This list of best things to do in Ancona Italy is just the beginning of outstanding things to do and places to visit in the capital of the Marche Region. Ancona is one of the main economic centers of the region, with over 100.000 inhabitants.
Embracing the Adriatic coast, Ancona stands on the promontory of the Monte Conero. Here, the sun rises and sets on the sea, due to the particular elbow shape of the city. Art, history, ancient churches, breathtaking landscapes and exquisite seafood cuisine: these are just some of the fabulous ingredients to a special trip in the capital of Le Marche.
I need to confess something: when I saw Ancona for the first time, it wasn’t love at first sight. And it’s not easy to explain. I think Ancona is like a discreet person: you need to discover it to fall in love with it. Believe me, this city is blessed with several hidden treasures and a special identity. So, are you ready to discover some of these secrets with me?
Cover photo credits Enzo Torelli
1. Admire the San Ciriaco Cathedral (Ancona Cathedral)
This cathedral is the most iconic religious structure in the city, built in the 11th century. On the top of Monte Guasco, this church overlooks the entire city from the top. Its impressive façade with two unmistakable marble lions on the entrance confirms the magnificence of San Ciriaco.
From the front courtyard of the church you can admire a fantastic view of Ancona, from the port to the historic town. It’s a must-see place!
Ps. Check the openings times before visiting it (usually it’s closed between 12pm and 3pm).
2. Take a walk on the Ancona Harbor
The Ancona harbor is the first Italian port for international traffic of both passengers and vehicles. Every year more than one million travelers transit the port to and from Croatia, Greece, Albania, and Turkey. It’s also one of the most important ports in the Adriatic Sea for fishing and cargo. At the western edge of the harbor is the Marina Dorica – here you can find stunning fishing boats, sailing boats, yachts, and typical restaurants.
Different from many cities in the world, this harbor is perfect for a pleasant walk, to explore historic sites and for a sunset aperitif.
3. Discover the Arch of Trajan (Arco di Traiano)
In the heart of the harbor, there’s a majestic monument that represents the Ancona’s history.
Arch of Trajan is a Roman Triumphal arch built in honor of that Emperor who helped develop and defend the city of Ancona during the Roman Empire.
Made from Turkish Marble, the magnificent arch is about 19m high. On either side of the arch, there is a stone walkway that will guide you to beautiful views of the harbor.
4. Visit some of the Museums
- Museo della Città di Ancona
During the Musem Day in Le Marche, I had the opportunity to visit this interesting museum located on Piazza del Plebiscito. The Musem hosts a collection of archaeological finds, photographic reproductions of buildings, places and historical characters, original prints, paintings, and models. Above all, it represents the most significant moments of the history of the city. All the materials compare the ancient city and the modern city, building a logical structure for the presentation of the urban history of Ancona. Moreover, there’s an augmented reality cardboard tool that allows visitors to go back in time and interact with the past. This new tool is only available in Italian for the moment, but audioguides are available in other languages. You can also book a private guide in English by requesting it ahead of time. But in this case, I suggest you book a guide that can organize you a tour also in other museums of the area, and show you other local attractions. For info: email@example.com
- National Archaeological Museum
Near the Ancona Cathedral, the National Archaeological Museum is one of the most important museums in the region and definitely is an interesting place to visit. It’s located in one of the most important aristocratic palaces of Ancona, the Ferretti Palace.The Museum houses some of the most important artifacts and finds that have been excavated in the Marche region of Italy. Here you can start your journey from the prehistory to Ellenic period, and discover curiosities about the Piceno Civilization, the ancient population that contributed to the Marche region ethnic and cultural entity. Roman coins, prehistoric tombs, and ancient pottery are just some of the objects that can surprises you during this visit.
- Ancona City Picture-Gallery Francesco Podesti (Pinacoteca)
The picture gallery earned the name of a famous painter of Ancona who contributed with uncountable works of remarkable value.
Inside the palace, you can admire magnificent artworks of several historical painters, since the XIV century. Lorenzo Lotto, Carlo Crivelli, Olivuccio di Ciccarello, and Sebastiano del Piombo are just some of the famous names. It will amaze you!
- Omero Tactile Museum
Located in Mole Vanvitelliana, this is one of most singular museums in the territory. Do you know the code word to explore this museum? “It’s forbidden not to touch!” The idea of the Museum is to promote the cultural growth and integration of the visually handicapped: a very important project! But this institution is not only for those who can’t enjoy images. It can also help everyone to discover different and richer ways of perceiving the art and the reality. So, I suggest you trying this experience also with a blind fold: for me it was much more than a multisensorial perception, it made me reflect so much!
5. Explore the Passetto Beach & Caves
Another surprising aspect of Ancona is that just some minutes walking from the city center, you can find a fantastic stretch of beach with a stunning view. With a panoramic staircase, many locals stop just some minutes to take a breath and recharge the energy before going back to the everyday routine. Downstairs, don’t miss the caves carved in the rock over a century ago. Visitors can also go down with the panoramic elevator: it’s breathtaking!
6. Observe the War Memorial (Monumento dei Caduti)
The War Memorial was officially opened in the 30s by Mussolini during his visit in Ancona for the 10th anniversary of the Fascist Revolution. It was a memory to the victims of the First World War. Located just above the Passetto beach, it offers amazing views to the sea.
7. Discover the Roman Amphitheatre (Anfiteatro Romano)
Near the San Ciriaco Cathedral, you can find the remains of the ancient Roman Amphitheatre of Ancona. This theatre was erected during the rule of Augustus as a gladiatorial school.
This historical site is one of the interesting places to discover the ancient past of the town.
8. Visit Piazza del Plebiscito (Piazza del Papa)
This Piazza is one of the main attractions in the historic city center. The marble statue of Pope Clement XII is the symbol of this square. Aside from the majestic beauty of the square, this area is perfect also for a happy hour in a bar or a stop in a local restaurant.
9. Don’t miss the Mole Vanvitelliana (also known as Lazzaretto of Ancona)
This 18th century building is one of the most iconic sites in Ancona. Mole Vanvitelliana was constructed on an artificial island to be a quarantine station and Leprosarium for the port town.
Designed by the famous architect Luigi Vanvitelli, the pentagonal building is today a space to several events and exhibitions. In addition, it hosts the State Tactile Museum Omero.
10. Portonovo bay: the address of the paradise
Another amazing surprise: only a short drive from the city center, it is possible to visit a piece of heaven. In just some minutes, the scenery changes completely. You can enjoy an incredible wild environment and one of the most beautiful beaches of the region, the Portonovo bay. This area of the coast is splendid: a perfect place to relax in close contact with nature.
11. Experience the Ancona underground
Ancona underground is a fascinating and secret journey back in time! Since the beginning of the 15th century there were hydraulic works in the Ancona underground. Probably, it was built in ancient times for the city’s water distribution. Many information about this water network is still a mystery. Closed for many years, visitors are able to do a guided tour inside the Ancona underground now. The tours have different levels of difficulty, and in some of them, it’s necessary to use specific equipment, as some paths are flooded. For tours in English, is necessary to contact independently a tourist guide for the translation or a travel agency. The path is managed by a non-profit association of speologists.
12. Take a pleasant walk on the Monte Conero
About a half an hour’s drive from the center of Ancona, Monte Conero is another natural paradise. This promontory inside the Conero Regional Park is a perfect place for nature lovers. With a privileged view to the entire Riviera del Conero, is ideal for walking, trekking or bird watching. It’s one of my favorite places!
13. Go to a Happy Hour in a bar where you can see the sunset
An aperitif during the sunset is something that can make everyone happier. Near the port you can find some special places to have a good glass of local wine and watch one of the most beautiful nature’s exhibition: the sunset. Take in the scenery, enjoy the culinary delights, listen to relaxing music and chill in front of the sunset. Ancona will offer you an unforgettable moment of relaxation and a stunning view. Are you ready for your glass of Verdicchio?
14. Imagine the battles in the Forte Altavilla
Not far away from the city center, in the Pietralacroce area, there’s an inspiring and well-preserved Fort, built after the Italy’s Unification of to defend the land from maritime attacks. In a dominant position on the Adriatic sea, it’s an interesting place to visit. Every year, inside the walls of the fort, the “Living Nativity Scene of Pietralacroce” takes place during the Christmas period.
15.Taste traditional dishes
You can’t travel to an Italian city without doing a full immersion in the local food culture. It’s an important part of the local experience. In Ancona, you will be delighted with the delicious traditional dishes: wild mussels of Portonovo (Moscioli selvatici di Portonovo), Ancona’s stockfish (Stocafisso all’anconetana), and Brodetto all’anconetana (fish stew) , are just of some fantastic dishes you can taste here! Don’t miss them!
Where to eat in Ancona
During your tour in Ancona, I suggest one of my favorite restaurants, “Ristorante L’Ascensore”. The restaurant is located inside the panoramic elevator of the Passetto beach. Here, handmade fishing traps have become original chandeliers and the food is exquisite! It offers a dramatic view between the sea and the sky: it’s a must!
How to get to Ancona
The city is served by an airport, Raffaello Sanzio (Falconara), that is well connected to England, Germany, Romania, Belgium and many other European countries.
Another option is the Bologna Guglielmo Marconi Airport as it has many options for international flights. Milan airport (3.5 hours by high-speed train) and Rome airport (3.5 hours by car to Ancona) offer an extensive choice of flights.
(please check with the port eventual updates)
The Port has ferry links to the cities below with these operators:
- Adria Ferries (Durrës)
- Blue Line International (Split, Stari Grad, Vis)
- Jadrolinija (Split, Zadar)
- SNAV (Split) (seasonal)
- Superfast Ferries (Igoumenitsa, Patras)
- ANEK Lines (Igoumenitsa, Patras)
- Minoan Lines (Igoumenitsa, Patras)
- Marmara Lines (Cesme)
Depending on where you are coming from, you can arrive by car. In any case, I recommend you rent a car to have more autonomy visiting the city. In my opinion, the internal public connections aren’t the best solution to move around.
In the most famous Italian cities, you can find these two categories of high-speed trains: Frecciarossa or Frecciabianca. The Frecciarossa train is the fastest one, reaching speeds of up to 300 km/h. For example, departing from Milan, the Frecciarossa arrives in just 3 hours in the Ancona railway. Check out the Trenitalia website for train connections.
More details about How To Get to Le Marche.
Ancona is a special city, with many things to do and see. So, are you ready to discover its secrets?
- 10 Places to visit in Le Marche
- Le Marche Travel Guide
- 12 things to do Le Marche Italy
- All about Le Marche
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Thanks for the amazing experience!
Thanks to Enzo Torelli for the wonderful photos!
About Juliana de Brito, the author