I remember all the excitement in 1976 as the US celebrated its bicentennial, 200 years since the signing of the Declaration of Independence. This year, Ancona, Italy celebrates 2,400 years since its founding by ancient Greeks from Sicily. I am in awe.
Just walking along one of Ancona’s main streets is a lesson in history. We started walking along Corso Guiseppe Mazzini, with its shops and restaurants, to Piazzale Roma, where street vendors have set out an amazing open air market filled with shoes, clothes, ties and scarves, underwear and bras. There were men’s suits and ladies dresses and sweaters, some in a jumble on a table and some hanging neatly on racks. If I’d had more time, I would have gone shopping! It was like a huge exclusive neighborhood garage sale.
We wandered up and down streets and alleyways, some with stairs. So many beautiful chiese (churches)! We went inside the Chiesa San Francesco alle Scala, with its beautiful (and huge) paintings in almost every alcove.
We continued up the hill to the Cattedrale San Ciriaco, but got sidetracked by an open doorway at the top of some steps that advertised a parco (park). Being from the midwest, I can never resist a bit of green, so we trudged up and up gravel paths and along shady walkways. It wasn’t a city park like I think of at home, with manicured lawns and playground equipment, but more like taking a hike through a wooded area, with an occasional bench to sit on and handmade wooden railings to help with the somewhat rugged paths. We kept going, because at the very top was the Faro. One of the highest points in the city, where the cliffs overlook the sea far below, it was a stone building and tower used for the city’s defense.
We headed back down to the street and continued up the street toward the cattedrale when we came across ruins of a Roman ampitheatre, carefully fenced off from public access. That’s when you start to think again about the people who lived here two thousand years ago, and what life in this city must have been like for them. Watching a fleet of Venetian warships sail past in the Middle Ages… It makes my head spin. Two hundred years of my own country’s history is just a drop in the bucket.
On up the hill to the cattedrale, where it turns out a wedding has just taken place and the guests are mingling in the piazza outside. We head back down the hill, somewhat disappointed at not being able to go inside. My legs are tired from all the walking up and down hills and steps, but it seems. a shame to go back to the ship so early.
We walk back to the cruise terminal, keeping our eyes open for a shop that sells bananas. David loves bananas and wants to keep some in our cabin. No luck, so in the interest of another long walk tomorrow we head back to the ship an hour early. It kind of irks me that there is so much that I am missing, but I have already seen so much. My little part of the world, in the farm fields of the American midwest, is now even smaller since I have come to Ancona, such a beautiful and ancient city.