When I was working in Turin in the early 1980s, but still owned a house north of Rome, I used to make the perilous 12-hour trip half-way down the boot of Italy every summer in my trusty Fiat 127. I couldn’t afford the motorway tolls and the last part of the journey, from Livorno to Rome, was always down the old Via Aurelia.
I can still remember the sense of summer holiday excitement as the vegetation changed and the temperature rose while Rome grew closer. The old Aurelia Roman road never strays far from the sea and the first distinctive umbrella shapes of maritime pines interspersed with tall cypresses were a sign to park up for a refreshing dip in the Mediterranean before finishing the journey.
These days I get the same kick out of driving over to the Villaggio dei Pescatori in Fregene to meet my friend Paola – it’s ‘our place’, where we try to meet up a few times every summer.
At first sight, the flat, concrete-dominated area is not very alluring, though the surrounding macchia mediterranea scrubland is protected by the World Wildlife Fund and plenty of the aforementioned pines and cypresses are in evidence. The one-storey fishermen’s houses are also protected by a preservation order.
The charm of the place lies in its closeness to Rome and the fact that this is a very Roman playground, where office workers can sneak off for an easy afternoon on the beach or a sunset cocktail after work. There are a couple of good, reasonable fish restaurants on the road parallel to the beach. The beach itself is a wide expanse of golden sand and the sea is relatively clean.
Villaggio dei Pescatori attracted a glamorous crowd in the 1960s and the novelist Alberto Moravia had a house there.
A huge car park located a little way back from the beach costs €5 to park all day, but it is always practically empty in the week as the Romans prefer to wedge their Vespas and Smart cars into free parking spots. Saturdays and Sundays are a different story.
Favourite beach places or stabilimenti: Singita, a buzzy place serving cocktails and chill-out music at sundown (the photo shows mats laid out in preparation for the mojito hour); Blu – a more mature crowd and families; Bao Beach in Maccharese – where dogs are welcome (the name comes from the fact that Italian dogs go bao bao, not bow wow) and well turned-out Roman women can lunch with their Great Danes. The clubs are free to enter but you have to pay if you want a sunbed and/or umbrella. Approximate cost for both is €15 for a full day, €11 after 15.30.