I used to hate going to the beach in Italy.

When I first started going to Rimini, Viareggio and other classic, working class Italian beach hot spots I was seventeen and I couldn’t stand it. There were thousands, millions of well oiled Italians stuffed into deckchairs, underneath zillions of umbrellas that lined hundreds of miles of beachfront. I found it shocking that you actually had to pay a daily rate for your patch of sand and that your patch was connected to the water and the cafe bar by a plastic runner. Imagine, paying for the joy of going for a surf? How can people possibly be charged for swimming?

It’s been several summers since I’ve enjoyed a classic Italian beach holiday and the scenery and customs have not changed. The Senegalese still roam the lines of deck chairs with Prada and Gucci handbag knockoffs, ready at a nod to lay out their blanket and display their wares. Little men still call ‘cocco bello!’ – ‘beautiful coconut!’ as they push their cart through the sand (only I saw a motorised one yesterday). Men snap photos of couples and babies then pass you their business card in the hope you’ll pop by their shop later and buy a print. Chinese women stroll by offering neck and shoulder massages. Moroccans duck around you with arms like coat racks, full of cheesecloth beach dresses. Young Bangladeshis approach my teenage kids with books of henna tattoo designs. The beach in Italy is not peaceful, is not quiet and most of all, is not natural. The beach in Italy is like the rest of Italy, a frothing, bubbling black market playground, where a Euro can be made and taxes avoided – as long as you’re quick and adept at rapid fire sales talk.

So Riccione hasn’t changed much. But I have. I am no longer insulted by the incredible comfort offered to families on Italian beaches. I like the comfort now, I don’t resent it. I’m not the sarong-wearing, rebellious Aussie body surfer I used to be. I’m the lady with the big hat and sunglasses, sipping a Spritz whilst browsing a magazine. I still begrudge the 36 Euro a day for my two recliners and umbrella, but, hey, it’s a double recliner! I can lie next to my twelve year old son and cuddle up to him because that’s what all the Italian mammas are doing. Nonnas are cuddling their granddaughters and nonnos are kicking a ball around with their grandsons. There’s such a family vibe here, it’s incredible. Now, I’m OK with Italian beach life. It’s only taken my thirty-three years to get the hang of it.



6 thoughts on “I used to hate going to the beach in Italy.

  • baba blacksheep have you any wool. Yes sir yes sir three bag full.

  • Michele

    They are a far cry from the beaches in Australia. I must say, I was very taken aback the first time I encountered this on European beaches. Thank god Australia has not succumb to this yet nor the UK. I am very much like you in Italy now, a big hat sunglasses, sunshine and a drink in my and I wouldn’t care if I was laying on the moon!

    • mm

      Lisa Clifford

      Hahaha, Paolo calls me The Umbrella Lady because my hat is so big.
      I rather like to think it’s very ‘Audrey’ 🙂
      Yes, I like to relax now, but I really, really like clean water and that is sometimes hard to find at the bigger Italian beaches,
      A presto!

  • Debbie hoy

    Have been going to Riccione and Rimini since the 60’s with my parents, and last went in 2005 , but love the excitement of the beach life, used to hear the Gelati man’s cry too, and had little plastic footballs full of icecream, which afterwards we would play in the sea with, lovely memories of fab Summers , thanks for sharing xx

    • mm

      Lisa Clifford

      Thanks for keeping in touch Debbie,
      I used to love the gelatos at Bondi Beach! When I was little we spent ALL our time at Bondi (getting skin cancer) and at the end there was nothing better than standing in the queue getting that gelato.
      Gosh, memories – thanks!

  • It definitely takes some getting used to – that’s for sure Lisa.

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