The Rosso Conero trail begins in the centre of Ancona, whose name derives from Ankon, meaning elbow; this shape is in fact formed by Monte Conero, creating the only natural port in the central Adriatic. Chief town of the Marche region and situated 16 metres above sea level, Ancona
is also a prosperous commercial and industrial centre. The old town is rich in Roman monuments while the southwestern section is populated by new districts constructed after the strong earthquake of 1972. A visit begins with the Fortress which overlooks the port and old town. From the heights of Piazza Sangallo the view is impressive: the hexagonal island of Lazzaretto, designed by architect Vanvitelli (who also built the royal palace in Caserta), can be seen below in the most internal corner of the port and is a grandiose reminder of the former military and quarantine needs of those arriving from the Orient. The most significant monuments of Ancona are just a few metres away on the wharf facing the harbour and ferry terminal. These include, in order of appearance, the ex-church of Sant'Agostino, Palazzo Benincasa and the Loggia dei Mercanti
both from the 15th century, and then the delightful Romanesque church of Santa Maria della Piazza
featuring a crystal floor allowing the mosaics of previous constructions to be admired. Behind these monuments is Piazza Plebiscito featuring important buildings such as the City Hall and the church of San Domenico
, accessed by means of a spectacular flight of steps: inside there is a Crucifixion by Tiziano and an Annunciation by Guercino. Old Ancona ends at the feet of the Guasco hill, which dominates the harbour with the Trajan Arch 16th century Palazzo Ferretti, home to the March National Archaeological Museum, the archaeological area of the Roman amphitheatre and the Cathedral of San Ciriaco
, one of the major Mediaeval churches of the region featuring a beautiful fašade in pink and white stone. The first vines of Rosso Conero can be seen as you leave Ancona along the pleasant road winding towards the slopes of Monte Conero. Rows of vines alternates with extensive olive groves will be a constant feature of the landscape throughout the journey. Just outside town, in via Pontelungo, there is the wine cellar of Maurizio Marchetti. We recommend sampling his Rosso Conero Villa Bonomi, an exceptional wine first aged in large vats and then in barriques. A little further on, in Montacuto, still part of Ancona, one of the best known vineyards in the region, that of Alessandro Moroder which labels Rosso Conero Dorico of great lineage. A beautiful panoramic road winds directly down from Varano to the Scoglio del Trave on the coast, an unusual needle rock marking the beginning of the Conero Riviera. A few kilometres further south is the downhill stretch leading to Portonovo, a corner of rare beauty particularly for its contrasts, the greenery of the mountain alternating with white pebbled beaches. Untouched environments mingling with more structured locations. The Napoleonic Fort is an authentic military construction housing hotel with a renowned restaurant. In the immediate surroundings, not to be missed is a quick visit to the Romanesque chapel of Santa Maria di Portonovo
, constructed in the year 11th century by the monks of the Benedictine abbey. From Portonovo we follow the state road along the ridge, admiring splendid views of the hills and sea. Hotel Emilia is worth a stop, located on a natural terrace in a clearing of Mediterranean copse that dominates the beaches south of Ancona. Neary, the Abbey of San Pietro, an 11th century Benedictine hermitage is also worth a visit.