MARINA DI PISA
It's a poor man's Forte dei Marmi. Built as a port for the City of Pisa, Marina di Pisa, in the 19th century, had a period of affluence when the city was laid out in neoclassical splendor. But the dream quickly faded as the town went down on its luck and the future never delivered the promise of its elegant beginnings.
It's a place that's always intrigued me, however, because the city planner in me imagines a renaissance here whenever I come to visit. This is the road that runs along the sea and it's lined with good houses waiting to be gentrified. Some of them already are, in fact, but there's a mentality here of downmarket defeatism that's a lot harder to change than the windblown facade of an old building with good lines and style.
In the main square, facing the sea, is this wonderful old villa, for instance. It needs work, but even if you did it, then what? Look at the unfortunate park renovation it now faces!
Here's one that's just been done up—right across the street is a 180° view of the Mediterranean where on a clear day you can see Corsica.
And there are bits of beach, nothing great, but they're there.
And funny little old bars, like this one with the above described view.
At the north end of town is this old bar where locals like to congregate. Just beyond it is the massive redevelopment of the port, now in progress since 2009. There will be a new marina, shops, restaurants and hotels. Will we like it?
This street artist seems happy with things as they are—he's so hardened to the building site that he seems to see right through it.
We often end up at Oltre Mare, this sidewalk restaurant that looks out at the light-filled glimmering sea.
Let's just pretend that the cars and motorcycles and rocky breakwater aren't really there for a moment. That task completed, with ease, I find that a lunch here at Oltre Mare, on this sidewalk, in this odd and misbegotten seaside town, offers me all the joy and pleasure of its equivalent in Portofino.
There is no better plate of tagliatelle al riccio di mare to be had anywhere—we call them sea urchins in English.
And this fabulous fillet of a rather unusual wild fish called sciolina in a potato crust, divine!
And this just made yoghurt and zagare (orange blossoms) cake, fresh as the morning air—I love the Campari glass for the water, molto chic.