Rome Travel Guide

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cupa Fregene

At dinner Tuesday night, when we told our close friends that we had spent Sunday at the beach town of Fregene, they were incredulous. How, they implied, could the veterans of Rome the Second Time have made such a grave error in judgment? The beach was "black," they said, a comment that referred, we hasten to add, to the color of the sand. And it was black, and also, therefore, they said, unusually hot, maybe unbearably hot. And it was hot.

Fregene had been recommended to us by our husband-and-wife landlords, who said it was nifty. And by a favorite Italian writer, Fulvio Abbate, who described the town as having "qualcosa di ombroso, di cupo, di sinistro, di casuale" (something shady, dark, sinister, accidental--in other words, beach noir). Fellini and Moravia had summer homes there.

Mainly we just wanted to go to the beach. But even once in Fregene, having driven the white line to get around miles of barely-moving cars, getting onto the beach proved not the easiest thing to do. We had found a nice parking place for the scooter on what was obviously the beach road, but it proved too nice--big enough for a car if we moved, some girls in a car made clear--and so we moved, then got into what passed for beach outfits, and set out on the road, looking for a way onto that elusive beach, held captive, we soon realized, by a fence of private clubs. We thought we might have found access at a place marked "Comune di Roma," but efforts to appear inconspicuous (reading the bulletin board) brought only attention--and the word that this beach club was reserved for the military. Around the side ("al fianco"), however, we struck paydirt or, as we said, black sand: a beach that was "libero" (literally "free," but meaning "public"), and into "Cocco Loco" we went. Loco, our friends had noted rather critically, is not an Italian word.

Beach activities are much the same worldwide--small boys digging in the sand, Dads flying the kites brought for their kids, adolescents posturing, women in their forties holding their tummies in, young men driving small rented boats recklessly--all, frankly, fascinating. Dianne is shown here looking out to sea, perhaps pondering the infinite.

Retreating to the beach-style bar, we found a bench from which to sip our white wines and observe the elaborately tattooed young men and the barely dressed young women.

Later, several blocks inland, we wandered through Fregene's most famous attraction--the "pini monumentali"--a grove of enormous pines planted by Pope Clement IX in 1667 and, in 1920, declared a national monument. We found another glass of wine, took a picture of a hotel that looked to us as if it had once been a World War II bunker--and headed home. We never did find Fregene's dark side--except, that is, for the sand. Bill

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