Just as spring is now sliding into summer, we are finding that many aspects of our daily lives here are sliding from novelty into normality – to some degree at least. It’s not that the novelty of finally living the life we had dreamed of for over a decade has worn off as such; far from it – and I hope it never does. We have, rather, become a little less self-conscious about ‘living in Italy’ and no longer find ourselves mentally tagging even the most mundane of activities with ‘in Italy!’, as in ‘we’re doing the shopping – in Italy!’ or ‘I’m hanging out the washing – in Italy!’.
There are, however, two aspects of our lives here where the novelty has not yet even started to slide into anything like normality. The first is that after fifteen years of spending practically every weekend either working or doing something connected with the business or with blacksmithing, we now have proper weekends. By which I mean weekends which are not simply the two extra days that give you a fighting chance of completing everything on the previous week’s ‘to do’ list before starting on the next week’s list. The other is that we now live only about 20 minutes from the sea – the clear, warm, benign Adriatic Sea, at that. The combined effect of these two things is that we are at serious risk of making a habit of enjoying a few hours at the beach most Sundays. I should say ‘a’ beach as there are several bustling seaside resorts along Le Marche’s long straight coastline for us to choose from – most of them with a coveted Blue Flag, incidentally. Our nearest, and possibly our favourite is Civitanova Marche, primarily because it is a lively town in its own right and not just a holiday resort, which gives the whole place a certain confidence and character. But also because its seafront, which by late May becomes the town’s main focus, is really rather elegant.
It effectively forms the eastern edge of the town centre: the colourful beach umbrellas and tall palm trees are easily visible from the town’s main square in front of the town hall. And as such it has a certain swagger, a hint of glamour, even, especially during the early evening passegiata – the traditional leisurely stroll whose primary purpose is to see and be seen (vedere e farsi vedere). Standing sentry at the northern end is the still functioning historical fish market and commercial fishing port-cum-yacht marina with its generous horse-shoe shaped harbour. The sentry at the southern end is the simple red-and-blue-painted stadium of the local football team, the Civitanovese. And between the two runs what I suppose in the UK might be called ‘the prom’. This is an arrow-straight palm tree-lined boulevard with a broad pavement laid with smooth pinky-beige tiles parallel to which runs a yellow painted cycle track – used as much by joggers and inline skaters as by cyclists, mind. On the town side are a handful of low-rise holiday apartment buildings in a variety of pastel shades, while on the beach side are a huge assortment of bars, cafés, gelaterias and restaurants. Nearly all of the restaurants specialise in freshly cooked fish dishes served to diners seated on deep, shaded terraces. These in turn open out onto oleander-edged sections of private beach where bright sun loungers and frilled parasols stand in neat rows on the smooth white and grey pebbles.
In the past when we were still just tourists here, we still only spent the occasional day at the beach, as much of every week-long trip was invariably taken up either with exploring unlikely ruins to restore or familiarising ourselves with what was set to become our ‘stomping ground’. So when we did finally get to the beach, we would push the boat out and rent a 2x sun-lounger and parasol combo for the day and later treat ourselves to a slap-up seafood lunch of fritto misto (mixed fried fish and seafood cooked in the lightest of batters), a pile of barely dressed crisp green salad and a plate of French fries (well, we were on holiday) washed down with a cold beer (Mr Blue-Shirt) and a glass of chilled Passerina (me).
This all seems a bit extravagant now we are here permanently and going to the beach can, if we’re honest, no longer really be treated as a treat, so to speak. So, courtesy of our local branch of OBI (the equivalent of B&Q) we now have our very own pair of lime green folding sun-loungers, a lightweight parasol and a cool box. After a quick breakfast all’aperto, we pack a picnic in the cool box, stuff swimmies, books and sun cream in an Ikea blue bag (I’m steadily working my way through the list of 100 uses for them) and throw the whole lot in the car along with loungers and brolly. Then we wind our way down the hill, through Morrovalle, then past Montecòsaro and Civitanova Alta, before arriving in town at the broad section of public beach near the stadium end of the prom. Once we’ve staked our claim to our whichever spot takes our fancy that day, it’s time for a quick coffee at the nearest beach concession – mainly so we can use their changing rooms: wrestling into swimmies under a towel just feels so awkwardly British. Then it’s back to our sun loungers for a serious bout of doing nothing. Apart from a bit of reading, a bit of dozing, and a bit of bobbing about in the calm turquoise sea. All completely ‘normal’, we keep telling ourselves… We do allow ourselves one small treat before digging into our picnic, though: a cold beer and a chilled glass of Passerina at a beachside restaurant – just for old time’s sake.