There's nothing like a good Italian beach to make you suddenly and acutely aware of A: How incredibly pale you are, and B: How incredibly modest you are. Seriously. I've lived in Florida for nearly 24 years now, never more than an hour away from the beach, and with a pool in my front yard. My first beach trip of the year is generally in January, and my last lay out/swim at the pool is normally somewhere in November. That means the most I ever go without wearing a bathing suit is about 2 months. It was my daily habit to lay out by the pool and read everyday before work, so I was rockin' a pretty decent tan when I arrived in Italy. Now, I've gone almost 2 months here without wearing a bathing suit, so obviously I've lost some of my tan, but you'd think that the 24 years of Florida sun would have somehow found a way to permanently tan my skin just a bit. Maybe it has, but I've got NOTHING on these Italians. I wanted to ask for a picture just to show the difference in skin color...it's sickening. It would be like putting Kate Bosworth next to Denzel Washington. Absolutely no comparison. There were 5 year olds with tans that were easily 10 shades darker than me. And they've got virtually no tan lines, which brings me to my next beach observation. Men wear speedos. All of them. Bright pink drawstring, plain white with a palm tree picture over one butt cheek, and little mini shorts. I saw them all. From 2 years old to 80, they were all showing some serious leg. After some observation, here's how they do it. The guys wear their speedos, and then wear regular board shorts over top. When they're not swimming or tanning or strutting their stuff, they put their shorts on, you know, just to cover up a bit. I saw the same super tan 5 year old wear 3 different bathing suits today, not a single one less than 2 inches above the knee. So we've got all ages of tan Italians running around in Speedos, and then we've got the women. I didn't see a single one piece bathing suit on the entire beach today. I think I would have noticed too...she would have stuck out like a sore thumb. I'm talking, everyone, from 80 years old to 8 months pregnant, wearing teeny weenie bikinis. And yes, there were a few who were tanning topless. And it wasn't attractive. I seriously felt like Jackie O sitting there on the beach in my black two piece bikini. And it's completely normal here to not just not dress your daughter on the top if she's under the age of 7.
As for the beach, well...it was pretty much like any beach in Florida. The beach we went to was called Lignano, and it actually reminded me a lot of a mixture of Cocoa and New Smyrna. The drive up to the actual beach part was so much like Cocoa, with stop and go traffic and random stores along the road. The actual town part was a lot like New Smyrna. Very small town-ish that just caters to the daily beach-goers, but you still get the feeling that there are actual residents as well. We parked on the side of the road, and walked up through one of the walkways, like they have at Cocoa. The one huge difference between this beach and the ones in Florida was the setup/layout. It isn't a free-for-all, find a spot you like and park it kind of beach. There are rows and rows and rows of umbrellas and chairs, and you have to either pay to rent a spot, or cram yourself somewhere in the empty sand, but you can't bring your own umbrellas or chairs or anything. You can choose what row you want your umbrella and 2 chairs on, and you pay more for the front row, just like anywhere else. You then get your row letter and umbrella number, and you go on the hunt for your spot. It's all very scientific. I wasn't too sure how I felt about this at first, me being used to the vast areas of sand and having plenty of space to play volleyball or set up whatever else you drag to the beach. Having designated chairs and locations was nice because you didn't have to lug everything to the beach yourself. It was just already there, and parking was free, so renting a space was basically like the parking fee at Cocoa or New Smyrna. It was also nice that you didn't have people on top of you dripping their wet bodies all over you or shaking their sandy towels in your face. The last time I went to Cocoa we had one party's boogie boards literally on top of my towel, and then another group of people under our umbrella shade on the other side. And no, it wasn't late enough that the sun was shining at an angle. Having the designated spaces is nice, but on the other hand, it's nice to have room to spread out a blanket and play in the sand, and the beach is prettier without a million umbrellas crowding all the space.
It was hard to get a picture showing just how many umbrellas there were. Another thing about this beach that was different than the beaches in Florida was the lack of high rises on the beachfront. There were a few, but most of the bigger hotel and apartment buildings were on the other side of the road, so they weren't exactly on the beach like at home.
Aside from the vast cultural experience, Italian beaches are pretty much like Floridian beaches, and equally as enjoyable.
Today my favorite thing about Italy is: The Italians' general lack of self confidence issues. I know it's cultural, and everyone has something they're self conscious about, but the Italians are certainly not too concerned with the way they look, which I think is great. When you're not worried about people judging your or looking at the way you look, you can actually enjoy yourself and have a good time.