Usually, you can count on July in Italy to bring 31 days of sun. Not this year.
On July 10th, I took a pullman from Rome to Pescara, where I was to pick up my rental car (cheaper and easier than renting from Rome). As we pulled into the station, the skies roared and dumped such a biblical deluge that, within 20 minutes, I’d aborted my plan to pick up the car and started dragging my luggage through knee-deep water to my hastily-booked room at the Hotel Esplanade. I came to learn that, at the same time, up in the surrounding hills and in my town of Fossacesia, hail the size of oranges was battering roof tiles, shattering windshields, and reportedly sending some folks diving underwater along the beach to avoid being conked on the head. That particular image was a little amusing, but the situation was dangerous. Roads and houses flooded. To see the monster hail stones for yourself, check out this video on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lK9vy7_RzAk
So it was with some trepidation that I drove to the house the next day. Fortunately, I found it unscathed. The weather services were warning, however, that the region would be unstable throughout the month of July, and that hail, high winds, storms, and flooding could return at any given time. Unheard of.
As it turned out, nothing more dramatic than a few stormy days rolled in, and I got my share of beach time.
Fossacesia beaches are designated “bandiera blu,” the blue flag attesting to the wholesomeness of the water. That flag makes this area of the Adriatic coastline very popular with families and extended families: tanned grandmothers in two-pieces and jewelry; tanned grandfathers in Speedos. Their lack of self-consciousness helps make a middle-ager like me feel much more comfortable in her own perennially anemic skin and cellulite swimsuit. (No photo documentation available. Darn.)
Miles of beach clubs are lined with umbrellas. Come August, when the real crowds arrive for the famous vacation month in Europe, folks linger seaside till sundown. Often on summer weekend nights, there’s an air of festivity along the lido: fireworks, crowded gelato spots, outdoor concerts.
For the last two years, I’ve taken a weekly membership to a club puzzlingly called Supporter Beach. The price is reasonable and well worth it to arrive every day and just head directly to your assigned spot with its umbrella and chairs already set up and waiting.
With few exceptions, the beaches are of stone rather than sand, so you need to wear little sea shoes. Those stones, smooth and harmless looking, are surprisingly hard on the feet. My shoes, as you can see, are both beach- and runway-ready .
Because the summer sun in Italy can be so strong that I sometimes actually feel it stinging my skin, I often head down to the sea in the morning or late afternoon.
In the morning, the beach is tranquil, the surf musical and crystal clear. In the shot at right below, I'd waded into the water, so my shoes actually were submerged.
After my day in Ascoli Piceno with Mark (recounted in previous post), which required several hours back and forth on the autostrada, I headed to the beach late for a quick, refreshing dive in.
In my hurry to get there, I forgot my sea shoes and decided to chance a dip in my flip-flops. I promptly lost one in the tide, and wound up crawling on all fours from the water's edge up the little ledge of stones and back to my place in the setting sun.
That it was near evening was fortunate for two reasons: Few people remained on the beach, and I wasn't sporting my often-elaborate sun-protection regalia. By day, with my hat and cover-up and zinc oxide-based sunblock, I look like Gustav Von Aschenbach slumped under an umbrella in the last deranged stages of cholera. I’ve made my peace with the knowledge that I sometimes cut a comical figure without intending to, but there’s a line. An ignominious crab crawl up the beach looking like a famously tragic character before a large audience is where I'd rather draw it. (No photo documentation. Obviously.)
The errant flip-flop did wash up minutes later, and I did crawl back to get it.
Still no discernible audience.