From the Adriatic to the Mediterranean to the Ligurian Sea, Italians love their beach clubs. Living in Forte Dei Marmi, however, I am reminded of just how long this love affair has lasted.
I grew up in the Pacific Northwest where a day at the beach often includes an armful of gear, a packed lunch, and a lot of rocks to search under for getaway crabs. I rarely went to a beach without shoes and a fleece. I often went to beaches where there was no one else present and swimming usually meant you had a pretty thick skin.
Forte Dei Marmi and many of the beach club coasts from Positano to Rimini, have introduced me to a completely different beach culture that I know exists in some corners of the United States, but none that I experienced growing up.
In this town of just 8,000 year-round inhabitants on the Tyrrhenian Sea, there are more than 100 beach clubs lining a little over three miles of petal-soft sand. The clubs provide various shade and chair options, massage/spa services, babysitting, restaurants with white table cloths, private changing cabanas, and buckets of surf and sand toys for all ages.
In the summer months, depending on the club the chair and shade can cost upwards of $100 per day (no food or drink included). The chairs are in perfect rows and the linguine with “arselle” is served on a whitewashed table covered in fine china over a bed of raked sand.
People talk of going to the same nightclub their grandparents went too called Capannina built-in 1929 as a place for nobles and famous youth to see and be seen. Most people park their cars at the villa for the weekend and ride beautiful pastel beach cruisers with leather seats and Jimmy Choo heels to any one of the nearly 300 restaurants in town.
I love the vision of a glass of chianti reclined under a navy and white striped umbrella, with my Prada beach bag safely tucked in my changing cabana. Although I can imagine all of this while the kids play in the white sand with toys that are provided for them, I think rugged coastlines are where I am most at home.
I love wind-swept beaches that are all mine. The tangy smell of salt and mist will forever be where the beach and I meet for a love affair that started more than 40 years ago from Cannon Beach to Hood Canal and everywhere in between.