An Italian beach holiday in Grottammare

An Italian beach holiday in Grottammare

An angry man strides towards us, he’s wearing swimming trunks and a T-shirt, I’m unsure of his place in the hierarchy of the beach but he gives off an air of authority. He castigates us for depositing our belongings on some sunbeds which are already reserved for the whole season by somebody else. Do Italians really take this much time off work in the summer?

It is the end of July and my family and I are spending a week building sandcastles amid the regimented sun umbrellas of Grottammare, on Italy’s Adriatic coast. Like many Brits, I grew up on a diet of picturesque English and Welsh coastlines: quaint harbours, rocky coves and stretches of sand relatively untouched by human development. I wasn’t sure we would succumb to the charms of this flat and seemingly featureless coastline but given the villas in Le Marche’s hinterland are a fair bit cheaper than their Tuscan counterparts, I was willing to give it a try.

We are frogmarched to some unreserved sunbeds and umbrellas by the angry man and we pay 20 Euros for a day’s hire. My younger self would have been happy to throw a towel on the sand but with age comes a certain desire to conform, I want to maintain my bella figura; no one else is sitting on the sand. The 20 Euros is money well spent, Italy is experiencing a heat wave during our visit and the temperature is close to 40 degrees. I notice a small horde of plastic toys tethered to the stem of a nearby umbrella. Perhaps the owner of the toys will shortly arrive along with all of the other people in the know about sunbed reservations.

Beach life in Grottammare

Beach life in Grottammare

As the day progresses, the beach remains almost deserted. A lifeguard struts through the shallows engrossed in an animated call on his mobile phone. Hopefully the toddlers and their grandmother splashing around further along the beach won’t require his assistance. Our first visit to Grottammare seems a little underwhelming at first. I wonder if we should have based ourselves further north near the Parco del Conero where the coastline has a more rugged and untamed beauty.

life boat, Grottammare

Reassuring life saving devices on the beach at Grottammare

Unperturbed by our encounter with the angry man, we return to Grottammare a few days later. I order cappuccinos from one of the bars and we have a gratifying morning sipping coffee, watching our young boys busy themselves with a bucket and spade. The sea is incredibly warm and shallow so our once-reluctant children soon gain a new confidence in the water. Although I was aware that most Italians holidayed in August I hadn’t realised this was such a rigid practice. We share the beach with just a handful of youngsters and their mothers or grandparents. Italian dads, it seems, will not arrive at the beach until the end of the week.

Grottammare palm

Palms line the promenade in Grottammare

I manage to drag myself away from the sand for a wander along the promenade. The road is lined with palm trees, some are getting a pre-season haircut. There’s a long wide path for pedestrians and cycles which stretches off into the distance. Hidden behind high walls dripping with oleander, are smart Liberty-era villas, security cameras pinned to their gates. There are exclusive looking lidos, trendy-looking bars and well maintained tennis courts. In high season, the promenade will become a hive of activity but for now it remains deserted.

As the week progresses, we start to get into the swing of things. We request sunbeds and umbrellas, order coffee, smile indulgently at other people’s children, consume pizzas and gelato and float around in the sea. It is incredibly relaxing. I have vague ideas of visiting Grottammare Alta, an appealing-looking jumble of medieval buildings clinging to the hillside above the beach. My guidebook informs me Grottammare’s old town was the birthplace of Pope Sixtus V back in 1521 and that it is one of the Borghi piu belli d’Italia, an association of beautiful villages for which Le Marche holds the highest number of any region. I can imagine feasting on local seafood in a tiny trattoria overlooking the sea. But as one day blends into the next, we are always drawn back to the routine of the beach. I start to see why so many Italians come here everyday, to the same sunbeds, all summer.


The tranquil waters of Grottammare

By the end of the week, the toys tethered to the umbrella remain abandoned, for now. Friday shows no sign of Italian dads clocking off from work early. I make a mental note to return with my family to Grottammare in August for a future holiday to fully immerse ourselves in the great Italian beach experience.

Looking for other beach holiday ideas? I’ve written a detailed guide to the best beach towns in Europe.

Planning a trip to Italy with kids? Read my complete guide to Italy for families here.

More on Italy:

Family holiday to Italy: Tuscany, Umbria and Le Marche

The best beaches in Sicily

10 reasons to visit Le Marche with kids

What to see and do in Umbria with kids

Visiting Rome in the summer with kids

A villa holiday in Le Marche

7 reasons why you should stay in an agriturismo in Italy with kids

Frascati: the perfect summer base for Rome

Top 10 things to do in Syracuse, Sicily with kids

Road tripping through Sicily

Holidaying in Grottammare, Le Marche Italy



  1. 9th February 2018 / 10:58 pm

    How cute can that picture of the sleeping little boy be! Grottammare reminds me a lot about a beach in Romania where we used to go every year when I was a kid. Beautiful! #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • 10th February 2018 / 8:42 am

      It’s definitely a locals’ kind of place! We loved it.

  2. Esther
    10th February 2018 / 6:08 am

    Oh, I like the view of the townhouses and the flowers. This beach reminds me a little of Bibione, for some reason. And yes, Italian dads do turn up eventually in weekends. (But it all remains a complete mystery to me).

    • 10th February 2018 / 8:42 am

      We’ve visited some of the coast in August in the past and it’s a very different story!

  3. 10th February 2018 / 8:03 pm

    Omgosh I think I would die if it was 40+! I practically did summer 2015 in Croatia! Splurging on beach chairs is always money well spent! Thanks for linking up with #atheWeeklyPostcard!

    • 10th February 2018 / 8:12 pm

      Yes, my scrimping days are definitely behind me!

  4. pigeonpairandme
    11th February 2018 / 9:35 pm

    Wow – how indulgent would it be, to be able to have a sun lounger on a beach for the whole season! Sounds as though you managed to get under the skin of the place. Lovely post – a really nice read. x

    • 12th February 2018 / 7:18 am

      Thanks. Yes, I like the idea of having my own stretch of sand for the whole summer!

  5. 12th February 2018 / 8:43 pm

    Loved reading this 🙂 I always prefer to rent a sunbed, it’s how I make sure I can enjoy the time on the beach, haha.

  6. 14th February 2018 / 12:36 am

    A sunbed and cappuccinos on the beach. Heaven! (Although maybe a birra fredda later in the day. 🙂 It sounds like a great week – very relaxing. Making our own note to check out Grottammare! Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

    • 14th February 2018 / 7:26 am

      Yes, would love to be there right now!

  7. 15th February 2018 / 1:50 pm

    Oh this made me laugh and took me back. We paid about $100 bucks off season for an empty beach in Forte dei Marmi. I had driven a carload of kids 1.5 hours. I was not going to turn back. We had the beach to ourselves but at a price. Definitley a rule that Italians enforce – paying for the beach chair. Thanks for the memories. #farawayfiles

    • 15th February 2018 / 2:46 pm

      Amazing ow different beach cultures can be from one country to another!

  8. 17th February 2018 / 2:50 am

    I wish America had sunbeds for rent..definitely a more civilized way of spending time at the beach! I like that you are discovering lesser known places in Italy. Taking note, as it is my favorite country! #farawayfiles

    • 17th February 2018 / 7:17 am

      Wow, no sunbeds to rent in the States. Our countries are all so diverse in their beach culture!

  9. Thoroughly Modern Grandma
    19th February 2018 / 10:58 am

    I love Italy and we’ve been going on holiday there as a family, daughter , son -in law, grandsons etc for years. Haven’t been to Grottammare so will have to check it out. #MondayEscapes

    • 19th February 2018 / 11:07 am

      It’s a great place for families, the whole of Le Marche is really lovely.

  10. Clare Thomson
    19th February 2018 / 2:24 pm

    So great that you discovered a piece of Italy mostly favoured by the locals. I like the sound of the beautiful villages to explore in Le Marche too. #FararawayFiles

    • 19th February 2018 / 2:53 pm

      It is a really great part of Italyz

  11. 19th February 2018 / 8:27 pm

    I was laughing aloud at the beginning of your post! We moved to Italy last July and struggled with everything being closed in August, as the Italians were on vacation either at the beach or the mountains. We also went to the beach in July and were ushered to specific, un-rented umbrellas, but it was a great time since we had the beach to ourselves! #farawayfiles

  12. 20th February 2018 / 1:13 pm

    Such a different beach experience for this Oregon Girl as well! Even with long swaths of beautiful sand, we call it the coast and we don’t put out loungers. When we visit the “real” beach in Cali or Hawaii, we are also a little more communal and plunk a big pile of towels, boogie boards and sand scoopers down for the day. MAYBE we bring our own foldable umbrella and portable loungers, but mostly we’re in the water. Love that the languid nature of the Italian summer season sucked you right in. Thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles, Erin

  13. 22nd February 2018 / 10:32 pm

    What a shame the beach isn’t appreciated all year round and what an officious angry man!! I’m not sure I’d want to return in August. Chilling out, out of season appeals more 🙂 Thanks for sharing you experience on #MondayEscapes

    • 23rd February 2018 / 7:01 am

      I visited Rimini in August and it was pretty good fun despite the crowds!

  14. 2nd March 2018 / 5:15 am

    I love Italy but haven’t done many beaches! This looks ideal for families #fearlessfamtrav

    • 2nd March 2018 / 6:56 am

      It’s perfect once you get in the swing of things!

  15. 6th March 2018 / 9:58 pm

    I remember the first time I went to an Italian beach – the culture is so different! I can’t remember exactly where it was, but everyone paid membership to various restaurants which had sun beds and it’s common for membership to be passed down through generations. We certainly didn’t have that system in Margate! #fearlessfamtrav

    • 6th March 2018 / 10:01 pm

      Maybe it’s something Margate should consider introducing..!

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