Originally I thought this summer would be low key, but with so many tempting sites and a couple of last-minute visitors, summer 2014 ended up being just as action-packed as summers past. It was a blur of sun, sand, blue waters, family, white-washed seaside towns, medieval cities, olive oil, Yahtzee, hiking, rock climbing, and stick-shift adventures.
First, we headed to the beach. We went to Southern Italy to Puglia (the heel of Italy’s boot). This was the one trip we planned well in advance. When we first moved to Italy and started asking around about where we should spend our summer vacation, it seemed every other person suggested Puglia. They’d say that Puglia is where Italians go for a beach vacation. People also told us that in Puglia you could find wide, sandy beaches, unlike the rockier beaches of the Italian Riveria. We were excited that my sister could join us for part of the Puglia trip last minute: she’s a Mediterranean junky and Yahtzee fanatic and summer vacation wouldn’t be the same without her.
This photo was taken at the most glamorous beach we visited, Punta Prosciutto. The beach was packed the first week of August, but the vibe was pleasant and the clear waters were irresistible. We spent most of our time at the small beach by our rental, which we also loved. It was quiet and perfect for lazy beach days. We stayed in a town called Maruggio in the Salento area of Puglia. Our house was located between beach towns Campomarino and San Pietro In Bevagna. On the drive down from Bologna, we stopped for lunch in the seaport town Trani in northern Puglia and checked out its famous cathedral. In the middle of our trip, we did a day trip to the historic city Lecce, noted for its Baroque architecture and commonly nicknamed “The Florence of the South”. On the drive back to Bologna we stopped in Martina Franca for an olive oil tasting at L’Acropoli di Puglia, in Alberobello to check out its world famous trulli houses, and slept over in Pogliano a Mare, a seaside town that really surprised us with its dramatic beauty and polished hospitality.
Next, we headed towards the mountains. For a long weekend in August, we returned to rock climbing mecca Arco, located just north of Lake Garda. The outdoorsy aura of Arco reminds me of my former home Seattle and brings me straight to my happy place. We did some hiking, rock climbing (we even led some routes!), and soaked up as much of the fresh, alpine air as we could.
Then the end of August brought another surprise family visitor: my mom. It was a special treat to spend two weeks of quality time with my mom in Italy. On my parent’s first visit to Italy, I brought my mom to all the big sites: Rome, Pompeii, Florence, Venice, and Bologna. So on this trip, I decided to take her off the beaten path. We spent a few days by the beach in Numana in the Marche region. We enjoyed plenty of good seafood, traditional Marchegiano cuisine, and relaxed in style by renting chairs and an umbrella at the beach. We did one beach day at San Michele Beach near Sirolo and another at nearby Portonovo.
Then my mom and I drove down to Molise so she could visit the small hilltop villages where her grandmother and great grandfather were born: San Felice del Molise and Acquaviva Collecroce. These towns have Slavic roots and are two of the three towns where they still speak a Croatian/Italian dialect called Na-našu (the third town is Montemitro). This was my third, quick trip to Molise. I’ve really fallen in love with my ancestors’ hometowns because of their welcoming, enthusiastic residents and their tranquil countryside vistas. We were even treated to dinner by the amicable mayor of San Felice. I can’t get enough and hope to explore this region more slowly. My mom was a trooper on this leg of the trip as I was driving stick on some steep, narrow, and shoddy country roads.
When I was initially making summer plans, I was fretting that this would be my last summer in Italy and anxious about making the most of it. But I later realized that Italy is now a part of me (especially now that I’m a citizen) and I’m confident I’ll be back.
Summer 2014, that’s a wrap. I hope you all enjoyed some sunshine this summer. Thanks for reading!
Where’s your favorite place in Italy for summer vacation?