It was a holiday August 15th, Ferragosto (Assumption Day, the start of the summer vacation period in Italy) so we took the opportunity to get out of Rome for a few days. We traveled first to Marina di Grosetto, a seaside town north of Rome and stayed at the lovely Hotel Terme Marine Leopoldo II. It was a block from the beach, all shiny white granite, with a lovely salt-water swimming pool and a good restaurant.
We were excited to go be staying so close to the beach, but soon became disenchanted by the rows and rows of beach chairs vying for space on the sand and rowdy teenagers engaged in water fights that unfortunately included us.
Not wanting to be in the middle of a water fight while enjoying the sea, the next day we got in the car and headed south to Marina di Alberese, an 8 mile stretch of isolated beach surrounded by a nature preserve. We first stopped in the little town of Albrese, where we saw a lot of people waiting for the bus, and a crowd several layers deep at the only food market in town. We grabbed some quick pizza slices from the little café near the bus stop and headed toward the sea.
When we arrived at the entrance to the beach, a line of cars and a curious arrangement of entry and exit gates met us. I hopped out to in an attempt to figure out what was happening and stopped to talk to a gentleman in a car further ahead in line. He only spoke Italian, but what I could understand was that only a limited number of cars were allowed to enter the park each hour and then only when an equal number of cars exited the park. Now we understood why so many people took the bus to the beach!
Upon hearing this, we debated if it was worth it to try to get in or to just turn back and settle for the hotel pool.
Then we noticed a woman standing around near the gates with a clicker in her hands. She controlled the gates! We continued to debate whether to stay or go as we inched forward in line.
At last, she clicked and we were granted entry. The beach turned out to be a beautiful expanse of sand and sea with no beach chair rental service, which is common at all of the beaches we’ve visited. Instead, we were greeted by Italian ingenuity and a colorful variety of makeshift sunshades built of driftwood, and hauled in umbrellas, blankets and sheets.
We attempted to build our own sunshade, which was a sad imitation of the others we saw, but nevertheless, it turned out to be a lovely afternoon at the sea.