You've likely heard of the Italian Riviera, which stretches into Italy past Monaco; and the Amalfi Coast, which includes famous hotspots such as Capri, Sorrento and Positano. And you definitely know about the gorgeous hilltop towns and vineyards of Tuscany and Umbria. All these regions are accessible while onboard a cruise to Italy.
But chances are, you've never heard of Riveria del Conero on the Adriatic Sea, anchored by Ancona. Or Italy's Marche region, which also has medieval towns, Roman ruins, local cuisine and wine, and fabulous scenery. Both have remained off the main tourist path, yet have plenty to offer, particularly if you've already been to Italy several times.
The largest city in Marche, Ancona has a long history as a port. Founded by the Greeks in 387 BC, it was an important holding by the Romans and Byzantine Empire and had enough strength to become its own maritime republic before becoming a Papal State. It was also an important Italian base in World War I and World War II.
Today, Ancona is still a busy seaport, with ferries leaving regularly for Greece and Croatia (which are within sight distance). It's a port stop for smaller cruise ships from lines such as Regent Seven Seas and Oceania Cruises; other lines such as Princess might do one-off stops, too. Mediterranean cruise line MSC uses Ancona as an embarkation port, while many cruise ships get their start here -- literally -- as Italian shipbuilding powerhouse Fincantieri has a shipyard in the region.
While Ancona itself doesn't look too pretty at first glance, it's the perfect jumping-off point to explore the medieval town of Urbino, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that's the birthplace of the artist Raphael; the natural beaches of Riviera del Conero; or nearby cities such as Assisi, Jesi or Loreto, a pilgrimage city. Or, you can just stay in town and do a walking tour of the local cathedral (which has mummified relics) and piazza, where the traditional pleasures of gelato, espresso or an Aperol spritz are close at hand.