Italian Riviera Off Season
When planning this trip to Italy, we wanted to explore some new and off-the-beaten-path locations for tourists. There could be no more real local Italian destination than to go to an Italian beach town. When we searched “Italian – beach – Adriatic” we were bombarded with images of lively, crowded beach resort destinations and using this input we decided that our first stop after Bologna would be the beach resort town of Igea Marina (just north of Rimini). In our first few weeks in Italy, when we told locals that we were staying in Igea Marina, they all looked at us longingly. We felt like we had made a good choice!
It was a short train trip from Bologna to Rimini to Igea Marina. Exiting at the deserted train station, we really did not expect to find a taxi waiting at the stand. Luckily my online map showed our hotel to be mere blocks from the train station so we rolled our bags onward. It was a crazy wild sight when we entered the hotel, only later would we find that the hotel was hosting both a wedding party and a retirement party. The owner Rita welcomed us profusely and settled us with a glass of vino bianca as our bags were taken to our ready room. We sat back and listened as the Italians all chattered at once, moving from group to group. We had found our spot with the locals.
The easy start was quickly dispelled when we found our premium room had no air conditioning, an imperceptible wifi signal and was right over the main entrance and the hotel restaurant. Apparently when a hotel claimed “climate control”, this did not guarantee air conditioning. We remained skeptical that the town had told them to shut the AC off. It was no joke when we awoke the next morning with a room at 30°C and 80% humidity. After 6 hours they solved the wifi problem by giving us a portable hotspot. The noise that first night was horrid and even they acknowledged the next day how bad it had been. Not surprisingly, when the hotel emptied on Sunday afternoon, they quickly moved us to a room that was larger and off the main street. This kept the street noise down but even in a near deserted town the street cleaners started at 7am and the locals sat at the bar under our window until closing. The lack of air conditioning became a new red flag for us and when we saw our next planned hotel similarly claimed “climate control”, we quickly cancelled and found another.
To make matters worse, I had managed to pick up a cold. I was sure it was partly due to the lack of fruit and veggies. May have also been the public transit in Bologna or the train travel. But my snuffling nose and sore ears were not helped by the hot and humid conditions. David was not happy when he also got the cold. The good side of being a little sick was that we might take it a little easy at this stop!
After we had settled in on the first night, we ventured out at about 5pm for a stroll along the beach. It kinda felt like we were in a science fiction movie where all the people had been whisked away. There were a few people spread out along the beach, most beach bars were shut up tight and in some places the beach walkways were being removed. We found Igea Marina the off season beach ghost town!
Our hotel would stop serving dinner after the second night and I suspect that they, like most of the other hotels on the beach, would soon roll down their shutters for the season. Everywhere we went we saw signs announcing the season closing dates. The beach and the town certainly did not resemble the beach resort pics we had used to decide to stay in this town!
We scoped out a few restaurants that looked like they may be staying open, but remained uncertain about the food situation day by day. Each day we tried a new spot, never certain if they would be open when we got back. We never found a real grocery store in our part of town, so vowed to pick up picnic food when we were out. Luckily the coastal bus ran right past us and for 4.50€ for a 24hr pass, we could travel from Bellaria (just the other side of the river from us) to Rimini. This opened up a bunch more spots to try, although each day more shutters were closed for the season. We also got bikes from the hotel and rode into Bellaria for fresh caught seafood.
While open restaurants were hard to find in Igea Marina the off season beach ghost town, we were delighted to be back on the coast and have our fill of seafood. Most offered some pasta and meat selections, but the specialties of the day were seafood and not to be passed up. David was in heaven and again regretting that he was developing a liking for seafood in me. He now had to fight to get his share of a full pot of mussels for two. A few suggestions if you are in the area:
- Griglia del Oro (mussels, seafood platter)
- Osteria Del Mare Baracca (mussels, seafood risotto)
- Restauranti Pizzeria Da Alice (buffalo mozzarella pizza)
Now in late September, the weather was still doing pretty well but we did see more rain and storms on this beach stop. With no air conditioning we were sleeping with our windows open and one night we were woken to a sudden wind storm raging in from the sea. David braved the wind to secure the window awning which appeared to be threatening to fly away. Feeling cocky he took out his phone and videoed the trees bending in half and the strings of lights swaying 6′ side to side. Laughing at my suggestion that maybe we should take cover away from the windows rattling in their frames, David rolled over and went back to sleep until the sound of the wind hammering the windows finally put me back to sleep. The storm brought the water quite high on the beach and there was much damage to anything that was left loose.
The high humidity sparked a few lesser thunder and rainstorms, giving us a little downtime to catch up on naps, writing and pic editing. Away for 10 weeks, these little breaks let me catch my breath and re-charge a little. Especially important as we fought to get over our colds.
Day Trips From Igea Marina
One day we took a quick train north to see the mosaic town of Ravenna. It was an awesome display of Byzantine era mosaics, much still well preserved in several locations.
For another day trip, we went into Rimini to catch the bus to leave Italy for a day in San Marino. We strolled up and up to see the old town with the 3 towers that protected this independent republic.
Walking Around Rimini
Our last day in this area we ventured on the local bus again into Rimini to see the few sights we had flagged as “must see”. Along the river, we wandered in the park, David amused that it included a kids playground made safe by the sign that prohibited hunting in the park.
The first stop was Arco d’Augusto, a massive stone arch leading to the old town. We were surprised to see a Canadian government logo on the plaque in front commemorating Canadian liberation of Rimini in 1944. Who would have known? This would be the first but not the last of the Canadian monuments we would find along the towns on the Adriatic coast.
Piazza Cavour hosted a series of old buildings that represented a picture opportunity for David, although the birds in the fountain seemed to draw more of his attention. I think he was becoming a bit overcome with Italian history.
Our final stop on our historic walk was at the Ponte di Tiberio. I had been expecting some great bridge but found the old stone single lane bridge. I was sure it had historical significance more than aesthetic appeal.
It was packing time again. As we left the hotel, it was closing for the season. We had survived our beach resort ghost town adventure. While we were sure it was a lively spot in the summer season, if you are visiting resort towns in off season along the Adriatic coast, be sure to check on when everything is closing for the season. If hotel availability is low, it is probably because few places are open. This might mean low rates, but we found that rates and availability still peaked on weekends for the few locations that were open. You might be better with a car than relying on less than regular public transit to open up eating options (and make sure to eat when you do day trips). But if you are of hearty Canadian stock, you can wrap in a towel and enjoy an empty beach and the sun that is still warm in September!
We left feeling more like locals than tourists, which is not a bad thing. Rolling our bags to the train station, we were off to our next stop in Pescara.
What is your favourite beach town on the Adriatic side of Italy? Have you visited Igea Marina the off season beach ghost town? Do you have any other tips to share?