Wednesday, August 27, 2014

My summer holiday in Riccione

"Vieni a Riccione!" Come to Riccione, is what Laura Antonini, my favourite presenter at Radio Deejay, told me when I went to visit her and her partner in crime (talent show judge, tv and radio presenter, and all-round legend) Rudy Zerbi back in Rome in June. The radio has set up camp in Riccione for the summer for years. How could I refuse?

Riccione is on the coast of Romagna, one of the two areas that make up the region of Emilia-Romagna in the centre of Italy, and just to the south of Rimini. From Milan it's around a 3 hour journey on the train, depending on which combination of trains you get, as direct ones are rare. Last Thursday I got on a Frecciabianca which would take me to Rimini, the next town up from Riccione, where I would then have to change and get a regional train for the last few miles. It wouldn't be a trip on Trenitalia without a delay, and I made my connection at Rimini by the skin of my teeth! And after ten minutes, here I was, Riccione. I made a sweaty trek to Hotel Hawaii, what would be my home for the next few days, and discovered that my room was in the attic!

As it was 4pm by the time I arrived at Riccione it was too late to hit the beach, but I had a nice long walk along the lungomare to get used to my new surroundings. I did however have a wander on one of the few small free beaches to have a proper look at the sea, as with all the private beaches along the seafront you can hardly make out the sea itself.


What could my first meal at Riccione be except for Romagna's most famous dish, the piadina? It's a wrap, mostly served with savory fillings, and it's pratically what I lived on during my holiday! The evening was a true taste of Italian holiday lifestyle, one of the many evenings the radio had put on during the month with showman Rudy, and Laura helping out. For two nights I saw an entire piazza singing Volare, Vasco Rossi, Gioca jouer (the original version of the 80s-tastic Superman with all the motions), T-shirts being thrown everywhere, kids dressed up as all sorts to desperately win a phone (Santa Claus in August!) and singing and dancing competitions. Crazy!

For three mornings I was at Aquafan, a massive waterpark near the town. It's one of Europe's most well-known water parks, and it's incredible. As one of my milanese friends told me during my time down in Riccione, the romagnoli have focused on entertainment and activities as they were aware that their sea wasn't the greatest (true, it isn't, but I ain't fussy). As well as the famous clubs in town, Aquafan is an excellent example of this. There are all sorts of slides, but the main attraction is the piscina onde, the wave pool. Laura and Rudy have been broadcasting from a specially built studio at the piscina onde this month, and I watched them during their show. And that wave pool is something else. At 2.30 there was a massive wave, and in the build-up to it the pool resembled a nightclub more than a waterpark. Music blaring, cheering, people hyping up the crowd, and scantily-clad... well, calling them women would be an insult to self-respecting women everywhere. If there's one thing the Italians love doing then it's noise. I watched perplexed at all the fuss over some waves in a swimming pool.

On Sunday I hit the beach, I got up bright and early to ensure that I got a lounger at the beach I wanted to go to. Bar those few scraps of spiaggia libera (free beaches), all the beaches in Riccione are private, and you have to rent a lettino (lounger, literally 'little bed') and then an ombrellone (beach umbrella) if you want some shade. I rather foolishly rented just a lettino, as there are two lettini to an ombrellone, and I wanted to relax without being disturbed by someone next to me. It did however mean that I didn't have any shade, but I did have a front row seat (bed?) to people-watch. Italian beaches are brilliant for people watching, and for the first time I got to really observe the average Italian at the beach. Their favourite pastime is walking up and down and up and down the shore, just on the edge of the sea where the sand's damp and easy to walk on. All morning back and forward back and forward. The only women in one-piece swimsuits were either at least in their 60s (and even then they were in the minority), or foreigners. The vast majority of the Italians just let it all hang out. And yes, there were plenty of Speedos. Around 1pm the beach began to empty, as the Italians headed for lunch. Around 3pm it started to fill up again, but it still wasn't as busy as the morning. Of course I had a dip in the sea, but it wasn't as warm as I expected! Being blonde I was amazed that I didn't get anything more than a couple of looks from some lecherous old men, but no comments or any attempts to speak to me. I got my peace and quiet on the shore.

The day after I was slightly sunburnt (not even factor 50 can save me) so I decided to avoid the beach and walk around the town. I had a delicious granita at Dolce Vita Gelateria, nearby my hotel, which does some fantastic gelato too. Another gelateria I can recommend is Kono Gelateria, on Via Dante near Viale Ceccarini, which does a spectacular pistacchio!

One of the things I'll remember the most from this holiday is how much the Italian on holiday loves walking for the sake of walking. You'll see hoards of them along the beach during the day, in town before dinner, after dinner, and late into the night. My hotel was on the corner with Via Dante, one of the main streets in Riccione, and there was so much noise until about 2 at night. At midnight the streets were packed as if it was 6 in the afternoon, with children and babies everywhere too!

Tuesday evening and it was time to go home. This time I had to change at Bologna Centrale, and I had exactly 17 minutes to make my connecting train. Only problem was the regional train that would take me to Bologna showed up in Riccione 15 minutes late. Great. On my feet in a sweaty regionale train I hurried to change my ticket online - paying the difference - to get the next Frecciarossa after the one I was originally supposed to catch. I lost about 10 years of my life! Never ever ever trust Trenitalia. Almost an hour late, I arrived back in Milano Centrale, to the rain and humidity. Tired, still sunburnt, but very happy with my holiday.

Aquafan - Entrance costs 28 euro. The park opens at 10am, but you can buy your tickets before then and get in the queue to enter. To get from Riccione you can take the No.58 bus, tickets cost 1.30 euro and are the Zona 1 tickets sold at tabbaccherie.


Jenny P said...

Sounds like you had a fabulous Italian beach holiday. I particularly enjoyed the bit about the limited variety of swimming costumes. It's a long, long time since I've worn a bikini but I noticed that I was completely alone when we swam in the pool at Menaggio last year! Admirable really.

Nerys said...

Hi Jenny! It is, isn't it? Before moving here I hadn't worn one since I was tiny, but it's like an unwritten rule! said...

Thanks for this great post! Sounds like you had fun, despite Trenitalia. Never been in Riccione, every time I nearly got there I deceided to turn west and head either to San Marino or Urbino.

I am glad that I am not the only one who thinks that the behaviour of walking the beach up and down or just posing at the waterline but never actually going into the water is a bit... odd.

Laruchka said...

I have a theory about bikinis... stay with me! Whenever I go to an indoor swimming pool my girlfriends wear sporty costumes, but if it's outdoor pool, the sea, or anywhere in the mountains it's got to be a bikini, (will never get the bikini in the alpine meadow thing myself). I'm not sure if it's an actual rule, but I noticed it coz when I go swimming I am the only person in a bikini.