Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Adriatic

My first glimpse of the Adriatic was many years ago during one of our early trips to Italy.  We were heading to Urbino from Treviso and stopped off at Rimini to have a look at the sea.  Big mistake.  The industrial zone, the huge port and the ugly concrete apartment blocks didn't cast it in a golden light.  Granted, the overcast, damp and cold weather didn't help any either, but we weren't impressed.

Later, when we lived in Ascoli Piceno we frequented the nearby beaches of Porto d'Ascoli, San Benedetto del Tronto and Grottammare.  They were easy to reach with long stands of sand and some good restaurants, but with the railway line rumbling right along the shore and the overall modern feel of the area, we went to splash and get tanned but didn't really take to it as "our type" of beach atmosphere.

Then we discovered the Costa dei Trabocchi, down south of Pescara in Abruzzo.  This is the shoreline that has the charming fishing platforms, the locale of our now-storied seafood lottery feast.  The part of the Adriatic where you can find hidden coves with few people and pebbled beaches where the water is truly crystalline and where hills with stone villages rise above the waters.  It's where there is an appeal; where you can enjoy the water and the sun in tranquility.  And where my sister dipped her toes for the third sea of the Coast to Coast tour.

It happened sort of by accident.  We were traveling from Basilicata to Ascoli Piceno to spend a few days with friends.  Hunger hit.  We got off the autostrada to meander along the coast road and find a place to eat that didn't involve Autogrill panini (not to diss the blessed Autogrills, mind you; you know how much I love them).  But we had time, and we wanted a real meal.  And Sis wanted to see the third sea.

And so, as often happens when you're hungry in a place that you don't while traveling, you happen into a joint hoping for the best and expecting the worst.  We happened to find a surprise - Ristorante Zi Nicola, outside Vasto.  Zio Nicola was in the kitchen and lovely aromas were wafting out of it.  We ran for a table that overlooked the water, with the ruins of a trabocco below.  The guys at the table next to us heard us speaking in English and piped in a few words, asking Cara where she's from.  When she said, "Ohio," all broke into excited exclamations; they work for a company that is based in Toledo!  Ma come mai!  Che coincidenza!  And we had companionable chatter through the rest of our lunch.

Our lovely, delectable lunch.  I swear that Abruzzese cooking is some of the best in the country, and it holds true in their seafood dishes, too.  Unbelievably delicious stuff came our way.  Plate after plate of antipasto.  Then heaping helpings of homemade chitarra pasta with fishy-things.  And.  Well, we had to stop, much to the dismay of our new lunch-mates who hoped we'd keep pace through the next pasta and main course with them.  Alas, the girls had to give in and go.

But during the meal we watched the boats passing in the distance, and eventually saw a man and his son arrive at the fishing craft below.  He was showing the boy how to repair nets.  They saw us eyeing them and shyly waved.  I snapped a photo discretely.  It was such a tender scene, watching the man pass his knowledge on to his figlio.

After we ate, the restaurant owner showed us the path that leads to the water.  We scrambled down, past the fishermen, who greeted us warmly, and Cara peeled off her sandals to dip her toes in the water.  Colder than she expected, following our swim in Maratea.  I can't find her foot photo, now; sorry.  We got back in the car to reach our destination.

In the following days we visited Grottammare with my friend, Cinzia, walking along the Lungomare and looking at the Liberty style villas, but Sis agreed that the Adriatic's Costa dei Trabocchi is a special place.  A coast of enduring traditions, warm people, and fantastic food.

Me with dear friend Cinzia in Grottammare


Evey said...

A wonderful description of something I experienced as well in Sicily...hungry, hoping and happily surprised with such good sea food! Very tender story, Valeria, grazie!

LindyLouMac said...

What a lovely find, the unexpected ones can often prove to be the best.

Diane Cacciato said...

I loved this post. Like Evey, I too have had the experience of finding wonderful food in Sicily and in Calabria too. While Sicily has my heart, I do love swimming in the Adriatic too. One of my best memories in Italy is spending three days with my husband and daughter at Marina di Ravenna almost entirely on the beach. The water was so warm and the waves in the evening were enough that we could body surf. Exquisite memory!