No Pink Flamingos

“Le saline” translates as “salt-pans” and it’s here, just to the south of Tarquinia Lido, that the Papal State’s prisoners, sentenced to hard labour, were sent to work. After Italy’s unification the salt pans were taken over by the new nation, which operated them until 1997.


Today the saline are no longer in operation but have, since 1980, become a nature reserve, a stop-over for migrating birds including pink flamingos, oyster catchers and other wet-land species. We didn’t see any pink flamingos – indeed there seemed to be not much bird life (perhaps they were just a little “reserved”) except for the one solitary specimen below. Any suggestions for recognition are gratefully accepted.


Tarquinia lido beach has darkish, volcanic sand with bits of sparkling mica in it. There are the usual stabilimenti balneari with smidgeons of free beach. Some may still agree with DH Lawrence’s description of the lido back in 1927: “one of those ugly little places on the Roman coast, consisting of new concrete villas, new concrete hotels, kiosks and bathing establishments; bareness and nonexistence for ten months in the year, seething solid with fleshy bathers in July and August”.

But where we were near the salt pans all the beach was free and, even at the ferragosto week-end, by no means overcrowded. There was a nice sunset over both the sea and one of the channels connecting it to the saline.

After a very pleasant sea-food meal taken at a sit-down rosticcieria we attended a performance by the Funamboli theatre group of “La serva padrona” – not so much Pergolesi’s intermezzo but a commedia dell’arte adaption based on it. It was a fun performance with a particularly good Arlecchino who fully combined his stock character role with excellent improvisation and all in the Venetian dialect (or language, as some would affirm).


The performance took place at the AVAD centre, which stands for voluntary association for the assistance of the disabled and which was formerly a “colonia” or children’s state-assisted holiday home. Mussolini had set these up “colonie marine” to give otherwise-deprived children from poor backgrounds the chance to have a healthy seaside holiday. Later, admittance was enlarged to include all children.  Now the colonie have mostly closed down or are known by a different name or have, as in the case of AVAD, been taken over by other social-work related bodies. The architecture of the colonie is often stunningly art-deco and I remember seeing an exhibition of photographs of abandoned colonie a little time ago at the Tate Modern, London.

The AVAD centre caters for disabled (physically and mentally) people of all ages who can’t normally get a holiday. It is clearly a worthy cause and the present visitors to the centre were enjoying their stay and the show there very much, judging from their enthusiastic whoopings.

Our seaside day was concluded by a spectacular fireworks show which we watched on the beach admiring the wonderful reflections of the display on the gently rolling sea – at least there was some pink in some of the spectacular explosions of colour.



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