Sirolo, Seaside Treasure of the Marches Region
“Center of the Adriatic, center of Italy, center of the heart,” reads a brochure at the Sirolo Tourist Office. Sirolo certainly has a place in our hearts. When we have a free summer weekend, Pino and I often set out on his moto Guzzi heading through the mountainous Marche region to Sirolo, “la Riviera dell’Adriatico”, as Italians call this rocky stretch of seacoast, just south of Ancona.
The pleasures are many. The sea, first of all: jagged limestone cliffs plunge to the sea below the town of Sirolo, framing peaceful bays of acquamarine blue waters. The beach called “San Michele” has become our favorite: a walk down to the water via a winding road in the midst of a pine forest leads to a white-sand beach with just three rows of beach chairs and umbrellas, rentable from the one little snack/bar kiosk on this beach.
I have wondered about the naming of this beach after Saint Michael (Archangel): there must be a grotto in those seaside cliffs somewhere as legend says that S. Michele Arcangelo appeared in a grotto in the fifth century – along the same sea, but farther south, in the region of Puglia. Many an Italian grotto-chapel is named after him. I like to imagine that maybe a fisherman on the Sirolo coast gave thanks to the Saint in a seaside grotto after making it home safely in a storm…
Halfway down the road to the San Michele beach is one of the best restaurants on the Sirolo coastline, Ristorante Silvio where Iranian owner (once cook for the former owner, Silvio), Mansur, and his staff recently served us seafood wonders as we chatted. The only distraction: the enticing seaviews below us. Our waitress at lunch, Martina, was actually the only Italian of the thirty employees: all the others are immigrants, “our new Italians”.
A seafood lunch and a relaxing afternoon at the beach below are always followed by a pre-dinner stroll through Sirolo. Once the thirteenth-century fiefdom of a count, Sirolo still preserves medieval traces: remnants of the medieval walls, a fortified guard tower and the twisty streets characteristic of medieval defensive urban planning (can’t shoot a crossbow around a curve!). The white limestone homes and pastel stuccoed homes of Sirolo are accented by color: blue doors, red and bright green shutters, fuchsia petunias in overlowing windowboxes and colorful hanging wash all give chromatic splashes to backstreets.
Tempting antipastos (hors d’ouvres) are laid out on café countertops as sunset settles on the seaside, enticing vacationers to relax with a pre-dinner prosecco. At times, the antipasto spreads end up being dinners in themselves! As day gives up to nightfall, the muted conversations of diners at the Sirolo backstreet restaurants mingles with the chatter of local children riding their bikes and kicking soccer balls in this seaside haven.