Fano is a city on the Adriatic coast surrounded by rolling hills to the north and the Metauro River plain, one of the few flat areas in Marche, to the south.
Its origins are very ancient and it was a centre of the ancient Piceni people, a civilization that marked the transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age and who had invented its own writing.
The territory was then invaded by both the Senoni Gauls from France and the Greeks of Syracuse who founded Ancona. It seems that the name Fano derives from “Fan” in the Gallo-Piceno dialect. This set of Celtic-Greek-Italic cultures was extremely rich and has shaped the independent character of the city.
Fano was then an important Roman centre known as Fanum Fortunae, or Temple of Fortune, probably built after the famous battle of the Metauro of 207 BC. where the Romans defeated the Carthaginians during the second Punic war. General Asdrubale who had crossed the Alps with war elephants to reunite with his brother Annibale in southern Italy, was killed.
Note that the Romans had built the Via Flaminia that connects Rome with Rimini in 220 BC and, in their journey, the Carthaginians traveled the ancient Roman road.
The whole history of Fano, for better or for worse, has been influenced by its strategic position on the road that connected the Tiber valley to Cisalpine Gaul, with the Via Flaminia, and its port: a position that brought commerce and wealth in times of peace and sieges and destruction in times of war.
The culmination of the Roman presence occurred during the Imperial period, when Cesare Ottaviano Augusto had magnificent walls built, raising Fano to a colony with the name of Colonia Julia Fanestri. The walls are still visible today, including the Arch of Augustus which in Roman times was the main gateway to the city and which has since been one of the symbols of Fano.
In 271 AD, a first attempt at barbarian invasion by the Alemanni tribe ended with the victory of Emperor Aurelian in the Battle of Fano. In 453 the city was sacked by Attila on his way to Rome, where legend has it that he was stopped by Pope Leo I.
It was then the turn of the Ostrogoth invasion until Fano entered the domains of the Eastern Roman Empire of Byzantium and the Byzantine corridor that connected Ravenna to Rome started from here.
It was part of the Maritime Pentapoli with Ancona, Pesaro, Senigallia and Rimini and was then conquered by the Lombards in 742.
In 754 Pope Stephen II asked for help from the King of the Franks “Pipino il Breve”(father of the future Emperor Charlemagne) to free him and the Romans from the abuses they were undergoing by the Lombards. After several wars, the Franks handed over some territories to the church, including Fano, effectively, after the coronation of Charlemagne, starting the Papal States and the division between the Papacy and the Empire.
A very important role for the government of the territory, for agriculture and for the conservation of knowledge was played by the Benedictine Abbey of San Paterniano one kilometer from the inhabited centre.
Since the 12th century, Fano has been a municipality and in 1141, the city allied and became protectorate of the Republic of Venice with which it signed a treaty to protect and develop trade in the Adriatic.
But at that time we were in the centuries of the divisions between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines, that is, between the families devoted to the Church and others to the Empire. Recall that Emperor Frederick II of Swabia was born in nearby Jesi with a birth in the public square. Federico II did not conquer Fano but destroyed it.
In those years the struggles between the two families Del Cassero and Da Carignano were famous, also referred to by Dante Alighieri in the XXVIII Canto dell’Inferno of the Divine Comedy. We hear about the bloody massacre of 1304 in which Guido Del Cassero and Angelo Da Carignano were thrown into the sea and killed by “mazzeratura” (drowning in leaded bags) by the assassins of the Malatesta family.
With this trap, the Malatesta, powerful lords of nearby Romagna, managed to become the absolute masters of Fano. In 1355 the vicars of the Church were appointed and since then the domination of the Malatesta began which lasted until 1463 when it returned to be under the direct control of the church.
The Malatesta were responsible for a first construction of the fortress which is still located in the centre of the town and which was to carry out control and defense functions.
All of this is testified in the Egidian Constitutions, a collection of laws published in 1357 by Cardinal Egidio Albornoz commissioned by the pope to bring order to Italy after his return from exile in Avignon.
In 1463, Duke Federico di Montefeltro conquered Fano at the behest of Pope Pius II and, after a four-month siege, returned Fano to the Church. But this did not bring peace between the different families and in his few years of rise to power, Fano became a cornerstone for Cesare Borgia, known as Valentino, the son of Pope Alexander VI, who wanted to conquer Romagna.
In the sixteenth century Forte Sangallo was reinforced and it defended the coast against the attacks of the Turks and presided over the canal port built in 1612 in which all trade took place.
A first channel that brought the water of the Metauro to Fano was built to feed the water mills.
The city resisted all attempts by the lords of neighbouring towns and continued to be independent, albeit torn by internal conflicts, with a governor appointed by the Pope. But this rivalry between lords has enriched the city with palaces, churches and works of art that still are a priceless heritage. Schools, academies and even a university, which was closed in 1824, were opened.
During the years of Napoleon’s occupation of the Papal States, Fano was sacked and heavily bombarded by both the French and the Austro-Russian-Turkish allies and only the Congress of Vienna in 1815 brought it back to the Papal States.
However, a new life for Fano began in the 1800s, which increasingly transformed into a holiday resort.
Fano participated in the Risorgimento uprisings and in 1860 Fano became part of the Kingdom of Italy.
During the First World War it underwent numerous Austrian naval bombardments as a result of which new settlements were built along the canal port with the creation of small villas near the coast.
It was bombed again during the Second World War to destroy its bridges, rail and road, and the communication routes between north and south Italy and it was located along the German Gothic Defense Line.
In addition, the German army, during the retreat, destroyed almost all its bell towers, the civic tower, the male of the Malatesta fortress and its fishing port, considered by the enemy sensitive infrastructures not to be left in the hands of the allies.