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June 25th 2011
Published: July 24th 2011
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I don't think we even drove an hour today before the scenery changed dramatically. As we headed towards the mountains, the trees turned to firs, and the fields were green rather than the golden, Van Gogh-like ploughed fields we'd been used to in Tuscany. We drove over the alps and onward towards Venice, happy that we didn't have to rely on road signs to get us where we needed to go. We didn't see a sign for Cervia until we were in it!

Silvia had suggested that we stop off at a few towns on the way, but we were actually keen to spend as much time as possible with her family, so we just drove non-stop to Cervia - a pretty easy drive along freeways, especially compared with the roads we'd negotiated in Tuscany.

As we drove in, I was reminded a bit of the Gold Coast on a small scale. Everybody was dressed for the beach, and it was more glitzy than the towns we'd been in so far - I loved it! We saw families riding bikes with beach towels over their shoulders, little bread vans selling the traditional Cervian flat bread, coffee shops and restaurants. The landscape had really changed again too - it was FLAT. Welcome to the North-east coast of Italy.

We were welcomed by Silvia, Tim and Francesca at the gate of their house, which was about a block from the beach. It's amazing how relaxed and tanned they look after living in Italy for a few months! The table was set and ready for a late lunch, so we all sat and ate alfresco, catching up on the news and enjoying the most spectacular home-made warm pasta salad with clams, mussels, tomato and olives. The Italian clams are tiny, and so so sweet. I've never had anything like them at home so I'm making sure I eat plenty here!

Tim and Francesca have been going to school in Cervia since they arrived, and it was interesting to hear them talk about the very different education style. "Boring", "long", "strict" were some of the main words used! They go to school from about 8am until 1pm most days, with only a 10 minute break at 11am. I have been wondering about the lack of playgrounds in the Italian schools we've seen, and now I know why - there's no time for playing. I do like the idea of starting earlier, finishing earlier and having time to do things other than school in the afternoon though.

We headed to the beach after lunch, and it was lovely to see the children all enjoying each others' company. Hugo thinks Tim is wonderful, and although Tim has started high school, they seemed to have plenty to talk about. We walked past all the beach clubs, and Silvia explained that most people join a club for the Summer season, and they provide children's activities, meals, beach chairs and umbrellas etc. We saw bowling, basketball, trampolines, toddler parks and jacuzzis as we wandered along the beach path. Once on the beach, there was some great people watching to do. I particularly love the way that the Italians are so comfortable with their bodies. Every woman, no matter her age, wears a bikini and thinks nothing of it. We saw two old ladies, at least 70 years old, powering along the beach in white bikinis, having a lovely chat and enjoying the sunshine. That's the way to enjoy your retirement!

The area at the water's edge was like a highway, with people walking in lanes depending on their destination - North or South! I suppose that is a bit like the Gold Coast at 6am. We watched merchants lug the equivalent of a dress shop up and down the beach, and saw fantastic colourful kites which looked great against the blue sky. The children swam and swam until it was time for dinner, but I must admit it was hard to see a reason to leave the beach with the sun still shining at 8pm!

We had a great tour of Cervia later in the evening as we walked to dinner. There was a really festive feel to the evening with people sitting at kerbside tables, enjoying the balmy night. I was distracted by a beautiful deli, and stopped to take photos of the preserved vegetables which were stored in huge jars behind the counter. We ate at a restaurant which served incredible pasta with clams, and whole fish - which Hugo, in his usual ordering style had chosen (no nuggets and chips for this boy!). Frank asked the waiter a question about bones so that Hugo would be careful, and before we knew it he had deftly filleted and served the fish onto another plate for him. It was impressive to watch and great to eat.

An ice-cream as we walked home was the perfect ending. Hugo said as he went to bed, that today was his favourite day in Italy so far.

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