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“What do you want to do most?” Rami asked as we sat on the terrace of our Airbnb. Luna ran around in the yard with Sal, the dog that lived on the property, they churned up dust from the dry volcanic soil. A breeze blew up from the sea in the distance, up toward the top of the volcano behind us. We had already done so much and could do an endless amount from where we were, but I hadn’t touched water this summer and the Tyrrhenian Sea was right there, and Luna had never seen water like that. I wanted to find a beach.

So we looked up the laws for dogs on beaches (all dogs can be on public beaches as long as they are leashed) and I started looking at what we could get to easily. No driving was easy around this area, so the closer the better. Fifteen minutes winding down to Torre del Greco, there weren’t many options and a lot of the gulf wasn’t the beautiful blue water I wanted, that I knew was just down the road on the Amalfi coast. But the road between there and Vesuvius was long and famous for being ridiculous. We also knew Luna may not be welcomed everywhere. I was wondering if I’d find anywhere worth making the trip for.

“All I want is a little beach without many people where there’s glimmering blue-green water, free of jellyfish, and a real beach instead of rocks so Luna can swim for the first time,” I joked, honestly not believing I’d find it. I scanned the map closer to Sorrento – the furthest we’d drive, and saw one just past Castellmare di Sabia. Spiaggia Libera La Palombara. Just off the beginning of the Via Sorrentina that leads to Sorrento – the gateway of the Amalfi, and the seaside city where I really fell in love with this country in 2006. The photos looked promising. There was also a Caseficio (mozzarella producer) close by, and a lunch spot that had been recommended. We decided to try it.

It’s officially the end of summer at the end of August here in Italy. Some may linger on the coast even until now, but most of the beach chairs have been packed up and stored away, and everyone is heading back to work and school. We parked in an empty lot on the side of the road and walked an empty sidewalk out to the water’s edge. The tiny spiaggia was empty except for a couple lying on their towels close to the breakwall, hiding from the breeze that I loved so much. The sea was rough today and the waves crashed over into the little man-made cove in a glow of aquamarine I’ve truly only seen on this coastline. I dove into the warm water – the Gulf of Naples, the Isle of Capri, and Mt. Vesuvius rose up in the background. Luna stood with her front paws barely touching the water, looking quizzically at the waves.

Just outside one of the largest ports, the water was still so clear, so beautiful, and with the mountains rising up behind us and the gulf spread out before us, I could understand why people in the past used to think of this place as the lost piece of paradise. Normally in the middle of summer, this beach would be crowded as all hell. You can even see how it gets on google maps, but that day we basically had it to ourselves. Our own little moment in a place that fell from heaven.

Luna got nervous the minute I put my head underwater. She started climbing the rocks out to me and Rami had to grab her before she realized she wasn’t a mountain goat (and far from anything graceful). I swam back to the beach and she ran up to me. I grabbed a rock and threw it a bit deeper, and she jumped after it, then plunged her head into the saltwater, big ears and all… Eventually, I had to carry her into the water. Many frenchies can’t swim because they’re too top heavy. With Stitch, we never got a chance to see if he could swim because he hated when his feet got wet when it rained – so swimming was absolutely out of the question. Luna, on the other hand, sat in the pot of water in the dog park yesterday.

As I lowered my little french bulldog into the Tyrrhenian sea in the shadow of a volcano (what a sentence – who am I?) she started to paddle and successfully made it the three feet to the beach without sinking like a rock. Minutes later, she did it herself when I went out too far, according to her – her little body almost sinking under the water, with just two big black ears and a little face peeking up over the surface.

 

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