Designed in part by Leonardo da Vinci and cut in half by its Porto Canale, Cesenatico’s waterways are far less hectic than Venice and just as picturesque. This idyllic fishing village turned tourist destination features rows of well-preserved pastel buildings, colorful sailboats with painted prows, and a fascinating history. If you’re looking for a relaxing getaway with great food and an ocean view, Cesenatico could very well be the best place for your next vacation.

What is this Place?

Located on Italy’s northeast coast, this city of 20,000 was once just a small, unknown village. It was founded in 1302 but received little attention until the 1500s when the larger city of Cesena realized how crucial a seaport would be for their economic success. Taking advantage of Cesenatico’s oceanside location, Duke Cesare Borgia brought in Leonardo da Vinci to design the blueprint for the project. The Porto Canale was supposed to slice nine miles inland and run all the way to Cesena but construction stopped short of that goal. Using his creative discretion, they ended up with a fortified harbor and a canal that cut straight through the heart of Cesenatico, making it a focal point of tourism.

What to Do There

The coast and the city offer countless opportunities to get outside and get some exercise. Sand volleyball and tennis courts are everywhere, along with surfing or sailing options. With 83 cycling routes and bikes available from many hotels and hostels, finding a path that suits your need should be a cinch. Today, Cesenatico might be primarily a place to relax, but for the fishermen who lived here centuries ago life wasn’t as easy. Gain insight into their way of life by visiting the floating Maritime Museum on the Harbor Canal. Inside you’ll find several authentic boats and learn how to make rope and tie knots worthy of a sailor. Head out and take a tour of the ten traditional Adriatic “braggozi” decorated with symbols of the fishers’ families.

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How to Do It

Cesenatico is only a two-hour train ride from Bologna. Routes run hourly so you could either make it a day trip or allot the weekend to enjoy the views. With five miles of sandy beaches there's ample room to prop up in an umbrellaed chair and hang out with a good book or soak in the sun's rays. Be sure to stop by Ristorante Giorgio for some pizza or Osteria da Beppe for freshly caught seafood. For a caffeine boost or sugar fix, visit one of the many shops along the canal that offer Italian espresso and gelato to embrace the Italian lifestyle.