Hello fellow travellers, are you feeling unloved and unwelcome? It’s hardly surprising. More people are travelling today than at any other time in our history and the invention of dreaded Bucket Lists has done nothing to take the pressure off many of the world’s iconic travel destinations. No wonder residents in parts of Europe are sick of tourists and want to reclaim their towns (and their lives) back from 21st century marauders.
Rather than continuing down well-worn, not-to-mention overcrowded paths, we recently checked out quiet spots along Italy’s Adriatic Coast which predominantly attract domestic holidaymakers. What we found were locals sunning themselves on sensuously curved golden beaches and small towns which are happy to deliver out-of-towners with a sustainably satisfying travel experience. With broad smiles and a few words of Italian, we found a warm welcome in these three new favourites….
Where is it? Midway between Trani and Bari in Puglia, southern Italy.
Why is it special? A provincial fishing port since 4th century BC, it boasts a completely restored ancient walled town of immense charm located on a waterfront where wooden fishing boats in all shades of blue sway at anchor. Housed in one of Molfetta’s original stone buildings near the 12th century Apulian-Romanesque cathedral Duomo di San Corrado, the boutique hotel MoMa B&B nestles comfortably within the Old Town’s city walls. Subtly restored by local designer Gianluca de Gioia, from sleekly minimal suites guests descend via a white metal staircase to breakfast in the cave-like basement while in the evening, they ascend to the rooftop terrace for sweeping waterfront views.
What makes it friendly? Mingle with local shoppers at the public market where the day’s catch is noisily auctioned and exchange a few words with fishermen mending their nets at the waterfront. Laid-back locals greet you with a ‘ciou’ on the small beach where kids frolic while at night, you’ll be warmly welcomed into the Old Town’s squares and side streets where cosy restaurants group tables to accommodate all-comers serving wonderfully fresh Crudarola pizza and excellent Puglia dry whites. Show your MoMa B&B room card at dinner and you’ll receive 10% discount on your bill and a welcome glass of wine – now that’s real friendly!! www.molfettamare.com
SAN BENEDETTO DEL TRONTO
Where is it? 3.5 hours north of Molfetta on the Adriatic Coast.
Why is it special? With mountains and ski resorts on the doorstep, you can literally surf and turf! 26km away, Montagna dei Fiori is the closest of several mountain peaks awaiting exploration while at 43km distance, Samano is the closest ski resort. But it’s the stunning stretch of caramel sand that’s the big drawcard with surf breaks close to town. Since 1998, the Riviera delle Palme, San Benedetto del Tronto’s beach, has been annually awarded a Blue Flag certification awarded by the Foundation for Environmental Education for meeting environmental standards. Pretty special by any standards.
What makes it friendly? In a country of franchised beach access, portions of San Benedetto del Tronto and nearby Grottomare’s beaches are free drawing the after-work crowd for games of beach soccer and volleyball – newcomers welcome! Parking is plentiful and free at certain times of the day – just check the signs – and by 5pm, it’s only natural to join the locals for an aperitif (while trying out your Italian) at a seafront bar overlooking the opalescent turquoise Adriatic – the end of a perfect, endless summer day.
Where is it? The capital of Italy’s Marche region, it’s an hour’s drive north of San Benedetto del Tronto with Florence, Spoleto and Bologna under 200kms away.
Why is it special? This strategically commercial port town also has a thriving luxury super yacht boat building business and at tourist port Marine Dorica, you can gawk at the well-stocked parking bay for floating assets. Ancona is also the gateway to sublime summer getaways known only to locals including Portonovo’s blindingly white limestone beach backed by picturesque Monte Conero clad in Mediterranean scrub and yellow Genestra flowers. Sirolo’s narrow streets house artisanal goods from cashmere to comestibles such as Ascolana, olives filled with minced beef, Parmigiana-Reggiano, carrot and white wine then fried. And then there’s the ridiculously picturesque Numana, a working fishermen’s port that in August is a sea of sunflowers and local holidaymakers.
What makes it friendly? Joining a small group boat hire to cruise and swim in the Adriatic is a great way to make friends even if just for one day. www.latorreboat.com Each August, beachside Senigallia, 25kms from Ancona, hosts a 10-day Summer Jamboree that celebrates everything 1950s from fast cars to funky fashion and of course, music. Fifties aficionados flock here from around the world to make new friends and meet up with old acquaintances proving that life really was a whole lot friendlier way back when. www.summerjamboree.com
And as our Ancona friends said as we were leaving: “we are very jealous of our region and don’t want to share it with too many people”. In the light of current travel trends, maintaining a destination’s uniquely special and friendly qualities is a challenge for all of us.
Tags: Adriatic coast, Adriatic Sea, Aggiungi Osteria, Al Cuoco di Bordo, Ancona, Bucket Lists, Crudarola pizza, Duomo di San Corrado, funky fashion, Gianluca de Gioia, Grottomare, iconic travel destinations, Italy's Adriatic Coast, Italy's golden beaches, La Torre Boat, Marine Dorica, Mediterranean, Molfetta, MoMa BnB, Mt Conero, Numana, Pescara, Pineto, Portonovo, Progetti, Puglia, Riviera delle Palme, San Benedetto del Tronto, Senigallia, Sirolo, southern Italy, Summer Jamboree, Trani, Vasto, waterfront views, www.molfettamare.com