The only Italian region to have retained its plural name (which all regions had before the unification of Italy in 1860), Le Marche is a land of dual identity expressed between snow-capped peaks–those of the Apennine ridge, on which it is possible to practice downhill and cross-country skiing–and fine sandy beaches like the Riviera del Conero and Riviera delle Colline.
The city of Ancona, Marche’s capital, often flies under the tourist radar, traversed solely as a point of departure, arrival or stopover to another destination. (It’s true that both the marina and airport are short distances from the center, making it an excellent hub for travelers.)
In reality, Ancona is much more than a thoroughfare, and a stroll through its large center can testify to that: parks, stately buildings, Roman ruins and evocative squares are there to tell an ancient story ready to be rediscovered. A city between sky and sea, Ancona stretches from the highground of Mount Conero to the harbor with surprisingly blue waters, a crossroads for trade in the Adriatic. Here’s how to spend one (full) day in the capital of Marche, a thousand-year-old city rich in monuments and traditions.
YOUR ANCONA ITINERARY
Moldavia dal 1920 – Stop by this famous bakery with a modern, white interior on Viale Della Vittoria for a quick coffee and pastry. You can’t go wrong with any of the buns or savory rustici.
What You Need to Know: Moldavia dal 1920 is a rare Italian bakery that opens at 5:15 A.M. seven days a week. On Tuesdays, they close early at 2:00 P.M.
Hike Monte Conero – Kick off the morning with a wonderful hike that will take you to the most scenic viewpoints of Conero hill, where you’ll find sweeping panoramas of the bay, sea and beaches. Monte Conero, 572 meters tall, emerged five million years ago at the beginning of the Pliocene era and is the only mountain you will find on the Adriatic coast from Trieste all the way down to Gargano in Puglia. Whether you are in the cities of Ancona, Portonovo, Numana or Sirolo, in just a few minutes you will find yourself surrounded by the trees of this great green lung. It’s an easy trail suitable for everyone, smooth and quite shady, making it feasible even in summer. From the start of the trail, it takes approximately 40 minutes to reach Pian Grande, one of the most striking viewpoints on the entire Conero Traverse trail.
What You Need to Know: The start of the 301A Conero Trail is located next to the Osteria del Poggio, a small restaurant in the hamlet of Poggio, while the access points to the Conero Park are located halfway between Ancona and the Conero Riviera. The most popular options to reach the park are by car or by mountain bike.
Osteria del Poggio – After your hike in the beautiful Conero Park, head back down to Osteria del Poggio, an authentic Marche restaurant where you can try all the typical flavors of the region. This osteria, which safeguards the traditions of the region, offers a seasonal menu of dishes made exclusively with local products, prepared with creativity and accompanied by an excellent wine list.
Must Order: Cream of chickpea soup; egg tripe; ciabattoni with eggplant; chicken “in potacchio”. Ask the waiters directly for daily specials since the offer varies according to availability and season.
Explore the Historic Center – After lunch, drive the 15 minutes back into town. The Duomo di Ancona, named the Cathedral of San Ciriaco, is one of the city’s most beautiful gems. It boasts a lovely view of the city and the port and is great for sunset, since Ancona, despite being on the Adriatic coast, is laid out in such a way that it faces west. The cathedral, built in the 11th century, is erected on the site of an early Christian basilica that in turn supplanted a classical temple dedicated to Aphrodite. Some architectural remains can be seen beneath the main structure, built in the Romanesque style with Byzantine elements. Look for the Crypt of Tears and the Crypt of the Patron Saints, located under the side altars.
Once you leave the cathedral, head down the road that turns around the ancient Roman Amphitheater. This theater dates back to the age of Octavian Augustus and was only rediscovered in 1810 thanks to historian and abbot Antonio Leoni who recognized the Roman technique of masonry in the boundary wall. Currently, the Amphitheater is visible only from the outside as it’s still undergoing restoration. Approaching the grates, however, it’s possible to see its remains quite well, among which a section of perfectly preserved mosaic floor, decorated with checkerboards and dolphins, stands out above all.
Lastly, head to the Passetto, a relatively new district to the east of the old town that has overlooked the Adriatic Sea since the 1970s. The symbol of Passetto is the wonderful Monument to the Fallen of the First World War, a circular-shaped temple made of Istrian stone. Descend the large flight of steps from the monument to Passetto beach–a rocky strip with a pebble section and the most accessible beach from the city center. Take a left and admire the characteristic Grotte del Passetto, boat shelters carved out of the rock in the late 1800s. These caves were originally used for small fishing boats and the owners soon became known as grottaroli. Keep walking north to reach the most picturesque area of Passetto. Here, the environment is characterized by large white rocks that form inlets and channels. These rocks are known in the city as great spots to dive into the high water: “the square” is a local favorite. Also look for one of the symbols of Ancona–the Seggiola del Papa (Pope’s Chair), a large seat-shaped rock that has been smoothed by the sea.
OUR SECRET: If you are a lover of antiques (whether it’s Richard Ginori plates or ancient handmade lace tableware) head to Sara Salerno’s showroom in Falconara Marittima, only a 15 minute drive from Ancona’s city center. The newly opened space, inside a former mechanical workshop, is a wonderland for antique Italian, French and English porcelain and handmade embroidered textiles. She only opens for appointments, so make sure you text or call her at +39 3498345840.
Sot’Aj Archi – Under the arcades, this family-run, all-female trattoria has been in business for over 30 years and prepares delicious seafood dishes. The spot is well-known by locals for fish, always fresh from the daily catch, and the excellent selection of wines from the Marche region.
Must Order: Chitarrine con vongole, cozze, pannocchie, gamberetti e pomodorini; seppie e piselli; busara di scampi; anything made with the catch of the day.
Drinks at Liberty Cocktails Lounge – Liberty Cocktails lounge, located on a cross street of central Corso G. Garibaldi, concots expertly blended and balanced cocktails with a selection of great spirits, as well as oysters, wines and champagne. It’s an intimate and refined Art Nouveau atmosphere with lulling background jazz notes.
Must Order: Every cocktail is perfectly-executed (especially the martini!), so go ahead and order your usual.