Above: The Lido di Ostia near Rome (photo via BeachesZone).
So many of you out there are getting ready to travel, and hopefully your European jaunt will include at least one great Italian city. Since it’s summer and no Italian cultural experience is complete without tanning like an Italian, we want to point you in the direction of some of Italy’s best urban beaches.
Maybe you’re doing 48 hours in Venice or Rome and want to get a little beach time in? Visiting Naples and can’t make it to the Amalfi Coast? Never fear, there’s always a Spiaggia near.
In Venice, just a quick boat ride across the lagoon will get you to Venice Lido. It’s home to the Venice film festival, and the setting for the Thomas Mann’s classic novel, Death in Venice. There are two public beaches and tons of private areas to choose from where renting a beach chair and umbrella are possible.
In Rome, tan as the Romans do. The beach isn’t exactly in the city, but a quick 35 minute train ride with get you to Ostia Lido. It’s a great escape from the heat and you’ll run into many other Romans escaping as well. There is also Santa Marinella which will take about 45 minutes by train. While these beaches are far from being at the top of the list of Italy’s best, they have been cleaned up and provide the hot, beach-craving masses with blue, sparkling Mediterranean water.
Naples has arguably some of the prettiest water and most dramatic scenery of all of Italy’s urban beaches. Spiaggette (small sandy beaches) and scogliere (stone beaches) dot the coastline of the city in areas like Chiaia, Mergellina and Posillipo. The latter is home to the storied village of Marechiaro with its tiny sandy beach and classic architecture. Heading west just a bit, you’ll find Bagnoli with its long stretch of beach that hosts a variety of bars and discotechs that fill with the Neapolitan youth on any given night of the summer. No matter where you choose to fare il bagno (take a swim) in Napoli, you’ll be delighted to enjoy a breathtaking view of Vesuvius as it stands watch over the ancient city.
Above: A scene from the famous Pescheria Rialto (Rialto Fish Market) in Venice (photo via Dall’Uva).
In a country like Italy where a large part of the culture revolves around its cuisine, food tourism is a legitimate form of entertainment. While wiling away the hours at restaurant after restaurant certainly is pleasurable, it just doesn’t fit into the economic reality that most of us are dealing with today.
So keeping in the spirit of budget travel, our number one way to have fun and learn about Italian food is taking a stroll through the open-air food markets. The technicolor visual display of fruits, vegetables, and flowers can rival any art museum in its beauty. It doesn’t cost un centesimo just to walk through. Listening to the Italian grandmas haggle with the fruttivendolo is a true slice of Italian life to savor. It’s also a first-rate education in regional produce and seasonality. For the die-hard foodie, there is hardly anything better.
There are also fish markets that are a sight (and a smell) to behold. The famous one is Venice is not to be missed!
You can easily make a picnic of fruit and cheese purchased at a market. But if you happen to have a kitchenette in your affittacamere, you can dine like royalty on your market score for a fraction of the cost of a restaurant meal. If you are brave and armed with minimal Italian vocabulary, ask the vendor how he suggests preparing those fresh fuchsia and white Barlotti beans in your bag. Find out from the fishmonger what one does with half a kilo of cicale di mare (sea crickets).
Who needs cookbooks? This is the real deal!
Whether you have access to a kitchen or not, the pleasure of sitting on the steps of the cathedral dominating the market piazza while biting into a warm and juicy Italian peach can, at best, be a transcendental experience. At worst, it is simply delicious and it will hardly cost you a euro.
Top 5 markets da non perdere (not to miss):
Venice: Rialto Fish market, Campo delle Pescherie (Tuesday-Saturday)
Rome: Campo de’ Fiori (Monday-Saturday)
Florence: San Lorenzo Market (Tuesday-Saturday)
Padova: Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza della Frutta
Naples: Pignasecca Market (open daily)