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Doing the Beach in Italy

Valerie Schneider (Valerie)

The summer sun-worshipers arrive at Italy's beaches in search of a patch of sand, a splash in the surf, and loads of seafood, though the prime activity in these beach resorts is toasting oneself to a deep brown. Surrounded by coastline, the allure of the sea can prove irresistible. If your trip to Italy includes a visit to the beach, here are a few tips to make the most of it.

Buy a bikini

Anything other than a two-piece is unheard of here. Regardless of age, body shape, overhanging bellies, saggy boobs, or cellulite backsides … it matters not, bikinis are the choice, so don one and you'll fit right in. As for men's styles, the previously-popular Speedo trend seems to have waned in favor of longer, baggier britches.

Bring your own sunscreen

The creams are rather costly here, and the SPFs available are lower than we normally buy in the US. Bottles containing lotion with an SPF rating of 2 and 4 are common; why bother, I say. Anything with a rating of 20 or above is clearly marked "per bambini". Many are highly perfumed (flowery, not the coconut-y smell). Best to bring your own, regular brand along.

Rent a chair and umbrella

Stabilimenti are businesses that erect ordered rows of umbrellas and chairs - colorful shadings to be had for a price. They are ubiquitous in any resort area. They usually also include little changing cabins and cold-water showers, along with snack bars or full restaurants. Shade comes at a price, but they are usually pretty reasonable (we pay 6 euro per umbrella and another 6 euro for a lettino, the long lounge-type chair). The free beaches are generally dismal, unkempt plots of sand with trash and doggy doo-doo; no umbrellas or chairs unless you haul your own.

Don your shades

If you forgot to bring huge, dark sunglasses, don't fret. Salesmen walk up and down the beaches selling everything you could possibly need for summer – towels, cover-ups, swimsuits, and of course sunglasses.

Cool down with a granita

The Italian version of a snow-cone hits the spot in the heat and can be had at any of the bars dotting the seaside, but they can also be purchased from carts at the water's edge, hauled about by two men who hand-shave the ice and add any syrup flavor you'd like for 1.50 euro.

Get in motion

Many places rent jet-skis and peddle boats so you can get away from the hordes a bit and take a dip in deeper, cooler water. Surfing and wind-surfing lessons can be procured if you're more athletically-inclined.

Bring a book

While you're toasting in the sun, you'll want a good read for something to do between dips in the sea.

Read more about going swimming in Italy and paying for a private beach.


Valerie Schneider (Valerie) is a freelance writer who traded life in the high desert of New Mexico for an Italian village of 600 souls near her ancestral town in the southern region of Basilicata. She and her husband Bryan have assimilated into village life and can be found helping with grape harvests, cooking for festas, and enjoying caffe' with their fellow paesani in the piazza. Valerie maintainted a monthly column for two years on Slow Trav, Living Slow in Italy, writes for various travel-related internet sites, pens travel agency newsletters, and has contributed to magazines like Budget Travel and International Living. She and Bryan offer genealogy journeys and travel assistance through their company, My Bella Basilicata. See Valerie's Slow Travel Member page.

© Valerie Schneider, 2006

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