Forget Portofino – Kent has its own answer to the Italian Riviera

The sun shines brightly on a curve of yellow sand. Seabirds soar above the cliffs which descend precipitously towards the parasols. Tanned couples sip Birra Moretti in cafes above the shore. And on the narrow lanes that lead down to the pier, the air is heavy with the smell of sunscreen and gelato. It could be a scene from anywhere on the Italian Riviera, but it’s not. It’s Kent.

Broadstairs might be a surprising replacement for the towns of Portovenere, Riomaggiore and Portofino, but Italian newcomers have been sprinkling a bit of Mediterranean magic on this underrated cove between Ramsgate and Margate since at least the 1890s, dotting the steeply sloping streets of gelaterias. , pizzerias and trattorias that make an irresistible nod to the Bel Paese.

Best of all, a trip here comes with minimal risk of all-day queues at airports, seaports or the Eurotunnel this summer. In fact, the train journey from London takes less than two hours, and the hidden location spares Broadstairs from the cheek-by-jowl crowds that invade the sand near Margate. It’s the English seaside, but probably not as you know it.

The British seaside, with a hint of Italy

I’d be lying if I said Broadstairs hasn’t been discovered, but in self-contained Viking Bay – one of its seven sandy coves – the English seaside experience seems somehow curbed and unspoilt. There are a few hand-operated fairground rides on the sand and a solitary amusement arcade on the lane leading to the pier, but it’s not Brighton seafront.

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