Umbria and the Marches: Places to Explore

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Ancona

Set on an elbow-shape bluff jutting out into the Adriatic, Ancona is one of Italy's most important ports. It's well served by trains, which makes it a good base for an excursion to Loreto or to Ascoli Piceno, farther south along the Adriatic coast. The city was the target of serious aerial bombing during World War II, and much was reduced to rubble, only to be rebuilt in a nondescript sprawl of boxy concrete. A few blocks from the main ferry terminal, what's left of the city's old center proves that Ancona was, and still is in parts, a lovely city. Narrow, cobbled streets wind steeply up from the waterfront, opening onto wide squares edged with handsome 19th-century brick-and-stucco buildings painted deep orange, pink, and ocher. The alleys leading downhill from central Piazza del Plebiscito are lined with chic shops selling everything from handmade linens to herbal cosmetics, and there are caf├ęs and pasticcerie (pastry shops) aplenty to stave off hunger before your ferry or cruise ship leaves. Time permitting, the beach resort of Fano is a pleasant side-trip and is only 40 minutes from Ancona.

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