Scenes from an Italian beach

 Italian beaches are run a little differently to British ones. On popular stretches the sand is divided up into so-called “stabilimenti balneari” (“bathing establishments”), which charge an entrance fee, plus extra fees for hiring an umbrella and chair. On the one hand I resented essentially having to pay to use a public beach (although there are a few unclaimed stretches of “free” sand). On the other hand, you’re guaranteed a spot for as long as you’re there, and there are lots of useful facilities like showers and changing rooms, a bar which also serves decent lunches, and a play area for the children.

Another difference is that you sit near the same people every day for two weeks, so you get to recognise them, occasionally striking up conversations and brief friendships, or just observing their behaviour.

There were plenty of teenagers who were at that interesting stage where the beach was still somewhere to play like a child, but also turning into something more resembling a sexual battlefield. The girls were eagerly trying out their new flirtation techniques (lots of eyelash work, giggling and exaggerated expressions of interest in whatever the boys are saying). The clueless boys respond with boisterous splashing and playfighting.

Elsewhere, a stony-faced young lady baby-sat her mentally disabled brother while mother sunbathed, accompanying him into the water where he splashed around enthusiastically, except when the noise of the waves started to bother him and he put his fingers in his ears or tried to pull his hair out.

The USA and the UK don’t seem to be the only countries experiencing childhood obesity problems, as one Italian toddler on the beach was so fat as to be practically spherical.

The white scar down the middle of a young boy’s chest reminded me (as if it weren’t obvious) how exposed we are in a place like this. All our body’s little secrets are revealed for all to see in exchange for the chance to make our skin a couple of shades darker. Even if it’s just those few extra pounds around the middle that are hidden for the rest of the year by loose clothing. *cough*.

The photo below is unrelated, but I had to share. We were in a small square in the old town area of Genoa the night before we flew back to Brussels, enjoying an aperitif. This guy at one point got up from the table where he was sitting with a couple of friends and went to stand on one side of the square, where he spent about twenty minutes striking a variety of poses. Eventually he realised that no-one was paying him any attention except for his friends who were giggling at him, and he slouched off.