The Riviera del Conero
One of the crown jewels of the Marche region, the Riviera del Conero extends from Ancona to the north to Sirolo and Numana to the south, the only elevated feature of the central eastern Italian coastline. An extension of the Apennines, the Conero Riviera is composed of marl and limestone, presenting high cliffs onto the sea, and sea stacks rising from the water. The area takes its name from its highest and most prominent feature, the Monte Conero, a limestone massif that rises to a height of 572 meters. The mountain range was formed during the Mesozoic era and is rich in fossils, making it a popular destination for geologists and paleontologists.
The vegetation in the Riviera del Conero is rich and varied, with a mix of Mediterranean and continental species. The mountain range is home to oak, beech, and pine trees, while the coastline is dominated by Mediterranean scrubland. The area is also known for its wildflowers, including poppies, lupins, and daisies.
Moreover, Riviera del Conero is home to a diverse range of fauna, including mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Some of the most common species include wild boar, foxes, badgers, hedgehogs, and deer. The coastline is also an important breeding ground for seabirds, including gulls, cormorants, and seagulls. The Monte Conero and its surroundings have a long history, having served as a natural harbour for many sea-faring civilisations: from the Greek colonists in the IV century BCE to medieval Turkish pirates to present-day private boats and ferries. The area has become a regional park in 1987, a protected area that covers over 18,000 hectares of land and sea. The reserve is home to a variety of ecosystems, including forests, meadows, and wetlands. Visitors can enjoy hiking trails, cycling routes, and guided tours that allow them to explore the natural beauty of the area.
There are plans in motion for it to become a Marine Protected Area.
The cliffs are broken up by a series of small beaches of white pebbles, with crystalline waters, many of which can only be reached by sea. The most famous of these are the Sassi Neri (beneath Sirolo), the beach of the Due Sorelle (Two Sisters, after the name of the two sea stacks, resembling two nuns in prayer), the beach of the Seagulls, Portonovo, and Mezzavalle.
Since 1994, this area has been consistently awarded the European Blue Flag for the quality of its waters, and it hosts a large variety of autoctonous marine life. With a bit of luck it's not uncommon to spot some dolphins swimming just around the Monte Conero cape!