Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Summer special: La Playa and Oasi del Simeto

Summer is nearing!

Hubby went for his first swim last weekend, so in our house that means swimming season has officially started.

I get a lot of traffic here from people looking for information about Catania's beaches, so I've decided to do something a little different and write a series of special posts dedicated to all you beach lovers planning a visit to these parts this summer.

There are many places to swim in the Catania area, but the main way to categorize them are sandy or rocky and public access or private beach club (aka lido).

Catania's sandy beach is the Playa.
I have written about my experiences at the Playa before (here) and have great memories of playing in the sand and gentle waves here with my son when he was little. This beach is not breathtakingly beautiful, but it is a decent city beach. The sand is golden, gentle waves crash on the shore, and from just about anywhere on this long stretch of sand is the most perfect view of Mt. Etna (and the boats and cranes from Catania's nearby port). Most of the beach is run by private clubs, which means you do have to pay an entrance fee, but in exchange you can rent beach chairs and umbrellas, use changing rooms, have access to showers, cafes and even playgrounds and swimming pools. The Playa tends to be very family friendly, and lidos provide lifeguards and diligently clean the beach so there is no trash, liter or broken glass in these well-cared for zones.

Free access beaches at the Playa
There are several public areas of the Playa where you do not have to pay to enter and where there are no amenities on the beach (aka spiaggia libera). These beaches are fine, too, only you may have to contend with lots of liter and trash as there does not seem to be any public effort to keep these beaches clean. But, this Facebook page for spiaggia libera n. 2 claims that regular cleaning will be taking place this year throughout the swimming season so there is hope for improved conditions at the free Playa beaches. Yay!

The Oasis del Simeto nature reserve
If sand, free and no amenities are your style, and you have a car, I would highly recommend going a little beyond the Playa to the Oasis del Simeto (I've written about my impressions here). The beach is a bit tricky to find (from Catania take SS114 towards Siracusa and exit just before the Ponte Primosole bridge), but it is much more natural than the Playa as it is a protected nature reserve. Here you can find the Simeto river that empties out into the Ionian sea. This area is a breeding ground for many birds and we have spotted storks nesting here and cranes wading in the river. The downside, it can get really windy and strange rubbish gets washed up on the shore. But along with the broken fishing gear and plastic bottles are tons of shells and driftwood. And, chances are, there won't be much of a crowd, even during the summer.

Stay tuned for a post on Catania's (spectacular) rocky beaches!

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