Doors are opening now in Italy, restaurants and bars can serve clients at the counter and you can sit inside. Hotels are reopening for the summer season and there’s a feeling of optimism in the air. After months and endless restrictions the end is in sight ‘c’e luce in fondo al tunnel’, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. There’s still mask wearing and social distancing and all the usual Covid hygiene requirements, but apart from that, it’s the same as any early summer season.
In the seaside town of Senigallia there’s hammering and sawing in every corner as the bars, cafes and beaches prepare for the influx of tourists that arrive from mid-June onwards. Generally a town like Senigallia welcomes visitors from all over the continent of Europe, British Isles and America. This season is different though. Probably the vast majority of tourists will be Italian. That doesn’t stop business owners from rigorously covering walls and floors and every available surface with a bright, new coat of paint. Nor does it stop the enthusiasm and general good humour that pervades the town after months of restrictions and endless ‘decrees’ from Rome.
I arrived in Italy last week, anxious to do my bit (however small) to restore people’s confidence in travel to the Italian peninsula. I’ve worked in Italy offering specialist tours and itineraries for many years. My friend Lara (below) runs the tourist office in Senigallia and we’d been planning a visit for me to her home town for over a year, cancelled twice because of Covid. As restrictions started to be lifted I decided that now was the time to get back to my beloved Italy. I’ve been made to feel very welcome and have even enjoyed working in the same office as my friends and colleagues.
TRAVELLING TO ITALY – For travellers eager to get back to the beaches and historic towns of Italy’s Adriatic Coast, the challenge is not the destination, instead it is the journey (especially by air) to get here. This is particularly true in the case of the British Isles, where the airline network is all but suspended and an unhelpful government in London have put every country in Europe on the ‘amber list’ meaning that the official advice is, don’t visit unless you have to and quarantine on your return is obligatory. It’s hard to understand the UK government’s logic when vaccination rates are higher than ever and infection rates are falling.
As a wise man said to me at the beginning of the Covid pandemic, ‘It is very easy for the government to restrict our liberties, they’ll be much more reluctant to return those liberties at the appropriate moment…’ How right he was.
In fact as I sit in the ‘Tourist Office’ of Senigallia with its magnificent painted ceiling, festooned with cherubs and putti, playing in the celestial clouds, I can’t help but think that the British government is isolating the UK from the rest of Europe not only politically, with the recent Brexit fiasco, but also in a more practical and potentially more sinister way. We Europeans are culturally very similar, sharing and enriching our own life journeys by learning and discovering from our Italian, French and German neighbours. It is simply wrong to suggest that Covid tested, vaccinated individuals cannot travel in Europe at the moment (unless they have an incredibly good reason). Our British tendency towards isolationism and xenophobia has gone into overdrive and I for one do not like it, I do not like it at all.
SUMMER FUN – Meanwhile, Senigallia looks forward to the coming season and to the many events and activities that they will host. Probably the most visually spectacular of which is the annual ‘Summer Jamboree’. Cancelled last year for obvious reasons, the ‘Summer Jamboree’ is a fabulous Americana event celebrating the music and culture of the 1940s and 1950s. It is a classic rock and roll event that usually attracts dancers and rockers from all over the world. This year it starts on 30th July and runs for about ten days. The costumes are sensational and the make up is totally ‘retro’ – I love it all. Red lipstick is the order of the day! The town is expecting mostly Italian rockabilly types this year. In the past the event has had Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and even what’s left of the Beach Boys as the star acts. Most of the concerts are free and take place in the piazzas and beach clubs of the town. It’s all Hawaiian shirts and flip flops and a really great atmosphere.
MY ADVICE – if you live in mainland Europe and you feel like a holiday then hop in your car and drive to Senigallia. There’s every kind of accommodation available from camp sites to really nice first class hotels. If you prefer a more peaceful place to stay there are many villas and apartments in the surrounding countryside. For people that don’t know Le Marche region of Italy, you are in for a treat. It is a beautiful landscape of rolling hills, vineyards, olive orchards and hilltop towns. Many of the towns have castles and huge, medieval brick walls protecting them. This region was known as The Papal States until Italy’s unification in the 19th century. Each town was a mini-kingdom controlled by a Duke or a Prince. Many of the towns still have the gates of the city in place, there are drawbridges and even moats in some of the towns. From the piazza of these small towns there’s usually a fantastic view towards the sea and across the undulating landscape of green and gold.
SENIGALLIA – the town of Senigallia is well known in Italy. There is an exceptional gastronomic tradition here. Two of Italy’s greatest chefs have restaurants in the town. In the Italian press the town is often referred to as ‘La citta a 5 stelle’ the town of five stars – referring to the two Michelin-starred restaurants here. There’s Moreno Cedroni with his superb restaurant ‘La Madonnina del Pescatore’ and then Mauro Uliassi’s eponymous restaurant ‘Uliassi’ next to Senigallia’s port. Both chefs are operating at the Heston Blumenthal level in gastronomy, with truly exceptional creativity and a razor-sharp focus on quality and freshness of ingredients. Each chef has a dedicated ‘laboratorio’ where they experiment with new dishes and new techniques of preparing all types of food.
In fact in Senigallia there’s a full range of bars, cafes and casual restaurants as well as fine dining. Close to the beach there are numerous fish restaurants representing every price point. Quality is standard in Senigallia. A friend of mine from Milan, told me recently ‘I think it’s impossible to eat badly in Senigallia’…. Then after lunch or dinner if you feel the need for a delicious ice cream then you need to head over to Paolo Brunelli’s amazing ‘gelateria’. Paolo is a ‘Maestro Gelatiere’. He makes fabulous, creamy ice cream using traditional methods and (of course) only the highest quality ingredients. His signature ice creams are delicious. People queue patiently outside his ‘gelateria’ shop in the historic centre of Senigallia.
QUALITY – everywhere in Italy the emphasis is on quality. The importance of appreciating every moment is engrained in Italian culture from a delicious coffee in the morning to the perfect ice cream. It is vital to enjoy and absorb. As we emerge from months of restrictions it seems to me that we should resume our lives with a philosophy of appreciation and respect. Respect for our natural environment and appreciation for what we have rather than what we do not have. From a professional point of view I will be moving forward offering a ‘SLOW TRAVEL’ proposition to old and new clients. It is so much better to stay in 2 or 3 places for perhaps 4-5 nights each than 8 different towns for just 1 or 2 nights. A longer stay means more time to discover the town or city you are visiting and to discover the lesser known places that remain hidden to the average visitor. Staying in a place a little longer gives you the opportunity to find your favourite cafe and your favourite shops. It gives you time to breathe and appreciate a new environment, to meet local people and perhaps even to make new friends.
Meanwhile for the lucky few Italy awaits, if you can make it here, you’ll love every minute. I’d be prepared to guarantee it……………….
Notes: You may also enjoy other articles I’ve written about Senigallia and Marche:
- Senigallia, Italy – Gastronomy and Wine
- Gastronomy of the Adriatic – Senigallia, Italy
- Fabulous Country House to rent – Senigallia, Le Marche, Italy
And my personal favourite…………..Never send money home!! A true and painful story from Corinaldo, one of Marche’s most scenic towns.
KINGS OF GASTRONOMY – SENIGALLIA: discover more about Senigallia’s kings of cuisine here:
SPECIAL THANKS TO: Lara Massi / Responsabile – Ufficio di Turismo, Citta di Senigallia
08 June, 2021