Italy Heats Up For Height Of Summer Holiday

Recent weather alerts are warning Italians to expect heatwaves in the next few days and some of the hottest temperatures on record. It comes as the country gears up for the peak summer Ferragosto holiday on August 15th. In the lead-up, Italians load up cars with beach paraphernalia and suitcases bursting with bright swimsuits and leave en masse for the coast. This year, they are hoping the much-anticipated vacation won’t be at risk from the soaring temperatures.  

Italy’s beach resorts have been a particularly welcome escape this year as holidaymakers opt for outdoor breaks amid the coronavirus pandemic. The country’s generous stretch of coastline is a succession of pale golden sands, plunging cliffs with crystalline waters and beach establishments with regimented rows of sunloungers and umbrellas. Families often decamp to the coast for weeks on end to find respite from overheated cities. 

The beach resorts are integral to the idiosyncratic summer lifestyle of Italians. Some of the most characteristic bathing establishments are those whose architecture is nostalgically kitsch, with colorful plastic lettering and a sea of garish umbrellas. From the Lidi Ferraresi to the beaches of Rimini on the coast of Emilia-Romagna, there is a parade of structures from the 60s and 70s looking like remnants of an International Exhibition.   

The sunloungers beneath the umbrellas, of varying shades of aquatic turquoise, fiery orange, candy-striped or white with frills, fill up throughout the morning. Children bring a menagerie of animal-shaped floats from flamingoes to turtles while grandmothers ensure coolboxes are crammed with rice salads or parmigiana di melanzane. The Italians then prostrate their bronzed bodies in the sun, lulled to sleep by the soundtrack of soft waves, distant exultations of children, and the cries of coconut sellers. 

As lunchtime nears, there is an exodus to the beachside restaurant, leaving just a handful of families unfolding their camping tables. Despite the informality of diners’ attire — with most men remaining in their swimming shorts and women perhaps throwing a kaftan over their bikini — lunch is no slapdash affair. Platters of seafood antipasti are followed by glistening mountains of fried fish or a feast of grilled crustaceans. Multiple glasses of refreshing prosecco help to cut through the rich food. Then, all that is needed is a caffè and limoncello to send beachgoers tottering back to their sunbeds where the somnolent effects of lunch take over. 

After a mid-afternoon swim and a passeggiata along the shoreline, preparations begin for the evening. In northern Italy, this means the beachside aperitivo. The music is cranked up, with the year’s summer hits blasting across the sand. Beachgoers retire to the bar where they order beers and sunset-colored spritzes accompanied by morish plates of mini pizzas, tiny triangles of sandwiches and crisps. Children with salty hair play in the sand nearby jocular tables of big family gatherings. Teenagers, dressed up for the evening, arrive on scooters. The sun is golden, the music blares and the Italians embrace their dolce vita lifestyle.

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