Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Monday, June 20, 2011
Marina di Ravenna is not one of these classically beautiful seaside locales. When you look out into the water, the color is a muddy brown green. The waves range from non-existent to miniscule. The water is a strange chilly temperature. When you enter, you can't see your feet below the surface. As the Italians say, "fa schifo" (it's gross) and I must say, I kind of have to agree. But Marina di Ravenna has 2 things that a lot of places on the coast don't: a decent sand beach and a distinctly Italian nightlife. When combined, this creates a particular phenomenon that makes for a great mini-vacation weekend getaway. And this is indeed how many Emilia Romagna region residents spend there summer weekends starting in late May. Many locals own summer houses or just simply drive for the day/night to this seaside hotspot tailored to draw you despite the fact you won't even want to touch the water once you are there. The city is hot and the air is humid, so crowds flock to the fresh sea air to indulge in a little summer fun.So this weekend, some friends and I went camping at Marina di Ravenna in search of our own little Italian summer vacation. My one friend and I took the train earlier to spend the day on the beach while the others came in car later. With traffic and campsite set up, the others were ready just in time for something called Super Happy Hour. This is a fun Marina di Ravenna tradition at a particular "Bagno" called Toto. (a "bagno" here means a private beach club. Beach spots are privately owned and all along the coast there is beach club after beach club with fun names like "Baci Baci" and "Saint Tropez") At Bagno Toto from 6-7pm, drinks are buy 1 get 1 free and there are fun Italian classics blasting on the sound system. No American music, no Eurodance...only Italian goodies! And as you know from my previous posts, Italian music is a bit "special". So Italians, who don't dance and are notoriously particular about their clothing choices (boots in May just because it's not technically summer yet? pants and coats in 80 degree weather??) are jumping around in their skimpy bathing suits, barefoot and enjoy the summer. And thus is the Italian beachside experience. All along the seaside, Marina di Ravenna provides happy hour after happy hour until the entire thing closes at midnight and the party moves to the center of town. (We skipped that part and spent the late hours of the night sitting on the beach and enjoying the fresh sea air) All I could think the entire night was how very Italian the whole thing was, and I couldn't help but smile. And then we had fried fish from a street vendor for dinner and my smile got even bigger.
The next day we sat on the beach some more, surrounded by baking brown people of every body type and Speedo color, before heading back to the heat of the city and the heavy air.
Ciao Marina di Ravenna, magari ci vediamo presto...
Monday, June 13, 2011
Most of my travel this semester in Italy has been spent visiting friends rather than exploring new places. I’ve taken a few trips this semester, but instead of discovering new lands, I’ve focused on seeking out my faraway friends in their new homes. I haven’t stayed in one hostel or eaten any bad touristy meals. From Dublin to Florence to my most recent trip to the French Riviera, I’ve been spending my limited time in Europe this year balancing my desire to travel with the fact that I simply miss my friends!
During the first few days of June, I had the pleasure of being able to visit some friends I made in Istanbul last year who now live in Nice, France. I’ve been to Nice before, but every place is different when you’re with locals. We ate lots, drank lovely wine, and got to visit a cute hilltop town in the Provence countryside.
I get spoiled when I visit friends. While traveling around to new places is invigorating, staying in hostels and getting lost and falling into tourist traps gets tiring. Visiting friends means that you not only get to hang out with people you rarely see and really like, you get an automatic local guide to the city.
My friends in Nice, Maite and Çağdaş, were with me during my time in Istanbul, so seeing them was like reliving a small part of Istanbul. When you spend time in places with people, whether a week or a few months or a few years, they will forever be a part of that place for you. Seeking out faraway friends thus becomes a game in seeking out memories of those places. It’s a special kind of friendship and probably my favorite part about life abroad. People and places become intertwined, not one is the same without the other, but you can still enjoy both and get a taste for a time that once was when the place and the friends were joined. So instead of sharing a Taksim hamburger at 2am, we get gelato in front of a church in Nice and enjoy our small world.
I have many faraway friends whom I unfortunately can't see all the time, but at least I know that for the rest of my life, I’ll have friends to hunt for all around the world during my travels and this is a beautiful thing.