|The car windows are open for some air on this sweltering day but also to make sure I don’t miss the first smell of the salty sea air.A smell that means so much to me, being a woman of the water and the sea, not the mountains.|
The moment we drive into Cecina the flair of an Italian holiday village surrounds us. Italian men and teens riding bicycles in only their swim trunks, their t-shirts over one shoulder and mirrored sunglasses on, some with a dangling cigarette from their lips. Groups of families, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and children of all ages tromp to the beaches with all manner of beach equipment in endless bags and packages. It is like a camping expedition with cars, bikes, vespas’, baby carriages and pedestrians. It seems that Italians makes the beach an all day family affair. Marco, Emiko’s husband who’s grandfather bought the house the family stays in in Cecina, tells us that when his family (originally from the outskirts of Florence) goes to the beach they usually number 20 people including 1st, 2nd and 3rd cousins.
The seashore is lined with restaurants, bars and beach clubs, the beach divided unevenly between beach clubs with umbrellas and loungers for rent for prices of up to 50 € a day during high season and the so-called public beaches squished in between the private ones. Squeezing my towel down onto the piping hot sand along with my follow foodies’ (we are a small group of eight) between dozens of other family plots, a wordplay on Sardin(es)ia comes to mind.
Marco insists that the local merchants believe that the beaches are not as full as the years before. Thinking about the amount of people who descend here in August during high season has me heading to the beach bar for a cool drink.
I love the colorful atmosphere of the Italian beachside. The pretties showing off their new bikinis, their tans and their figures, the men doing their machismo thing but acting like big boys at play, the rituals, the food, the shouts, the noise.
At the moment there are not so many tourists, mostly Italians and they have a high tolerance for the heat, the noise and the sardine-ness of it all. I am fascinated.
The beach is stony and or sandy – mostly both, and the water at the edge somewhat murky from the many people wading in it. I swim farther out where it is cleaner, deeper and less frequented treading water and watching the beach carnival in progress. Catching up again and again to my foodie group, wading luxuriously in medium-depth water and chatting about our favorite things: food, recipes, cameras, and food conferences. It is like Moms getting together to chat about kids. The anecdotes are endless, the interest constant and the joint joy of a good meal or an excellent photo opportunity at Cecina market close to our hearts.
In the morning we had visited the market in Livorno. A large covered market with nicely divided fresh fish section and an enormous meat, poultry, cheese and cold cuts sections with a few scattered fruit and vegetables stalls in between. The market is along with the seaside terrace a highlight of Livorno and well worth a visit. It is however only open in the morning and closes down quickly shortly before lunch time. Something no true Italian would want to miss.
Neither do we so before we return to the beach we buy a lovely sandwich called 5 e 5 (cinque&cinque) from a tiny shop next to the market – it is a deliciously stuffed roll with typical Tuscan chickpea pancake and freshly grilled slices of eggplant, garlicky and delicious.
In the evening Marco cooks for us, stuffed (with the tentacles, breadcrumbs and herbs) calamari and Sicilian caponata a typical grilled vegetable salad of eggplant, zucchini, roasted peppers, mint and mushrooms, Marco does his with raisins and pine nuts and serves it with argula. Along with cecina or torta de ceci, the large chick pea pancake cut into pizza-like slices, some Tuscan ham and delicious local Pecorino cheeses both young and middle-aged, fresh figs, tomatoes and olive oil.
We dig in and enjoy the beautifully tasty but simple fare, the company and the foodie conversation; occasionally running to the balcony with our cameras to catch the sunset over the sea. The music and conversation of people promenading the street along the shore which in the evening becomes a pedestrian zones which markets stalls of jewelry and handcrafts all through July and August, drifts up to us and heightens the headiness of these hot Etruscan evenings. Another glorious day comes to an end and we sleepily head for bed and tomorrow’s adventures in the Golfo di Barrati and San Vicenzo.