Road trip to Ancona

by Alexandra


I’m so used to the routine of travelling around Italy by train – slumming it on the regionale to Naples, being offered free prosecco on the frecciarossa to Bologna, wincing at the English announcements at Termini (“the trainitaleeah regionalee to Nahhhpolee…”) – that travelling by car is something of a novelty.

I’ve always fantasised about an American road trip, which is unlikely to happen in the near future for various reasons (cost of getting to America in the first place, my inability to drive etc). But the second best thing is an Italian road trip. Valeriano had to do a test for a job in Ancona, so we decided to turn it into a holiday.

Google says that it takes three hours to drive from Rome to Ancona. If you do it our way, it takes five. A leisurely drive through the mountains of Abruzzo, a gelato break at the pretty little town of Giulianova (the sweetest ice cream I’ve ever had, on a terrace overlooking the sea), and taking the scenic seaside route through Marche, instead of the motorway. We were in no hurry though, and when you’re listening to music, playing games of 20 questions and watching the scenery, it’s fun. The more I travel, the more I appreciate the experience of travelling, especially if I’m in a car or a train. My destination will still be there at 5 pm, 6pm, 7pm…I might as well sit back and enjoy the journey.

Ancona is probably the least touristy Italian city I’ve ever been to. My Rough Guide to Italy is dismissive:

War, earthquakes and that transient feel all large port cities possess conspire to make Ancona an unlovable city. This busy ferry departure-point for Croatia, Albania, Greece and Turkey attracts an international fleet of fume-belching trucks that grumble through the port area night and day, while lost arrivés clog up the station and insaluburious alleyways and derelict lots abound.

Most of the tourists in Ancona are just killing time on their way to another place, waiting for their ferry to Greece or Croatia. As a port city, I suppose it’s sort of similar to Bari, but Bari’s charms are more obvious, with old ladies making orecchiette in the streets of the picturesque old town.

Ancona isn’t postcard-pretty, but it does have its charms – particularly at the ora blu on a warm June evening. We walked from our Airbnb (in a tranquil residential neighbourhood) down the elegant Viale della Vittoria until we reached the centre, which was much less chaotic than I’d expected, given the description in the guidebook. We both commented on how relaxed it felt – the lack of traffic, the lack of crowds, locals strolling through the piazzas, no sign of tourists…I also commented on how clean it was, but I realise that my ideas about cleanliness have been distorted from living in Rome and going on frequent trips to Naples. Cities like Ancona and Bologna aren’t particularly clean, they’re just normal. Rome and Naples, on the other hand, are very, very dirty.

Ancona is a small city, with a population of only 100,000, and to me it felt more like a town, even a village at times. A headline in the local paper read “RAGAZZINA BEVE SAPONE: DRAMMA” (“GIRL DRINKS SOAP: DRAMA”). You don’t get news like that in Rome.

We had dinner at a trattoria in the centre, located opposite an unusual Renaissance fountain, the Fontana del Calamo. Dinner was white wine, spaghetti with stockfish (a local speciality), and some side dishes of green beans and chips. We then went for a walk along the seafront and stopped in a piazza to listen to some live music before heading back to the apartment, as Valeriano had an early start the next day.

I didn’t fall in love with Ancona, but it was a nice place to spend 24 hours, and it seemed like it would probably be a pleasant place to live. A room with a seaview, breakfast at Alla Tazza d’Oro, aperitivo in Piazza del Plebiscito…

I just found out that according to tradition, travellers who want to return to Ancona should drink from the Fontana del Calamo. We did, so I guess we’ll be back…

Where to eat: We had dinner at Trattoria alle Tredici Cannelle (Corso Giuseppe Mazzini 108). Excellent food and friendly waiters. If the weather’s good, sitting outside is lovely.

Where to stay: We stayed at Emanuele’s Airbnb on Via Isonzo. The room was clean and comfortable, the location was convenient, and Emanuele was a great host. If you’re travelling on your own or in a couple and you’re on a budget, this is probably the best option in Ancona.