Passions & Places

Grotte degli Schiavi

The Cove of Slaves ... the stones of Conero Mountain

The building stone has its own very specific and well determined geologically genesis but, above all, it has a parallel history that coincides with the history of civilisation and, therefore, with the local art and architecture.

The ancient historical centres (nowadays is the homogeneity to prevail) used to reflect, in a peculiar and characteristic way, different from place to place, a perfect equilibrium among nature, history and art; this was possible thanks to the different uses made out of local stones, depending on the importance of the building, on the typology of the architectonic detail etc. The architectonic history of a city reflects the geologic and lithologic conditions of a very specific geographic area; the Conero District is an example of this, through the massive use of the one that has been and still is called the “Stone of Conero”.  A large use of Stone of Conero, especially in the smaller centres (more compelled to the use of local building materials for economic and traditional reasons), in the monumental architecture but, above all, in the smaller and most disseminated building, has created a peculiar landscape through the centuries.

The aggregate of Conero limestone is various: the whole of it is denominated “Pietra del Conero”. The aggregate consists of a geologic succession that goes from Cretaceous Sup. (Maiolica, white limestone, in large layers and characterised by very fine grain) to the Senoniano Sup. with reef limestone and pink limestone in deeply marked and thin layers. Last in the succession comes the soft limestone with its changeable fracture, rich of fossils and algae, known as white travertine. These materials easily reached Ancona through the sea, often worked in “soletti”, destined to be the base for ordinary masonry.

The stones quite often got very far beyond the area around the Conero; in fact they were often used also in the far Ducato of Urbino.

In the place called “Fonte dell’Olio”, near Sirolo, a limestone similar to the white one of Istria used to be extracted.  And thanks to these characteristics the Stone of Conero was competing with the most valuable materials used in various buildings in the city of Ancona, such as San Ciriaco Cathedral, Santa Maria della Piazza, the civil and religious buildings from the middle ages, the most recent facade of San Domenico (1788).  It is in the area of Conero that the stone assumed the feature of a landscape discriminating element (Santa Maria di Portonovo, San Pietro del Conero); used both in the realisation of structural elements like columns, walls or architrave, both in the ornamental elements like cornices and wainscots. Noteworthy are also the minor buildings in the villages and the country houses, especially the ones with less valuable quality materials (arenaceous or tufaceous). The homogeneity set up in the urban landscape by the use of concrete has “smoothed out” the local peculiarities, belonging to their own stones that today only conserve an ornamental function; but history is still impressed in the testimony that survived through the centuries, often ruined by the wounds of the time and the degradation caused by humans. The Conero still carries the signs of a recent civilisation bound to its Stone. Proceeding along the coast, from the beach of the Two Sisters, to the Cove of Slaves, the signs of a past characterised by an intense extractive activity of Conero limestone remain alive; old undercarriages and mine railroads, rusty and pulled up by landslides and sea storms, dull with their brownie colour among the white colour of the limestone.


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