It was a romantic return to Le Dune Hotel - last visited in 1981 in the first heady year of our marriage. This beachside hotel close to Anzio is a favourite for Italian families seeking a retreat from the heat of Rome to the heat of the Ionian Sea. During the 31 years since our last visit the hotel has added a swimming pools, meeting rooms, an even better restaurant, and eccentricities of its own that means it can only be Italy. A theatrical experience is never too far away and some of the eccentricities are pure John Cleese - "don't mention the Germans round here" as memories of the World War II Anzio landings are still fresh and war cemeteries are immaculately maintained. It started with Boris and his family at Gatwick queuing up democratically like the rest of us with the Boris nose buried in a book. A cheery wave of recognition for my high powered partner seemed a great omen. On arrival - the first theatrical experience. The sea view for 50 euros a night more was actually abour 5 per cent sea and 95 per cent bushes and treets blocking the light. She wasn't in the best of moods. Miraculously, a new sea view room with real sea was offered two days later and the 50 euro charge waived for the first two nights. Next the beach captain told us we only qualified for the third row of deckchairs but could graduate as the days passed to the front. A similar hierrarchy applied in the restaurant where maitre d' Antonio told us we could only dine in the second row for the first two nights and not have the immediate view of the setting sun and rising moon. Finally, on one night after dinner we found that the only functioning bar at 9 p.m. had run out of red wine - surely a bit like the song about the pub with no beer. You need some Italian to get by at the Le Dune Hotel as not many staff speak English - I guess that's part of the charm. Putting on the high powered woman about town approach has limited impact in what is the mezzo giorno region of Italy. Back in England these memories have faded into nostalgia rather like the first year of our marriage when my Italian was much better than it is now.
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