Ancona is a small town located on the coast of Italy in the Marche region. We arrived there mid afternoon by ship and although the harbor doesn’t immediately strike the most picturesque chord, once inside the town its European beauty is uncovered.
Cattidrale di San Ciriaco
The day was hot as we explored the quaint streets that wound in between historic churches and terracotta houses. Our first stop was the Cattidrale di San Ciriaco. The cathedral is visible from the harbor, perched on top of a hill overlooking the city. Dedicated to Saint Cyriacus of Ancona, the church serves as the seat of the Archbishop of Ancona. We climbed our way to the top of the hill, opting for shade wherever possible to escape the scorching midday sun. On arrival the first thing you’ll notice is the stunning view of both the cathedral and the city. This is something I like to do in a new city anyway. For a visual person like myself getting a view from above gives you a good sense of where things are, not to mention the spectacular views. The cathedral towered overhead with a dramatic entrance made of multiple arches and stone carved lions on either side of grand wooden doors. Unfortunately the church was closed at the time and we were unable to go inside. Turning around we were able to see the view the cathedral had over the city. Hundreds of terracotta roofs interrupted a lake of green trees like stepping-stones. The blue harbor outstretched on the left continued around the coast melting in with the sky. Sun drenched every area it could reach and at that moment we decided it was time to find a place to swim.
Finding the perfect swimming spot
We thanked our earlier selves for deciding last minute to pack a bikini and headed along the coast in search of a secluded cove where we could take a quick dip. A popular beach had been advertised to us earlier but we decided to try and find somewhere with less people and a little more private. We began to walk down the hill further south along the coast. Signs showed a park called Parco del Cardeto along the coastline so we figured we’d just follow the path depicted on the sign that lead right along the water and hop in wherever we liked. That was not the case. Unfortunately the track along the water was true as it said, the only issue being it was about 50 metres above water level on a cliff. We persevered (as much as possible when your becoming delirious in 45 degree Celsius heat) and continued along the path, following Italian signs we couldn’t read for just under an hour until finally we found a street. We had made it out of the park!
From here we followed a basic map we picked up in the harbor at an Information store. We gave up on finding a secluded piece of coast and were able to navigate ourselves towards the beach we had been told about earlier. The air became fresher and the familiar smell of sea salt became apparent, we were close. The sparkling blue water looked like heaven as we turned towards it, skipping down the steps leading down to it. The beach is called Passetto and is the most popular beach in Ancona. It is located at the end of Viale Della Vittoria, a tree lined boulevard leading directly from the city centre to a large circular war memorial overlooking the beach. Turns out that we could have avoided our lost and alone in Italy experience by simply following a street that lead literally right from the city centre to the beach. Oh well, its all about the adventure right?
We changed into our bikinis at lightening speed and weaved through couples and families to arrive at the waters edge. Our skin sizzled as we slipped into the welcoming water. This moment was bliss. We were floating in the clearest of waters, relishing its coolness against our skin. After checking the time we decided we’d better get moving if we wanted to see more of the city. Regrettably we left the sea – drying within minutes in the baking sun – and redressed. Feeling refreshed and suddenly aware of our hunger we set out looking for a place to eat.
Getting from the beach to the city centre
This time we opted for the route down the boulevard rather than the park. We popped into a local corner shop and somehow through broken Italian and a lot of hand gestures managed to buy a bus ticket right into town. Soon after, the bus arrived and we drove down the boulevard. Before we reached the city centre the bus stopped at a small plaza and we decided to hop off there instead. The cobblestoned plaza was called Piazza Roma and was decorated with shady trees covered in green leaves. A fountain was in the centre and surrounding it were tables and chairs from various cafes around the plaza. We chose a small cafe on the corner and sat down. We ordered fresh orange juice, a prosciutto and Parmesan salad and some olives with fresh house bread. Devouring every bite, we sat and watched as people wandered about the plaza. From tourists like ourselves with hair still damp from swimming to old Italian men sitting on the benches, we took in the atmosphere. Late afternoon was approaching and the sun was become a comfortable warmth. It trickled through the leaves overhead and danced around walking feet, the sound of happy chatting and laughter surrounded me and I wanted to remember this moment forever.
After lunch we slowly began to wander back to the ship through the stony streets, popping into various stores to have a little look around before we had to leave. As we arrived back on the ship we looked out over the city once more feeling exhausted but happy – we had well and truly explored Ancona.