With its white cliffs, blanched pebble beaches, thick protected forests and easy-going resorts, the Conero Riviera to the south of Ancona is the northern Adriatic’s most spectacular and enjoyable stretch of coastline. This tranquil holiday paradise is centred around Monte Conero, which plunges straight into the sea from an altitude of 572m. The area is easily accessible, with the seaside villages of Portonovo, Sirolo and Numana all linked by bus from Ancona. Sirolo and Numana are now as crowded in July and August as the rest of the Adriatic resorts, the main difference being that their cliff-backed beaches are more picturesque. The most stunning stretch of coast, a series of tiny coves at the base of Monte Conero between Portonovo and Sirolo, is best explored by boat – they leave from both bays. You can go just for the scenery or ask to be dropped off somewhere along the way and be picked up a few hours later.
This stretch of coast is the home of Rosso Conero wine, made from the same Montepulciano grape as Chianti, though less well known than its Tuscan counterpart and rarely found outside Italy. There’s a chance to sample it at the Rosso Conero festival (w festadelrossoconero.it) at Camerano, 8km inland from Monte Conero, in the first week of September.