In continuation of my Road Trip through Italy reminiscing, I've grouped a few journal entries together to document my time in Tuscany and Puglia, and the images that resulted in additions to the La Dolce Vita collection. I hope you enjoy!
Day 5, June 18th
Viareggio is one of three large coastal town in the Tuscany region that are absolutely packed with beach umbrellas. During my last trip through Italy I spent two days here documenting the beaches but failed to get the vantage point I longed for—from above. Therefore this time I have two secret weapons to make sure I get the exact images I want!
After a relaxed breakfast at the hotel we headed to the local hardware store to find the perfect ladder (secret weapon #1) and then set out to roam over 4 miles of beachfront. Jeff and I worked as a team as we wandered through the rainbow sea of umbrellas.
I would look for intriguing umbrellas and particular angles and he would carry the ladder and put it down and hold it in place while I climbed up and snapped the shot before anyone could ‘shoo’ us away. Though it doesn’t sound too crazy, it actually is VERY crazy.
Imagine thousands of umbrellas in every color, shape and design making your eyeballs pop out of your head. As you sneak along 4 miles of sand in and out of each beach club looking for just the right perspective, you are horrified some hot headed Italian is going to yell at you for not belonging there all while the sun is beating down on you and the hot sand is burning your feet! SO when you see these images don’t be fooled- there is a story behind each one that surely will make you laugh.
After our adventure we set back to the hotel to have a cocktail by the rooftop pool- I was craving a ‘Sea Breeze’ and Jeff, a “Bombay Sapphire martini.” We took in a little bit of R&R before changing and heading to dinner.
Day 9, June 22nd
Packing up our bags, we had breakfast before departing Hotel Baldini. Though I had captured the beaches of Rimini from above, I still had my heart set on capturing some of them from the ground perspective on my handy-dandy ladder.
Similar to Viareggio, we parked our car and began to walk along the beach through an endless ocean of umbrellas. From Bagni 80 to Bagni 20 (they number the beach clubs), we worked as a team to find ideal umbrellas and clean vantage points of the beautiful wide beach.
After a few hours we finally arrived at our last beach club, Bagno Arcobaleno- the rainbow umbrella club. We took in the vantage point over the beautiful bright umbrellas before walking all the way back to our car- 60 beach clubs away!
Driving out of town we passed by a giant camera that I naturally needed to stop and take pictures with and said our final goodbyes to Rimini. Though bittersweet, I was relieved to get on the highway since all of those umbrellas can be so overwhelming!
We drove down the coast through rolling fields of vineyards and sunflowers on our right and the deep blue Adriatic Sea on our left. The next stretch of our trip will take us down the coast through the region of Puglia and into the ‘boot’ of Italy.
We eventually exited the highway into the town of Vasto where we will be staying for the next two nights. The interesting part about this side of Italy is that the architecture is a bit more reminiscent of Greece with white stucco and blue accents. Someone had mentioned this to us but we weren’t fully aware until we arrived at our hotel, Baia Delphis. Perched on the side of a steep cliff this beautiful property is staggered with colorful gardens and a private beach and pool that stem from the sea up to the main area and restaurant.
After checking in they served us a popular Venetian drink named “the spritz” --- a mix of prosecco and aperol served with a fresh orange slice. This deliciously refreshing welcome drink was the perfect accessory to explore the grounds of the hotel with in-hand. The bright orange color was so stunning against the colorful property I had to stop and take some pictures as the sun began to fall behind the hillside.
After unpacking we took a minute to unwind in our room which had a private grassy terrace and second story rooftop with views of the sea— I am not sure if it was the Spritz or the property but we both definitely felt relaxed.
We dined at the hotel restaurant outside on the patio under the moon- a wonderful ending to the busy day.
Day 12, June 25th
Waking up early, the sun was shining so we decided to go on a jog along the promenade of the town. At about 6:45AM there were lots of other people jogging along and for a moment we almost felt like locals. We jogged back along the beach and I couldn’t help but smile as we came to the end of the stretch—there was a beautiful tall white rock which a beach club just below it.
After checking out and getting the heck out of Hotel Pizzomunno we drove down to the rock and I climbed up into a lifeguard stand and began photographing the umbrellas against the spectacular white rock. This was one of those La Dolce Vita moments where I could feel the magic as I hit the shutter button… such a great start to the day.
Today we are going to two of the most famous beaches in Puglia: Polignano a Mare and Monopoli. The coast of Puglia has very little beach but rather rocky shores. Therefore the locals really take advantage of the few beaches that exist.
Arriving in Polignano a Mare was like arriving into a movie set—literally. They were filming a movie and we happen to be walking through the town square just as the main actors, Chiara and Damiano were between sets on a Vespa. It was quite comical because we had no map, no idea where we were going and suddenly we are in a movie set. I have no idea what the movie was but it certainly heightened the adventure!
However, there certainly is a reason they were filming in Polignano a Mare—it’s STUNNING. The town is very old and is made of tiny winding streets built along the cliff with one large inlet from the sea where there is a gorgeous teal water beach. I spent some time photographing the beach from different angles in the town before going down the beach itself. Jeff and I both loved it so much we decided we are going to come back tomorrow.
Continuing along the coast of Puglia we entered the town of Monopoli. We weren’t sure where the beach was exactly so we decided to drive through the town—to our surprise there are actually many small beaches along the rocky coast of the town. Walking from one to the next, none of them were really making me crazy until we came to the most southern beach, Grotta del Ferrancchio.
The small beach was packed with locals and was exactly what I was hoping to find in this small town. Finding a nice vantage point above the beach, I started to realize how many amazing characters there were in the scene—tan Italian stud in lime green speeds, African woman selling chachkies balancing a wooden basket on her head, overweight woman in teeny pink bikini etc. I took my time documenting every angle of this flamboyant beach before calling it a day. Little did I know that we had a surprise ahead of us.
Pulling out our itinerary I typed in the address to our GPS before noticing on the reservation email that the price of the room was a lofty $500 for the night. Jeff explained that very few hotels in the Puglia area allowed for a one night stay and we were lucky to have found this spot—and surely we were very lucky.
Borgo Eganzia has got to be one of the most magical resorts I have ever had the privilege of being a guest. The design of the property is a modern take on the ancient Puglia architecture and is very minimal in its character. Think LOTS of gorgeous white stone, tan wood, and luminescent candles—oh and three swimming pools, a small village and six restaurants. Entering the doors our jaws dropped as we walked from room to room eventually arriving at the two large swimming pools.
The minimal architecture and mostly white stone made the blue pool really explode alongside some beautiful purple bougainvillea. Checking out the crowd there was no doubt this is where you might spot a celebrity- or a famous international soccer player. We took in the rest of the sunshine by the pool, reading the international NYT and snacking on some of the olives from the grounds of the property.
After a while we explored the small village on the property which is an area guests can stay modeled after what the ancient Puglia towns looked like—finding a bicycle I took a spin down to the little town square—we were in heaven!
That night we dined at the main hotel restaurant outside on the terrace. We decided to go early – meaning 8PM – so we were the only ones there when we arrived. A live musician played as we ordered a glass of local Spumante Rose to enjoy as the sun set over a scene of warm hued skies and vibrant purple bougainvillea. Taking a stroll through the property during the twilight hours of the evening sky we eventually retired to bed since tomorrow is our biggest day of driving.
Up next, Portafino, Amalfi Coast and Capri!