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This week’s travel dream: Italy’s Gulf of Poets

“Look around,” said one Milanese. “This is how you do nothing in a civilized way.”

“There are many perfect beach days on the Italian Riviera,” said Devin Friedman in Travel + Leisure. You might not find such perfection on your first try—as my wife and I found out when we arrived with our two young children on Italy’s northwestern coast and drove to our rental villa perched about 6,000 steep steps above a picturesque beachside town. But though Lerici proved impractical for our family, it sits on a quiet inlet, known as the Gulf of Poets, that allowed us to pick a slightly different beach experience each day. At every stop we were surrounded by a population dedicated to “the very pursuit” we hoped to learn: essentially, how to “suck all the marrow out of life.”

The tiny hamlet of Fiascherino offered lesson one. Its beach, tucked into a pretty cove, is favored by families from Milan and Parma, whom we mingled with at the huge seawater pool and over a marvelous buffet lunch in the open-air dining area. “Look around,” one Milanese told me. “This is how you do nothing in a civilized way.” We easily could have spent a month in nearby Tellaro, the Gulf of Poets’ easternmost town. You park above it and descend ultra-narrow streets to “a piazza that empties into the sea.” Groceries or a cold beer are close at hand, and if you wade into the water, a fisherman might be launching a boat beside you. Or teenagers might be “floating out on their backs in the crisp, mineral-blue sea, this Renaissance town as their backdrop.”

But “there has to be a most perfect place,” and for us, that was Eco del Mare. Owned by a gracious woman who’s married to an Italian pop star, this small, secluded beach is reachable only by a 1,000-foot staircase or an elevator that tunnels through the surrounding cliff. The owner’s restaurant serves only food from the sea or from her farm, and the sun umbrellas you look out on are “tastefully” festooned with diaphanous white fabric. We had planned to find yet another new beach on our final day, but we “couldn’t do it.” We returned to Eco del Mare instead.Rooms at Eco del Mare (ecodelmare.it) start at $515 during high season.

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