italy-gargano-pouilles-vieste

“You must stay on the board”

“Really??” I exhaled with frustration. Stressed out in the Mediterranean Sea in Italy wasn’t how I imagined how my holiday was going to be.

After all, in 2003 I was just a teenager and had more of a concern about the local Italian, Raphael who was ridiculously handsome in my books.

I was becoming increasingly unimpressed with my instructor’s bluntness or perhaps more embarrassed at my own incapability at keeping on top of the damned wind surfboard.

Much to my annoyance, I could see Mom lapping up the sun on the beach, oblivious to my useless attempts at keeping the sail above water.

Windsurfing frustrations aside, where we were in Punta Lunga Campsite Village was, in fact, the perfect place to unwind. On the nose of Italy’s Gargano Peninsula, it was a haven away from the foreign tourist hotspots.

Surrounded by the slopes in Vieste, sandy coves and cliffs framed by olive groves, pines and almond trees, the campsite oozed Mediterranean paradise.

But back in 2003, it was one of the hardest places to get to. At the time Ryanair was flying from Kerry Airport to Pescara and on the recommendation from a family friend, we aimed for Punta Lunga.

“7.30am, Pescara train to San Severo, €24.22 for both on the Eurostar which was very comfortable,” Mom wrote in her diary at the time, “and then onto a private train to Peschici which was €4. They switched onto a bus to another train and then another bus to Peschici because they didn’t drop us in the town. We arrived at 11pm, shattered”.

Incidentally, the train to Peschici was hardly a train at all. More like a glorified, rickety cattle box!

“I can remember pulling the suitcases through Peschici”, Mom muses reflecting back on the adventure. “Travelling all day from Kerry to Italy, absolutely exhausted. And then I remember their kindness when they said that the kitchen was still open!”

We finally got the campsite a few days later with thanks to a lift from a Norwegian family who were staying in the hotel with us and its remoteness was most welcome.

Very few people spoke English at Punta Lunga and in one way that was part of its charm. We had booked a villino or a little cabin with its own kitchen, rooms and decking area; just a stroll away from the beach.

Mom would get the bus into town to get fresh food from the market while I slept (or sneakily feed the scrawny kittens who graced our doorstep) and in the afternoons we would split; Mom to her aqua aerobics and me to my shambles of attempts at windsurfing.

At night we would head to the campsite’s shows hosted by the Animation Team where Mom would divvy us out desserts in small glasses. There I had my first experience of sorbet which tasted like how I imagined mini-icebergs to taste. It had a cool tingle with the added bonus of zesty lime slipping through the ice!

We feasted on fresh salads, cheeses and pasta. Ignoring the ants and mosquitos that tempted to make house in our cabin, Italy was a holiday like no other. We were to head to Rome in the following few days but I remember being tempted to ask to stay longer.

The days passed by. While it became clearly apparent that I wouldn’t be claiming any windsurfing world title, floating along in the blue sea one evening I finally let go of my sea sport frustrations and just pondered in bliss.

“Que sera, sera”, Mom sang happily as she floated alongside me.

“Whatever will be, will be”.