Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Swimming in Italy
There are many places to swim in Italy: the Mediterranean off the west coast, the Adriatic off the east coast, fresh water lakes, private and public swimming pools. This page concerns swimming in the Mediterranean, but I am sure the practices are the same for lake and Adriatic swimming.
We have been swimming in the coastal areas of Tuscany and Liguria several times. The Mediterranean is very salty and frequently cold. The water is clean and clear. These make for wonderful swimming conditions. You will find a few sandy beaches along the Mediterranean coast, but many are rocky. The rocky swimming areas are still good because platforms and ladders are built into the rock.
Italy can be very hot and humid in the summer, so swimming can be an essential part of your trip. We have been swimming in the Mediterranean as early as June and as late as September in Tuscany and Liguria. I think you can swim earlier and later further south in the Amalfi area and Sicily.
In Italy there are three ways to go swimming in the sea:
See the travel notes section for a list of places that we know about for swimming.
Italy is full of private beach areas, where you pay to go in. You will see these bathing establishments lined up along the coast in the famous seaside resort areas like Viareggio and Forte dei Marmi on the northern Tuscany coast. You pay at the entrance gate and you get to use the changing rooms, keep your clothes in a locker, get an assigned chair or lounger on the beach, and get an umbrella (extra charge). In our experience, they do not provide towels. There is usually a bar or a restaurant of some type where you can get food and drink.
Eco del Mare, Fiascherino
We went to one of these pay bathing establishments in southern Liguria in June 2000. The place was recommended to us by the owner of our vacation rental. Judy had not been there in years and had forgotten how expensive it was.
Eco del Mare is on the road from Lerici to Tellaro at the small town of Fiascherino. We saw the sign and pulled over into the parking area. (Actually, it is narrow and winding road that goes along the hillside above the coast and everyone drives fast, so we flew by it, saw the sign as we passed, and did a u-turn farther on, once we had shaken the driver behind us from our bumper.) We asked the parking lot attendant about the swimming. He said it was a very good beach and told us the price - 37,000 lire per person (about $18 each)! We were shocked! The parking attendant said it was "molto esclusivo", that was why it was so expensive. Well, that convinced us! We went. There was a free beach just down the road, but there was very little parking and you had to climb down a high and steep cliff to get to the beach. This pay beach had an elevator!
The green ticket shown below is the main entrance fee: 37,000 per person for use of the elevator, a changing room, a place to store your clothes and a beach lounger. It would have been 5,000 less for a chair instead of a lounger. Then a separate yellow ticket for an umbrella, 11,000 lire. For a grand total of 85,000 lire for the two of us ($43). And don't forget parking at 5,000 lire. You can stay all day for this price. If you are arriving late in the day, and just want a quick swim (as we did on one trip to the Cinque Terre), you can bargain for a cheaper price.
You pay at the entrance to the beach area. They give you your tickets. Then you go into the changing rooms and put on your bathing suit. We travel with a beach bag and load into it our towels, books and a bottle of water. You will also need beach shoes - sandals or flip flops. We just buy some cheap ones when we are there and leave them behind when we leave. Some places will give you a locker number and key and you store your clothes there. This place gave you this strange cloth bag attached to a big metal hangar. You hang your clothes on the hangar and put your shoes in the bag. We kept our wallets with us.
Now you are ready for the beach! You wander out to the beach area and the attendant will usually come up to you. He takes your tickets and brings you to a set of beach loungers. He straightens them up (this is the molto esclusivo part I think), then brings your umbrella and sets it up.
The row that you are placed in is very important. In the wonderful Tim Park's book "Carra Massimina" (republished in the US as "Juggling Stars"), the main character is thrilled when they go to the beach at Rimini (on the Adriatic coast of the Emilia-Romagna region) and are placed in the second row. The second row!
Well it was early in the swimming season at Eco del Mare and we were placed in the first row - it was the only row occupied. We went swimming here two days in a row. The first time I was lying on my lounger examining the tiny colored stones that made up the beach. I brought a handful home. The next day we went back and the stone beach was covered with several inches of sand. They must have brought it in by barge because there is no road - just the elevator and a staircase. The sand was nice because the stones burned your feet. Very nice! The water was lovely. It was a small beach in a sheltered cove. The water got deep a few feet out and you could do some good swimming. It was also shallow enough by the shore for the kids to play.
We have never used a free beach, but have looked at several of them from the road. The parking is usually not organized and if it is an area where the road is high up on the cliff, you may have a long walk down.
In Levanto, the free beach is beside the pay beach. You can see the difference in this photo. The large section with the rows of chairs and umbrellas is the pay section; the part before that is the free section. The beach is not as wide there.
Beach in Levanto, Liguria
The pay areas get the prime beach area and the free area is off to the side. In the free beach, people are not lined up in neat rows.
During hot spells we sometimes take a night away from our inland vacation rental and spend the night in the Hotel Torre di Calla Piccola on the western edge of Monte Argentario in the southern most, coastal area of Tuscany. The hotel is perched on the top of a cliff, but has a private beach down below that you can drive to. The sheltered cove makes the water good for swimming; no rough waves.
Private "beach" at Hotel Torre di Calla Piccola
In June 2000, we rented an apartment in a holiday village near the hotel, but we didn't like it nearly as much as we liked staying in the hotel. First, the apartment (rented from Invitation to Tuscany) was a wreck. Second, the beach area was not good. It frequently had a sort of scum over a large part of it. Most people just used the pool. The Torre di Calla Piccola rents rooms with kitchens by the week in the high season.
On our first trip to Italy in 1988, we spent a week in an apartment in the hotel. We had been in Florence and the American Express office there recommended the hotel. In 1988 we were the only Americans. We didn't have a car, which you really need in this location, but managed by walking the six miles to Porto Santo Stefano and taking a taxi back. The hotel also arrange the delivery of some groceries. Every day we walked the long steep road down to the water and spent hours swimming. Now, when we go there, we have a car and just drive down. They have plenty of parking down there.
Read Valerie's advice in A day at the beach in Italy.
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