Italians are maybe the most glamourous bunch when it comes to going to the beach. Stripped umbrellas, golden tans and colourful bathing suits are part and parcel of the whole experience. And of course, what to eat and drink at the beach are as important as what to eat and drink at the dinner table. Let’s take a look at Italian beach culture so you can enjoy the seaside like a local.
If you ever spend a little time in Italy between the months of June and September than you will quickly learn that this is a country in love with going to the beach. And like all that Italians do, they have a very set beach culture.
Private or Public
With over 5000 km of coastline, Italy is a sea lovers best friend. You are never more than two hours from any given shore! However, it is not always free to hang out on the beach. Unlike many other Mediterranean countries, Italy has a very stable seasonal beach economy centred around the bagni or private beaches. They provide beautifully manicured rows of striped umbrellas and recliners, private changing facilities, storage for personal belongings and an overall glam atmosphere. Private beaches generally offer a flat fee for the entire day that includes two recliners and an umbrella. These beach clubs also range greatly in style and luxury.
Each beach will also have a section for the public use. And it is usually full of locals who have their own beach gear. You need to be prepared to pack your own towels, chairs, umbrella and cooler of snacks. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with the public beaches, they lack both the glamour and convenience of the private bagni.
A lot of this may seem like common sense, but when the sun is shining bright overhead and you’ve got nothing on your mind except the lapping waves, it can be easy to slip up on etiquette. Whether public or private, the beaches are full of people relaxing, snoozing and tanning. So don’t go shaking your sandy towel without caution, turn your phone on vibrate and pick up after yourself.
What to wear
Your bathing suit of course! And have no fear about rocking your tiniest suit. Italians are nonplussed by any shape, size or colour on display and generally sport revealing, colourful bikinis and trunks. Do accessorize with big sunglasses, straw hats, great sandals and a big beach bag. A simple summer dress, sarong or linen button down are the perfect cover-ups for when you want to enjoy lunch or dash to a nearby caffè. The theme at Italian beaches is glamour, not excess.
What to Eat & Drink
This is the biggie and each beach culture have their own. Hamburgers and fries, poke bowls and shaved ice, packed sandwiches and watermelon. In Italy, just because you are at the beach, is no excuse to eat poorly. We are speaking of a country that defines itself on good food here! Depending on where you decide to beach – Liguria, Campania, Puglia – the regional flare will show through. But you can be guaranteed that seafood will be on the menu. As well as wine. It is perfectly legal to drink on beaches in Italy, so order a bottle of bubbly Prosecco to sip on while sunning and then another of the local white with lunch.
Most private beaches have a caffè that offer drinks, cocktails and snacks. Often, they will also have a lunch service of fritti, melone e crudo, spaghetti alle vongole and grilled fish. If they don’t, they are always plenty of great beachside restaurants to pass a lingering lunch under the shade sipping wine and munching.
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