So I just got back from an amazing four days in Ancona, Italy (don’t feel too sorry for me), where my friend Lizzie had just finished her year abroad, teaching English at a local college. She was done for the year, so my friend Tim and I decided to go and join her and get a taste of Italian culture (or four days in the sun, sampling the cocktails on offer).
Instead of your classic ‘sunsets and olives’ tourist holiday to Tuscany, Rome, or Venice, Ancona was basically a slice of what it’s like to really be a student in Italy. Tourism hasn’t hit Ancona yet – only very recently have Ryanair started doing direct flights there. Oh, and you can only fly at 6.30am from Stansted. Grim.
So, instead of guided tours and all inclusive resorts, we spent four days living in a flat in the city centre with three Italians, only one of whom could properly speak English, playing poker, going out to a local Irish pub, checking out the local dance school’s summer show, and seeing just how bloody cheap we could get cocktails on “the strip”.
So, if Ancona isn’t a tourist town (we decided it was basically the Portsmouth of Italy), then what is there to do?
As soon as we landed, we dumped our bags at the flat, got changed, and got on a sweaty bus full of teenagers to the Portonovo Beach. The bus took us through all the hills, with beautiful views of poppy fields and the port. When we arrived, it was like paradise. A walk down a road through a forest took us to the beach, which was small, and unfortunately pebbley, but we hired sunbeds and a parasol and spent the afternoon sunbathing, sipping mojitos from the cute bar/restaurant there, and dipping more than just our feet into the clear turquoise water of the Adriatic sea.
The night life
This was probably the most authentic part of the trip. Trying to have pre drinks with a bunch of Italian blokes who would only teach us rude Italian phrases, was… interesting. Alcohol is always a good way to bring people together, though, and we had a cracking night at the Donegal Irish pub, which has a club night on Wednesdays. I mean, it was a little bit tragic, but that’s what it’s all about.
I’ve also mentioned “the strip”. The real name of this is the Piazza del Plebiscito, although the locals just refer to it as the “Piazza del Papa” because of the huge statue of the Pope overlooking everyone’s debauchery.
Well, I say debauchery, it’s actually a pretty classy place to go and drink, as far as holiday drinking destinations go. On the last day, Lizzie had to go and rehearse for her dance show in the evening, leaving Tim and me to ourselves. What else would we do but go and get pissed off the cheap cocktails? They were all basically a fiver, and let me tell you they aren’t skimpy with the alcohol.
After Lizzie’s dance show, a mix of Middle Eastern and Flamenco dance, we headed back out to the Piazza. It was a lot busier now, with a lot of the local youths out for a drink. We got some very pretty looking cocktails, and then headed inside for a bit of a boogie, even though there were only about ten of us. Ancona isn’t the place for big clubs, but if you want to have a more intimate evening with actual Italians, it’s the one to go for.
OK, so we didn’t spend the WHOLE holiday just getting drunk. We saw two, yes, TWO, churches during our holiday. And let me tell you, the Italians know how to do a good church. The first one was in the town centre, and the inside was absolutely breathtaking.
The second one we saw was perched on a hilltop, with an amazing view of the city and the port. This was called the Cattedrale di San Ciriaco, and it even had some dead dudes inside for you to have a looksie at.
The last thing we saw was actually at 3am the night (or morning) before our flight. This was a big monument by the sea, called Il Passetto. It was made to commemorate the fallen men of the first World War, and it leads to a grand staircase down to the beach. It did look pretty amazing all lit up at night, and of course, the surrounding area was dead, so I would recommend a night time visit, followed by a stroll on the beach in the moonlight.
All in all, if your mate needs to do a year abroad for their Italian degree, convince them to go to Ancona, because they’ll be living the real student life with a bit of culture, cheap and delicious cocktails, and lush beaches thrown in on top – without *too* many silly English tourists to take the class off things.