Ancona was founded by Greek settlers from Syracuse about 387 BC, who gave it its name: Ancona stems from the Greek word Αγκων, meaning "elbow"; the harbour to the east of the town was originally protected only by the promontory on the north, shaped like an elbow. Greek merchants established a Tyrian purple dye factory here. In Roman times it kept its own coinage with the punning device of the bent arm holding a palm branch, and the head of Aphrodite on the reverse, and continued the use of the Greek language.
When it became a Roman colony is uncertain. It was occupied as a naval station in the Illyrian War of 178 BC. Julius Caesartook possession of it immediately after crossing the Rubicon. Its harbour was of considerable importance in imperial times, as the nearest to Dalmatia, and was enlarged by Trajan, who constructed the north quay with his Syrian architect Apollodorus of Damascus. At the beginning of it stands the marble triumphal arch with a single archway, and without bas-reliefs, erected in his honour in 115 by the Senate and Roman people.
The Port has regular ferry links to the following cities with the following operators:
- Adria Ferries (Durrës)
- Blue Line International (Split, Stari Grad, Vis)
- Jadrolinija (Split, Zadar)
- SNAV (Split) (seasonal)
- Superfast Ferries (Igoumenitsa, Patras)
- ANEK Lines (Igoumenitsa, Patras)
- Minoan Lines (Igoumenitsa, Patras)
- Marmara Lines (Cesme)
European Coastal Airlines, a seaplane operator, established trans-Adriatic flights between Croatia and Italy in November 2015 and offers four weekly flights from Ancona Falconara Airport and Split (59 minutes) and Rijeka Airport (49 minutes).
The Ancona railway station is the main railway station of the city and is served by regional and long distance trains. The other stations are Ancona Marittima, Ancona Torrette, Ancona Stadio, Palombina and Varano. Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori plans to run services between Milan and Ancona starting in summer 2013.
The A14 motorway serves the city with the exits "Ancona Nord" (An. North) and "Ancona Sud" (An. South).
Urban public transportation
Ancona is served by an urban bus network operated by Conerobus, Bucci lines and Reni lines.
Ancona Cathedral, dedicated to Judas Cyriacus, was consecrated at the beginning of the 11th century and completed in 1189. Some writers suppose that the original church was in the form of a basilica and belonged to the 7th century. An early restoration was completed in 1234. It is a fine Romanesque building in grey stone, built in the form of a Greek cross, and other elements of Byzantine art. It has a dodecagonal dome over the centre slightly altered by Margaritone d'Arezzo in 1270. The façade has a Gothic portal, ascribed to Giorgio da Como (1228), which was intended to have a lateral arch on each side.
The interior, which has a crypt under each transept, in the main preserves its original character. It has ten columns which are attributed to the temple of Venus. The church was restored in the 1980s.
- The marble Arch of Trajan, 18 m high, erected in 114/115 as an entrance to the causeway atop the harbour wall in honour of the emperor who had made the harbour, is one of the finest Roman monuments in the Marche. Most of its original bronze enrichments have disappeared. It stands on a high podium approached by a wide flight of steps. The archway, only 3 m wide, is flanked by pairs of flutedCorinthian columns on pedestals. An attic bears inscriptions. The format is that of the Arch of Titus in Rome, but made taller, so that the bronze figures surmounting it, of Trajan, his wife Plotina and sister Marciana, would figure as a landmark for ships approaching Rome's greatest Adriatic port.
- The Lazzaretto (Laemocomium or "Mole Vanvitelliana"), planned by architect Luigi Vanvitelli in 1732 is a pentagonal building covering more than 20,000 m², built to protect the military defensive authorities from the risk of contagious diseases eventually reaching the town with the ships. Later it was used also as a military hospital or as barracks; it is currently used for cultural exhibits.
- The Episcopal Palace was the place where Pope Pius II died in 1464.
- The church of Santa Maria della Piazza, with an elaborate arcaded façade (1210).
- The Palazzo del Comune (or Palazzo degli Anziani - Elders palace), built in 1250, with lofty arched substructures at the back, was the work of Margaritone d'Arezzo, and has been restored twice.
- Church of San Francesco alle Scale
- Church of Sant'Agostino, built by the Augustinians in 1341 as Santa Maria del Popolo, and enlarged by Luigi Vanvitelli in the 18th century and turned into a palace after 1860. It has maintained the Gothic portal by Giorgio da Sebenico, with statues portraying St. Monica, St. Nicola da Tolentino, St. Simplicianus and Blessed Agostino Trionfi.
- Church of the Santi Pellegrino e Teresa (18th century)
- Church of the Santissimo Sacramento (16th and 18th centuries)
There are also several fine late Gothic buildings, including the Palazzo Benincasa, the Palazzo del Senato and the Loggia dei Mercanti, all by Giorgio da Sebenico, and the prefecture, which has Renaissance additions.
The National Archaeological Museum (Museo Archeologico Nazionale) is housed in the Palazzo Ferretti, built in the late Renaissance byPellegrino Tibaldi; it preserves frescoes by Federico Zuccari. The Museum is divided into several sections:
- prehistoric section, with palaeolithic and neolithic artefacts, objects of the Copper Age and of the Bronze Age
- protohistoric section, with the richest existing collection of the Picenian civilization; the section includes a remarkable collection of Greek ceramics
- Greek-Hellenistic section, with coins, inscriptions, glassware and other objects from the necropolis of Ancona
- Roman section, with a statue of Augustus, Pontifex Maximus, carved sarcophagi and two Roman beds with fine decorations in ivory
- rich collection of ancient coins (not yet exposed)
The Municipal Art Gallery (Pinacoteca Civica) "Francesco Podesti" is housed in the Palazzo Bosdari, reconstructed in 1558 - 1561 byPellegrino Tibaldi. Works in the gallery include:
- Circumcision, Dormitio Virginis and Crowned Virgin, by Olivuccio di Ciccarello
- Madonna with Child, panel by Carlo Crivelli
- Gozzi Altarpiece by Titian
- Sacra Conversazione by Lorenzo Lotto
- Portrait of Francesco Arsilli by Sebastiano Del Piombo
- Circumcision by Orazio Gentileschi
- Immaculate Conception and St. Palazia by Guercino
- Four Saints in Ecstasis, Panorama of Ancona in the sixteenth century and Musician Angels by Andrea Lillio
Other artists present include Ciro Ferri and Arcangelo di Cola (flourished 1416-1429). Modern artists featured are Bartolini, Bucci, Campigli, Bruno Cassinari, Cucchi, Levi, Sassu, Orfeo Tamburi, Trubbiani, Francesco Podesti and others.
Ancona is also the city of birth of Italian opera singer, Franco Corelli, and worldwide famous actress, Virna Lisi.