“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain
Our son, Andrew, and his wife, Alicia, are gracious and generous hosts – and have been to a steady stream of visitors over the past few months. Consequently, we proposed a relaxing weekend away, at a destination of their choosing. So we motored to the Emilia-Romagna Region, and the Adriatic coast.
We found a hotel in the seaside resort community of Gatteo a Mare, then explored the town before enjoying dinner in the open air on one of the main piazzas.
“Italia 2014 – The Adventure Continues” featured a variety of dining experiences, but this venue – “Ippocampo” – was unquestionably one of the best.
Much of eating out in Italy is the atmosphere. It was August, the time of the year when all of Italy takes off from work and heads to the coast, and Gatteo a Mare was stuffed full with Italians on vacation. Most of the streets in the town center were closed to motorized vehicles, and we sat at our table on the patio watching hundreds of families out for a stroll, couples walking hand in hand, life passing by in a rich parade.
Across the piazza a band busied itself setting up for the concert that eventually got under way as we were finishing dessert; a gentle breeze came in off the Adriatic, and we settled in for a long meal. In Italy (unless you’re heading to the opera later), dinner is the evening’s entertainment.
We let our waiter recommend his favorite antipasto platter, then we chose local, somewhat mysterious, seafood dishes, paired with a fresh, buoyant wine. Dessert – when we got there – involved cappuccino for us, espresso for the young people, and some kind of potent, juiced up sorbet.
Atmosphere? Yes; the place had it and to spare. Great food? Most definitely yes; you have to be willing to step out of what you’re used to if you want amazing culinary experiences when traveling. Authenticity? And then some; Andrew and Alicia had to use all of their Italian know-how to navigate the experience.
Here’s a funny story to wrap today’s post, and I’ll save the architectural delights of Ravenna for tomorrow:
We enjoyed an “exceeds expectations” experience with our waiter. Consequently, I violated the “only tip like the locals do” rule and rewarded him generously. The next night, on a whim, we decided to return to the same restaurant. Our new friend saw us coming, greeted us, and led us toward the same table from the previous night. The table had a prominent “riservato” sign (reserved) in the middle. He grabbed the sign, crumpled it, dropped it in the trash, and seated us with great ceremony.
We all felt comfortable, welcomed, and relaxed in the seaside town of Gatteo a Mare. Off the beaten track for American tourists, overflowing with European vacationers, and not a historic marker to be seen; but delightful, authentically Italian, and a great start to our final weekend.