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Beach Culture in Italy

Beach Culture in Italy

Emerald waters, sandy dunes, fabulous sunglasses — as we get ready to bid farewell to summer, there is one thing on our minds at the Eataly offices: going to the beach in Italy.

Surrounded by seas, Italy boasts nearly 5,000 miles of beautiful coastline, which means you are never more than two hours from the seaside. So, it may not surprise you that, when it comes to the beach, we Italians got game. Summer leisure is a national pastime for us. If you have ever been to Italy in mid-July, you know what we’re talking about. Every town is deserted; everyone is at the beach.

Yes, there are unspoken rules; yes, you should follow them for maximum beach enjoyment. If you have a trip to the Mediterranean coming up and don’t want to look like a tourist (or just want to live through our Italian friends vicariously, as we are doing), follow our five-step guide to Italian beach culture. Who knows? You might just have a fling!

1. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

Choose your beach adventure.

PRIVATE | I BAGNI

Splurge a little on i bagni, and you won’t be sorry. Down to the iconic striped umbrellas, these private beaches offer a shady reprieve, complete with lifeguards, changing facilities, and food and drink stands. The flat fee price does vary, though, so be sure to ask a local or do some research before your beach day.

PUBLIC | LA SPIAGGIA PUBBLICA

More open and perhaps more chaotic, the public beaches give you the freedom to lounge as long as you like – as long as you leave your towel as your space saver. Unless otherwise noted, there are almost always lifeguards, and there are plenty of delicious beach-side restaurants to explore.

BLUE FLAG

Whether public or private, look for beaches with the Blue Flag, a prestigious eco-label that certifies cleanliness and sustainability. One of the top supporters in Europe, Italy now has over 400 Blue Flags: find a beach here.

sicilia landscape

2. DRESS UP A LITTLE.

Fashion is king (or queen!) on nearly every Italian beach. Women of all ages, shapes, and sizes wear the latest style in two-piece suits – one pieces are seen as very prim – and men tend to wear swim trunks, in addition to the occasional (yes, stereotypical) speedo. Protect your feet from the rocky terrain or scalding sand with flip-flops.

For accessories, sunglasses are always a good choice, and a big floppy hat will make you feel like you’ve stepped out of a black-and-white film. If you’re going to i bagni, no cover-up is necessary; at public beaches, you may want to bring something for any forays into nearby restaurants or bars.

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3. EAT AND DRINK.

As you may have guessed, this is our favorite part of going to the beach.

We love to tote a small cooler filled with sparkling drinks, olives, anchovies, crackers, cookies — you name it, we'll snack it! The bodegas and stands near the beach are also stocked with the regional must-haves, from freshly-baked focaccia in northern Liguria to fried arancini in southern Sicilia. Pick up a bottle of rosé while you're at it; it's legal to drink at the beach in Italy!

And if you’re hungry after your day of snacking and sipping in the sun, you can hit up any of the nearby beach-side restaurants for the freshest seafood dishes served with crisp wines and sunset views.

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4. BE GOOD TO YOUR NEIGHBORS (AND THEY'LL BE GOOD TO YOU!).

Have you ever been deep into your beach read, feeling the sun soaking into your skin as you sip a sparkling soda, then — BOOM. You're showered with sand from your neighbor shaking off his towel right next to you, or OOF — a bambino runs too close and kicks over your drink, or — COME ON, the breeze blows trash into your happy place.

Be good to the beach. Be good to your neighbors! Say a friendly "ciao," throw away your trash, and overall, be as considerate as possible. We promise that your good deeds will come back to you, possibly in the form of a weekend of amore (see below).

beach italy 2

5. DON’T FORGET TO PLAY.

Yes, you’re living your most iconic Italian life, but don’t forget: you’re at the beach! Don't be too cool to frolic in the waves, build sandcastles, and swim to the furthest buoy. We Italians will be there right with you: we love to break up our sunbathing and beach picnics with a good jaunt in the water or hand of cards.

The beach is a friendly and open place, so you just make new amici. And now that you're an expert in Italian beach culture, you may even find a fling!

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