Arched rock Beach

La spiaggia

The beach

The beaches of Sonoma County on the northern California coast, practically in my backyard (praticamente dietro casa), are beautiful, dramatic–and usually windy and cold. As much as I love walking and running on them, none can compare with una spiaggia italiana. If I could, I'd spend the entire summer on one.

Over the years I've discovered that  going to the beach (andare in spiaggia) in Italy requires a specialized vocabulary.  Start with sunglasses (gli occhiali da sole) and  flip-flops (le infradito). If  you’re a woman, you'll also need a cover-up (il pareo o il copricostume) to wear over your swimsuit (il costume da bagno).

Here are some other words and phrases that are sure to come in handy:

*Bagnino –- beach attendant, lifeguard

*Sdraio –- beach chair

*Lettino — longer lounge chair,  beach lounger

*Ombrellone –- big (beach) umbrella

*In prima fila –- in the first row, closest to the water

*In riva al mare –- another way of saying close to the shore

*Locale sulla spiaggia -– beach club

*Lungomare –- boardwalk

*Sabbia –- sand

*Telo da spiaggia — beach towel

Once you’ve settled in, you can choose your favorite ways to pass the day. If you're like me, you may want to take a swim (fare un bagno). Or you may prefer to relax (rilassarsi) and get a sun tan (abbronzarsi). Or you might decide to rent a boat (noleggiare una barca), perhaps a paddle boat (un pedalò) or a speedboat (un motoscafo),  build a sand castle (costruire un castello di sabbia), or read a good book (leggere un bel libro).

You’ll find the most amenities at a private beach (spiaggia privata), where gli stabilimenti balneari offer changing rooms, concessions and wi-fi. A sign saying “spiaggia libera” indicates a free or public beach.

The best beaches, as judged by more than 30 criteria, such as water quality, available services and safety, earn designations as “Blue Flag” beaches.  Click here for an article on Tuscany's finest.   

Enjoy your day at the sea (al mare)! But remember: Non dimenticate la crema solare!(Don't forget sunscreen!)

Words and Expressions

Spiaggia sabbiosa -– sandy beach

Marea –- tide (alta—high, bassa – low)

Acqua di mare –- sea water

Conchiglia –- seashell

Salvagente — float

Dianne Hales is the author of MONA LISA: A Life Discovered and LA BELLA LINGUA: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language.