The sea kayaking scene in Italy has come into maturity only in the past 10 years. Previously the passion of a few, more and more Italians are discovering kayaking. Don’t go to Italy expecting to find kayak rental outfitters on every scenic bay. There may be five in the whole country. During the summer holidays it’s easy to find a rental, but you’ll probably be paddling a big plastic sit-on-top, or a slightly longer version of a river kayak.
Kayaking in Italy takes a bit of planning. Happily now we have the internet and Sea Kayaker
magazine to help us, and most Italian outfitters have English language translations on their websites. Just click on the British flag.
Sottocosta (translates as leeward coast) is Italy’s version of the ACA. But you can get a sense of scale when you see that www.sottocosta.it
lists only 44 kayaking instructors and guides in the entire country. They all know each other, train together, and meet and paddle together at annual events like the Maremaraton on Elba Island, or the Raduni (paddle meeting/trips) on the island of Sardinia. Some go up to England, France, or Norway for additional BCU instruction.
Italian sea kayakers are extremely interested in the history of kayaking, and many use Greenland-style paddles and practice a variety of Greenland rolls and sculling techniques. It’s an expression of their deep respect for history and the integration of history into everyday life. As more Italians are exposed to kayaking, it’s growing as a family sport. Schools have summer programs that include kayak outings, and families participate in open kayak demo days geared to widening the exposure of the sport.
The North American kayaker in Italy will meet lots of other paddlers on the water. Most are Italian, next you might run into some French or Germans who’ve driven down with their own kayaks, or perhaps a German tour group.
The Italian waters can be quite benign. The Mediterranean is relatively warm, the tidal changes are small, and currents are wind driven, but it’s not a bathtub. Just look how long it took Ulysses to get home! Italy is a fabulous place to paddle. You'll find medieval towers, terraced vineyards, and granite rock formations, and then pull up on a beach, sleep in the warm sand, take a swim, and top off a picnic lunch with a gelato and espresso. Then go to a seaside restaurant for a meal of locally caught fish. Your dinner might have been caught by the fellow you saw fishing as you paddled by.