Monday, 29 July 2013

Postcards from Cattolica

We just got back from a sunny week on the beach in Cattolica, Italy. Despite the name, this resort town is not a haven for religious zealots, quite the contrary in fact, unlike most cities in Italy I didn't see a single church during our stay.

No, the Catholic religion isn't the main draw for this resort town. The main draw is the beach. And oh! How the Italians worship their beloved Mare and Spiaggia you might start thinking that this was a religious experience after-all! The entire seafront is tiled with stabilimenti balinear (bathing establishments... private access beaches) each one with rows upon rows of sun chairs and umbrellas set up like pews to worship the sun and sea. This resort city did start out as a stop on pilgrimages (hence the name) but has been a tourist haven and beach destination since the end of the first world war.  Each hotel is affiliated with a beach and when you arrive the first day you're given your seat (back row for us) for the rest of your stay. You can leave your sand toys and towels overnight and find them fresh and ready the next day for more fun in the sun.

Cattolica is not a place I would have enjoyed a few years ago.  The beaches are crowded despite having rented your own little space.  The water isn't crystal or clear or even blue for that matter, but more of a cloudy forest green.  The sand is nicer than I've seen on Puglia's free beaches in that it's cleaned daily (you're paying for that too) but it's nothing compared to my exotic beach experiences of Australia and Thailand or my childhood memories of time spent in Florida or New England.  Regardless, it was sandy enough for Sera to enjoy playing in the shade for hours on end every morning of our stay and get herself breaded with it like a squirming ,laughing chicken breast, ready for the fryer.

In the evenings the city cools down but the nightlife really heats up. After dinner swarms of people take to the pedestrian shopping streets and boardwalk which seem to stretch all the way to Rimini and beyond and just wander around, trying to digest the traditionally abundant vacation food consumed.  I have to admit that we overate as well, consuming starters, first and second courses at every meal, including breakfast!  There were young people everywhere and bars and restaurants were full but there wasn't the same rowdy feeling you can sense in cities like Las Vegas or several islands of Greece.  All in all it seemed like a place for young people on beach based holidays, families with children and teens who hadn't quite ventured out on their own yet, but who were allowed to socialise with the friends they'd met on vacation after sundown without chaperone's.

As a young mum (I like that saying better than a mother of young children as it implies that I'm young as well), the place was fantastic and a perfect family destination. Sera had the time of her life!  In every waking moment the girl was having a blast.  Between jumping in the city's play-fountain, swimming in the sea, playing in the sand, splashing in the pool, making friends in baby-dance, playing in the kids' room and consuming as much ice cream as she could manage the girl just barely had enough time to get in her naps and overnight sleep.  She seemed carefree and entertained the entire time.

Now, that's not to say that I was carefree and entertained. Going on holiday with a two-year-old is not much different than staying at home with a two year old in that it's a lot of work for mum. If Sera was in the pool I was in the pool monitoring her jumps and dives (she's getting quite good but I'm still terrified she'll smash into the wall).  If she was playing in the sand I was on 'stay in the shade Sera!' and brushing sand from her eyes mode.  If she was in the ocean I was on the lookout for crabs, stones she could step on, and her head bobbing under. In other words, lots of hard work... but seeing how much fun she was having and in the moments I did just relax and let things go I was totally and completely happy.

The reason we chose Cattolica this year also had a lot to do with Sera's grandparents and the proximity to their home in Puglia. Cattolica is just about half way driving for all of us.  I think that with the way things went this week we'll probably think about doing the same thing next year.  Maybe we'll see you there!

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