Think that the best thing you can get on the beaches of Italy is some fresh seafood or maybe a nice tan? Think again. For those wave-riders who crave some time in the surf, Italy may pleasantly surprise you. Granted, the waves can be quite fickle, and are more dependable during the winter, but a surfing culture is real and present in Italy, which boasts more than 325 surfing spots around the country, according to www.surfnews.it.
As forecaster Mike Watson explains on the website www.surfline.com, Italy can boast surf-able waves because “spots in the Mediterranean Sea, just like all other surf spots around the world, need winds blowing over the ocean for a given amount of time to create swell and ultimately surf. This basin though is quite unique – the relatively warm sea sits between two contrasting climates (Europe and Africa) and also has complex orographic features, both of which are extremely important from a meteorological standpoint. This combination results in a pretty active basin.”
Italian surf is due in part to Italy’s four different air masses, which create the winds and the waves: Cold polar continental air (aria polare continentale fredda), hot continental air (aria continentale calda), hot tropical continental air (aria tropicale continentale calda), and cold maritime air (aria marittima fredda). These air masses are realized in distinct winds with equally distinctive names: Il Maestrale, Il Libeccio, Lo Scirocco, Il Grecale and La Bora. The winds blow from all different directions, producing surf areas throughout Italy, particularly in Liguria, Tuscany, Le Marche, Emilia-Romagna, Veneto and the Friuli regions in the north; Lazio, Calabria, Campania, Puglia, Molise, and Abruzzo in the south; and (perhaps unsurprisingly) particularly on the islands of Elba (Tuscany), Sicily and Sardinia.
Perhaps the most famous surfing in Italy is found in the seaside town of Levanto, in Liguria, which is often referred to as “Italy’s surfing central.” The website www.levantosurfing.com is a very helpful tool for those hoping to catch a wave, a bite, a surfing lesson, or even just a few zzz’s in the surfing town. Levanto boasts the country’s longest lefthander waves, and at only 40 miles from Genoa, is an excellent jaunt for anyone hoping to burn off some of the pasta topped with Genoa’s world-famous pesto that you no doubt have enjoyed to excess! Other Italian spots highly rated by surfers include Capo Mannu 2 in Sardinia, Acitrezza in Sicily, Lillatro in Liguria, and Porto di Santa Marinella in Lazio, ideally located just 50 kilometers west of Rome.
For all those type-A surfers (you living oxymorons!) who want to check out the weather stats down to the last minute detail before heading out to the beach, www.wannasurf.com breaks down the specifics of every beach, from wave quality to experience level, wave length, and crowdedness on weekdays and weekends. Also, check out www.surf-forecast.com for detailed six-day forecast of winds, weather, tides, and temperature of the beach and surf. Italy may be known more for its spaghetti than its surfboards, but with a little planning, and a little luck, you can ride the waves — Italian style — with the best of them.
— Justine Gregory