Summer in Italian: The Beach (La Spiaggia)

Jul 13, 2021

The beaches on the northern California coast where I live are beautiful, dramatic — and usually windy, foggy and cold in the summer months.  As much as I love walking and jogging 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 when you head to una spiaggia sabbiosa (a sandy beach):

*Telo da spiaggia — beach towel

*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

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.

But the best part of being on a beach is the sea, which shimmers in an array of hues, from the blu of deep water to lighter azzurro, pale verde mare (sea green) and brilliant smeraldo (emerald). At its clearest and cleanest, il mare becomes limpido, an almost untranslatable word for water so transparent and pure that it feels like silk rolling over your body as you dive through its waves (onde).

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

Dianne Hales is the author of LA BELLA LINGUA: My Love Affair with Italian, the World’s Most Enchanting Language; LA PASSIONE: How Italy Seduced the Worldand MONA LISA: A Life Discovered.   Treccani has published an Italian translation, LA BELLA LINGUA: la mia story d’amore con l’Italiano.

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La Passione
Mona Lisa
La Bella Lingua