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Ancona, Province of Ancona, Marche

Ancona, the capital of the Marche region, is also one of the main harbours of the Adriatic Sea.

Its name derives from the Greek ankon (meaning elbow), referring to the shape of its geographical position. It is situated between the slopes of the two extremities of the Monte Conero promontory called Monte Astagno, occupied by the citadel, and Monte Guasco, on which the 90 mt-high Cathedral stands.

Info

  • Altitude: 16 mt a.s.l.
  • Population: about 100,000 inhabitants
  • Zip/postal code: 60100
  • Dialing Area Code: +39 071
  • Patron Saint: St. Ciriaco, celebrated on the 4th of May
  • GPS Coordinates: 43°37'01" N - 13°31'00"E
  • Useful Links: the Comune official website www.comune.ancona.it | a map of Ancona.

Administrative divisions

Ancona comprises the following Frazioni, Circoscrizioni & Localities: Angeli di Varano, Aspio, Barcaglione, Candia, Case Lanternari, Casine di Paterno, Forte Montagnolo, Gallignano, Ghettarello, Madonna delle Grazie, Madonnina, Massignano, Montacuto, Montesicuro, Monte Baldino, Monte degli Elci, Monteferro, Monte Galluzzo, Nave, Paterno, Poggio, Portonovo, San Luigi, Sant'Andrea, Sappanico, Taglio di Candia, Taglio di Torrette, Trave, Varano, Villa Romana

History - Antiquity and the Middle Ages

The ancient town was founded by refugees from Syracuse about 390 BC, meaning "elbow", since the harbor to the east of the town was originally protected only by the promontory on the north, shaped like an elbow. In Roman times it kept its own coinage with the punning device of the bent arm holding a palm branch, and the head of Aphrodite on the reverse, and continued the use of the Greek language.

When it became a Roman colony is doubtful. It was occupied as a naval station in the Illyrian war of 178 BC. Julius Caesar took possession of it immediately after crossing the Rubicon. Its harbour was of considerable importance in imperial times, as the nearest to Dalmatia, and was enlarged by Trajan, who constructed the north quay, his architect being Apollodorus of Damascus. At the beginning of it stands the marble triumphal arch with a single archway, and without bas-reliefs, erected in his honour in 115 by the senate and people.

History - Modern Times

After the fall of the Roman empire Ancona was successively attacked by the Goths, Lombards and Saracens, but recovered its strength and importance. It was one of the cities of the Pentapolis under the exarchate of Ravenna, the other four being Fano, Pesaro, Senigallia and Rimini, and eventually became a semi-independent republic under the protection of the popes, until Gonzaga took possession of it for Pope Clement VII in 1532.

Pope Clement XII prolonged the quay, and an inferior imitation of Trajan's arch was set up; he also erected a lazzaretto at the south end of the harbour, Luigi Vanvitelli being the architect-in-chief. The southern quay was built in 1880, and the harbour was protected by forts on the heights. From 1797 onwards, when the French took it, it frequently appears in history as an important fortress, until Christophe Léon Louis Juchault de Lamoricière capitulated here on September 29, 1860, eleven days after his defeat at Castelfidardo.

What to see

  • The Cathedral of San Ciriaco which is said to occupy the site of a temple of Venus mentioned by Catullus and Juvenal as the deity of the place. The cathedral was consecrated in 1128 and completed in 1189. It is a fine Romanesque building in grey stone, built in the form of a Greek cross, with a 12-sided dome. The façade has a Gothic portal, ascribed to Giorgio da Corno (1228). The interior, which has a crypt under each transept, has ten columns which are attributed to the temple of Venus, screens of the 12th century, and other sculptures.
  • The marble Arch of Trajan, 61 feet high, erected in 114/115 AD as an entrance to the causeway atop the harbor wall in honor of the emperor who had made the harbor, is one of the finest Roman monuments in the Marche. Most of its original bronze enrichments have disappeared. It stands on a high podium approached by a wide flight of steps. The format is that of the Arch of Titus in Rome, but made taller, so that the bronze figures surmounting it, of Trajan, his wife Plotina and sister Marciana, would figure as a landmark for ships approaching Rome's greatest Adriatic port.
  • The Lazzaretto (Laemocomium or "Mole Vanvitelliana"), planned by architect Luigi Vanvitelli in 1732, a pentagonal building covering more than 20,000 sq.m., built to protect the military defensive authorities from the risk of contagious diseases eventually reaching the town with the ships. Later it was used also as a military hospital or as barracks; it is currently used for cultural exhibits.
  • The archaeological museum containing interesting pre-Roman (Picene) objects from tombs in the district, and two Roman beds with fine decorations in ivory.

Where to stay