My sister is a fearful flyer. Not just mildly bothered, but full-out aggitated, stresses herself, cringes at every bump of turbulence kind of fearful. Despite that, her love of Italy, desire for some sister time and need of a vacation drove her to stuff a suitcase, zonk down Xanax, and board a plane across the ocean.
She didn't have many things on her sightseeing program but was decisive about a few things: meals she wanted to eat and beaches she wanted to visit. Having come mostly in spring or autumn, she hadn't really been able to see Italy's coast in sunny, warm weather before.
This turned out to the be Trip of the Three Seas. She dipped her feet into all three of Italy's surrounding bodies of water in her two-week trip.
The first was the Ionian, which flows into the instep of Italy's boot. Located an hour from my village, it's the closest sea to us but is -I hate to admit- a fairly unimpressive flat plain flanked by concrete block towns. The redeeming value is that there are some natural beaches backed by pines and dunes where only a few of the beach establishments are allowed, where few tourists flock, and where you can relax to the sound of the surf.
If you head to the Ionian Sea, bypass the squalor of Scanzano and the low-class mediocrity of Metaponto and park yourself at Marina di Pisticci. Here you'll find better exposure to breezes, long stretches of sand, and stands of woods to break the beach monotony. Our favorite parking place is the Riva dei Ginepri, a summer vendor with thatch umbrellas, lounge chairs and a snack bar that also serves up decent lunches. I figure if it's good enough for the guests of Francis Ford Coppola's swanky hotel, then it's good enough for me. Or, at least, they don't turn me away. Granted I don't get to garner one of the luxurious curtained cabanas that are set aside for the Coppola crowd, but it's a nice place to spend a day at the beach.
Dazzling white legs of sister Cara in the Ionian Sea
Cara didn't want to swim, so we strolled the shoreline, evading several medusas (jellyfish) that were washed up on the sand, and she snapped a photo of her feet in the water to prove she was at the Ionian, the soemtimes forgotten of Italy's seas.
We headed uphill afterwards to Bernalda, home of the hotel that is gaining fame to have an aperitivo in Coppola's Cinecitta' Bar, where we were warmly welcomed and graciously served by a top-notch barkeep who chose a great local white for us to try.
A piece of local gossip that we heard is that the Palazzo Margherita will soon be the site of the big-splashy wedding between Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel (next week, they say). We'll see if the Bernalda rumor mill turns out to have credence.
Next time...the Mediterranean.