One of the most wonderful things about Italy, I think, is the proximity to beaches. No matter where you are in the boot, you’re never more than 2 hours away from water. This never mattered to me much when I first got here, being very focused on all the art I wanted to see, but as I’ve become more Italian, I really do appreciate beach going.
Most of the time I limit my beach time to the beaches of Tuscany simply because it’s close and I don’t have to pay for a place to sleep. But I’ve also had the pleasure of hitting a few sandy coves in Puglia, taking a late September dip near Palermo, and enjoying the shallow, sandy beauty of Cesenatico. Further up along the Adriatic Coast, in Northern Italy, is Bibione, the ideal beach location if you’re living in or visiting Veneto or Friuli Venezia Giulia. Not far Trieste, Udine, Venice and other art cities, the area permits one to combine rather unexplored artistic treasures with natural beauty, great food and top notch services.
If shade is your thing, Bibione Pineda is ideal. The dense maritime pine forest smells amazing year round and is perfect for strolls when the summer sun is too hot. But it’s charming (and pretty empty) in the off-season!
The sea at Bibione has 24 blue flags (bandiere blu) from 1996 to 2015, the EMAS environmental award for the best quality beaches. It’s awarded for cleanliness of water and beach and the availability of multiple, well-managed services (like parking, washrooms, bars etc).
The Valgrande lowland area is a large protected nature park laced with channels and featuring an inner lagoon. Pink flamingos can be spotted here in large groups from June through September. But not to worry, there are plenty of other interesting birds and fauna year-round. The park is accessible by various fun, sporty methods like mountain bike, kayak, horse or hiking.
It’s really flat
If you like the idea of cycling, but like to take it easy, Bibione’s totally flat territory is ideal. There are organized itineraries from 6 to 70km long, from the city to the natural areas, the pine forest and stopping at historic features along the way.
Not far from art
Bibione is just over an hour away from Venice, but also close to numerous other art cities, making it a very comfortable home base for day trips to lesser-known places like Asolo, Pordenone, and the small towns along the Tagliamento. It is ideal, especially in the summer – think visits in the cooler hours of the morning, long naps and late evenings on the beach. With the area’s rich culture, there are also numerous interesting temporary exhibits, which often stay open late in the summer.
This amazing villa and exhibition space deserves a mention of its own. 40 minutes away from Bibione, it’s the 17th-century villa of a powerful local family. There’s trompe l’oeuil hallways, a rich Baroque chapel, tons of over the top rooms, and a gorgeous garden. They host annual exhibits dedicated to modern artists (in Spring 2016, a show on Mirò) as well as conferences and art prizes. It’s also a pretty spectacular wedding location (for info see: http://villamanin.it).
Just as Puglia has its oddly shaped trulli, this part of Friuli and the Veneto has casoni, simply constructed fishing huts made of mud, with pitched straw roofs. They were mentioned by Hemingway, who called the area the Florida of Europe. Apparently, the author enjoyed his stay in 1948 very much, and the idyllic hunting areas, lagoons and woods inspired his book ‘Across the River and Into the Trees’ published in America in 1950 and in Italy in 1965.
Fish and Wine
No list would be complete without a big meal. Fish is unquestionably the main course in this area – the lagoons have historically been major fish producers. You can wash it down with wine blends of international grapes – the area just beyond the lagoon grows a lot of pinot bianco, grigio and noir, chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon etc.
No smoking beaches
Bibione was the first city in Italy to introduce a no-smoking rule on the beach. You can’t imagine how happy this makes this asthma-sufferer, there’s nothing worse than a guy with a cigar right next to your ombrellone.
Dog loving beaches
Traveling with pooch isn’t easy in Italy in the summer – to the point that the country annually rolls out campaigns to dissuade desperate holiday goers from abandoning their dogs at this time! Bibione is one of the first areas to open a beach especially for dogs and their owners! La Spiaggia di Pluto not only has doggie showers and doggie beds, it provides pooper-scooper baggies, and regularly sanitizes the entire area of sand with special machinery. There are of course animal-friendly hotels in the area, like the modern 3-star Hotel Olympia.
Open year-round, sometimes the best time to visit a beach is in the winter, where you can enjoy the fresh air and the crashing waves on the coast. But if you want to get into the water, thermal baths would be preferable… Bibione Thermae conveniently has water at 52 degrees celcius, with numerous recognized health properties. Italians can even apply for treatments covered by national health, like muds and inhalations.
5 star hotels
Bibione’s top hotel, and the only 5-star, is the Savoy Beach Hotel and Thermal Spa. Right on the beach, it’s also annexed to the thermal center, so you can totally get away with wearing the provided white bathrobe and slippers for your entire stay!
They have numerous swimming pools, a swim-up bar, free bike rental, tons of activities to keep your kids out of your hair, free gym classes for guests so you don’t feel guilty about all you’re eating while on holiday… the place is pretty ideal.
What do you think? Bibione this year?