Fano: Roman Colony by the Sea

By Forrest Murphy


Situated on the edge of the Adriatic Sea, the Italian city of Fano is a destination spot for visitors and students studying abroad in Urbino. Here, they can enjoy a unique combination of commercial modernity and ancient Italian culture. Elements of Roman history blend with the classic, rustic look of Italian architecture.

According to guide Manuela Palmucci, the city visible at ground level is not actually the original settlement, but the result of repeated rebuilding projects taken on by the inhabitants of the city over time. “Razed to the ground repeatedly over many years,” Palmucci said, Fano has been “stratified,” being rebuilt over itself as ground levels changed.

Relics of the original settlement can be found underground in an archaeological museum within the city. The remnants of a mosaic floor, a house and even an oversized aquarium can be accessed through one of the tunnels built by the Romans.

Founded by the first Roman Emperor Augustus, Fano was originally divided “in two parts, a private section containing housing, and another public area which held an amphitheater, a meeting point for the public, and even a small temple,” said Palmucci.

The city also contained a hospital, although Fano’s version was not used for the treatment of the sick but rather served as a drop-off point for children that otherwise would have succumbed to exposure. Parents would first place their child in a basket and then into a small hole in the front of the building where members of the church would then pull the child into safety. Many of these original buildings were surrounded by Roman walls, which are still standing near the city center.

Not only does ancient architecture exist in Fano, but also superstition. According to Palmucci, there is one place that neither residents or tourists of the city are supposed to go. “In the middle of the town square there is a star, in which nobody walks because it is a negative place in the eyes of the people of Fano,” said Palmucci. “If you walk across the seal, the next day at school your professor will call you and you will fail.” In fact, students living across from the square do not even look at the seal from within their windows, fearful that the negative energy stemming from it will follow them back to their rooms, she said.

The influence of the Catholic Church is apparent almost everywhere individuals step within the city with either churches or religiously inspired art or symbols carved into buildings. Several ancient tombs also reside within the city behind protective bars but visible from the street. These stone sarcophaguses stand as some of the most detailed pieces of carving work found in Fano.

The city itself is caught between two worlds, housing Roman churches hundreds of years old as well as physical remnants from the original colony and even traditions, as well as modern housing and a tourist hot spot along the Adriatic coastline. As a result, students studying abroad in Urbino have a potential destination spot offering both a chance to further their studies into Italian culture and architecture as well as take a dip in the cold, turquoise waters of the Adriatic Sea.

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