Posts Tagged With: san marino

Part 1: Getting the beautiful air in Bellaria Igea Marina…

Buongiorno a tutti!

I had a wonderful few days in Bellaria Igea Marina on the Blog Tour last week. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a packed schedule. I stayed in the lovely “San Salvador Hotel”, a 3 star hotel just a minute’s walk from the beach.  The tour included tours of Rimini and Santarcangelo di Romagna, not to mention Bellaria Igea Marina itself. We had cooking lessons, we tried our hand at paddle-boarding, we harvested some vegetables (well, mainly flowers in fact!), we cycled and we danced… All in all, it was a busy week.  So as not to overload you with photos and blurb, I’ll split it into parts!

Firstly, the disclaimer: I do love Blog Tours – they’re like little all-expenses paid holidays where you’re fed and entertained for the duration. Their purpose is to promote the area. However, I’m not obliged by any means to write a good review. That being said, I do really like Bellaria Igea Marina and I think it’s definitely a worthwhile holiday destination. Yet, for us English folk and in fact, probably for many other nationalities, Italy as a beach destination offers a very different kind of holiday to that which we’re used to. Indeed, sadly, there aren’t many English people that visit. With that in mind, I don’t feel like I can properly sell the merits of Bellaria Igea Marina without explaining a bit about the Italian beach culture first.

Why choose Italy as a beach destination in the first place?

We English folk do like our beach destinations. What could be more relaxing that lying back in a little cove or bay, with golden sand and nothing and nobody around for miles? Bliss! The reality of course is that unless you fit within some very specific age ranges (or you’re me), there’s inevitably children or old people in tow that require 24/7 entertainment and relentless toilet trips. Nobody takes a beach umbrella on holiday (hardly worth buying one anyway in the UK is it?) so the true Brit will burn to a crisp within the first hour and spend the rest of the holiday bright red and in pain. There will always be an annoying and stubborn pebbly lump under our towels and if it’s a sandy beach; you, your towel and all your belongings will be covered in the stuff within a couple of minutes.

Italians love beaches too but they do them completely differently. On the face of it, they seem to ruin their beaches by piling them with back to back umbrellas and sunbeds. There are bars every couple of meters, volleyball courts, boules, ping pong tables and pop up market stalls on the beach selling everything from towels and sarongs to sunglasses. There are people that take your children away and entertain them (not in a sinister way I should add!). There are even people that take your bikini clad older people away and make them do “aerobics” (I use the term loosely –uncoordinated joint jiggling? Sadly I was unable to obtain photographic evidence without being obvious. You’ll just have to use your imaginations).

Bellaria (10 of 66)

One of the market stalls looking like it might get rained on soon. It was a wet few days on the whole so my photos all look a bit moody!

Bellaria (8 of 66)

On the right is what I think must be “boules”. This is where the elders seem to hang out!

Italy have commercialised their beaches like nowhere else I’ve ever been to. But the thing is, they’ve made it much more relaxing as a result! It takes a while to get used to and in fact, I was scathing for a long time until I realised that actually, it’s nice to spend time at the beach and drink water without fear of not finding a toilet later. It’s nice to be able to buy something to eat or drink. Or relax on a sunbed and not be burnt to a crisp or covered from head to toe with sand within two seconds of applying sun lotion. Or buy sunglasses because I’ve left mine at home. Women of all ages and shapes parade up and down the beach-front in their bikinis and men do the same in minuscule “slips” (“budgie-smugglers” for the rest of us) and nobody cares! To be honest, I think Italy is a worthwhile holiday destination for that alone! It’s a very liberating experience.  Visiting Italian beaches should be used in therapy. Deep seated paranoia about cellulite or batwings just falls away when you’re just one of a million other people who just seem to be content with what they’ve got, whether that be a “beach body” or a stomach that flops over your knees. In fact, covering up just draws more attention to yourself – you’re sort of forced into being body-confident.

Italians often visit the same “bagno” or “stabilimento” (little patch of sunbeds) every year for a life time. Their parents went, their children will go, and their children’s children will go. It’s a family tradition that seems to be passed down from generations and it brings not only the family together but all the people you’ve grown up with who have the same tradition. If I visit the same place more than once, I feel very guilty – I don’t want to miss out on the rest of the world but actually, what the Italians are gaining by having this tradition and culture is much more important in my opinion: friendship and family, and having a lot of fun whilst they’re at it.

And why come to Bellaria Igea Marina?

For a start, the clue is in the name – Bellaria means Beautiful Air! The beach is golden, sandy and clean. In fact, in the morning someone rakes the beach to clear it of debris. Rock barriers stretch along the coast a few dozen meters from the beach to protect it from large waves. The water is shallow for a long way out making it ideal for children. When I arrived on Wednesday morning it was brilliant sunshine and the water was almost at the temperature I might have a bath!

Bellaria (50 of 66)

See the rock barriers… it’s shallow pretty much all the way out!

Bellaria (51 of 66)

They put a lot of effort into their beach cleaning. Someone comes each morning to rake debris into piles and then this tractor and lorry combo come along to pick it up!

There are plenty of “bagni” to take advantage of – for a few euros you can take advantage of the sunbeds, umbrellas, toilets etc. Here are some photos of the beach…

Bellaria (11 of 66)

The advantage of such a busy beach is that there are lots of well-equipped lifeguards!

Bellaria (52 of 66)

Two ladies having a morning stroll along the beach front. Later on, the beach front becomes a positive super highway of people doing the same!

Bellaria (30 of 66)

As you can see, the beach is well used!

Bellaria (31 of 66)

And taken from the other side.

Bellaria (54 of 66)

This is what I think of as party pier! Boat trips go from the end of it. When I arrived they were on a loud speaker and sounding like they were having a great time!

For anyone liking seafood, Bellaria is THE place to come to for clam hunting. In the morning, the sea is filled with people wandering around knee deep searching for them.

Bellaria (53 of 66)

One clam picker

Bellaria (55 of 66)

This photo is admittedly not a fair representation of the sea being “filled” with clam collectors but I speak the truth, honestly!

And still on the beach theme, you can rent pedalos, canoes and my new personal favourite, paddleboards! They call it SUP here, pronounced “soup”  (apparently it’s an acronym of Stand Up Paddle). Paddleboarding is amazing fun – it was part of the tour so we all gave it a go. I’ve always considered it a sort of surfing for wimps. You have what looks like massive surfboard, and then you stand up on it and paddle your way out using a long oar like you’re a gondolier. It seemed a very ineffective and unstable means of transport and lacks the excitement of catching a wave like in surfing… Oh how wrong I was! It was hilarious! Trying to stand up on this thing is nigh on impossible. You have to make constant little adjustments to your balance in order to remain above water and it uses EVERY muscle! So, it’s actually an amazing workout and I can imagine it must be relaxing when you’ve mastered it and  you’re not in constant peril of falling in.

IMG-20160610-WA0031

Here’s one of our member having a go with Fabio, our instructor, providing moral support.

Bellaria Igea Marina is flat and with large tree-lined roads, it makes for ideal cycling. In fact, everyone seems to cycle everywhere! Our hotel, the San Salvador Hotel, offered the use of bikes and our first afternoon consisted of a cycle tour of the area.

Bellaria (3 of 28)

This was my bike. I loved it! THIS is how bikes should be. Baskets, a saddle bag area, comfortable sitting position, no complicated gear changing (there weren’t any to change!!!).  Alas, it’s a bit difficult to go up hills!

Bellaria (9 of 66)

Lovely tree lined streets pave the way for cycling.

One of our first stops was the La Torre Saracena, one of six towers built in the 17th century to defend the town from pirates and other ‘baddies’. Only two towers exist these days and one is now a private residence so it’s good this one is kept open to the public. Now it’s home to “Il Museo delle Conchiglie”, a shell museum where you can see shells from around the world.

Our next stop was “La Casa Rossa di Alfredo Panzini” (The Red House of Alfredo Panzini). Alfredo was a writer, born in 1863 and who died in 1939. He’s well-known in Italy, although I admit, I hadn’t heard of him before. He was a keen cyclist and once cycled from Milan to Bellaria (well over 300km), meeting people, stopping here and there and writing about his experiences. He bought the Red House in 1909 with his wife, Clelia Gabrielli who was an artist (all the paintings in the house are hers). The house has now been turned into a museum. You can see where Alfredo used to write, his desk, his bike, some of his notes and lots of photos.

On a less cultural note there are some good shopping streets selling all manner of things and wandering around makes for a pleasant evening stroll.

Just a few minutes walk from the hotel is Gelso Park which is a large green park with a lake, playgrounds, a dinosaur area (seriously) and large trees that grow blackberries (in fact, that’s where the park gets its name – Gelso is the name of the blackberry tree).

Bellaria (11 of 28)

These are some of my fellow bloggers taking a blackberry break! You might just be able to see one of our members up the tree.

Bellaria (10 of 28)

Beautiful lake at the park.

The area was affected quite heavily by the war – or at least Rimini was. Our 14 year old Bellaria Igea Marina enthusiast cycle guide showed us one of the last remaining reminders of the war – a bomb shelter hidden behind a fence and sunken into the sand.

So that’s Bellaria Igea Marina itself. The San Salvador Hotel provide a good description if you want to read it here. What makes it such a good location though in my opinion is its proximity to some of my other favourite places (click the links to check out my blog posts about them): San Marino, San Leo, Gradara, Forli, Urbino, Pennabilli to name just a few and then of course there’s Rimini and Santarcangelo di Romagna which I’ll tell you about in the next post.

Stay tuned!

x

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Travels up north, houses to buy and pretty sunsets…

Ciao a tutti!

Well……. have I got a lot to update on! I’ll try and be quick:

Falconara

Well, we’ve been living in Falconara for a while and my opinion of it hasn’t changed. I like it. I think Falconara might have some of the best sunsets of all time and it’s lovely walking along the beach in the evening. It is also the home of a small stretch of beach I’ve called “Seaglass Heaven” (I’m not being any more specific lest someone catches wind of it and takes all my seaglass!). The more I discuss Falconara with the people that dislike it, the more I decide that their rationale is not actually rational!

Camera 360

Falconara beach – best sunset of all time?

Bustling festival in Jesi…

A couple of Saturday’s ago, we went to a bustling little festival in Jesi. I should have asked more questions about what the festival was in aid of but most people there didn’t seem to know either. There were people dressed up in religious outfits, parading up and down the streets but the best bit were the open tavernas which are basically private cellars, only open for a couple of days a year serving food and wine. Great atmosphere!

Camera 360

Random guitar playing guy in the taverna!

Market in Montemarciano

I’ve discovered a new website (for me at least – I think it’s an old website!) www.marcheinfesta.it which promotes upcoming events up in the area. This, together with some festival posters dotted around, alerted us to a local town having a Festival of Spring. Montemarciano is only a 15 minute drive away (30 minutes for me who has problems understanding the cryptic directions of ‘Tom’ the Satellite Navigation Fool!) and was a pretty little town to wander around. The festival was characterised by loads of market stalls selling clothing (hmm, very spring like!).

IMAG1710

I suppose there wasn’t a great deal to Montemarciano but it did have a cool church and it was nice to wander around

House purchasing in Italy…

The next bit of exciting news is that I *may* have found a house to buy here in Italy. There, now I’ve jinxed it! The good bits first:  It’s advertised as a 3 bed house (potentially more) and has got fabulous views.  It also has a great cantina (cellar) which I think could be turned into a living space, a private little terrace on the roof and a cute little garden. Bad things: It’s somewhat in the middle of nowhere, the kitchen is decidedly small, and it’s not ACTUALLY a 3 bed house at the moment as the “upstairs” rooms can’t officially be classed as bedrooms and THERE’S NO BATH! Still, it’s at a very good price indeed so I’m planning to put an offer on it and we’ll see what happens. If you could all have your fingers crossed I would appreciate it! It’s set right next to the Sibilini mountains, it’s near Sarnano and the ski pistes in the winter so that’ll be a complete change from where I am now. Scary – but quite exciting! I’d love to have a home that I can finally do stuff to make it actually feel like home.

Touristy San Marino

I’ve finally ticked off something I’ve been meaning to do since I got here over a year ago – visit San Marino! It kick-started my birthday weekend away. San Marino is about an hour and a half  further north than Falconara, still in Le Marche. It had a very quaint historical centre spanning across three towers/castle type set-ups, while the outskirts basically consisted of a winding road with weird road markings, set between car showrooms. It had some amazing views and it was nice to wander around the shops. However, the shops were very touristy and sold exactly the same stuff – Leather goods (boooooo – why can’t people see that genuine leather is a bad thing?! Poor cows…), general tourist tat and rather curiously, guns, knives and swords!

Camera 360

Quite a good view!

Camera 360

Rare tourist free castle glimpse…

Handy gun shop

Handy gun shop. I’ve also been able to expand my samurai sword collection.

Surprisingly Alright Rimini

Rimini is a beach town. It’s alright – I’m not really that fussed by beach towns often so I’m surprised I quite like it. They often seem to have a lack of oomph about them. But Rimini has quite a nice historical town centre complete with castles and ruins but it’s quite young and lively too. The beach front has got long, sandy, wide beaches (alas, with back to back sunloungers and umbrellas). The drinks are expensive and even worse, seaglass and driftwood is non-existent! However you can walk into the sea a little way and stand on a sand ridge so that goes part way to make up for the lack of seaglass.

Camera 360

Moody beach scene. It was misleadingly stormy looking – it was actually very warm and sunny! What do you reckon this wooden construction is?!

Camera 360

Lifeguard house.  Ah-ha! Maybe the wooden construction in the last picture is the bottom of a lifeguard house?! All becomes clear….

Camera 360

Arch leading to the town centre

Camera 360

Nice large piazza numero uno

Camera 360

Nice large piazza numero due

Pretty San Leo

San Leo is one of my favourite places. It’s a cute little hill-top town with a big fort. It’s nice to just wander around the town but it’s probably worth the 8 Euros to go into the fort too. The fort has some amazing views and there’s a torture room which was amusing at first (until you think that they actually used this stuff)…

Camera 360

Taken from the base of the fort

Camera 360

Sleepy main piazza in San Leo

Camera 360

Majestic looking fort growing out of the mountainous outcrop

Camera 360

I like this chair a lot. Very accommodating looking.

The photo below is of Cagliostro. He was kept prisoner at the fort…

Camera 360

Was EVERYONE horrible looking a few hundred years ago? I mean, I understand that fashions change – but faces? Why do all portraits of that era show bulbous eyed, no-necked, flabby mouthed people? Did they have an influx of evil portrait painters or did people actually look like that? Who would have ever let this portrait see the light of day?! I can only imagine his confident smirk here showed him before he viewed the portrait. I suspect the ‘after’ portrait would have been of a depressed alcoholic.

School – the end is nigh…

The end is nigh! I’ve got another two weeks. The grand finale is a show with the Infants. Following on from the successful hit of the Christmas show with them in December, I’ve been allocated a 20 minute slot for an all singing and dancing English extravaganza. It’s going to be a disaster. The first song is a particularly monotonous guitar piece called “hello, how are you?” created by my good self and which the children have been screeching “singing” for the last year. Can they remember what it means? Despite going through it every single week? No….. no they can’t! They can’t even remember the words. They are only 4 years old but still, that’s poor isn’t it? I blame the teacher. Ahem.

Twittering

In other exciting news – I’ve decided to try and make a go of Twitter. I still can’t understand it but I suppose it satisfies my egotistical craving to constantly update people on what I’m doing all the time. Please feel free to follow me @suzzec.

What’s a bit odd?

Less what’s a bit odd and more what’s a bit creepy… here’s some graffiti in Falconara that I quite like.

Camera 360

Creepy.. creepy… creepy!

And a road sign in San Leo…

Camera 360

Sign indicating the potential dangers to your lorry if you take this road…

Right, that’s about that then. Have good weeks all 🙂

x

 

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.