Ever since I was a little girl, my family has almost always holidayed in the same resort in Tuscany during summertime and this year they have decided to resume that tradition.
Apparently the legend goes like this: my parents were on a trip somewhere not too far from here with some friends (or relatives, I don’t remember). At the time, my mom was expecting me and used to enjoy l o n g walks – a common activity among women during pregnancy. One day she walked for miles along the beach until she saw some signs that indicated there was something in the wood on her left. She followed them and just as Alice did, she found herself in Wonderland.
Riva degli Etruschi, or just Riva for us habitués, is a resort situated next to a town called San Vincenzo, in the southern part of Tuscany. Here the landscape is quite peculiar as there is a long pinewood that stretches along the beach for m i l e s a n d m i l e s, providing shelter to ancient trees and typical mediterranean vegetation. Nobody tried to integrate architectural elements and nature but this resort,
which is basically the number one reason for their high prices.
At the very beginning of our story there was almost nothing, just a bunch of cute little villas hidden in the green and some rooms for those who preferred to stay in something more similar to a hotel. Tourists could enjoy their meals either at the one and only restaurant in the resort or inside their homes, which were fully furnished and comprised a small kitchenette and living-room. During the day everyone would stay at the beach, accessible through little paths that connect all villas and restoration points in the wood.
The beach has always been rather short but extremely clean and this year water was also crystal clear. The resort provides beach loungers and chairs so that guests don’t need to worry about it and can just relax, read a book, swim or do nothing at all.
During the years we witnessed the development of the resort. First of all, they opened the swimming pool area, where you can now find three pools with different heights. They also built a self-service area, a supermarket, a newspaper agency, cafes along the beach, tennis courts and a burger king. Now guests can choose from a variety of different menus and cuisines each night, swim in a pool or lodge in stylish new villas 5 square meters larger than the traditional ones. Being able to remember all these changes makes me feel quite old!
I really liked the changes made in the past as the former managers always tried to integrate all the new elements with what was already there, without losing the soul of the resort itself.
This year management has been taken over by a new company and I can see that they have invested in some areas but also neglected others – though please bare in mind that I am talking as a customer who is not involved on any level in management. Let me talk a bit more about it.
As mentioned above, some houses have been renovated and now cost much more. The old-style ones were painted in pastel colours that resemble Edward Scissor-hands village and to be honest I don’t particularly like that, but that is just my taste. I love the new look of cafes and restaurants, though I can see a major cut in costs related to cleaning as swimming pool changing rooms were dirty. However, waiting staff was always friendly and polite to us, which I really appreciated.
I can also say that management has cut most costs related to gardening and watering as the wood looks quite deteriorated. I don’t believe that #yellowisthenewgreen, so big thumb down on this point. Another negative score goes to entertainment. If once not-too-young guests like me could enjoy some proper Zumba on the beach or Aqua gym and salsa at the pool, now they can only stare at some unexperienced teenagers who try to entertain kids with no clear program in mind. Again, management must have fired the professionals in favour of these teens who are happy to work long hours for a much lower wage. I guess that parents are still very happy somebody is looking after their children while they are sunbathing, but I don’t belong to that category.
Lastly, I was happily surprised by a new event that they now organise during summer: a marathon for all customers. My family participated and we all had fun, it was a great way to spend the morning. My father was quite upset as he won the bronze metal but didn’t receive any gift as staff decided to go for a prize draw that included all participants.
To be utterly honest with you, I have to admit that being 27 did not help. This is a resort suitable for families rather than singles or people my age without kids. There was not much for me to do, a part for relaxing on the beach and enjoying some family time. There was no nightclub, no yoga or pilates to keep fit, no stand-up comedy tailored to adults and L was not there,
so no adult content whatsoever. That was a great mistake of ours: next year I’ll ask him to join, we could get a hotel room so that he would have the chance to rest and I’ll be able to enjoy my family whenever I wished to. I guess I’m a grown-up now so the role of daughter doesn’t suit me anymore.
To sum up, I will always be in love with this place as there are so many childhood memories that lay under the pines and I will always be happy to remember the time when my sisters and me used to enjoy our blissful summertime together. However, new management is not looking after the place properly: the wood is turning yellowish, birds in the cage at the entrance of the resort have flown away, proper adult entertainment is almost non existent and I can see they are investing only in those areas where they can get huge returns. I hope this trend won’t last long and the resort will go back to how it looked ten years ago, so that I will be happy to pay for other holidays here, in Tuscany.
And maybe one day the child I used to be will meet the woman I’ll become.
Is there a place you love, one that is full of childhood memories?