One of the best things about Torino? It accessibility to everything outdoors that makes Italy so much fun. In Torino, you are only one hour from skiing in the Alps’ and two hours from swimming in the Mediterranean. I’m telling you this is the greatest place in the world.
This weekend, my Italian family took me to their flat at the sea. Sounds really luxurious, (and honestly it is a great apartment and only a five-minute walk to the beach) but more people than you would expect have flats at the sea or in the mountains. Most of these families, like my own, have inherited the flats from their family. Truthfully culturally it makes a lot of sense.
The entire country basically takes the month of August off for holiday, with many shops (and some small towns) closing down entirely. The majority of Torino’s population take this time to head for the sea, therefore making a small one bedroom flat completely worth it. The same goes for in the mountains. If you love to ski, it makes more sense to have a small flat to stay overnight. My family drives up to the mountains during the winter every Friday night and comes back Sunday night. It is just a part of life here.
Although it is still the slow season for the beaches, we were off to spend the weekend in Bordighera. Bordighera is a small town only 15-20 minutes from the France/Monaco border, primarily made up of residences, only populated in the summertime. My family’s flat is just a small one bedroom apartment, with enough beds for the family and a pull out couch in the living room/kitchen. It was the perfect size for sleeping and preparing meals, most of which were eaten outside in the small garden. The best part about the flat however, was the 5 minute walk to the beach.
Beach life is amazing. There are many different beaches in Bordighera, we went to San Marco Beach, primarily because of the pool. Sounds weird and I will admit it took me a while to understand why kids would play in a pool in eyesight of the sea. However, the Mediterranean beaches are rocky and waves are strong. The pool provides the kids with a safe place to swim, dive and play. My family, and many others, choose San Marco Beach because it is the only beach in town with a pool.
My favorite difference about beach life in Italy though, renting rooms. At least, that was how my host mom translated it. When you arrive at the beach, you rent a changing room. You are given a key so you can store all of your things and have a place to change in and out of your bathing suit. It was awesome, especially since you don’t simply go to the beach in the morning and go home at night. You show up around 10 or 11, stay until about 2, come back about 4 or 5 and leave at about 8 when the beach closes. Everyone does this, comes late and then goes home for a long lunch and nap. It was glorious.
While at the beach, everyone just kind of lets their kids go. Every so often you will hear a small Italian voice yelling that they are heading to the pool or to the sea and the sleepy mom’s response a simple, “si, ok”. It is amazing. No helicopter moms that we are so used to in the US. Every so often (usually around meal times) one mom will start asking the other moms, or the group of dads, where the kids are. Or more often, the check in comes when one parent goes to watch a whole group of kids in the waves. It’s a great community.
This community was probably my favorite part of the sea because it was so Italian. Everyone was watching everyone else’s kids. Odds are, it’s because the parents grew up together at the same beach and now their kids are. Everyone is old family friends, and have been coming to the beach since they can remember. My host dad has come to this beach every summer of his life. It’s so wonderful. The sea is a 24/7, small town, family BBQ.
It was especially fun to see this weekend because it was the beginning of the summer. Not all families had arrived yet, but many were there celebrating the kids first weekend of summer vacation. It was great to see the families together again and immediately be welcomed into the family vacation. It was quite movie like really, the moms making sure I had sunscreen and snacks while the kids trickled up to me one by one to practice the English they learned in school. It was a blast.
After a day of sun and sea, we went out to dinner with another family at a local favorite restaurant. As always, I let my host dad order for me. He knows I will eat anything and love to try new things. Since we were at the sea, he took full advantage. I started with an Antipasti (appetizer) of octopus and potatoes and then a plate of Frutta dal Mare (fruit of the sea). Essentially the entrée was spaghetti with clams, mussels, shrimp, squid, and octopus. For a girl that isn’t a huge seafood lover, it was a meal of appreciating the flavors and not reading too much into the textures. Overall it was really quite good. Not to mention my dad rewarded me with two limoncellos for my bravery.
It was a wonderful two hours getting to know another great family. After dinner we drove about 30-40 minutes to Monte Carlo, so I could see the city all lit up. I don’t think I have enough money to even breathe in that city. At one point, we were stuck in traffic between a Lamborghini (with a Maserati ahead of him) and a Ferrari, as we drove past yachts three times the size of my apartment. I was astounded.
Driving back to Bordighera with two sleeping kids in the back of the car, my host dad thought we needed gelato at midnight before going home. Man, I love this country. It was a great full day. Sunday we slept in again but managed to snag a few more hours on the beach, before making lunch at the flat and heading back to Torino. It was an incredible weekend of sea, salt and sun. I could live between that beach chair and riding the waves in the sea. Nursing the sunburn to prove it, it was a perfectly delicious weekend in the Italian Riviera.
-The Very Hungry Traveler