The Upper Adriatic is booming! Not only as in the 1970s among beach tourists, but also among yacht owners. The more the bureaucratic “bora” blows in the east, the more skippers are drawn back to the Italian coast. Thus, the region between Muggia and Lignano has experienced a strong maritime growth spurt in recent years and can now offer much more than just umbrella, beach and spaghetti. But much has remained the same: the taste of the sea when you arrive for your summer retreat, the Italian flair, the wine …
“Bora,” Anna says with a sly smile as she serves me espresso on the veranda of the “Pier”. Before dinner at the restaurant of the Marina San Giusto in Trieste, I nevertheless shimmy onto the windswept rooftop deck to catch a glimpse of the Habsburg castle Miramare. Like restless children at their mother’s hands, the yachts wriggle on the lines in front of me in the old harbor, but the Bora strives in vain; Marina San Giusto has its 215 berths firmly in hand.
Unfortunately, the view from the room of the four-star Hotel San Rocco in Muggia is not enough to see the entire Porto San Rocco Marina. However, it also accommodates more than twice as many yachts as Marina San Giusto in Trieste. The easternmost of the 20 FVG marinas is reminiscent of the Croatian coast not only because of its geographical proximity. Slovenian and Croatian are also spoken a lot at the bistro tables on the large piazza in front of the marina – the run on the Italian side of the Adriatic has probably already begun in these countries as well.
Tiramisu or sail trim?
“The new hype is basically based on the good old qualities of Italy, which tourists from neighboring countries are now rediscovering,” our driver Toni tells us the next day – and as if to prove it, he parks the car in front of the old Castelvecchio winery in Sagrado, with a dream view over the gently rolling countryside around the Isonzo. At the wine tasting we can’t help grinning, it’s the Malvasia Istriana that tastes best – but that’s not unusual for this area.
Italy at its finest is served to us in Monfalcone. Not only in the top restaurant La Rosa dei Venti of Marina Lepanto, where owners can spoon up what is probably the best tiramisu in the world while their yacht is gently lapped by sweet water at the mooring. But also at Marina Hannibal, whose natural Mediterranean shores with water depths of up to twelve meters have been enjoyed by owners since the 1960s. The first Italian sailing school is also literally “at home” here: on the water and in the adjoining boarding school, the young talents grow to regatta maturity.
Steinbutt with polenta
What an important maritime history Friuli Venezia Giulia had already in ancient times, we learn during a trip to nearby Aquileia. The bulwark against the “barbarians” in the north, which already during the Roman Empire had almost as many inhabitants as today (about 30,000), was for centuries also the most important port city of the Adriatic. In the open-air museum, the remains of the inland port near the forum and the basilica with the most important early Christian floor mosaic are absolutely worth seeing.
What a contrast to this are the two marinas in Grado, Primero and Porto San Vito, with their modern resorts and leisure facilities including swimming pools! Those who have enough space on board, perhaps because they own a catamaran, will find a tailor-made place to stay in the smaller and family-run Marina Darsena San Marco, just opposite the entrance to the old harbor.
We, on the other hand, check in centrally at the Hotel Astoria and have a classic of Gradinese cuisine served at the Taverna al Canevon: Turbot with white polenta, widely known here as “Boreto.”
With a glass of prosecco and finger food (fried seafood of the region), the crew of the Santa Maria welcomes us on board the next morning. With the excursion boat we want to explore the lagoon of Grado and Marano from the water and reach the western corner of Friuli-Venezia Giulia with Lignano Sabbiadoro. We will not get far.
After just a few minutes of driving we moor in front of a tiny islet, the home of the hermit Witige Gaddi, who invites us to his fishing hut for a glass of Friulano. “Ah, you’re from Austria! I’ve already had Kurt Waldheim and Jörg Haider as guests here. They were very thirsty, we drank a lot of wine!”
Back on board, the universal genius Nico (chef, captain, bartender, entertainer …) demonstrates us another of his many talents and cooks us spaghetti in the large kitchen in the salon, which he then swirls through the air with the scampi in the large pan like mom once the pancakes. With Friulian white wine in the carafe, the meal finally arrives on the table while the Santa Maria makes its way through the dolphin street.
In Lignano Sabbiadoro we say goodbye to Nico and crew and stretch our legs in the largest FVG marina Punta Faro (1,200 berths). Later, Giorgo Ardito will help us check in at his Hotel President Lignano Riviera and show us his Porto Turistico Marina Uno including the brand new floating resorts at the mouth of the Tagliamento.
That makes you hungry, so we indulge in culinary delights at the marina restaurant Al Cason with a dream view of the green river. The digestive walk takes me to the famous kilometer-long sandy beach of Lignano. And there it is again: the very own taste of the sea, just like in summer back then …
Text and photos: Tahsin Özen | Source: ocean7