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This review is going to be very passionate as I have been to Cattolica many times and I am also part Italian and my love for this small town will always stay with me.
I first visited Cattolica when I was 14 (many moons ago) and it made a very big impression on me. I didn't have much confidence as a schoolgirl, but my friend and I were paid alot of attention, and we had the time of our lives (as much as you can in the company of parents!). We were allowed to go to nightclubs occasionally as they are so safe and friendly. But the biggest attraction for me is the food. This area (Emiligia Romagna) is the is the home of pizza, pasta and ice-cream and they do all 3 perfectly. If I could find a diet that consisted of these 3 things, I would be so happy! Another speciality here is the Piadina - like a tortilla usually filled with ham and cheese.
Cattolica is a very pretty seaside town with a marina. It has a wonderful beach which consistently gets awarded for its cleanliness (blue flag I think). It is much smaller than Rimini, but much more stylish in my opinion. Its not perfect, because it is a tourist destination. You will find just as many Italians there, as you will Germans and other scandinavian nationalities. The Italians take their annual holiday in August, and Cattolica is very popular with them. I take this as a good sign, as you know you are going to go somewhere with some level of authenticity. There are hundreds of hotels and apartments and sadly they do cater to some British tastes in the cafes....serving fry-ups and chips and even some German food. Whenever I go on holiday I want to live and eat locally. "When in Rome" as they say! Ignoring the tourist traps you can find some fantastic little restaurants with live music and the friendliest people you will ever meet. My favourite restaurant is called Bella Italia and my mouth just salivates thinking of the pizza they serve in there - thin, thin, thin with exquisite toppings. They have fab live music, and its always packed. One year they twisted my arm into singing with the band. It was the most nervewracking experience of my life and I have the photos to prove it! I am no singer, but I can hold an ok tune.
The nightlife is fantastic. The evenings revolve around the main square - Primo Piazza Maggio, with its fountains and pretty gardens. Everyone dresses up in their finery and walk up and down the streets (passiagiata), people watching and shopping. I like to sit at a bar near the square, watching the world go by until the early hours. The last time I visited was in 1997 with my Mother. It was a girly holiday and I haven't been back since. I lost my Mother to cancer 4 years ago, and I cannot bring myself to go back, but I cherish the memories of this town. We used to love going "bopping" in the discos, shopping for the latest fashions and eating mounds of parma ham and melon at lunchtime, followed by ice-cream from the gelaterias. Cattolica has some great boutiques. It is the home of Alberta Ferretti, and yes I have one item from her shop - which cost my Mum an arm and a leg, but I will keep it forever! Shoe shops are also in abundance and you can find beautiful leather shoes, never to be found in the UK.
In the day, you can while away your time on the beach - there are several free beaches where you can lay on a towel and wait for the guy with coconut to come along, or you can go to the fantastic indoor market which had been completely refurbished the last time I went. You can try everything before you buy, and the produce is so fresh and inviting. There is a little train that takes you all around the town and marina (it drives through the streets) and also stops at the Dolphinarium. You can get a season ticket at local tourist/travel shops.
This review has become somewhat erratic as my mind keeps drifting off to different memories!
Other places that are well worth visiting are Riccione (bigger and even more stylish version of Cattolica), Gradara (medieval village), and the Republic of San Marino (an amazing place steeped in history, tax free and home to the Grand Prix). Venice is not too far either and worth a day trip - just don't go in the height of summer. I love Venice with a passion too, and the next time I go I will write about it here.
I don't know why Cattolica is so special to me, but the people there definitely contributed to my holidays. They are so genuine and friendly, and if you try and speak some Italian, they love you even more. I made many friends, and even after long gaps I was recognised and welcomed once more. I don't like to revisit places but this is one place I loved going back to in my younger years. I just hope one day I can go back, show my husband and children, and they will see some of the magic I saw.
You can fly to Rimini quite cheaply using Ryanair. I don't know whether the Adriatic Riviera is featured anymore in holiday brochures, but the best way would be to book a cheap flight and book accommodation on the net. There are plenty of websites for this town to help you plan your visit. Its a great place for lovers, families, teenagers - everyone!