Thursday, August 28, 2014

In my cossie at Milano's Piscina Cozzi

As I was saying, when we left Belluno I thought I'd had the last of my Italian swims. But on our first night back in Milan I discovered the Piscina Cozzi in a Wallpaper Guidebook at our friends' Jenny and Stephen's apartment.

When I looked at the photo I knew I had to visit this circa 1934 pool.

The next day after a tour of Villa Necchi Campiglio, a beautiful 1930s house with a lovely pool, we jumped on the number 1 tram and headed to Piscina Cozzi.

When we arrived at the imposing building, designed in Fascist architecture style, a combination of art deco meets ancient Rome and rationalism, it was after 3.

The main 33-metre pool was full of schoolkids practicing their diving off the tower, taking part in squad, playing water polo and perfecting their synchronised swimming moves.

In the foyer I admired the plaster sea horses decorating the walls and the bust of Roberto Cozzi, the World War I hero the pool honours.

When I moved inside I discovered apple green tiles around the pool's inside edge and when I climbed down the ladder I found I couldn't stand up at the shallow end.  When the depth dropped to 4.5 metres under the diving platform I felt like I was falling off the edge like I do at North Sydney, another 1930s pool.

Designed by Luigi Secchi, who was also responsible for the rebuilding of La Scala after it was bombed during the Second World War, the complex was renovated in 2008.  It has marble features, a 33-metre and a 20-metre pool, a diving tower with 3, 5 and 10-metre platforms and a grandstand catering for 700 spectators. In its early days it also included a barber and hair salon for ladies, as well as a bar directly facing the pool.

When I met up with Bruce and Trude after my dip I was almost certain I'd had my last Italian swim. But back at Jenny and Stephen's that night they announced they'd organised to spend our final weekend at Carlin Carlotta, an agriturismo stay (farm holidays) in the Piedmont region.

After enjoying the culinary delights of Neive and exploring the lovely hilltop town we cooled off in the refreshing water of Carlin Carlotta's brand new pool.

And the next morning after a beautiful dinner on the terrace and one or two many wines we cleared our heads with a morning dip overlooking the grape vines and the rolling hills.

The next day we caught the plane back to Sydney so that really was the last of my Italian swims. Until next time ...

Monday, July 28, 2014

On the piscina trail from Lake Como to the Dolomites

Soon after our plane touched down in Milan in early May I felt like a swim.

The weather was warm and I needed to stretch out after the long flight but when I stepped inside the closest piscina (the Italian word for pool) to our friends' place in Milan I realised I didn't need a swim that much. The four lane, 25-metre pool was stuffy and every millimetre of the water was filled with bodies doing aqua aerobics and squad. I decided to wait till Lake Como, our next destination on our five week trip in northern Italy.

At the spectacularly beautiful Lago di Como I got an even stronger urge for a dip even though my Milano-based friend Jenny said the Italians think it's unhealthy to swim in the lakes. She said they have a fear of being caught in seaweed and drowning like a group of children did in the 1960s, and so they leave lake-swimming to the tourists.

On our ferry trips around the lake the water looked pristine to me. So I wasn't put off but when the locals said it was far too cold to be wading in, I decided to check out the lido.

But the one in Menaggio was closed and was not due to open for another couple of weeks.

Oh well, I thought, maybe I'll swim in the sea at our next destination on the Ligurian coast.

But when we walked down to the harbour at Manarola, our base for a week in Le Cinque Terre, I couldn't find a spot where I could safely get in.

I postponed my dip till later in the week when we visited Monterosso where there's a proper beach.

But after exploring the town, the water didn't look very inviting and when Bruce said if we hurry we can make the next train to Manarola, 'out the window' went the idea of a swim.

When we headed north to Belluno to watch a stage of the Giro D'Italia bike race, I was not hopeful of finding a suitable place to swim.

But on our first day in the Dolomites' town, I spotted a small brochure with Belluno Di Piscina on the front. The next afternoon I left Bruce watching the Giro on TV and headed to the pool.

In the change rooms I met Fabbiana, whose husband was also at home watching the cycling race. She helped me attach my locker key to my cossie, showed me where to leave my shoes and where to shower, a compulsory activity before diving in.

Finally I was having a swim and from the moment I was in the 6 lane x 25 metre pool I was impressed. It was very clean, the water was a perfect temperature and loads of light poured in through the glass panels. When I turned on my back I could see the sky and clouds and as I swam along I felt my body relax.

"Belissima piscina," I said to Franco, one of the friendly life guards when I'd finished my swim. He said they worked hard to keep it clean, pointing to a machine at the other end, and that caps and showers before swimming helped.

Then I joined the kids and adults bouncing off the springboard in the diving pool and watched more daring souls somersault off the tower.

When I walked out of the Belluno Di Piscina I was transformed and ready to get into the Giro excitement in the town.

I returned to the pool two more times that week when the Giro turned Belluno pink.

On the train back to Milano I thought I'd had the last of my Italian swims until ....

Stay tuned for the next episode!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Captain Cook, rainbows and the Woonona ocean pool

The seas were wild the day we travelled south to Bulli and Woonona, just north of Wollongong, to see our friends' Pete and Zac and Marg.

After lunch at the Bulli Beach Cafe, we walked along the headland and looked down on the Bulli Ocean Pool.

Then we headed south one suburb to check out Marg's favourite swimming spot, the Woonona Ocean Pool near where Captain Cook attempted to land in April 1770.

As we watched the rising swell, I imagined his small boat struggling through the 'great surf which beat up everywhere'.

Then we moved down to the flat and circumnavigated around the edge.

Past the turquoise starting blocks lined up like monuments at the south end.

And the remains of the original Woonona Pool.

I dipped my hand in the blue-green water and wished I'd brought my cossies.

And then a rainbow appeared and arched across the ocean like the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

And cast a ring of light like a halo over the pool. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Immersed in the aquatic culture of Paris

De la Butte aux Cailles Pool in the 13th arrondissement.
Last Saturday I had an article on six pools in Paris in the travel section of The Weekend Australian. The story discusses the French capital's distinctive aquatic culture which includes compulsory wearing of caps or bonnets de bain even at the Roger Le Gall Pool in the 12th arrondissement where the Naturist Association of Paris offers nude swimming two nights a week.

Three pools on the Left Bank and three on the Right Bank are featured including Pontoise Pool where French actor Juliette Binoche swam in Three Colours Blue.

Photo from
I also highlight the redeveloped Piscine Molitor featured in The Life of Pi due to reopen this year. The pool was the setting for the launch of the bikini in 1946. For my complete story click on Bathing Beauties and here for more information on Paris' 38 public pools. Note: for some reason the link to Bathing Beauties isn't working; will see what I can do over the weekend.

Photo from

Friday, March 7, 2014

Bathing in the briny at Bronte's Bogey Hole

When the tide goes out at Bronte Beach the Bogey Hole appears, a naturally forming rock pool that's been expanded and rearranged over the years.

It's named after the Aboriginal word to bathe and before white man arrived it was their billabong, their water hole, their immersion place.

It's where people come to wade and swim and see what lies beneath.  

Where children search for crabs and sea urchins around the ring of rocks. 

It's where parents stand on the edge and watch their toddlers play.

 Where ladies chat ...

Or find a quiet corner to float on their back. 

And when the tide comes in and the bogey hole disappears it becomes a hidden pool where only the locals know where to swim.