Guest article by Rivka Cymbalist, author of The Birth Conspiracy
We have often seen people sunbathing on the shores of the Magra river on our way to do shopping in Aulla, or to the Cinque Terre for some snorkeling, or down to Versilia for some serious beach time. It always looks a typical Italian thing to do – sunbathing under the Autostrada – a dangerous prospect for someone from Montreal, where hunks of bridges and tunnels regularly drop onto the autoroute. But the river looks so cool and inviting. “Our” river, the Verde, is always packed on a Sunday, so we decided to do some exploring and find a new place.
We consulted the map and had our preliminary squabble. The driver won so we headed under the Autostrada from somewhere past Mulazzo. The road looked promising until it started to ascend, and we decided to retrace our tracks. From Villafranca we followed a small road that led straight to the river, under the Autostrada.
There was a sign that said private property, where a lot of cars were parked and some people were having a beach party. We parked in the shade of the Autostrada and headed in the opposite direction, to the river. Once at the shore, we decided to cross it, which was easy – it was only just above our knees with not much of a current. After a short walk, the river curved and we could see a pool. We followed the curve and found ourselves on a small beach.
The water was clean and clear, and full of minnows. The pool just in front of us was about waist high, but just downriver there was a deeper pool, some rapids, and a gentle whirlpool that spun the swimmers around (to the ten year-old’s delight). Just beyond, the river curved again and formed a pool that was at least two meters deep. It was a perfect place to paddle in an inflatable boat or just lounge about on an air mattress.
We lounged, swam, threw skipping stones, and then around 17:00 nature started the show. Swifts flew up and down the river, dipping and bobbing. There must have been a hundred of them. They were clearly having a beach party. Then the fish started jumping. We had seen many minnows and small fish, but we started to see bigger splashes and ripples. I looked under the surface, as the sun was no longer reflecting, and I saw a huge trout – then another, and we realized the river was full of colorful trout.
To top it off, a bright yellow bird flew past us, and as we were gently squabbling about what bird it was, a bright blue Kingfisher swept across the water to the other bank. Time to go – next time we will bring our kayak and do some river exploring. Back in Villafranca in five minutes and home in under an hour. A good afternoon at the river!
Photo credit: Rivka Cymbalist