Know before you go: Italian beach etiquette

Paul De Tourreil | 21/02/2020
Atrani, Amalfi Coast, Italy. Italian Beaches.
Atrani, Amalfi Coast, Italy.

Italy has more than 4,000 miles of coastline, so it’s no surprise that it has more beaches than any other country in continental Europe. No part of the country is more than a two-hour drive from the Italian coast, and Italians love the beach lifestyle. Unsurprisingly, Italian customs at the beach are as unique as any other facet of Italian culture. Here are few tips to help you enjoy your beach holidays In Italy. 

You can visit public, government-owned beaches (spiaggia pubblica) or private beaches (stabilimento balneare or bagno). There are differences between the two — for example, at a private beach resorts in Italy you will be charged for beach chairs and umbrellas. The specific “dos & don’ts” will vary according to where a beach is located, so be sure to ask the locals before you show up. 

A few ground rules can go a long way toward ensuring an enjoyable and harmonious beach experience. Here are your Italy travel tips for sun and sand!

1. Be quiet. 

Keep your phone on vibrate. Don’t yell to your friends or children from across the beach. And speaking of your kids, make sure they understand that this is not a place for loud or boisterous play.

2. Greet your neighbour. 

No need for an extended conversation; eye contact and a quick nod is enough to satisfy the requirements of Italian etiquette. Just don’t pretend you’re in the world’s largest open-air elevator.

3. Play sports in designated locations.

Ball games and other active water sports are usually confined to designated areas so as not to disturb the tranquility of sunbathers.

4. No littering. 

No garbage, no cigarette butts, nothing. Fines for littering can be as high as 300 euros. Besides, these beaches remain beautiful because visitors take care to pack out or dispose of their trash properly.

5. Do not collect seashells.

Respect the beach ecosystem by taking nothing.

6. Wear bikinis and swim trunks.

A woman wearing a one-piece bathing suit, or a man in anything other than swim trunks may be perceived as much older than their actual age.

7. No nudity. 

Unless you’re on a designated nudist beach, stay in your bathing suit.

8. Check if disposable tableware is allowed.

Italian islands such as Tremiti, Lampedusa, and Linosa are banning the use of plastic cutlery, glasses, and containers (water bottles are still permitted).

9. Don’t hold your spot on public beaches. 

On public beaches, don’t leave your umbrella overnight to hold your spot. This is an “illegal occupation of public land”, as is overnight camping. You could be fined up to 516 euros or spend up to six months (!) in jail.

10. Don’t accept that massage. 

Finally, massages, tattoos, beauty treatments or unlicensed vendors are all forbidden.

Feel free to bring snacks. Many Italians bring a surprising amount of food and drink to the beach — especially if they are staying all day. And expect to be looked at more often than would be the norm in North America. People-watching is up there with football as a national sport; take it as a compliment and enjoy your day.