Reaffirm your faith in national stereotypes

Some things, like Craig Ando, and planking, come in to and go out of fashion. Italy, on the other hand, does not. Photo: Alex Laurel

Italy as a country, Italy as a surf trip. Very fine ideas, both.

In these modern times, we are discouraged against national stereotypes, for their being lazy, outdated, inaccurate. But in Italy, they are all true. They do wave their hands about wildly when they talk. They do eat pasta and excellent bread-based, cheese-topped hand held snacks. They do drive as if each journey were a police chase. They do wear shiny clothing, clothing that makes shapes. They smoke like… Italians!

I went to Italy to surf waves and found them in the Liguria region in the north west. Liguria is a beautiful land, and the sea shines blue most days. People were warm, friendly, earnest. I had heard that it didn’t matter which restaurant you went to eat in, as they are all good. That was also true.

Surf consistency: 3  Wave variety: 4  

Climate: 6  Radness: 7  Budget: 5

I saw dead bishops in Milan’s Doumo. Their fingernails were the worst. Yellow, putrid. They were in glass tanks, quite dead and semi rotten. It rung true, what I had heard about Roman Catholicism being essentially a death cult. I did not see Mick Hucknall, whom, I was told, lives in Milano. But I did met Serie A footballer’s on Genoa’s training ground. Senior players were wiry, golden, but most of all statesmanlike. They drove black Ferraris or Maseratis and roared out of the car park. The sign said ‘Genoa Athletic and Cricket club founded 1892’ What a name.

I went south to Tuscany and saw Carara marble mountains. And workshops where masterpices are hewn in ancient and modern ways. I was there for the fall of Berlusconi. The woman in the café overlooking the surf put a poster up in the window to celebrate. She said, “I am a Marxist, because of him.”

We walked in the hills around Levanto, ate berries from trees in warm November sunshine. Breakfast was so-so, lunch fantastic and dinner delightful. Bars feed drinkers with parmigiano and ham or maybe slices of pizza, is it bar top snacks, pintxos if you like, but it is on the house if you are drinking. We were.

The surf was cranking, flat and small. I was there two weeks to the day, and saw the ocean in every guise. When it was pumping, it really was. Barrels hissed and
spat up and down. The power was alarming. There were broken boards and the lineup was more crowded when it dropped a bit. Every mainland surfer talked of Sardinia with reverence.

Contrary to the premise and indeed title of this collection of tales, you do not ‘need to go to Italy to surf before you die’, as such.

But if you do, you’ll die better.


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