A Travellerspoint blog

Circling the Adriatic Italy: Marche

Parco del Conero and Urbina

I wasn't really sure what I was getting into when I chose Parco del Conero as our first stop on the Adriatic portion of our journey. My alternatives were the larger city of Ancona and the seaside town of Senigallia, and in fact I didn't make a final decision until the day before we left Umbria. I was a little worried that Conero might be a park like one of the National Parks in the US, best suited for outdoor activities like hiking and camping. That's not usually our thing, especially with the babies. In the end, I decided it was our best option and we could always leave early in the morning. Since it was a last minute decision, I used Booking.com to reserve accommodation instead of Airbnb. I had had good success with that site in Portugal and Spain, especially on very short notice. We got into Conero later than I had planned, about 9 PM, thanks to some poor navigation on my part as we arrived at the park. We were able to find the B&B at the listed address without too much trouble, but unfortunately the place seemed to be completely dark and deserted. We got out and walked around for a while, but didn't have any luck finding anyone to ask questions or any sign of a functioning accommodation. I tried calling the number that was provided and got no answer. Since it was getting close to the magic hour of 10 PM when all restaurants in rural Italy seem to close, we decided to make a run for the shoreline a few miles away to get dinner so that we wouldn't end up screwed out of both food and lodging for the night. After we parked, I scouted out the restaurant I had called to be sure they were open and was delivered the heartbreaking news that the kitchen was already closed. An image of Mei Ling strangling me flashed through my mind. I wailed something about having called about the closing time and the manager said "Oh, you mean the seafood restaurant. We're the steak restaurant." So we were saved. I whisked the family into the seafood restaurant a flight of stairs further down the hillside and we quickly ordered while I tried to secure other lodging. My attempts were all rebuffed, which as it turned out was fortunate because when I tried the original B&B again in desperation, someone answered and assured me that they were open and someone would be there. Dinner was so-so, but it was a lot better than going hungry.
Mixed seafood at Ristorante la Torre (looks better than it tasted)

When we got back to the B&B, there were a couple of people waiting in the driveway with flashlights who escorted us back to a gated compound directly behind the building we had previously encountered. It seemed that in the offseason they closed the main building, but didn't have any sign or other indication of where to proceed. Rather annoying, but par for the course in Italy, and in the end it all worked out. The accommodation turned out to be a comfortable suite which allowed us to split the kids up so they wouldn't wake each other during the night. In the morning, we were quite surprised by the beauty of the place we had wandered into. The B&B was surrounded by a rolling hills with sunflower fields and imposing mountains and cliffs in the distance. Breakfast was a generous and tasty buffet of fruit and pastries.

We packed our bags and proceeded to our first stop, Loreto. This hilltop town is best known for its enormous Basilica della Santa Casa, which dominates the central piazza. In front of the fountain in the piazza there were some beautiful chalk reproductions of classic Renaissance paintings. The town and streets are quite picturesque with some nice views over the surrounding valley. There are quite a few shops on the street leading away from the Basilica and Mei Ling was able to accomplish most of our gift shopping for our friends' kids.

Satisfied with Loreto, we moved on to Sirolo where the old town is perched atop a grassy mountain that descends sharply into the sea. The town was rather sleepy and nondescript but the views over the Adriatic were fabulous.

We were getting hungry so we descended from the heights of Sirolo and wound our way downhill to the seaside town of Portonovo, which seemed to be mainly distinguished for seafood restaurants. The Lonely Planet-recommended Il Molo seemed to be the most popular of the adjacent seaside establishments, and we weren't disappointed. The pasta, fish, and especially the hard-to-find cockles were excellent and the meal was complemented by crisp white wine and a beautiful seaside setting surrounded by mountains. Cleo had a lot of fun playing on the rocky beach. The picture of her triumphantly holding up an ice cream is one of my favorites from the trip.

Satisfied that we had seen the best of Parco del Conero, we set off along the coast in a northerly direction. On our way, we briefly stopped in Senigallia which seemed dreary and out of season. I breathed a sigh of relief that we hadn't missed Parco del Conero for this. At Senigallia, we turned inland towards our next destination, Urbino. In some ways, Urbino was similar to the hill towns of Umbria, yet everything seemed to be on a slightly larger scale. The streets were wider, the buildings seemed denser and more imposing, and there were a lot more people around. The crowdedness was likely due to Urbino being a university town, with lots of shops and street cafes catering to a student population. It was drizzling, which gave us an opportunity to try out our waterproof stroller covers.

Partly because of the rain, we uncharacteristically chose to visit the museum at the Palazzo Ducale. While I remember walking around the building, I'm hard pressed to visualize any of the artwork I saw inside. I guess I'm just not a museum person.

We finished with the Palazzo just in time to get to one of Urbino's top restaurants, Antica Osteria de la Stella, half an hour before they opened to make a reservation. We returned after a brief stop at an outdoor cafe and were seated in a dining room nice enough to make me feel guilty about inflicting the babies on the establishment. However, thanks to our early arrival we were able to work our way through an excellent dinner including venison with wild berries and strozzapreti pasta in under an hour and escaped just as the dinner rush was beginning.

We made our way back to the car for what I hoped would be a quick inland run to the second country of our trip, the Republic of San Marino.

Posted by zzlangerhans 10:09 Archived in Italy Tagged marche loreto sirolo portonovo urbino parco_del_conero

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