After having spent the last ten days observing Italians at the beach I am forever in awe of the their beach culture. They really have it "down to a t". Suntanning is a profession and beach going is a serious affair which needs to be planned carefully.
The beach umbrella needs to be bored deep into the sandy spot that you strategically have chosen in reference to other bathers whom arrived before you and therefore for stole a better spot. The umbrelloni get pinned down in order to resist the gushes of wind. They provide just enough shade to keep the cooler protected from the sun.
Beach chairs are set up and towels spread out. Fathers inflate the air mattresses while the kids unload their multi-coloured plastic beach toys.
Everything has it's place and once the suntan lotion has been handed around everyone feels so hot and bothered it is time to hit the water.
This is where the Italians make me smile... no one bothers much with the swimming part, the majority of their activity boils down to communication and interpersonal relations. You chat to your new-found neighbour, you talk on the phone, you bump into aquaintances, you laugh with your friends, you play a ball game with the kids... all this with your feet in the water while working on your suntan... WITHOUT EVER taking your sunglasses off!
Hands moving, arms waving, heads thrown up or over... it is all part of the Italians' world-renowned communication style which when practiced in a swimsuit with the sea as their background turns into movie material.
After hours of conversation and a quick phone call to mamma (that is if she is not with you at the beach) the most important part of the day commences: il pranzo!
It's lunch time: i panini (sandwiches), la caprese (tomatoes & mozzarella) l'insalata di riso (rice salad), la frittata (pasta omelette), le melanzane fritte (fried eggplant), le palatine (chips) and la frutta (fruit) start making their entrance. THIS is why the umbrellone is essential... to guarantee the food in the cooler is held at the exact right temperature.
Each family member finds their place around the camp and lunch is devoured admits more discussion and talk about... food, of course!
Inevitably a siesta calls upon your body and how could you refuse?!?
A few hours on and one last quick swim before it is time to pack it all up again and head home to prepare the aperitivo before dinner.