Visit The Unforgettable Coastal Destination In Europe Known As The City Of Turtles

In the heart of the Le Marche region on the Adriatic coast lies Numana, a hidden gem of Italy that offers far more than just delicious pasta and lovely beaches. Having been an ancient Piceni settlement before becoming a Roman dominion, the city boasts a rich historical tapestry that's captured in its archaeological museums and colorful local legends. One is that Numana's mythological founder, a winged and snake-like Picenis Queen, hurled fireballs at a coastal forest, burning a space for the nascent town. 

In addition, the area's location away from major tourist hubs like Rome, Venice, and Florence makes it an ideal destination for those looking to discover underrated parts of Italy. What sets Numana apart from other Italian coastal towns, though, is not its landscapes or history. It's that it's known as Citta delle Tartarughe or the "City of Turtles." This unique title piques the curiosity of many visitors, inspiring them to discover the fascinating connection between this place and these gentle marine animals.

Turtle conservation in Numana

The moniker "City of Turtles" isn't just a whimsical title; it's a testament to Numana's deep-seated commitment to protecting the loggerhead sea turtles that feed along its shores. Unsurprisingly, Numanans have become captivated with these endearing leathery beings, which return to the beaches where they hatched every two to three years. Sadly, the animals' numbers are dwindling, as they face threats from habitat loss, pollution, fishing, and other human activities. To provide sick and injured turtles with a safe place to recover, conservationists in Numana founded a sea turtle sanctuary, Citta delle Tartarughe, in partnership with the Cetacea Foundation in the nearby city of Riccione. At the sanctuary, the animals can feed in a netted, supervised section of deep water while they heal and regain strength.

In special celebrations known as Turtle Days, the sanctuary releases the rehabilitated turtles back into the wild. During these moving events, which happen several times during the summer, spectators gather at the beach to witness the animals swimming off into the sea. For visitors interested in marine biology and conservation, this is an inspiring and educational way to spend an afternoon.

Numana beyond its turtles

Numana's fondness for sea creatures is certainly one of its defining characteristics, but the area offers so much more. First, as the turtles can attest, the region boasts an incredible string of beaches. The Spiaggiola and Del Frate beaches, reachable by a short walk from Numana's center, are nestled in secluded coves with crystal-clear, calm waters, perfect for swimming and soaking in the sun. In the nearby town of Sirolo, the rugged, cliffside Due Sorrelle Beach is considered one of the most beautiful stretches of sand in all of Italy. For nature lovers, the Conero Regional Park is only an 8-mile drive from Numana. Along with its stunning coastline and beaches, the park features 18 breathtaking hikes through forests and along cliffs overlooking the sea. On trail 301B, hikers have the opportunity to see pre-Roman stone artifacts.

The town of Numana itself is also worth exploring. Its historical center is a treasure trove of colorful houses lining narrow cobblestone streets that ooze charm and character. The antiquarium offers a glimpse into the town's past, showcasing artifacts from the Piceni to the Roman periods. During your wanderings, stop occasionally to refuel at local restaurants and beachside bars. Some local specialties not to miss are deep-fried olives and other vegetables, brodetto (fish stew), chickpea soup, and a glass of sublime Verdicchio, "one of Italy's greatest white wines" according to Forbes.