Destinations – La Costa Bella, Mediterranean Italy

The western coast of Italy and the islands of Sardinia and Sicily-the Med.

What: Italy is a boot-shaped peninsula extending for nearly 1,000 miles into the Mediterranean Sea, including the two major offshore islands of Sardinia (home to some of the most consistent surf in the Med) and Sicily (which you might have heard of in some mafia-related movie like The Godfather).

When: October to March is by far the best time of the year to plan a surf trip to Italy, when low-pressure systems generated in the Atlantic Ocean break into the Mediterranean, producing a variety of swells that hit the Italian coast.

Why: Mostly for the uniqueness of the whole experience. Surfing a stone’s throw from ancient archaeological sites, pirates’ lookouts, and medieval castles and villages. And yeah, it’s all true: the girls are gorgeous, the food’s great, and the weather is still nice in December.

How: Fly direct from Los Angeles to Rome or Milan for about $900. Flights from New York or Miami are usually cheaper (around $600). Inter-Europe flights generally cost up to $300, but you can get better deals on the Internet (www.ryanair.com).

Places To Stay: Plenty of options exist, from five-star hotels in Rome to youth hostels or agriturismo (farm-style hotels that provide good accommodations and excellent home-cooked meals, usually at a reasonable price). We recommend Lonely Planet guidebooks for a full range of options.

Places To Eat: The food is excellent pretty much everywhere. From traditional Mediterranean at a trattoria or taverna to seafood restaurants in coastal towns, Italy has something for everyone. Agriturismo is always a good choice, especially if you find one close to your favorite spot and you want to spend the night there. There’re pizzerias all over the place as well-you can get every style of pizza you can think of at a reasonable price.

Babes: If you’re stoked on the food, wait ’til you meet the ladies. Do Monica Bellucci or Maria Grazia Cucinotta ring a bell? Absolutely charming girls are everywhere, but the best mating spots are in big cities like Rome, Florence, and Milan. Learn a few key words in Italian just to break the ice.

Crowd Factor: No matter how unlikely this might sound to you, surfing is not new to Italy, so expect to find thick crowds in the main spots, especially during the weekends. Locals are usually friendly with foreigners, so you’ll hardly ever have any problem. Crowds can be a factor, but they’re hardly an issue in Italy.

Stuff To Bring: Your small-wave board should do it on most days. If it gets bigger, you might want a 6’6″, but nothing bigger. Waves are not particularly hollow in the Med, so a little bit of extra volume can be helpful. Water temperatures vary during the year from almost tropical in August to freezing in February. Bring a 3/2 fullsuit for the southern areas, Sardinia, and Sicily; and pack a 4/3 and some booties for the north.

If The Surf Is Flat: The surf can get dead flat for long periods on end, but don’t worry, there’s plenty to do and see. You can play gladiator inside the real Colosseum in Rome, pretend you’re the Pope in the Vatican, admire the leaning tower in Pisa, and check the lava-buried town of Pompeii near Naples. If you’re traveling with your girlfriend or boyfriend Venice is a must; and if you’re into good food and wine, cruise the Chianti hills of Tuscany.

Helpful Web sites: For all-around info about your trip to Italy, log on to lonelyplanet.com, where you’ll find pretty much everything you need to know about the place. A detailed swell forecast is usually found on the U.S. Navy’s oceanography Web site (https://www.fnmoc.navy.mil/PUBLIC/). To get an idea of where the best spots are and how to get there, check out www.wannasurf.com or www.surfnews.com and get heaps of detailed info in English.

-Emiliano Cataldi