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Bill Thayer

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Ancona (Ancona province)

A town on the coast of the Marche: 43°37N, 13°31E. Altitude: 16 m. Population in 2003: 100,800.

[image ALT: A pier, some 300 meters of it visible in the photo, stretching off toward the horizon. It includes a 2‑lane paved road, at least 7 large industrial cranes of different kinds, two midsize parking lots full of cars, and an assortment of small buildings, radio and weather towers, etc. One small tugboat is moored on the landward side, but no ships are to be seen. After a great stretch of open sea, the distant horizon is land again. It is a very partial view of the port of Ancona in the Marche (central Italy).]

The vocation of the city is as an industrial port, both now and in Roman times.
(In the foreground, notice Trajan's Triumphal Arch, being restored under its scaffolding.)

Ancona is a provincial capital not quite midway down the Adriatic coast of Italy, 97 km SE from Rimini (Emilia-Romagna), and 156 km NW of Pescara (Abruzzo), both of them also seaports; it is 139 km ENE of Perugia (Umbria) and 286 km NNE of Rome. Ancona is one of Italy's more important ports, the terminus of the main rail line thru N central Italy, and the point of departure for many lines of passenger ships and ferries to Croatia, Albania and Greece. It is the capital of the Marche region.

The older part of town climbs a spur of rock rather high above the port — the view above is from the top of the spur, in front of the spectacular Romanesque cathedral of S. Ciriaco, very well restored in the 1980s — and includes several other good medieval buildings, whether churches like the 13c S. Francesco delle Scale and S. Maria della Piazza, the late Gothic S. Agostino with its exuberantly carved door of 1460; or merchant's houses and government buildings like the 12c Palazzo del Senato. Ancona's 18c, though, produced more than its usual share of good architecture for central Italy: most of it civil structures like Vanvitelli's fort, but also the imposing church of S. Domenico at the top of the city's sloping main square, the Piazza del Plebiscito.

Most of the town's Roman monuments, however, have not survived well. The exceptions: the Arch of Trajan above and, to some extent, the amphitheatre, which is currently undergoing definitive excavation. Of particular interest, however, is one of the best museums in Italy for pre-Roman archaeology: the Museo Nazionale Archeologico delle Marche houses an important collection of prehistoric, Picene and other Italic lapidary remains and inscriptions, although the former glory of the collection, a group of gilt bronze horses from the early imperial age, returned in the year 2000 to the township of Pergola where it was found and is now displayed in its own museum.

A small website will eventually appear here, since I've been to Ancona briefly several times and like the place, even if mostly so far for fond memories of food: you should not miss the brodetto all' anconetana, the town's signature fish soup. Pending the formal website though, you may find it useful to read the excellent article on the town (by Thomas Ashby) from the 1911 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, and the Oct. 31, 1998 Jul. 18, 2000 Sept. 1, 2000 entries of my diary, which have additional photos; for more complete and detailed information, you should see the sites in the navigation bar at the foot of this page, of course.


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Page updated: 25 Sep 04