Monday, June 20, 2011

Marina di Ravenna and the Italian summer weekend phenomenon

Coming from California, I must admit, I'm a little picky about my beaches. Nothing really compares to the expansive sand beaches of the Pacific coast, nothing like those huge crashing waves. Yes, the water is a little cold, but by mid-summer, the San Diego beaches are a tolerable temperature and the La Jolla shoreline near where I did my undergrad studies at UCSD is some of the best in the country. And I have also spent some time traveling Europe during the summer; from the Turquoise coast of Turkey to the famous coastline of Croatia to the Cote d'Azur...I have seen and swam in my fair share of beautiful sea.

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...

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