There is something about running in an unfamiliar environment which is appealing. The opportunity to explore new surroundings gives purpose to an otherwise uninspiring workout.
Although I had visited Gabicce Mare in Italy ten times prior to my most recent holiday there this summer, running in Gabicce and its nearby resorts is still an adventure. Not much has changed in the old, quiet holiday resort. Many of the hotels present when I first visited the area many years ago still remain, some are run by the same owners. The economic recession has caused a handful to close their doors for good. Equally, two or three new developments have sprung up in the area although these come in the form of apartments. They are cheaper to run and allow the owners to make greater profits. A sad sign of the times – quantity, not quality is the focus for many.
Gelaterias line the streets selling high quality ice cream which is worth every last cent and calorie – that hasn’t changed! Luckily for me, there are still plenty of gelaterias with ever more exotic flavours to try. I remember spending each night of a two week holiday in search of Kiwi ice cream when I was younger. I eventually found somewhere in Cattolica that sold Kiwi. It was every bit as good as I imagined it would be. Pizzarias are equally popular, the Marinara (tomato, garlic and parsley) is my personal favourite pizza as I can’t stomach cooked cheese! My friends question why I don’t just eat garlic bread but there is something about the Marinara that is special, it’s completely different to garlic bread which I love in its own right.
The longest run on my most recent holiday took me from near the foot of Gabicce Monte, through the resort of Gabicce Mare where the initial half mile gently slopes downhill. The main road took me past the central square and the amusement arcade, before turning left to run over the renovated harbour at Cattolica. Cattolica is a vibrant, busy holiday resort with a long main street with many different shops and restaurants. Unlike the undulating streets of Gabicce, Cattolica is flat and is the perfect location to up the pace and stretch out towards the upmarket resort of Porto Verde. At Cattolica’s edge is an aquarium situated within gated grounds. When I visited a couple of weeks ago, navigating the aquarium was difficult as a part of the park was gated off for renovation so it took me a number of minutes to get my bearings before I could continue in the right direction. Although I have generally found Gabicce and Cattolica to be runner friendly places, the Aquarium and its grounds are somewhat harder to navigate as they are filled with families on relaxing days out occasionally walking five abreast!
Taking a right turn out of the aquarium I joined the main road linking Cattolica to Porto Verde. Again subject to renovation, I found myself running between gated areas due to ongoing building and roadworks. This section of my run took me furthest from the coast. The heat intensified. The sea breeze dissipated. When I set off from Gabicce Mare, the temperature was a warm, yet breezy twenty eight degrees celsius. Even though I was only a few hundred metres inland, the temperature must have been at least two or three degrees higher. Fortunately I only had to endure the tarmac landscape for less than a mile before taking a right turn onto a dirt track. The landscape opened up. The view was breathtaking.
Luxury boats, large and small, were docked in the marina. Although I do not know for sure, I had been told in the past that Valentino Rossi docked his yacht at the harbour on occasion. It wasn’t hard to see why. Running along the dirt track led to a small pebbled area where a couple had taken the opportunity to sunbathe in peace away from the main beach. I took five minutes break from running to look around and admire the view. Porto Verde is far enough away from Gabicce Mare that I only run there once per holiday – I intended to savour the visit.
Running back I decided to stick closer to the coast than I had on the outbound leg. I ran down an adjacent dirt track in order to join the beach front before coming across the aquarium for the second time – I didn’t fancy navigating through the crowds again, nor did I want to run along the road I had taken the first time. I admired the view that the coastal route afforded me – children constructing sandcastles on the beach, restaurants opening for evening service and the view of a hundred hotels against the backdrop of Gabicce Monte towering above everything in sight.
The return leg of my run was more direct. The heat less intense. I upped my pace, passing sun-kissed families returning from their day at the beach, although I received an occasional quizzical look as if to ask ‘why on earth would you want to run in this heat?’ the demeanour of the holidaymakers was friendly, returning my acknowledgement as I passed them.
The smell of the harbour is unmistakable and intoxicating. Although it is arguably at its strongest in the morning, the smell of seaweed, salt and fresh fish fills the air every second of the day. Running back up the ramp over the bridge at Cattolica, I noticed that the bridge had been constructed in 2005 which immediately made me think back to my first holiday in the resort. I remember visiting the harbour a year before it had been redeveloped, it has changed a lot since then. The redevelopment gave the harbour a more modern and inviting appearance. The new bridge is wide enough to accommodate both pedestrians and cyclists and makes it much easier to travel between the two resorts.
Returning to the coast after crossing back into Gabicce Mare, the breeze was pleasantly refreshing. The final half mile is uphill towards the hotel, a path I have traversed many times, the kink at the bottom of the final stretch is tricky to navigate when a bike veers the other way but otherwise it’s a pleasant stretch back to serenity. On my return to the hotel, I gulped down a lemon ice tea and a bottle of water before showering.
Running abroad, although hot, is a much more pleasant experience than running through the cold concrete metropolis of Manchester. I only wish I could do it more often!