Set in the green of the Mediterranean maquis and lapped by the blue Adriatic Sea, the Church of Santa Maria di Portonovo, built with the Conero spotless stone, is a jewel of Romanesque architecture with features
blending the Greek cross with the shapes of the Latin basilica. It
reminds us that in 1034 a Monastery was built in this wonderful place.
The Community of Monks extended its influence in a large area beyond the Castles of Poggio, Camerano, Sirolo, and Numana.
In 1716 Pope Clemente XI entrusted the building of the Watchtower in Portonovo; it is a square building reminding of the 15th-century features and built with the Conero stones and bricks, with a cover used for the stationing of fire-arms. The garrison was useful to sight and stop the raids of pirates and smugglers. It became the shelter of the poet Adolfo De Bosis; it was also frequented by Gabriele D'Annuzio, and belongs now to his heirs. It houses nowadays cultural initiatives and, on demand, it is open to visits.
In 1808 the viceroy of the Kingdom of Italy, Eugenio Behauharnais, entrusted the building, in Portonovo bay, of a fortress to stop the landing of the English boats. It was realized by using also the material recovered from the ruins of the Monastery and of the bell tower attached to St Mary Church. After a period of neglect and ruin it was rebuilt, respecting the ancient plan, and is today a prestigious tourist structure. On demand, it is open to visits.
At the top of the Conero, among holm oaks and strawberry trees, there is St Peter Church with the monastery, which has nowadays been transformed into a hotel. As a matter of fact, in the Middle Ages the Conero became a place of hermitage and of religious Communities. The Benedictine monks built two Churches: one at its foot, St Benedict, and the other one on the top, St Peter. St Peter Church fell into ruin and was rebuilt by the Camaldolese monks who settled there until 1861. St Peter still preserves the shapes and the style of the ancient structure, white and tiny as the Romanesque style wants. Inside, a central nave with barrel vault and cross vault; the columns and the pillars are adorned with decorated capitals. Acanthus leaves, pine berries, and floral subjects are woven into the stones. Under the chorus is hidden the crypt where the relics were preserved. The trails and avenues traced by the Monks can still be gone through and lead to wonderful tours.
Ancient Picenic and then Roman center, its history is largely documented in the Antiquarium and in the National Museum of Ancona. Attic vessels, necklaces, fire-arms, and all the precious things that were found in its necropolis - formed by almost nine hundred graves - are on display in the Antiquarium and "tell" all the evolutionary span of the Picenic civilization from the 7th century till the Roman age. The exhibition structure (Tel. 071/9330585) is open to the public in Via La Fenice 4, the entrance is free.
According to the tradition, the name Sirolo derives from "Sirio", a medieval condottiere. He was given the place where Belisareio built the castle after defeating the Goths in 560. Probably the area had already been settled during the Roman period and depended on the Municipality of Umana (today Numana). The small center, on the Conero slopes, shows unexceptionable medieval evidences and is lit by unique marine foreshortenings. It houses the offices of Consorzio Parco del Conero.
In Offagna, a small and wonderful medieval
municipality situated at a few kilometers from the Park area, the
Museum dedicated to the naturalist Luigi Paolucci has been recently inaugurated.
It consists of seven halls where it is possible to study fluvial, coastal, hilly, karstic, and mountain environments, together with the calcareous gorges.
All the Marches, including the Conero, are mentioned and illustrated.
Address: Via del Monastero 2, 60020 Offagna - Tel. and Fax 071/7107611 - 071/7107612