In my guidebook, Ancona was described as a rather dull harbor city whose main attraction were the ferries leaving it, en route to Greece and Croatia. And, truth be told, it's not the prettiest of cities I've visited. But it sports two major draws to it: first, one I expected, amazing nature. Just south of the city begins the Conero Riviera with breathtakingly beautiful cliffy beaches. This was one of the main reasons I wanted to stop here in the first place. Secondly, however, Ancona has some of the friendliest and most welcoming people -at least if my couch surfing hostess Arianna, her family amd friends are exemplary Anconites. When I first arrived at the train station after my quick visit to Cesenatico, Arianna was there to greet me and take me to the Pasetto, the rocky beach promenade that is accessible right from the city centre. Here, a lot of Anconites come for a quick swim or a picknick after work -I would probably not be able to stay away from the beach a single day if I had it right in front of my doorstep! After a short gelato break, Arianna drove me back to her family's house and I met her mom and her sisters Greta and Giorgia, as well as dogs Rufus and Kris. What a girl power family! And in a fun english-Italian conversation, we all had the possibility to practice our language skills - I am still muddling along in pseudo-Italian which with some gesticulation and a lot of goodwill is apparently understood by the locals. In the evening, we went out with Arianna's friends to enjoy a picknick and fireworks that were put on by the city in order to celebrate the eviction of the Nazis in World War II ( while Mussolini- built monuments are still proudly standing. Interesting...). Quick Ancona-travel trip: from the Duomo you have the best view of both the city, harbor and coastline and you can almost see all the way over to Rimini.
Second Ancona-travel tip: GO TO MEZZAVALLE. This half-moon shaped bay at the Conero Riviera is as non-touristic as it gets, with nudist bathers, dog walkers and people who build little sun-protection huts from driftwood. It is also amazingly clean and the water is crystal clear. This is where Arianna and I spent the majority of Monday, with an epic 2 hour out and back swimming trip along the coast and plenty of sunbathing time. Unforgettable. We also checked out Portonovo, which is easier reachable by bus and has more amenities, such as public toilets and showers.. Depends on what you prefer. But the moment when you hike up a dirt path and all of a sudden have free sight of a cliff, a bay and endless water reaching up to the horizon is indescribable. I didn't take my iPod to the beach, so you get pics from the internet (sources:
http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3575/3792520739_51c230d1d2_z.jpg?zz=1), but I swear it looked just like that.
In the evening we went out for drinks and aperitivo (awesome Italian invention: get a drink and stuff yourself with snacks from the free buffet so you don't have to pay for dinner) and walked around a bit more, but I was beat: sun + water + ridonculous swim = perfect day + exhausted Janina.