a little stair which is one of the narrowest in the Center of Italy, large only 78 cm.
In the past Castignano was very famous for the growing of anise, which is still being grown in some farms.
The town also has a long and glorious wine tradition which includes some amongst the most famous wines of the area such as Rosso Piceno, Templaria,Gramelot and many more.
The culinary tradition, as the one of this territory, has very deep roots and is very much connected to the local agriculture. Here you can taste delicious plates made with spelt, handmade pasta and delicious local cheese.
From 16 to 19 August there is the Festival Templaria, a historical commemoration which attracts thousands of visitors each year. The entire town changes and goes back to the times of the Templar Knights. Everybody partipates. In these days you can attend concerts of medieval music, celtic music, jesters shows, important exhibitions of historical documents of those times, theater performances in medieval costumes and much more.
The Carnival of Castignano is another event of great interest. In addition to the traditional Carnival Parade of allegorical floats, in the evening you can attend the Moccoli parade. Moccoli are special light lanterns made of carved reed and covered with colored paper. The procession ends up in the S. Pietro square where the Moccoli are launched in a big stake which symbolize the purification from any wrongdoing. When the stake extinguishes, the fireworks start and they determine the end of Carnival.
The Addolorata Day, finally, is the first week of September and after the procession, when the statue of the Madonna is brought arouns the town, a series of medieval games start together with a parage of medieval costumes. The entire city partipates to this day and the town is all decorated with flowers and wonderful tissues.
This small gem in the center of Italy, Castignano, deserves to be visited properly to better understand our roots and to enjoy all this beauty. Do not miss it when you come to Italy!