Anthony continues his tale of an epic rail trip across Italy, this time from his base in Ancona. Read on for stories featuring caves and ancient oddments…
My arrival into Ancona marked the midpoint – near enough – of my rail trip across Italy.
I chose it because it made sense geographically and held out the hope of a day at the beach. Sadly, the day I turned up it was a bit cloudy so I set off on a walk to get my bearings and to discover what the town had to offer. And guess what… I found the local archaeological museum.
Those of you who’ve read part one and part two of my Italy adventure will have spotted a trend – I do love a building full of ancient oddments!
The Museo Archeologico Nazionale delle Marche was great. A really compact collection of goodies, ranging from flint axes to gilt Roman statues. It also offered up some splendid views across the harbour below, a place that I marked out as worthy of closer inspection.
I then walked across to Piazza del Plebiscito di Ancona, sat in the square and supped a pint of local beer called Yak! The perfect location for a sit and a think.
The harbourfront turned out to be a bustling but generally unremarkable stretch of quayside, aside from Mole Vanvitelliana, an old fort that’s now a gallery for temporary display and venue.
I would have looked around but my time was in short supply. However, if you’re passing take a look; the building itself is quite quirky and there might be something on that catches your eye.
What I noticed was the largest fish head I’d ever seen floating in the harbour! It must have been one big beast when it was alive…
It’s the ‘tites that come down
One of the reasons I’d chosen to stay in Ancona was because it’s a short train ride away from the Frasassi Caves.
Sadly, the train times don’t coincide with the tour times but the hanging around was worth it as the caves themselves are truly spectacular. A veritable cathedral of curling calcium deposits.
You can book your tickets in advance (I did) although the site that sells them is a little confusing. It initially looks like you can only purchase tickets for a midday visit – persevere and you’ll finally be offered other time slots.
The tour was conducted in Italian but all you really need to remember is that the difference between stalagmites and stalactites is that it’s the ‘tites that come down. Yes, it’s an old joke but you’ll never forget it. You can thank me the next time you visit a cave.
The full visit lasts for more than an hour, which when you throw in the complimentary bus back to the ticket office, means you’ll miss your direct train back to Ancona.
I attempted to take a more roundabout route (which actually worked out) even though I couldn’t purchase a ticket.
That’s because small stations in Italy don’t have ticket machines – you’ll need to find a local shop or bar that serves that purpose. Will it be the one next to the station? No, of course not! I ended up getting my ticket en route, which worked out fine.
Top tip: Museums and galleries tend not to open on a Monday in Italy so it’s a good day for either travelling or sitting around.
Roman cisterns and a beer bus
The next day I jumped onto a train and headed for Fermo, another hill town! I was off to look at some ancient Roman cisterns (underground water tanks), a journey that would also require a taxi. However, there was a problem…
I asked the taxi driver for “the Roman cisterns”, a request that was greeted with a shrug. So I showed him a map… same reaction. Then I showed him some photos… still nothing. So I said “cisterns” while waving my hands and his face lit up. “Cisterns Romani!” I nodded and we were off. I got the bus back – it seemed easier.
Fermo is a small but bustling town. It’s tiny record shop, Discolandia – no bigger than my bathroom – contained loads of rare vinyl. I wasn’t expecting that. I also wasn’t expecting a beer bus, either, but it was certainly a welcome addition to my visit. Every town should have a bus selling beer, I reckon.
Anyway, the tickets for the Cisterns Romani are sold at the museum, which confused me for a moment, but my timing was good so I wasn’t feeling rushed. And with ticket in hand I descended yet again into the crust of our planet. Okay, so a bunch of stone chambers built by the Romans that once held water might not be your thing but I loved it. What a feat of engineering!
Here comes the sun
My final day in Ancona coincided with blazing sunshine so I thought I might take a hike to a beach, which was my first, and thankfully last, mistake of my Italy trip.
First, the walk was over a massive hill and I’d done my share of hiking around, and second, they were all a bit pebbly anyway.
So instead I wandered down to some old fishing huts via Grotte del Passetto and watched the waves lap against the shore for a while. It was a perfectly enjoyable way to pass an hour, although the clamber back up tested my knees a little.
And then I was on the move again; next stop Trieste, up near the border with Croatia. This required three trains and I was wary about making one of my connections as it all looked a little tight. I needn’t have worried, though – all the services arrived on time.
Join me in part four of the series to discover the joys of a jaunt into Slovenia and why you should never trust the opening times of a museum provided by Google…
A Stay in Ancona – Part three of the Italy Rail Trip of a Lifetime
This is a guest post by Anthony Clark, journalist, copywriter and longtime friend of the Ladies What Travel team. He loves beer, cheese and travel and is a genius when it comes to making the most of his annual leave.