The Dori founded the city of Ancona in 387 a.c.; they settled here because of the possibilities that the natural harbor offered. The coast forms an elbow, from which the name Ancona (Ankon, in Greek elbow), which offers a natural shelter from the sea. The gulf of Ancona was used even earlier by the Piceni, in the 3rd century BC, for trade with the Greeks. The Greek port does not exactly correspond to the current one, but according to the historiographic tradition, to the much smaller basin, occupied today by the shipbuilding area of the Naval Shipyard, part of the Cantieri Navali Riuniti - C.N.R. Of Fincantieri. Later, the Romans exploited its sheltered anchorage and was expanded thanks to the Emperor Trajan, who ordered the construction of the first section of the current North Pier. The stately ceremonial marble arch standing forlornly at the end of the docks marks his achievement; it was built by Apollodorus of Damascus in 100 AD. In the 9th century the Saracens damaged the harbor and raided the golden bronze statues on the Arch.
From the 11th century, during the free commune and the maritime republic, the harbor was rebuilt and fortified, comprising the part of the current port area from the Lantern to the rocks (today under the docks) underlying the Astagno hill. Medieval Ancona developed parallel to the port front, in the area between the Guasco hill, dominated by the Duomo of San Ciriaco, and the Astagno hill, dominated by the convent and the Church of San Francesco Alto, where was Porta Capodimonte, the main access road to the city.
Between the 13th and the 14th centuries, Ancona and Ragusa were among the most important ports of the Adriatic Sea, second only to Venice. In the following centuries, with the discovery of America and the shift of traffic from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic Sea , the port fell into decline.
There was a revival in 1732, when Pope Clement XII granted the city the free port and financed the works of expansion and renovation of the port, with three important works: the Clementine Pier, extension of the ancient pier of Trajan; a new lazzaretto, on a large artificial island specially made; a new gateway to the city from the harbor: the Clementine Arch. These works were commissioned by the Pope to architect Luigi Vanvitelli.
The pedestrian path
of the ancient port starts at Porta S. Primiano and can easily be reached on foot from Lungomare Vanvitelli, across the pedestrian bridge over the digs of the Roman harbor.
The red tattoo drawn on the street cover provides a travel indication: the visitor is invited to follow a path marked by the most significant stages of Ancona's history, from the historic walls to the ruins of the Roman harbour, from the Trajan Arch to the Clementine Arch, until the Lantern. Also an extraordinary and unique work of art has been placed in the ancient port area: the fountain by Enzo Cucchi, the only one which has ever been created by him for an harbour. He comes from the Marche and he’s become an internationally famous artist starting from the ’80 as one of the most visionary artists of the Transavantgarde art movement. It represents the symbols of Ancona: water and the main historical monuments. It’s a work of art which binds the present and the past with the future.