Ancona and its harbor: a love beyond time

If you say Ancona, you say harbor! An ancient and indissoluble link that tightens the Doric city to its seaport.

As a matter of facts, Ancona is born of the harbor and, thanks to it, was able to develop its shipyards, an excellence entirely made in Marche.

The harbor is still the beating heart of the city. It’s alive and enjoyed by the people of Ancona, proud and jealous guardians. Sunset, ships, a walk down the Old Harbor, a happy hour or a dinner in one of the restaurants on the docks are essential pleasures!

Breath-taking view and a lot of history around you, with the Trajan Arch and the Clementino one. You can also find the Mole Vanvitelliana, that the people from Ancona still call lazzaretto, lazaret. It’s a defensive structure that over times had different functions: a place for the sick, a goods storage, a hospital, a military fortress and, even, a sugar refinery. Today is an important location for exhibitions, events and the Tactile Museum Omero.

Ancona has the sea and the arbor inside in its DNA. Fishing, its local food and wine tradition…everything come from the harbor and here finds its maximum expression. A bond started a long time ago.


Founded by the Dorians in 387 BC, Ancona expresses the close link with the harbor already in its name. The name Ancona derives, in fact, from the Greek word “Ankon”, which means elbow – a shape reminded by its natural conformation. The Greek people coming for Syracuse stopped here and started to build the city with its firsts piers. In the III century BC the gulf was used by Picenes for their trade with the Greeks, later extended to the Dalmatian and the Istrian coast habitants.

Anyway, the ancient Greek harbor coincides nowadays with the shipbuilding area occupied by the Cantieri Navali Riuniti of Fincantieri.

In the Roman times, the harbor was enlarged and the Emperor Trajan built the first part of the north pier in the II century BC. To honor him, the Ancona Senate erected in 100 BC the Arch of Trajan, probably built by Apollodorus of Damascus, architect trusted by the emperor.

In the 9th Century, Ancona suffered repeatedly the siege of Saracens, who almost destroyed the city but sparred the Arch of Trajan. The inhabitants of Ancona rebuilt the city and fortified the harbor building a wall and 24 towers. We’re in the period of the maritime republic and of the free commune: Ancona was a beauty with her towers that seemed to rise from the water.

However, Ancona reached her maximum majesty between the 13th and the 14th century: it was one of the most important harbors in the Adriatic Sea, along with Venice. In this period Ancona started to develop itself on the ground area facing the port, between the hill of Guasco, where the majestic San Ciriaco Catherdal stands, and the hill Astagno, where there are the San Francis Church and the Capodimonte Door.

Later, with the discovery of America and the consequent trade between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean, Ancona experienced a period of deterioration till the decision of Pope Clement XII in 1732 to give to Ancona customs exemption and the restructuring of the harbor. The Pope commissioned 3 important works: the Lazzaretto, built by Vanvitelli, the Molo Clementino, and extension of the Trajano, and the Arco Clementino, new gateway to the city. A new period of splendor that, however, didn’t last that long: Ancona, as other Italian cities, became the theater of the independence wars, foreign occupation and bombings during the World War Two. After the war, piers, docks and shipyard were gradually rebuilt and the commercial traffic resumed.


Nowadays, the Doric port is among the most active and important harbors for international commercial exchange within the Scandinavian Mediterranean corridor. The Old Harbor has become a sort of promenade to relax, walk and admire the beautiful sunsets and departures of the ships. A pedestrian path that stats in Porta San Primiano, goes through the ruins of the Roman harbor, the Arch of Trajan and the Clementino Arch, and finishes in Laterna. An area even more beautiful thanks to Enzo Cucchi, famous Marchigian artist exponent of the Transavanguardia, who create the Fountain of the Two Suns.

In short, a city in the city, that should be seen.

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