Sunday, 9 September 2012


Porta Mazzini

We knew that Senigallia offered an interesting combination of seaside resort, gourmet restaurants and an old town, so we decided to have an outing there from our holiday base in Urbino. It being a Sunday, we assumed the tourist office would be closed and that we would have to find our own way around.

We parked in the Piazza Garibaldi, a quiet square which is home to the Cathedral and walked from there to a gate we could see - it turned out to be the Porta Mazzini. It was clear once we got outside it that it marked the boundary of the old town and the remains of the town walls were evident in both directions.

We retraced our steps and stopped to look at an interesting church on the left where we were delighted to find an information panel offering a guided tour of the sights of the old town. I took a photo to use as a guide.

Back in Piazza Garibaldi, we admired the facade of the Cathedral ...

... and then wandered through the wide pedestrianised streets past a convent, with a handsome doorway ...

... to emerge through the arches into the square in front of the elegant early 17th century Palazzo Communiale, the Town Hall.

From here we walked up to the river Misa to see the wonderful Portici Ercolani, built in the 18th century as part of a dramatic redevelopment of the town which involved re-routing and embanking the river and knocking down most of the old walls. There are other Portici further along the river bank, but these are the most elegant. They put me in mind of St Petersburg, although they are not quite so grand as the Winter Palace (now the Hermitage museum).

We walked along the river bank a little to see the site of the Roman Forum, where the beautiful curving brick structures date from 1834. It once house the fish market, but is now home to the library.

We back-tracked a little and crossed the river to see the Porta Lambertina, dedicated to Pope Benedict 14th and inaugurated in 1751.

By now it was time be thinking about lunch, especially since today is our wedding anniversary, so we headed towards the seafront. We followed the right bank of the river, under the main road and railway line until it hit the sea, with the seafront and beach on our right. The first view of the beach, which is apparently 13km long, was impressive - and typically Italian, with those ordered rows of sun umbrellas and loungers.

But what was that structure in the middle distance? We walked along the beach and gradually the wonderful Rotonda a Mare became clearer and more dramatic. The name could be translated as circular pier and I was staggered to find that it dates back to the late 19th century - but maybe not in its current form. It was rebuilt in 1923 and ten years later moved a few hundred metres to its current location. It does have a definite 1930s, art deco character. By the late 1980s it was declared unfit for use and closed. However, renovation work was funded by the EU, in one of its more useful acts, and the Rotonda was reopened in 2006. It is now, it seems, mainly a concert hall.

The head-on view from the shore is if anything even more dramatic.

After an excellent seafood lunch we sat on the beach for a while and eventually made our way back to our car. We later realised we had failed to see the Roveresca Fortress (1480) and the nearby Ducal Palace, two fine buildings which would have made our visit even more enjoyable.

Conditions: hot, cloudless sky.

Distance: about three miles.

Rating: four and half stars. Could perhaps have been five if we had been better informed! However, it was an almost perfect day out in any event.


I had done a little bit of research and knew to expect the Portici and the Rotonda, but now I wish I had done more. My excuse is that visiting Senigallia was only one of a list of possible outings.

Le Marche does not seem to have a comprehensive guidebook in English and information on websites is very scattered. It is a lovely region and there is clearly an opportunity for somebody there.

We were of course very lucky to spot the information panels with the historic route early in our exploration. But finding the Cathedral as a starting point was a good move.

On the way back to Urbino, we had a spectacular example of what happens if you are less lucky. We decided to visit another seaside town, Fano, but this time we picked a fairly random starting point just outside the remains of the walls. There were no signs and we struggled to find any of the sights we had heard of.

I decided to use my iPhone and successfully called up Google maps, so I knew where we were. However maps are more likely to tell you the whereabouts of McDonalds than the local Cathedral. Then I logged on to the town's tourist site: they had separate walking routes for interesting things from different historical periods, which were supported by sketch maps which did not show street names. It was all a bit surreal. Eventually, I managed to find a distinctive street junction to navigate by and we saw the sights, but it was all a mighty struggle.

Later in the week we made a short impromptu visit to the delightful small town of Cagli, where although the tourist office was closed, a rack outside had a wonderful full colour booklet of the sights, with a map. The gold standard!

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