An ancient town of Marche, it was known as Fanum Fortunae after a temple of Fortuna located there. Its first mention in history only dates from 49 BC, when Julius Caesar held it, along with Pisaurum and Ancona. Caesar Augustus established a colonia, and built a wall, some parts of which remain. In the AD 2 Augustus also built an arch (which is still standing) at the entrance to the town.
The Castle of Fano in a 19th century etching. The high watchtower was destroyed during World War II.
In January 271, the Roman Army defeated the Alamanni in the Battle of Fanothat took place on the banks of the Metauro river just inland of Fano.
Fano was destroyed by Vitiges‘ Ostrogoths in AD 538. It was rebuilt by theByzantines, becoming the capital of the maritime Pentapolis (“Five Cities”) that included also Rimini, Pesaro, Senigallia and Ancona. In 754 it was donated to the Popes by the Frank kings.
The Malatesta became lords of the city in 1356 with Galeotto I Malatesta, who was nominally only a vicar of the Popes. Among the others, Pandolfo IIIresided in the city. Under his son, the famous condottiero Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, Fano was besieged by Papal troops under Federico III da Montefeltro, and returned to the Papal administration. It was later part of the short-lived state of Cesare Borgia, and then part of the duchy of the della Roveres in the Marche.
During the Napoleonic Wars it suffered heavy spoliations; the city had an active role in the Risorgimento. In World War I Fano was several times bombed by the Austro-Hungarian Navy. During World War II it was massively bombed by Allied airplanes due to hit the strategic railway and street bridges crossing the Metauro river, suffering also the destruction of all its bell towers by the Nazi occupation troops when they withdrew.
Fano’s main attractions include:
- The Roman gate called Arco d’Augusto. The upper story was destroyed in a siege conducted on the order of Pope Pius II in 1463, although a bas-relief of it was made by Bernardino di Pietro da Carona in 1513 on an adjacent wall of the annexed church and the loggia of St. Michael, the former having a noteworthy Renaissance portal.
- The Corte Malatestiana, built after 1357 by Galeotto I Malatesta. The 14th century section includes a great vaulted hall (probably part of the first residence of the Malatesta in the city) and a small turret. The modern part was built under Pandolfo III in 1413-1423. The current edifice was heavily restored in the 20th century, but original are themullioned windows in Gothic style as well as the staircase and the loggia from a 16th century restoration. Also noteworthy is the Borgia-Cybo Arch (late 15th century). The palace is connected to the Palazzo del Podestà by a modern bridge, probably present also in the original structure.
- The Rocca Malatestiana (Malatesta Castle) was partially destroyed in 1944. The most ancient part dates probably from pre-existing Roman and medieval fortifications. The castle in its current form was begun in 1433 or 1438 by Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta. The now missingmastio was erected in 1452. Here Sigismondo’s son, Roberto, was besieged by Papal Troops in 1463 and signed the peace treaty that ended the Malatesta domination of Fano.
- The Museo Civico (Archeological Museum and Art Gallery), located inside the Palazzo Malatestiano, contains paintings by Guercino,Michele Giambono, and Giovanni Santi.
- The Cathedral (12th century), which was erected over a pre-existing cathedral destroyed by a fire in 1111. The current façade is from the 1920s restoration, but is similar to the original. The interior has a nave and two aisles. No remnants of the town’s namesake temple have been uncovered, nor of the basilica we are told that Vitruvius built there.
- Palazzo del Podestà or della Ragione (built from 1229 in Romanesque-Gothic style). The interiors are in Neoclassicist style, and it houses a museum with archaeological findings, coins, medals, and an art gallery with works by Guido Reni, Domenichino and others.
- The church of St. Francis, housing the tombs of Pandolfo III Malatesta (designed by Leon Battista Alberti) and his first wife Paola Bianca Malatesta.
- The church of Santa Maria Nuova (1521). It has an ancient portal and two works by Perugino (Annunciation of Fano and Fano Altarpiece, the latter including perhaps an intervention by Raphael).
- The church of San Paterniano (16th century) with a Renaissance cloister.
- The Fontana della Fortuna (Fountain of Fortune) (17th century).
Outside the city, in the place called Bellocchi, is the church of St. Sebastian(16th century), for the construction of which parts of the ancient cathedral were used.