The busy administrative capital of the Marche and the largest city in the region may not seem an obvious tourist centre. Give it time, though, and you may, like us, acquire a taste for the salt and spice of this restless sea port. Built on two hills that form an amphitheatre around the harbour, it was settled in the 4thC BC by Greek colonists from Syracuse.
Later, the Romans exploited its sheltered anchorage and in 115 AD, under the Emperor Trajan, the present harbour walls were raised; the stately ceremonial marble arch standing forlornly at the end of the docks marks his achievement. In the Middle Ages, the forces of the German Emperors, the Church and the Venetian Republic each made sure that Ancona was never able to establish itself as a powerful maritime republic. In 1532 it slid compliantly into the hands of the Papal States where it remained until the Unification of Italy.
Neither was the 20thC kind to this old city, badly bombed in the 2nd World War, it was again brought to its knees by a major earthquake in 1972.
The oldest part of town straddles Colle Guasco, the hill above the port. On its peak, high above the agitation of the modern city, stands Ancona's finest church and its most obvious landmark, the Medieval Cathedral of San Ciriaco, a pleasing mix of Romanesque and Gothic.
The few tourist attractions located in Ancona's historic town center are easily navigated on foot. The city also boasts several cobblestoned pedestrian streets, which are not only closed to traffic, but are also very picturesque and the perfect place for a stroll. Rental bicycles are also readily available and the town's buses, normally used by locals commuting to and from work, are another easy way to get around the city.
Ancona's 11th century Duomo, the Cathedral of San Ciriaco, is the town's most important building and also boasts a gorgeous view of the sea. The imposing entrance of the cathedral, consecrated in 1128 and completed in 1189, features two lions flanking the doorway. The elegant Romanesque style of the cathedral, featuring grey stone built in a Greek cross form, was restored in the 13th century.
Arch of Trajan
At 18 meters high the Arch has been towering over visitors to the city since it was erected out of marble in 114. Built by the Emperor Trajan as an entrance on top of the harbor wall, it is known to be one of the most important and well preserved Roman monuments in the region. Even though most of the original bronze embellishments have been lost over time the Arch of Trajan is still a sight to behold.
Designed by Luigi Vanvitelli the Lazzaretto was built in 1732 and is spread out over an area of over 20,000 square meters. Pentagonal in shape the building was originally meant for protecting military authorities from disease and, over the centuries, has also been used as barracks and a military hospital. Presently the building is used for various cultural exhibits in the city.
If you are visiting Ancona the Episcopal Palace, with its beautiful architecture, is also worth a visit. The palazzo is most famous from being the place where Pope Pius II died in 1464.
STAY AND ACCOMODATION
Ancona is a very important sea port and is very well connected to many international destinations so there is a constant influx of tourists visiting the city on their way to other places in Italy. Due to the large number of visitors there is a great selection of accomodations in the city, but they do get booked quickly. During peak seasons finding a room at a reasonable rate is next to impossible. Some of the best hotels in the city are the Hotel Fortuna, the Grand Palace Hotel and Albergo Roma and Pace.
The majority of restaurants in Ancona serve local cuisine and dishes that are unique to the region. Being a port town means that good seafood is readily available and definitely worth trying. There are also many good cafes and bakeries in the city where visitors can sample local desserts and traditional breads and pasteries.
Some great restaurants to try if you are visiting the city are Ristorante Giardino, Trattoria Alle Tredici Cannele, Mangiare Bere Uomo Donna, Ristorante Boccon Divino and Osteria Brillo.
SHOPPING IN ANCONA
There are a few good places in Ancona where visitors can shop for local products. In Ancona the food markets are very colorful and lively and have a wide variety of fresh fruits, vegetables and sea food for purchase.
One thing Ancona does well is food products. There are good quality olive oils, cheeses, breads, pastries and cakes available in food stores throughout the city. Visitors can also purchase red and white wines from the region in the wine shops of Ancona.