Historical centre, Ancona
Probably the best way to explore Ancona, and certainly its old town, is on foot. This is unfortunately not that easy for anyone with walking difficulties, as the hills can be quite steep in places and there are steps in others, those same steps mean that it is only on foot that you can access some of the most interesting hidden corners.
Our late afternoon walk took us from the Piazza Camillo Benso Conte di Cavour where we got off the bus and paused for a drink in the little Caffe Cavour in its north east corner. We then walked up the steps on this corner and turned left on Via Giacomo Matteotti in the direction of the old town. Passing the Piazza del Papa on our left (with a brief detour into the church of San Domenico at its eastern end) we passed through a stone arch and found ourselves in the narrower, more winding streets if the oldest part of Ancona. Here Via Giacomo Matteotti becomes Via Lazzaro Bernabei, and also more interesting, with old doorways and little lanes leading off it. Soon we took a right fork and started to really climb upwards on Via Nicola Matas and beyond that on Via Ciriaco Pizzecolli.
Here the street became even more appealing, as it wound out of sight. Old houses, some almost palazzos, others more modest, lined our route, and various details such as old bits of carvings from earlier buildings caught our eyes – and our camera lenses (look at the building on the right side of the road in my main photo, taken in Via Ciriaco Pizzecolli). We passed the beautiful church of San Francisco and Palazzo degli Anziani (see photo four). Changing its name en route to Via Gabrielle Ferretti, this street emerges eventually into a small piazza, the Piazza del Senato. From here the winding Via Giovanni XXIII needs several hairpin bends to arrive at its destination in front of the cathedral, but as we were on foot we were able to short-cut this by climbing the Scalone Nappi up through the trees to the Duomo on top of the hill.
After our visit there we retraced our steps down to the Piazza del Papa and through that to the Corso Guiseppe Mazzini where we found a nice place for dinner, the Bonta delle Marche. From there it was an easy stroll down to the Corso Stamira and our bus back to the hotel.
I was very pleased that Ingrid had done some homework, and we were also glad of the maps we had picked up in the hotel, as our time here was limited and these helped to ensure we reached our main goal of the Duomo. But if you have more time, I am sure this is a town that would replay aimless, map-less wandering just as much as it did our more focused exploring. And with the cathedral on top of the hill, and the ferry port often glimpsed at its foot, it is easier to regularly regain your bearings if lost. So put on your most comfortable shoes and head for the old town – you will certainly enjoy your walk.
So come with me now to see some of the sights we saw ...
~~Next tip: Passetto~~
The cathedral is said to occupy the site of a temple of Venus, who is mentioned by Catullus and Juvenal as the tutelary deity of the place. No remains have been excavated yet.
The first church seems to have been built in the 8th century on a Latin cross design. It was in the 12th replaced by a larger cathedral dedicated to Saint Judas Cyriacus. It is a fine Romanesque building in grey stone, built in the form of a Greek cross, with a dodecagonal dome over the center slightly altered by Margaritone d'Arezzo in 1270. The façade has a Gothic portal, ascribed to Giorgio da Como (1228 ), which was intended to have a lateral arch on each side.
The interior, which has a crypt under each transept, in the main preserves its original character. It has ten columns which are attributed to the temple of Venus, and there are good screens of the 12th century, and other sculptures. The church was beautifully restored in the 1980s. I will add close-ups of the cathedral when I will have time to climb to the old town (2006 ?)