Surf Travel Reports

Searching For Waves In Italy

Italy is world-renowned for its history and culture. Every year, millions of tourists visit the land of gastronomical wonders, just to get a taste of the exalted Italian dulce vida. They walk the busy streets of Rome, gaze in astonishment at Davi

d, engorge themselves with fresh pasta, and of course, play chicken with the infamous Vespa.

Many of those tourists and foreigners though, are unaware of the fact that Italy, aside from being a bastion of culture, refinement, and indigestion, actually has surf. Within the past twenty years, surf magazines like Surfer have revealed that the Italian coastline does occasionally have decent waves. Yet surfing in Italy is still very much a young sport, and hasn’t (according to the understanding of the global surfing community) really gained much of a following.

Mondello Beach (Photo: Stefan Slater)

That’s mainly because, unlike the Pacific or the Atlantic oceans, the weather patterns in the Mediterranean are extremely unpredictable. One moment you could have calm and glassy seas, and the next, you could be stuck in the middle of a powerful storm, clutching to a piece of driftwood like San Paolo himself. The fickle surf, and the fact that other European locales have much better waves, makes Italy a wonderful place to vacation with a beautiful girl, and not the best choice when it comes to chasing epic waves.

With that being said, when my girlfriend and I visited Italy last June, I wasn’t expecting to find any surf. In fact, in my mind, I had ruled out even the slightest possibility of encountering a ripple. This trip was one of cultural discovery, and trying to hunt for erratic Italian surf would only detract from the original intentions of the vacation. I told myself that pursuing those rare Mediterranean waves would only result in an empty wallet, and of course, a swift kick to the head delivered by none other than my lovely travel partner. This trip was going to involve plenty of wine drinking and sight seeing (and hopefully that coveted opportunity to scream “are you not entertained?” while standing in the Coliseum), so there was unfortunately little room in the trip itinerary to hunt infrequent surf.

My original train of surf-related thought went out the window, though, once we visited the town of Levanto in Northern Italy. Levanto is a small fishing village with a population of around 5,600 people, located just north of the Cinque Terre National Park. It is absolutely beautiful, as the rolling hills and emerald waters that surround the town are honestly unreal.

Brothers Surfhouse, Levanto (photo courtesy Brothers Surfhouse)

My girlfriend and I were only visiting for a single day, so we spent our one and only night trying to find a spectacular restaurant to indulge in the local seafood. As we were walking up and down Levanto’s tiny streets, my girlfriend spotted a large quiver of surfboards in a store window. She pointed it out to me, and with a mixture of elation and confusion, we both promptly entered the store. Turns out we had found the town’s one and only surf shop, which was named Brothers Surfhouse.

The owner was very kind, and was stoked to hear that I was a surfer from Southern California. I asked what the surf was like around the area (especially since the sea surrounding Levanto was chalkboard flat), and was surprised to hear what he had to say. He told me that Northern Italy had “rideable” surf around 150 days out of the year. In fact, he said that two meter plus sets had been breaking in Levanto only two days before we had arrived. He showed me pictures of his session on the shop’s website, and I was stunned to see perfect head high glassy waves, breaking off a classic right like a mini-Italian version of Malibu point.

What I learned was that Italian surfers are like amateur meteorologists, constantly paying attention to minute weather changes. Utilizing a weather data program similar to LOLA (Surfline.com uses this system for its surf reports), my Italian amico told me he knew exactly when and where to be when the next storm hit. The next morning before we left, I popped back into the shop, and asked him for his card, and for a bit more information about surf in Italy. I told him I was heading to Palermo, Sicily, and I was impressed to hear that that region of Italy was apparently one of the best for surfing.

Fede Vanno (Photo Courtesy Brothers Surfhouse)

It was at that moment that the surf bug bit me hard, and I spent the majority of the incredibly long train ride down to Sicily looking over info about surf in the Mediterranean. Thankfully, my girlfriend found me a copy of Surf News, one of the first Italian surf magazines. Its editor Nick Zanela stated–much to my chagrin–that the island of Sicliy had “rideable” surf almost 200 days out of the year. After reading that, I knew I had to at least try and find some waves.

Levanto (photo: Francesco Shabby Palù)
Carlo Pilotti (Photo: Janna Colella)

What I encountered was utterly frustrating. The waves around Palermo were flatter than a pancake, and there wasn’t a single surf shop to be found. Out of desperation, I confronted a group of teenagers wearing Bear Surfboard T-shirts, only to find that they had bought the misleading articles of clothing at an Italian Foot Locker. I asked local after local, and was told repeatedly that Palermo was wonderful for windsailing and snorkeling, but that no, as far as they knew, there wasn’t any surfing. Once, I even saw a parked car with a longboard on top, but my girlfriend stopped me from leaving a note on the windshield, for fear of us both being judged as unstable tourists. While we were able to find some beautiful beaches, I wasn’t able to locate any actual surf in the short time we were in Palermo.

What I finally concluded is that the surf in Italy is an untapped resource. The technology is finally available to track the so-called unpredictable Mediterranean storms, thus unveiling a wonderful abundance of surf. However, surfing in Italy is still rather difficult, as it requires an intricate knowledge of local weather patterns. Yet, the surf is there, and if you have the time, money and patience to hunt waves in Italy, you might get lucky, and be able to really enjoy the true dulce vida.

***

Thank you to Brothers Surfhouse for the use of their Images. Check them out their website and their Facebook Page.

Thank you also to Francesco Palú and the Nutria Surf Crew.

Format

Italy is world-renowned for its history and culture. Every year, millions of tourists visit the land of gastronomical wonders, just to get a taste of the exalted Italian dulce vida. They walk the busy streets of Rome, gaze in astonishment at David, engorge themselves with fresh pasta, and of course, play chicken with the infamous Vespa.
Many of those tourists and foreigners though, are unaware of the fact that Italy, aside from being a bastion of culture, refinement, and indigestion, actually has surf. Within the past twenty years, surf magazines like Surfer have revealed that the Italian coastline does occasionally have decent waves. Yet surfing in Italy is still very much a young sport, and hasn’t (according to the understanding of the global surfing community) really gained much of a following.

Mondello Beach (Photo: Stefan Slater)That’s mainly because, unlike the Pacific or the Atlantic oceans, the weather patterns in the Mediterranean are extremely unpredictable. One moment you could have calm and glassy seas, and the next, you could be stuck in the middle of a powerful storm, clutching to a piece of driftwood like San Paolo himself. The fickle surf, and the fact that other European locales have much better waves, makes Italy a wonderful place to vacation with a beautiful girl, and not the best choice when it comes to chasing epic waves.
With that being said, when my girlfriend and I visited Italy last June, I wasn’t expecting to find any surf. In fact, in my mind, I had ruled out even the slightest possibility of encountering a ripple. This trip was one of cultural discovery, and trying to hunt for erratic Italian surf would only detract from the original intentions of the vacation. I told myself that pursuing those rare Mediterranean waves would only result in an empty wallet, and of course, a swift kick to the head delivered by none other than my lovely travel partner. This trip was going to involve plenty of wine drinking and sight seeing (and hopefully that coveted opportunity to scream “are you not entertained?” while standing in the Coliseum), so there was unfortunately little room in the trip itinerary to hunt infrequent surf.
My original train of surf-related thought went out the window, though, once we visited the town of Levanto in Northern Italy. Levanto is a small fishing village with a population of around 5,600 people, located just north of the Cinque Terre National Park. It is absolutely beautiful, as the rolling hills and emerald waters that surround the town are honestly unreal.

Brothers Surfhouse, Levanto (photo courtesy Brothers Surfhouse)My girlfriend and I were only visiting for a single day, so we spent our one and only night trying to find a spectacular restaurant to indulge in the local seafood. As we were walking up and down Levanto’s tiny streets, my girlfriend spotted a large quiver of surfboards in a store window. She pointed it out to me, and with a mixture of elation and confusion, we both promptly entered the store. Turns out we had found the town’s one and only surf shop, which was named Brothers Surfhouse.
The owner was very kind, and was stoked to hear that I was a surfer from Southern California. I asked what the surf was like around the area (especially since the sea surrounding Levanto was chalkboard flat), and was surprised to hear what he had to say. He told me that Northern Italy had “rideable” surf around 150 days out of the year. In fact, he said that two meter plus sets had been breaking in Levanto only two days before we had arrived. He showed me pictures of his session on the shop’s website, and I was stunned to see perfect head high glassy waves, breaking off a classic right like a mini-Italian version of Malibu point.
What I learned was that Italian surfers are like amateur meteorologists, constantly paying attention to minute weather changes. Utilizing a weather data program similar to LOLA (Surfline.com uses this system for its surf reports), my Italian amico told me he knew exactly when and where to be when the next storm hit. The next morning before we left, I popped back into the shop, and asked him for his card, and for a bit more information about surf in Italy. I told him I was heading to Palermo, Sicily, and I was impressed to hear that that region of Italy was apparently one of the best for surfing.

Fede Vanno (Photo Courtesy Brothers Surfhouse)It was at that moment that the surf bug bit me hard, and I spent the majority of the incredibly long train ride down to Sicily looking over info about surf in the Mediterranean. Thankfully, my girlfriend found me a copy of Surf News, one of the first Italian surf magazines. Its editor Nick Zanela stated–much to my chagrin–that the island of Sicliy had “rideable” surf almost 200 days out of the year. After reading that, I knew I had to at least try and find some waves.

Levanto (photo: Francesco Shabby Palù)
Carlo Pilotti (Photo: Janna Colella)What I encountered was utterly frustrating. The waves around Palermo were flatter than a pancake, and there wasn’t a single surf shop to be found. Out of desperation, I confronted a group of teenagers wearing Bear Surfboard T-shirts, only to find that they had bought the misleading articles of clothing at an Italian Foot Locker. I asked local after local, and was told repeatedly that Palermo was wonderful for windsailing and snorkeling, but that no, as far as they knew, there wasn’t any surfing. Once, I even saw a parked car with a longboard on top, but my girlfriend stopped me from leaving a note on the windshield, for fear of us both being judged as unstable tourists. While we were able to find some beautiful beaches, I wasn’t able to locate any actual surf in the short time we were in Palermo.
What I finally concluded is that the surf in Italy is an untapped resource. The technology is finally available to track the so-called unpredictable Mediterranean storms, thus unveiling a wonderful abundance of surf. However, surfing in Italy is still rather difficult, as it requires an intricate knowledge of local weather patterns. Yet, the surf is there, and if you have the time, money and patience to hunt waves in Italy, you might get lucky, and be able to really enjoy the true dulce vida.
***
Thank you to Brothers Surfhouse for the use of their Images. Check them out their website and their Facebook Page.
Thank you also to Francesco Palú and the Nutria Surf Crew.
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Stefan Slater

Stefan Slater is from Los Angeles, CA. He is a freelance writer and started surfing when he was 14. His favorite surf spots in L.A. are Malibu Point, El Porto, and County Line.

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10 thoughts on “Searching For Waves In Italy”

  1. I come from Palermo…. I’m sorry you don’t find any surfer and surfshops… because there are two shops and many guys do surf!!!! i know it’s difficult to find them… because they can’t do surf every day, expecially in summer there aren’t many waves, and also in winter they have to controll the condition of the sea ( in internet) before go to the beach!!! it’s a bit hard do surf in Sicily, i know… it’s like a work 🙂 🙂 Obviosly there aren’t so many people do it!
    i hope the next time you come in Sicily you’ll ask information at the right people 😀 ( not that with Bear stuff….. this brand in Palermo is used by everybody, is not considered a brand for surfer!!!)
    Bye bye!
    See you soon in Sicily :)))
    Claudia

  2. Im heading to Palermo, sicily for the first time and was hoping to find a surf spot. After reading im guessing this will be a difficult task, but worth trying.

    Does anyone know of a surfshop that I could rent a board and stear me in the right direction?

    Thanks!

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