Senigallia is a charming seaside town on the Adriatic coast at the mouth of the Misa river north of Ancona. The waters of the sea here are splendid and the sandy beaches are embellished by the famous rotunda on the sea, while on the internal hilly countryside excellent varieties of DOC wines are produced.
Its history is very ancient and a legend tells that it was founded by Brenno, the leader of the Senoni Gauls, during his march to Rome which he conquered in 390 BC. The name Senigallia would arise precisely from this story.
The city had a strategic position on a small hill at a ford of the Misa river and in 284 BC. became the important Roman colony of Sena Gallica. Nearby, on the Metauro river, the most important battle took place between the Romans and the Carthaginians during the second Punic war.
The whole region became part of the Regio VI Umbria et Ager Gallicus and a first watchtower and defensive fort was built.
After centuries of peace, the fall of the Roman empire led to the division of the empire into two and the arrival of barbarians. The eastern Roman Empire of Byzantium made an attempt to reconquer Italy and Senigallia became part of the Byzantine territories of the Exarchate of Ravenna.
In the meantime, the Catholic church had been administratively organized into bishoprics and Senigallia was one of the first bishoprics. Eventually, after the 19th century, thanks to the Franks and the agreement with the Church, the Papal States were born.
The territory of Senigallia was conquered by Manfredi di Sicilia (his father was the great Federico II born in nearby Jesi) who demolished the city walls. With the Swabians began the great clash between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines, that is, between the papacy and the empire, for the control of the territory.
After the papal period in France, in Avignon, Cardinal Albornoz began a major refurbishment work on the territories of the Papal States and built a first defensive fort on the sea, which included the Roman tower, and began the reclamation of the swamps that had formed in the Middle Ages over an ancient salt pan.
In 1379, the Malatesta family from Rimini became the lords of Senigallia and led to a revival of the city. Sigismondo Malatesta completed the reclamation of the salt pans, started the construction of a real defensive fort and built the city walls.
The urban design of Senigallia took up the Roman model and the city was repopulated thanks to tax relief and the Maddalena Fair. Among the new arrivals of this rebirth was also a Jewish community that helped develop trade.
The Malatesta works, and their continuous battles with the Montefeltro for the conquest of the territories, impoverished the family and in 1462 Pope Pius II entrusted Senigallia to his favorite nephew Antonio Piccolomini.
The arrival on the papal throne of Pope Sixtus IV della Rovere changed fortunes and in 1474 Giovanni della Rovere arrived, nephew of the new pope, who became Duke of Senigallia. With him the city was reborn, the streets were bricked, the fortress took on the elegant aspect that still characterizes it and the convent with the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie was built.
The duke then married the daughter of Federico III da Montefeltro, the famous duke of nearby Urbino, who however died young at only 27 years old. From their marriage Francesco Maria was born who became Duke of Urbino and Lord of Senigallia and the Della Rovere dynasty ruled the whole area until 1631.
There was only one interruption in the city government when Pope Alexander IV Borgia climbed the papal throne and gave all the lands to his son Cesare, called Valentino. The history, the ruthlessness and the violence with which Cesare Borgia attempted to subdue his rivals, to get to the conquest of Bologna, inspired the book ‘Il Principe’ by Macchiavelli.
And here in Senigallia one of the bloodiest episodes took place, known as the ‘Senigallia massacre’ when in the beginning of 1503 Cesare Borgia deceived his rivals into coming to a dinner and had them killed.
The death of Pope Borgia and the ascent to the papal throne of Pope Julius II Della Rovere returned Senigallia to the Della Rovere family
But the union with Urbino and the transfer of the court led the fortress of Senigallia to lose its use as a residence and it became a prison, and then a hospital, and it would remain so for a long time until the 1960s when it was decided to make it available to the cultural growth of the city. Today it houses the Museum of the Marche and rooms for exhibitions.
In 1631, the Della Rovere family became extinct and Senigallia became a direct possession of the Church becoming more and even more a commercial centre, thanks to the Fiera della Maddalena, where customs taxes were not paid.
As a result of this market, Senigallia expanded and hosted 14 foreign consulates, from various Mediterranean countries, who were established to protect merchants of different nationalities. The prestige brought palaces and urban arrangements, but the attention diminished with the arrival of Napoleon and the commercial activities moved more and more towards the Indian and Atlantic routes.
In 1828, to reinvigorate the city, the construction of the La Fenice theatre was started, which gave performances especially during the fair, encouraging the markets to increase their stay. This created the spirit of hospitality and interest in tourism that would characterize Senigallia’s life up to the present day.
In 1846, Giovanni Mastai Ferretti born in Senigallia became pope with the name of Pius IX and he would also be the last ‘pope king’, or sovereign of the Papal States.
With the unification of Italy, Senigallia lost its fair but immediately converted into one of the first tourist cities and the first bathhouse dates back to 1853. In the following years, the La Fenice theatre was enlarged and its stage was so large that it rivaled that of the Scala in Milan.
In 1928, the first Autonomous Hospitality and Care Company of Italy (Azienda Autonoma di Soggiorno e Cura d’Italia) was opened in Senigallia, a record it shares with Cortina d’Ampezzo, and in 1933 the famous Rotonda sul Mare was built.
The 1930 earthquake brought much destruction and the city was rebuilt by changing the style of the buildings and often also their layout. Among the new districts was also that of the Art Nouveau or floral villas near the coast.
After the war, in the 1960s, Senigallia became one of the main Italian seaside resorts rivalling Rimini. This is a role that it still plays thanks to continuous regenerations and renovations.
The territory of Senigallia is also very famous for the cultivation of vines and the production of excellent wines such as Castelli di Jesi Verdicchio Riserva DOCG, Lacrima di Morro d’Alba DOC, Rosso Piceno DOC, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC and Esino DOC.