Just in the middle of Corso Mazzini you'll find a Calamo Fountain (Or 13 streams fountain). If you make a wish and drink some water from each of the streams it will come true. (At least some people believe it is so)
There is a place in Ancona where one may combine relaxing from the heat, enjoying the view of old cellars, wondering on designers ideas of combination of absolutely modern devices on the background of an absolutely historic interior and wine tasting :)
A very hospital owner doesn't speak English but he manages to communicate with anybody who comes to his place. He was our guide through the labirinth of the wine-cellars.
Our main target when exploring the old town of Ancona was to reach, and visit, the Duomo that sits proudly on its highest point, Colle Guasco. It is built in an attractive stone and looked especially good in the late afternoon sun. We spent quite some time here, soaking up the atmosphere, admiring the wonderful views of the port and town below us, and of course visiting the cathedral itself.
There has been a place of worship on this site since the 3rd century BC when a temple, thought by archaeologists to have been dedicated to Aphrodite, was built here. One incarnation of Aphrodite is as Venus Euplea, protector of sailors – a very appropriate dedication for a temple built in this spot. Later, in the sixth century AD, a Christian church was built here, dedicated to San Lorenzo, traces of which can still be seen in the crypt (see my next tip).
The present structure dates in part from the 11th century, with major additions in the 12th and early 13th. These turned the original basilica design into the form of a Greek cross, and turned the cathedral to face the port and town. It is hard now to imagine that it could face anywhere else. There have been various restorations over the succeeding centuries, to repair damage by war (both First and Second World Wars) and the 1972 earthquake. But the building retains its sense of history, compounded by the fact that you can easily see elements from the various periods.
The most striking part of the cathedral, after its wonderful location, is the ornate Gothic portal, ascribed to Giorgio da Como (1228). It is worth studying in some detail. A series of concentric arches, each recessed from the previous one, leads the eye in, and leads those entering the church too. They are supported by thin columns, mostly plain but a couple twisted. The outermost arch is decorated with figures of saints, the others with foliage. Above the door itself is the figure of San Ciriaco himself, the patron saint, whose body lies in the crypt. But I was especially taken with the carvings on either side, inside the portal itself (just above the supporting metal bar in my main photo, and in close up in photo four). These depict the symbols of the four evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. My photo shows the first two of these, the angel for Matthew and winged lion for Mark. These are on the right of the door as you look at it and were beautifully lit by the low sun. The others (a winged ox for Luke and eagle for John) are on the left side and were in shadow, but if you were to visit in the morning I believe you would find them in the better light. The outermost columns of the portal rest on two red marble lions (see photo three). The same red marble, from Verona, is used to pick out other elements of the porch too, and the whole is very harmonious.
Above the cathedral rises its dome, one of the oldest in Italy – it was added to the structure in the 13th century, although the copper coating was only applied in the 16th. The campanile stands separately and was built, around the turn of the 13th/14th centuries, on the foundations of a military tower.
Before going inside, turn and look at the view that San Ciriaco has – the town spreads below and to the left, in the immediate foreground is the bustling port, and to the right the deep blue of the Adriatic. Although we didn’t stay until sunset, this would be an amazing place from which to watch it dip down into the sea.
But now it is time to go inside ...
~~Next tip: Interior of the cathedral~~
As I said in my previous tip, the cathedral retains its sense of history, compounded by the fact that you can easily see elements from the various periods. This is especially true of the interior – we even spotted an amonite fossil in the floor! It is certainly well worth spending some time in here exploring.
The interior is not ornate but there is plenty to see. The wooden roof is of interest as it is shaped like an upturned boat – very appropriate for this sea-facing city. The layout is a cross shape, and there are chapels in each of the transepts. The one in the right transept is the Chapel of the Crucifix, restored after being badly damaged by Allied bombing in the Second World War. The left-hand transept houses the Chapel of Our Lady, and on the afternoon of our visit a small wedding party was gathered there. An older couple were marrying, surrounded by family and friends. It was lovely to see the cathedral in use, while not impeding our explorations at all. When the ceremony was over I entered for a closer look at the wonderful marble shrine (photo three) by Luigi Vivantelli who also designed the nearby Chiesa del Gesù and the monumental ceremonial arch, the Arco Clementino, now by the harbour. In a case above the altar is a picture of Our Lady (visible in my photo of the wedding, photo two) which was donated to the Cathedral in 1615 by a Venetian merchant of the city, as a thank you for saving his son from a shipwreck off the coast nearby. There is an interesting story attached to this painting, linked to Napoleon. It is said that when he and his troops invaded Italy and were in a position to ransack the cathedral, he witnessed a miracle as the Madonna blinked, and consequently the cathedral and its treasures were spared. A more prosaic version of the same story attributes his actions to mere politics and a wish to avoid friction with local Catholics, but they took it as a sign that Heaven was watching over their city and have venerated the painting ever since.
Be sure to descend the steps in this chapel to visit the crypt beneath the shrine. Here you can see remains of the earlier 6th century church that formerly stood on this site, and a glass case containing the body of San Ciriaco (photo five). It was on ascending again from the crypt that we spotted the fossil in the floor, so look out for that. Also, look out just inside the main door of the cathedral for an interesting display about the earlier church and the temple that preceded it on this site.
There is no admission charge for the cathedral, but it would be nice to leave a donation towards the upkeep, which must be considerable. Also note that a small sign says that no photography is allowed inside, but we only saw this on leaving. I didn’t use flash for any of these pictures, and no one stopped me from taking them.
After a final look at the sun sinking over the sea we decided it was time to head back to the main part of town and find somewhere to eat ...
~~Next tip: Fontana del Calamo~~
We ate that evening in the Corso Guiseppe Mazzini (see my restaurant review), but even if you’re not there for that reason it’s worth detouring up this street from nearby Piazza Roma to see the Fontana del Calamo. This is a 16th century fountain (1560) designed by architect Pellegrino Tibaldi. Its most distinctive feature is the row of thirteen masked spouts which are said to be effigies of those who had been beheaded (although other sources describe them as satyrs and fauns). Twelve of these are of bronze and the central one is stone. It won’t surprise anyone who has travelled even a little to learn that it is said that if you drink the waters of this fountain you will return to Ancona – how many such fountains and such stories are there I wonder around the world?
There has been a fresh water source here since Greek times. This fountain replaced an earlier one on the same site which was demolished, its stones used to construct the portico of the Palazzo degli Anziani (see photo in my tip on exploring the old town). The name “del Calamo” is thought to come from the location, which would have been marshy at one time – “calamus” is a reed.
My photo doesn’t really do it justice as it was taken after dinner when the street was quite dark, but you can see the effect I think.
~~Next tip: Time for dinner~~
Our first stop on our mini tour of Ancona was in the neighbourhood known as Passetto. Here, high above the blue Adriatic, is the gleaming white Monumento ai Caduti – the Monument to the Fallen of the First World War. This was designed in the 1920s by Guido Cirilli in the form of a circular temple with Doric columns surrounding a small altar. It is said that seen from the sea, the entire structure, including stairs, looks like like an eagle in flight, with the stairs as its open wings and the monument itself as a crowned head. Of course we were on land so I can’t vouch for the truth of this, and in any case it was surely not intentional.
In the area surrounding the monument are some shady trees, a café or two and a children’s mini fun fair – it was very incongruous to see a cowboy and his horse (photo five), a camel and other assorted life-size figures dotted among the trees!
Behind the monument a lift, or long flight of stairs, lead down to a sort of esplanade along the water’s edge. Here people were sunbathing on any available patch of concrete or swimming in the inviting looking sea. We refrained from doing either of these but did stroll down the steps for a closer look, and then took the lift back up (€1, pay at the machine – not that anyone checked whether we had a ticket!) I found this lift, with its clean 1930s lines and perfect symmetry, to be a great subject for photography. On its sea-facing side you’ll find the by-now familiar sight of padlocks fastened to the railing as love tokens.
But leaving the sea behind us, we jumped on a bus back to the Piazza Cavour, to start our exploration of the old town ...
~~Next tip San Domenico~~
As we approached the stone arch on Via Giacomo Matteotti that would lead us into the old town, we saw on our left the wide space of the Piazza del Papa, named for the statue of Pope Clement XII that presides over it from the steps at one end. At the top of these steps, behind the statue, is the Neoclassical Church of San Domenico. Do take the time to go inside if you have even a passing interest in art, for it houses a treasure – a life-size painting of the Crucifixion by Titian. You will find it just to the right of the main altar, and although it seems dark, a nearby switch will illuminate it for you. To learn something about the painting you can pick up a photocopy of a newspaper article about it (in Italian, naturally), copies of which the church has thoughtfully provided, but otherwise no fuss seems to be made by the church about its very special possession. The article proved way beyond my limited Italian, so I have turned to Wikipedia for my information about the painting:
Jesus Christ is shown crucified, with Saint Mary and Saint John standing either side of the cross in the Stabat Mater tradition. The kneeling figure is of Saint Dominic. The canvas was completed during Titian’s fifth decade of painting, and is one of the works marking a shift toward his extensive exploration of tragedy and human suffering. The heads of the standing figures are presented in an upturned triangle arrangement near the base of the cross. All the figures appear in the foreground, which is on a single plane, lending a sense of immediacy to the picture. The composition is dominated by a colouristic conception of painting in which the picture’s predominant dark blue, brown and red hues are pierced through with near-white flashes of light. The cloying regions of dark hues, such as the area of browns and near-black comprising the Golgothan terrain from which the saints emerge, intensify the sadness and horror of the crucifixion. Against this, the moonlit highlights draw attention to significant dramatic and emotional elements of the spectacle. In the late years of his life ... Titian used this method of contrasting of light and colour as a key - or even pivotal - tool for rousing in the viewer a dominant emotion of one kind or another. With the Crucifixion, this method of generating a tragic sensibility is used almost to the exclusion of any other method. It is one of the earlier - possibly the earliest - and most direct uses of the technique in all of Titian’s paintings.
Of course we couldn’t take pictures of this, but you can see it reproduced here.
The piazza (which also seems to be shown on some maps as Piazza del Plebiscito) is also a popular meeting spot for locals and tourists. We came back in the early evening, planning to eat here but most of the establishments seemed to be focused more on drinking than dining so in the end we went elsewhere.
That was for later though. Meanwhile we continued our walk through the stone arch and into the old town ...
~~Next tip: San Francesco delle Scale~~
On our walk up through the old town we passed this striking church, although unfortunately we didn’t feel that we had the time to go inside as we were keen to reach the cathedral while the lovely afternoon light still held. Having read more about it on my return, however, I regret not having at least a brief peep inside, as has some notable treasures – a “Baptism of Christ” by Pellegrino Tibaldi, a chalk "Glory" by Gioacchino Varlè, the “Angels Carrying the Holy House of Loreto” by Andrea Lilli and a large altarpiece by Lorenzo Lotto depicting the Assumption. You can also apparently climb the bell tower (stairs, no lift) for what must be an excellent view of Ancona.
But at least we got to see and admire the beautiful Venetian-Gothic doorway designed by Giorgio Orsini (also known as da Sebenico) in 1459. This seems all the more impressive for its juxtaposition next to the plain brickwork of the upper part of the west front. The doorway is framed by twenty heads, either side of which are two pilasters with niches containing statues of saints, two on each side. These are the Franciscan Saints:
Chiara, founder of the second Franciscan order under the guide of Francesco himself
Bernardino, who reformed the Franciscan order in 1400
Bonaventura, the author of the "Leggenda Maior della vita di Francesco - Legend of the life of Francis"
Ludovico, a king of France who renounced the throne to follow the Franciscan way of life
Above the portal is a Gothic lunette with a bas-relief of San Francesco receiving the stigmata and, above that is a shell, a semi-hexagonal canopy and further ornamentation – ornate spires and twisted columns, leaves, small faces and more shell shapes abound!
The church sits at the top of a short flight of stairs that lead up the side of the Piazza San Francesco from the Via Ciriaco Pizzecolli. In the past there was a much grander staircase directly in front of the church, part of Orsini’s design (his intention was that the Faithful arriving at the church to worship should have a full view of the church as they climbed this stairway. The church, founded in 1323, was originally dedicated to Santa Maria Maggiore but changed its name to San Francesco delle Scale, that is St Francis of the stairway, when this design was implemented. I don’t know whether the stairs, which survived until the 1700s, were lost through a deliberate redesign of the piazza or perhaps through war or earthquake, but it is shame they are no longer there, as an impressive frontage like this deserves a grand approach.
The church has undergone other changes too over the years. It was enlarged in the 18th century, when it also acquired a monastery and cloisters. After the Napoleonic occupation the complex was used as a hospital and, from the 1920s, as a museum. The church was restored and reopened as a church in 1953, and the 18th century bell tower, which had been destroyed by an Allied bombing raid in 1944, was rebuilt at the same time.
~~Next tip: The Palazzo Senato~~
The Palazzo Senato, on the Piazza of the same name, was one of my favourite buildings in Ancona. Its proportions are very elegant and the arched Romanesque windows are framed with quite delicate carvings.
It dates originally from the 13th century, when a palazzo was built here on a site previously occupied by the Roman forum. It was badly damaged, and partly destroyed, by Allied bombing during the Second World War, and reconstructed in 1952. Today it houses offices of the regional heritage organisation, the Beni Architettonici e Ambientali delle Marche.
The palazzo sits on one side of a square that also contains the Church of San Pellegrino and Santa Teresa, and another palazzo, the Palazzo Ferretti (which is home to the National Archaeological Museum of the Marches. The whole square is very pleasing to the eye, despite the cars parked around the central grassy area. In the middle of this area steps lead up to the cathedral, a short-cut for those on foot. This is where we went next ...
~~Next tip The Cathedral of San Ciriaco~~
This cathedral has a long history dating back to a roman temple, built on top of a hill overlooking the whole area. It is said that the first chirstian church was built in the 4th century, destroyed and replaced in the late 9th century by a new building and replaced again in the 12th century by the present church. First, a simple clerical building, it became the Cathedral of St. Judas Cyriacus, the city’s patron saint, after his relics were buried in the church. Most parts of the church are in romanesque style, but some gothic elemnts, including the front façade, are also to be seen. The entrance is guarded by two large lion sculptures.
Before visiting the Church of St. Cyriacus, we also had the chance to see specatcular views from the hilltop outside the church. So if you're not into churches of which Ancona has a few, you will still enjoy this ancient town due to the spectacular views of the ocean, and the surrounding areas.
This is an ancient medieval fortress city well preserved and enjoying an important role in the commernced and economy of Italy. it is the oldest and biggest in the Adriatic Coast. It sits on the hills that surround the port like an ampitheatre rising up in the bay formed by Monte Conero to the west. This is how the city was described by our tour guide.
It was okay, though the visit was marred by very windy conditions and there was no business open in the old part of the city.
There were a handful of shops open at the other side- the modern one, it was good too. There was a fiesta but we missed the parade as it was too windy. We toured the Church of St. Cyriacus first so by the time we finished we were all headed for the toilets which thankfully did not charge any money for their use unlike in Venice or Milan!
It is massive! It has stood the test of time and inside are magnificent features- ornate walls, intricate works of art indeed from top to the bottom, lietrally. I shall not bore you with the details as I will let you judge based on the photos! It was a bit eeries and dark inside but we eventually admired the importance and teh resilience of the people who painstakingly built this church dedicated to their patron saint, St. Cyriacus.
It was destroyed many times( invasions and wars mainly) and rebuilt again and again and look at the results!
Perched high above the highest hill of Ancona like a watch tower that gives 360 degree views of almost the entire Adriatic Coast, this church is remarkably preserved!
It is not surprising that many couples even travel far and wide to get married here! We noted a lot of coloured rice scattered all over the steps leading to the entrance of the church.
Inside or I should say at the bottom of the church was a bit creepy for my boys as we were also given a private tour of the church crypt where the body of St. Cyriacus himself was still buried! His prostate body sent chills down our spine as we viewed it!We were not prepared for it but had to as we were part of a bus tour group we joined when we embarked on Costa Victoria. It was both an educational trip for my boys who was truly blown away by the experience!(no photos allowed there of course!)
The tour guide explained it was a miracle that his body was found floating after his death when he left Ancona as a bishop to serve in other regions. That's why he was regarded as the patron saint of the city as he started in Ancona and amazingly found his way back there even after he died!
The Mole, which served as a military hospital in the past two centuries, had become a center for tobacco manufacture right after the World War II. Recently, Ancona's local administration is in cooperation with business world to innovate the building due to its historic and artistic value.
Today the Mole hosts important exhibitions and concerts.
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