SAND­CAS­TLES AND GE­LATO

When the kids tire of Italy’s mu­se­ums and mon­u­ments, take them to a beach, urges Chris Madi­gan

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Family Holidays -

GIVEN that Italy is a penin­sula with more than 7500km of coast­line, it is one of the most un­der­rated des­ti­na­tions for a beach hol­i­day in Europe. Per­haps peo­ple are too busy ad­mir­ing its na­ture, cul­ture, food and peo­ple. But don’t miss out on the spi­agge . This correspondent, for one, has fond child­hood mem­o­ries of the long beach at Finale Lig­ure, in Lig­uria, with its dra­matic back­drop of the coastal Alps.

Many of Italy’s strands are pri­vately owned. For a rea­son­able pay­ment, you can have ac­cess to a stretch of beach that is reg­u­larly cleaned, is not crowded due to num­ber re­stric­tions, has a shaded cafe area, chang­ing cab­ins, deckchairs and para­sols. We would ar­rive along the red-tiled es­planade, change in a tra­di­tional wooden cabina and run down to play with the Ital­ian kids. The favourite game in­volved (and still does) a race, flick­ing plas­tic balls with pic­tures of soc­cer play­ers inside (Mal­dini, then as now) around a track dug into the sand.

We’d dive through the waves of the Mediter­ranean to swim to the float­ing div­ing plat­form some way out and, af­ter re­turn­ing, de­mand an ice cream (one with a face on it) from our par­ents, who’d been read­ing Robert Lud­lum and sip­ping Cam­pari and soda.

Where there are private beaches in Italy, there are also pub­lic beaches. While they don’t have the fa­cil­i­ties of the private ones, many are just as pleas­ant to lie on and swim from. Italy’s 216 blue flag-cer­ti­fied beaches — the mea­sure of clean­li­ness, en­vi­ron­men­tal man­age­ment, safety and ser­vices — is the fourth-high­est to­tal in the world.

And they stretch from the north to the south of the coun­try, not for­get­ting the is­lands. Sar­dinia: One of th­ese, and free with it, is the Reina Bianca beach at Santa Teresa Gal­lura, on the north­ern coast of Sar­dinia, at the edge of the fa­mous play­ground of the ul­tra-rich and chic, Costa Smeralda, where a hard day’s loung­ing on the beach is re­warded with great bars, restau­rants and night­clubs. Sar­dinia’s beaches also ben­e­fit from views of sail­ing boats on the Mediter­ranean, while the scent of maquis herbs drifts across the sand. Hot spot: Agri­t­ur­ismo Ca’La So­mara, in­land from Costa Smeralda. www.cala­so­mara.it. Cal­abria: An­other part of Italy famed for its wild in­te­rior — pine forests, brush and even prickly pear cac­tus — is Cal­abria. It’s also known for its two coasts. This penin­sula has beaches on the Io­nian and Tyrrhe­nian seas. On the sole of the Cal­abrian foot is Catan­zaro, where the plain of Sila gives way to the sea with a fringe of sand that has been a place to re­lax from as long ago as the Magna Grae­cia em­pire. Mean­while, on the north side, beaches are lo­cated be­low dra­matic cliffs, from Tro­pea to Scilla, with Capo Vat­i­cano the most dra­matic of all. In­deed, at Tro­pea, beaches are be­low the vil­lage, which is built into the cliff. It is an im­pres­sive sight. Hot spot: La Bus­sola restau­rant, Tro­pea, fa­mous for its Cal­abrian spe­cial­i­ties. www.al­ber­gob­us­sola.com. Basil­i­cata: If you like your beaches with a bit of drama, an un­der-vis­ited re­gion of Italy is Basil­i­cata. This buf­fer be­tween Cal­abria and Puglia also has two coasts. Its Io­nian coast stretches from Me­taponto, which is well known for its arche­o­log­i­cal sites. How­ever, more at­trac­tive is its Tyrrhe­nian fringe. A mere 25km long, it still squeezes in a num­ber of black sand beaches be­neath the hill on which the town of Maratea sits, it­self dom­i­nated by a huge statue of Je­sus on an­other hill. Hot spot: Il Giardino di Epi­curo, a rus­tic lo­cal restau­rant serv­ing re­gional fare. Amalfi Coast: Black sand is an ac­quired taste (thongs are a must, as it ab­sorbs the heat more than the yel­low variety). How­ever, there are clearly plenty of fans, be­cause black sand cov­ers the beaches of ar­guably Italy’s most de­sir­able stretch of wa­ter­front, the Amalfi Coast. Per­haps devo­tees know how clean the wa­ter is off Posi­tano and the is­land of Capri. Or per­haps they sim­ply adore the beau­ti­ful homes and cosy coves that are tucked un­der green hills. Hot spot: La Sirenuse Ho­tel, Posi­tano, a for­mer palazzo, where John Stein­beck stayed. www.sirenuse.it. Sper­longa: If you pre­fer more open beaches, with yel­low sand, north of Naples (and south of Rome) is Sper­longa. It is a town best known for its col­lec­tion of Ro­man stat­u­ary, and fun to ex­plore, and it’s a pop­u­lar spot to es­cape the heat of the main south­ern cities. Hot spot: Il Fortino www.il­fortino.com. Emilia Ro­magna: There are many Ital­ian cities you don’t have to leave to get to a beach, pro­vid­ing hol­i­day­mak­ers with a city break plus sun­bathing. Ravenna and Ri­mini, on the Adri­atic coast in Emilia Ro­magna, are two such spots. The lat­ter is like Nice, with its prom­e­nade fronting a wide beach. Ravenna, which is well known for its beau­ti­ful cathe­dral, is 22km from Ma­rina di Ravenna; here the beaches are peace­ful and set in con­ser­va­tion zones. For the full green ef­fect, there is a cy­cle path that leads from the city cen­tre to the beaches. Hot spot: Car­ducci 76, Cat­tolica near Ri­mini, is a ho­tel de­signed by Al­berta Fer­retti, whose brother is the owner. www.car­ducci76.it.

beach

night­club. Venice: No round-up of Italy’s best beaches would be com­plete with­out men­tion of one that many of us have seen on screen. Venice’s Lido di Jesolo is where Dirk Bog­a­rde’s char­ac­ter Gus­tav von Aschen­bach, who is dy­ing of cholera, moons over the young Tadzio in Death in Venice . Fear not: this is an­other of Italy’s blue-flag, and you might say, blue-chip beaches. Hot spots: Ca’Pisani Ho­tel and Peggy Guggen­heim Col­lec­tion art gallery. www.capis ani­ho­tel.it; www.Guggen­heim-venice.it. The Daily Tele­graph, Lon­don

Pic­ture above: Photolibrary

Sea­side spec­ta­cle: The town of Posi­tano, on Italy’s famed Amalfi Coast, is a pop­u­lar get­away des­ti­na­tion, main pic­ture; ge­lato is a beach hol­i­day sta­ple, right

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