For years we've been jealous of all the other folk who head off to training camps; and finally a combination of an auspicious year and someone (Dan; thanks) actually prepared to organise the thing made it work. We had a critical mass of people - 15, of which 10 male and 5 female - enough to give us an VIII, coxes, a launch driver, spare in case of injury, and some to scull.
Dan began to organise in December, for the trip at Easter in late March, which was the most obvious time enough people could spare the 4-5 days. We considered Seville (river in the city, Spain) and Sabaudia (lagoon next to the sea, Italy). From the outside, it is hard to judge between them; I think the choice in the end came down largely to ease of dealing with the site. Mooted cost was of the order of £500. Most but not all chose to travel roughly the same way, but some went earlier to have a day in Rome, and some came by train. There is more at a series of blog posts I wrote, but here I'll skip the details other than to note that we hired a large minibus to take us the 100-odd km from Rome to Sabaudia, as the easiest means of transport.
Here we all are on the last day, happy and smiling in the sunshine. It was just as well we had a couple of spares, because Chris came down with a flu / cough on the first day, and Brian damaged his leg on a nearby mountain near the end, of which more anon. But you want a rough flavour of what the place was like. Try this:
We're coming towards the end of the rowable portion of the lake (about 3.5, or if you stretch it 4 k of lake is rowable; try a GPS trace if you want to see where it fits). Behind, making a magnificent backdrop, is Monte Circeo. To the right is a long high sand dune behind which is the sea; to the left out of picture is the town. Whether the lake would have gotten a bit wavy if the wind had got up I don't know, because the wind didn't.
Here's a general view of the grounds nearer to the clubhouse.
Tuesday (for those coming a day early): Rome. Wednesday (official start day): travel Rome airport to Sabaudia, check in to hotel, evening outing. Thursday: morning and afternoon outing. Friday: ditto. Saturday: morning outing and (for those who wanted it) afternoon off for excursions. Sunday: morning outing, return to airport, fly home.
That was about right; enough rowing to be fun and to get some work and some coaching in, not too much to get stale.
The general plan of days was breakfast; morning outing; lunch; afternoon outing; evening meal. All meals were part of the deal. There was plenty to eat, these people are used to rowers, and the food was decent. The hotel "la Palme" was fine; here are pics of the building and my room; judge for yourself. It is a 10-to-15 minute walk from the rowing to the hotel, depending on how much you saunter, though the back streets and past the lemon trees. Sabaudia itself is pretty quiet in March; I suspect it comes to life rather more in the summer. Sabaudia is known for its fascist architecture; while I wouldn't want to look at it for too long, the church is interesting in concept.
Outings were a core of an VIII, filled out by those who wanted to scull, double or quad according to taste. We'd hired the VIII for the whole time, and hiring other stuff seemed possible. Don't be mislead by the vast racks of boat though: most of those belonged to visiting clubs like the Ukrainians.
The location is good, as a place to row it is excellent, the sea is just over the dunes, the weather was good, there are excursions to be done if you'd like a break from rowing, the hotel was fine and the town also fine. You get a coaching launch to drive, and I found that video from the coaching launch was superb as a training resource.
If you want convincing that its a good place to row, then: the Ukrainian national team was in residence, OUWBC had been, the Italian national team had been around, and the Krauts had been here a month or so before us. However, all these people brought their own boats.
It was pretty quiet on the lake, with few other crews, other than the hard-as-nails Ukrainians steaming up and down. If there had been other crews, the wash from their launches might have been annoying.
Not much was bad. The only bit that grated was, unfortunately, important: the VIII had no speaker wiring. How on earth they thought that made any sense in this day and age I really don't know. It was a decent stiff Empacher shell, but not much looked after. So the cox got a loudhailer. The shoes look a bit ropey too but are actually OK; the fastenings really are hex nut not wingnuts, but you brought a rigger jigger didn't you?
Run (or cycle) along the beach and then follow the path up Monte Circeo. Super! See my GPS track for route details. Warnings: if you run along the beach its a fair way; and the track up the mountain is steep (it was on the way down the day after me that Brian put a hole in his leg). If you look at the pic, you'll see there's a somewhat lower sub-peak; there's also a path to that; somewhat less strenuous. Or, hire bicycles and visit the pretty San Felice Circeo and continue round to the sea. Or there's lots of proper cycling along lovely raods, but you might want to bring your own bike for that.
What about next time?
Would I go back, or go to Seville or somesuch? I don't know. It was a good place, marred only by the VIII needing some TLC around the edges. But it would be interesting to try a "city" experience, too. I'd be happy with either. Were you thinking of trailering your own boats, Sabaudia would be a long trek; you might prefer, say, Aiguebelette.