I’m a proud new owner of an inflatable stand up paddle. I don’t want to go into detail why I thought it was absolutely necessary to own a SUP board even though I have only paddled a couple of times so far and I don’t live on a beach somewhere in Australia. So let’s just say it was an emotional decision, not a rational one and leave it at that.
For the inaugural paddling tour with the brand new board I’ve chosen a special destination. Of course I didn’t want to take it out on the artificial river lake just 10 minutes away from our home, where you can actually rent boards for a fraction of costs of my precious one. That would be so, well, unbecoming of a new SUP board owner. I also decided against Lake Bled (too crowded) or Lake Bohinj (no special reason). Instead, we went to Italy. Actually, we planned this trip to Italy a long time ago but let’s for the purpose of this story forget about that and assume it was the newly discovered adventurous paddler in me who found out about this great lagoon and just had to try it. Because that’s what stand up paddling is all about, right? Searching for undiscovered waters, always with the board at hand ready to paddle away into the great unknown. Or that’s at least what my romantic image of this sport is all about.
The Italian coast from Trieste to Venice is one big lagoon. To an average Slovenian used to the rugged and extremely varied Croatian coast this part of the Adriatic sea offers little appeal. Personally I am not a fan of flat sand beaches nor do I like busy resorts that usually accompany them. Therefore the Marano lagoon, which stretches roughly from the quiet fishing town Marano Lagunare to the much more popular Lignano was truly a discovery for me. Its calm waters are protected from the open sea by several flat islands while the true natural treasure is hidden in a maze of its swampy channels. The main traffic routes of the lagoon are marked with wooden pillars and are teeming with boats and sightseeing vessels, at least during the peak of the Italian holiday season in August. But smaller rowing boats, canoes and of course SUP boards are just perfect to go away from the crowds into the narrow winding channels. Here water is shallow and tranquil and marsh vegetation is home to numerous birds. Gliding past traditional fishermen’s huts I could almost feel as one of them some centuries ago…until a fish jumped out of water right in front of me and scared me out of my wits. No, I was not cut out for anything closely related to fishing. My first “independent” SUP tour was nice though.
- Even if you have a very good sense of orientation it is useful to have a map, a GPS or just a phone (protected in some water-proof case) with google map of the area with you. I tried to memorize the general direction where to paddle, but once you go into the channels, it’s impossible to remember each bend and turn unless you have photographic memory.
- Go early in the morning or late in the afternoon. You are likely to see more birds at that time of day and if you are lucky enough to have a waterproof camera case you will be able to take some nice photos. I had to use my phone in less than optimal light conditions with obvious results (see below).
- Take some water, use sunscreen and wear a hat, especially in summer.
- You can paddle through the town of Marano Lagunare itself. Paddling through the narrow canal can be quite challenging with all the boats causing standing waves. I sure wouldn’t want to fall into the water to the amusement of locals having a drink at one of the cafes along the canal. Besides, I felt a bit out of place wearing a T-shirt and bikini with all the stylish Italians around, observing me from safe shore.
Extend your stay
- A part of the lagoon is also the delta of the Stella river, protected within the Natural Reserve Foci dello Stella which can only be reached by water and is also worth researching. In fact, you could paddle downstream from Palazzolo dello Stella and have someone pick you up in Lignano or Marano, but you would probably need a whole day for a trip like that. Unfortunately, we only had one day so I had to add this tour to my bucket list of future spots to sup at.
- Marano Lagunare is an old fishing town so it would be a shame to leave without stopping at one of its several restaurants and trattorias where you can round off your trip with some tasty fish and local wine. We had our delicious lunch at the Tre Canai.
- If you want to avoid the busy Lignano, you can find a small agriturismo or a B&B out of town. We loved our stay at the Loggia degli Artisti in Palazzolo dello Stella which offers stylishly furnished rooms and apartments quietly located in the middle of vineyards. And they have a gorgeous pool which you can enjoy almost to yourself.