Capitolo Beach, far away in time

In my nearly 30 years of existence, I have experienced many kinds of beaches. There are the ones in my home territory of North Queensland, which look inviting, but the hotter it gets, the more deceptive they become – a bewitchingly cool blue exterior that, like a magic mirror, fools you to the perils that lie beneath.

The beaches to forget…

Then there are the European beaches, crammed so full that your position hierarchy is akin to that of a gig ticket. If you’re prepared to queue from the crack of dawn, you’ll earn that front row seat; sleep in, and you’ll have to be content with squeezing your towel in between that over excited teenage couple and the family with three loud and tyrranic children under five (and the over protective mum that shouts at you for hijacking her umbrella shade – yep, it’s happened to me).

You can barely catch a ray for all the umbrellas criss crossing over each other and as for drifting off into your mandatory holiday snooze, forget it. You’re in such close proximity to body parts you have no business even glimpsing at, that you’ve now become an expert in all kinds of cellulite, breast shapes and butt dimensions. There’s about as much me time on offer as a journey on the London tube.

…Before finding the unforgettable

But then there is Capitolo Beach. I have never seen anything like it. Not because it’s an isolated haven hiding behind a rugged wilderness – it’s right by a busy motorway. The excited teenage couple and the rowdy family with the shade-patrol mum are still there.

So why is Capitolo Beach so special? Because it is a beach encased within the ruins of an ancient fortress. As you stroll in from the dusty carpark, the sight of it unfolds like a royal maze belonging to a marine Queen of Hearts. The delapidated remains of the fortress have been moulded into shape by centuries of tides and winds banging back and forth on the rocky walls, so that each little enclave houses its own unique environment.

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First you encounter a secluded rocky bay sheltered by the fortress walls, with just enough sand for you to perch on while you dip your feet in the water. Then there are the hilly peaks, reserved for the more daring visitors, as they require a bit of an awkward scrabble to reach. But they are worth it, because once you find your spot on the crater-like surface, it’s just you and the sea.

Capitolo Beach 2

While these hilly peaks grant you that coveted (near) isolation, they aren’t my favourite parts of Capitolo Beach. Delve deeper into the maze, and you’ll find corner after corner, each different from the last. Some are completely cut off from the rest of the structure, while others are cosy enough for a family to set up camp for the day, with shallow pools of water for children to safely splash in.

Capitolo Beach 1

These are the parts of Capitolo that can set your imagination on fire. Remember being a child, fantasising about being a lost princess who is just minutes away from that all important wake-up kiss that will grant her a life of true love?

I remember playing ‘house’ within the wall-like roots of ‘the big tree’ in primary school, designating a different room to each segment. At Capitolo, what room could you be in? The glamorous princess’s boudoir? The court in which a jester once held a captive audience? The throne room, where peasants came to kneel to the queen? Or the depths of the dungeon?

Back to the real world?

Then there is the reality that, once upon a time, this fortress had a real purpose and was a protector of people and land. What would its subjects think if they could see that, thousands of years on, scantily clad, sunburnt holidayers are frivolously splashing around in its once hallowed halls? In a thousand years time, could Buckingham Palace one day also be reduced to mere foundations, drowned by the effects of time?

What was Capitolo in its glory days? I could have researched it, and shared the truth with you, but I don’t want to burst the bubble. If somebody wants to inform me, I’ll glady listen. But for now, the fantasy of Capitolo Beach is much more fun.

Capitolo Beach is in Puglia, Italy, about a 15 minute drive from the town of Castellana Grotte, which is about an hour from Brindisi. Thanks to Julia from the Masseria Cesarina for the tip!

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