We often spend a day or even a couple of days away in Italy, in Alassio. My youngest sister asked me why we go there so often. Fair point, why travel 90 minutes around the coast – although it’s a lovely drive – to spend a few days enjoying the same weather as at home? You have to understand that for both of my sisters it is all about the weather and specifically whether it’s hot enough to sun bathe, their favourite leisure activity. Those two have farniente (doing nothing) down to a fine art.
On the other hand, my beloved and I are pretty much always on the go, particularly when we’re at home. There’s always something to do either in the apartment, or work-wise in the office. A few days away allows us to better relax and chill out. But why choose Alassio?
1. We have found a charming hotel, with a thalassotherapy spa, which does great out-of-season offers. Of course, that generally means the town is OAP central. But we don’t mind even though, of course, we don’t think of ourselves as OAPs. The deal includes a splendid breakfast, and sometimes dinner, with plenty of options for me. If we deduct the daily cost of entry to the spa and breakfast, the hotel room is under Euros 60,00 per night, not bad for a spot of 5 star luxury.
2. Alassio is very familiar territory. It’s next door to where, aged eight, I spent my maiden Italian holiday. We returned firstly in 2009 with the cycling club and stayed in what is quite possibly one of the worst hotels in town. I hasten to add I was not responsible for booking it. We’ve since stayed in a number of much better and nicer hotels in the town for a similar price. And, although we know the place well, each year there are changes. A favourite restaurant or bar closes, but another great one opens. There’s plenty of choice all within walking distance either in the pedestrianised old town and/or overlooking the beach.
3. Alassio has a sandy beach. Where we live, it’s stony. In my book, to qualify as a holiday resort, you have to have a sandy beach. This one is bordered by hotels and restaurants, rather than a road, giving it a real holiday feel. You’ll rarely find me sunbathing on the beach but I do enjoy wandering barefoot along the wet sand or just sitting in a bar, in the sunshine, listening to the waves caress the shoreline. I find it a very relaxing sound.
4. The town is small enough to stroll around and the neighbouring towns are also within walking distance. As you know, there’s nothing I love more than a spot of window shopping. The town has an interesting mix of retail. A heady cocktail of Italian designer labels – so ruinous for the budget but great for window shopping – plenty of long-established quirky shops, all with that unmistakable splash of Italian design and flair, and very few chains. Now, I don’t come to the place to shop but I’d be lying if I didn’t own up to a few purchases over the years. However, you are far more likely to find me buying wine, vegetables and olive oil than shoes and handbags.
5. It’s a lovely area to cycle around and makes a welcome change from our usual routes. That said, we don’t always bring the bikes as we do like to profit from the spa, though it’s very welcome after several hours in the saddle. The main urban routes are busy with traffic but it doesn’t take long to be up, up and away, far from the madding crowd in the hills.
6. Aside from the shops, it’s an interesting town to wander around with plenty of architectural treats and some amazing old doors and lanterns, which I’m sure could tell a few interesting tales. Property prices are on a par with parts of the Cote d’Azur and anything with a view of the sea has a high price tag. We’ve noted that the number of estate agents has mushroomed over the years. The town is constantly being updated and renovated. Some of the less well located hotels have been converted into apartments. My favourite places are the pretty pastel coloured former fishermen’s houses along the shoreline which are well-maintained and highly prized.
7. Despite its popularity with foreign visitors, particularly those that speak German, it’s largely an Italian town with a large local population which swells at the week-ends and holiday periods with smart Milanese and Torinese families. Out of season, you’ll find plenty, like us, who pop over from France for a change of air. It’s only a 90 minute drive away from the Cote d’Azur but its vibe is very different and from say Saint Tropez or Aix-en-Provence, both a similar driving time from home. Plus it’s way cheaper!
8. My final point is less about Alassio and more about Italy in general. Who doesn’t love Italian food? I can always find something to eat on an Italian menu and some of the restaurants cater well for both vegetarians and vegans. And let’s not forget about those Aperol Spritzs, enjoyed with a plateful of nibbles as the sun goes down. Of course, we drink them in many places but they taste so much better in Italy. Must be the all-important accompanying nibbles!