Conero Regional Park

This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)

This park is a protected natural area established in 1987 and which extends on the promontory of the same name, in the province of Ancona. It includes a stretch of coast and an internal hilly belt, with breath-taking views, a lot of history, and wonderful landscapes.
The park covers about 15.000 acres and extends over the territories of Ancona, Camerano, Numana, and Sirolo. Mount Conero, with its white coves of white stone, at 1.876 ft overlooking the Adriatic Sea, is a unique relief of its kind from Trieste to the Gargano. The eastern slopes on the sea are made of limestone cliffs, while the rest is dominated by vast Mediterranean plant formations and mixed woods.
It takes its name from an actual promontory overlooking the sea, called “Komars”, by the ancient Greeks and meaning “strawberry tree” (Arbutus unedo), a Mediterranean shrub that grows in abundance along the slopes of this mountain.

The park offers many walks in the woods, some specifically designed for children; very different natural environments include the wetlands for the migration of birds of prey and herons, enchanting beaches, several historical and artistic structures, such as the Watchtower and the Romanesque church of Santa Maria in the Portonovo bay, as well as many wineries and farms where visitors can taste and buy, for example, the precious “Rosso Conero” wine, honey, oil, and legumes locally produced.

The Beaches

Along the coast protected by the Park, there are many beautiful beaches including:

– Mezzavalle: reachable on foot, by a steep path north of Portonovo or by boat. The beach doesn’t have bathing facilities, but offers showers, several services, and a restaurant;

-Bay of Portonovo: featuring smooth white stones, with free or serviced areas; its is loved by surfers;

-Due Sorelle, in Sirolo: with the two sea stacks which are a true icon of the Conero Riviera. This is a wild and unspoiled beach, only accessible by the sea;

-Sassi Neri: very long and wild, made of stones and dark gravel, reachable on foot (only in the summer) or by car;

– Numana Alta: very nice, protected by cliffs, with bathing facilities;

-Numana Bassa and Marcelli: made of fine golden sand, equipped with bathing services, sports facilities, restaurants and bars;

For further details see the related sheet.

The presence of several disused quarries makes the park a testament to the geological heritage of the whole area and the entire stratigraphic succession of the Umbria-Marche Apennines. In the IV century, this used to be a landing place for the Greeks, who went up the southern coasts in search of cities to build; later, the Dorians arrived there, a population of Indo-European origin who invaded Greece from the north at the beginning of the first millennium B.C.; they settled here and named “Komaros” (“strawberry tree”) the promontory, and “Ancon” (“elbow”) the northern winding portion of the mountain.

At the highest point of the promontory, there’s the Church of Saint Peter with the remains of the monastic complex built shortly after the year 1000; inside the church, there are several Romanesque elements such as capitals decorated with floral or animal motifs.

Flora and Fauna

About 1000 botanical species grow in the park. On the coastal cliffs, there are the most precious species of the promontory: cade juniper (Juniperus oxycedrus), tree purge (Euphorbia dendroides), Mediterranean spurge (Euphorbia characias subsp. Wulfenii), Pliny’s reed (Arundo pliniana, which compete with the streams), wild cabbage (Brassica montana), Pistacia lentiscus x terebinthus, and hairy dewflower (Drosanthemum hispidum), last reported in the mid-XIX century and considered extinct perhaps also due to several landslides: it was reintroduced in autumn 2010.

In Portonuovo, there are some brackish lakes behind the dunes, the only ones in the region, with the typical flora of those environments: it includes endangered species such as Cladium Mariscus and common sowthistle, in addition to pondweed, marsh reed, sea rush, and prickly rush. Near the stagnant or slow-flowing waters around the Musone River, there is Baudot buttercup (found only in Puglia Region and on the major Italian islands), wild mint, needle spike rush, purple loosestrife, duckweed, common reed, and water celery.
Many endangered species live on the dunes of the beaches of Marcelli and in the area behind them, including knotweed, night-flowering catchfly, beach thistle, beach poppy, Timothy-grass, and sea spurge.

In the wooded areas of the promontory, the holm oak (Quercus ilex) is the predominant species, representing the original vegetation of the Conero, along with strawberry trees, Mediterranean buckthorn, laurustine, Phyllirea media, ashes, Lonicera implexa, and, in the warmer areas, evergreen roses and common smilax; in wetter areas, there is bay laurel (Laurus nobilis).
Moreover, several trees date back to the reforestations which started in the early XX century: they include Aleppo pines, atlas cedars and cypresses (especially on Mount Colombo, Larciano, on the coasts between Monte and Sirolo, around Poggio, and near the Musone River).

On the other hand, in the countryside there are more common plants, mostly in rows and hedges, including downy oaks, field elms, black poplars, and blackthorn; along the waterways, there are white willows, black poplars, and downy oaks; in the sea valleys of Pietralacroce, there are downy oaks, common smilax, evergreen roses (Rosa sempervirens), while on the shaded slopes, there is the black hornbeam (Ostrya carpinifolia).

Mammals species of Conero Park include badgers, foxes, skunks, hedgehogs, weasels, wolves, and, even if not native, wild boars and roe deers. Many reptiles and amphibians are present as well.
The Conero is also a place of migration for birds of prey like herons: it’s thus a popular destination also for birdwatching enthusiasts.

This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)


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