At the start of 2018 WSUK’s editor and family were invited along to check out Neilson’s Italian new Airone beachclub resort, located on the Calabrian coast. Here’s what they found…
Words: Tez Plavenieks
Pics: CE Photo, David Green, Fi Plavenieks
It’s hard not to look at wind forecasts when heading away on a trip – especially if you’re a windsurfer whose daily routine involves pouring over weather charts. And yet, when readying for our recent jaunt to Neilson Holiday’s new Airone Beachclub, Calabria, Italy, I held fast and didn’t even once sneak a peek.
Reports on the grapevine were that Airone – located just outside Sibari on the Gulf of Taranto – is a light wind resort. With that in mind I’d made the decision to treat it as a holiday, rather than specific windsurfing trip. If we got anything in terms of blow then Brucie bonus…but I certainly wasn’t banking on it.
Neilson’s Airone Beachclub sits away from surrounding villages. You can access these using brand new road or mountain bikes Neilson have for guests to use. Alternatively hire a car and go exploring. During our two week stay Neilson laid on transport to one of the medieval mountain settlements around 15 minutes away. Rossano town is famous for liquorice and even has a museum dedicated to the Glycyrrhiza glabra root. It also has a good selection of bars and restaurants for those not enamoured by the aniseed tasting snack.
Back at the beachclub there are a whole host of facilities that any returning Neilson guests will be familiar with. Tennis courts, fab kid’s clubs, yoga, fitness and wellbeing centre, huge swimming pool and of course the beach with its associated watersports toys.
Travellers of all types will find plenty of suitable accommodation, from double rooms to garden villas which we stayed in. There’s plenty of (authentic) choice at the restaurant buffet which also saw our 9 month old son well looked after in the face of having a number of allergies. The hotel staff couldn’t do enough to help – big up!
Flanked by dense pine forest the walk to Neilson’s Airone beach front is extremely pleasant. During hot spells it offers sanctuary from the heat as it remains cool and shaded. Emerging into the light you’re treated to a huge expanse of sandy beach that stretches for miles in either direction. Azure coloured Ionian waters lap the shoreline with watersports toys– dinghies, windsurf kit, kayaks and SUPs – to the left. For those simply wanting to chill then plenty of sunbeds and umbrellas are available to use.
The beach is dominated by a huge lifeguard tower in the middle. Manned by both English and Italian staff this instils confidence. There’s also a well-stocked beach bar for post-session refreshments. As far as Neilson beaches go (and I’ve stood on a few) Airone is sublime.
Joining us for the first week of our Italian jaunt was former PWA competitor (and now Red Paddle Co head) John Hibbard and family. Being in such esteemed windsurfing company made the prospect of full power conditions a tantalising prospect. But would Airone deliver?#
As a brand new resort, with staff having little experience of conditions, there was much debate and chin scratching during the first day. Wind speeds were close but no cigar. As such it was a flick flack light wind freestyle day. As Italian sun beat down, and gin clear water reflected rays from beneath, this was no bad thing. I’d already made peace with having a non-planing holiday so wasn’t really that bothered.
The following day things changed. By early afternoon gusts were full power (for big kit truckin’ at least). Being on dad duty meant I didn’t get afloat until late – the missus having priority. She enjoyed a stacked session with me following later.
With the sun setting behind the hills it was pure bliss blatting back and forth across flat water, banging in turns at either end. The only one out I was acutely aware of not going too far downwind, even though Neilson do operate full safety cover. Before long it was time to head back in and make use of the hotel’s brand new Piazza bar.
The first week saw only two more windsurfing sessions occur, this time featuring onshore winds. Blowing up around lunchtime it was almost reflective of proper sea breeze conditions. Considering initial expectations I’d decided we’d done better than expected – especially if that was it for puff.
The following week and Airone had an influx of new guests with many more windsurfers touching down. Standing beachside, with baby asleep, I was asked how conditions had been. Whilst chatting the wind started to build…
Before long we were on! The wind was offshore with plenty of riders making use of Severne/Starboard rig/board combos. I’m not sure what the beach staff thought as 10-14 sailors hooned across pan flat water – this was, after all, supposed to be a light wind resort.
The day after was also a strong wind one, with (apparently) the Mistral in full effect. Again, offshore, but proper wind (25 knots)! It was, however, the following that featured the best conditions, for me. Switching back to onshore, gusts picked up around lunchtime – so did the swell. My wife and I enjoyed two sessions with fun ramps to boost from, with chop increasing in punch and size the further left you sailed – a shallow sand bar area can be found here which I can see being extremely good fun should the wind really crank. Experienced windsurfers would love the air time.
So yep, scoring a 50% hit rate, in terms of wind, wasn’t too bad. Whether this is reflective of how the season will pan out remains to be seen. We’re certainly not complaining though!
For those not bothered by windsurfing fear not. There’s plenty more to get your teeth into, activity wise. Or simply kick back with a good book in the sun. Novices will be well served: Neilson staff can show newbies the ropes and give guidance/tips where needed.
For families Neilson’s Airone kid’s clubs and staff can’t be faulted. Working tirelessly, nannies ensure wee ones are kept entertained and have as fun a holiday as mum and dad. This also includes taking older kids afloat, along with beach staff help when needed.
A huge thank you to everyone working at Neilson’s Airone Beachclub. Nothing was too much trouble and everyone went out of their way to help make our trip as good as it could be. Both the Italian and English staff are a credit to the company.
If you fancy hitting up Neilson’s Airone Beachclub, or any of Neilson’s other resorts, then check out the website for more info – https://www.neilson.co.uk/beach/italy/airone-beachclub
Also big up CE Photo who supplied many of the images accompanying this article. For any aspiring photographers looking for overseas work using their behind the lens skill check out – http://www.cephoto.uk/work-with-us/