One of Italy’s great advantages is that its long, slender shape means that when you’re tired of sightseeing, you’re only a relatively short distance from a beach. But once you’re there, you might be a bit lost, especially if you come from a country where the beach is free for everyone.
In theory, this is the case in Italy, but as with many things in Italy, practice can be somewhat different from the law. Many stretches of beach, especially those near urban areas, are leased to private concessions. In season, they cover almost the entire beach with rows and rows of deckchairs (lettini) and umbrellas (ombrelloni). You have the right to pass these facilities without having to pay for them, and you must be able to walk along the sea in front of them. The beaches in Calabria are more affordable, most of them are free, you only have to pay for the equipment you want to rent.
South of Rome there are 20 km of free beach in the Circeo National Park. This is thanks to Dr MarioValeriani, who was responsible for this area after the Second World War and, despite the very generous bribes offered by a multitude of investors and private millionaires, never granted planning permission because he believed that it was a natural wonder that had to remain as it was. So today we can all enjoy this expanse of nature. You can bring your own chair and solar blanket and only have to pay a parking fee at the main road.
If renting lettini by the day in establishments is not particularly expensive, they can fill up very quickly. Free beaches are everywhere: they are easily recognisable by the absence of regimented rows of lettini. They can be very crowded: On a Saturday or Sunday in summer, you won’t find a deserted beach anywhere. Most facilities offer full services, including entertainment, a bar and restaurant, sports lessons, a kindergarten and much more. Near urban areas, you will never be far from a seafood restaurant on the beach or at least a bar. On the beach, topless women are more or less accepted everywhere, but complete nudity is absolutely not accepted in Italy and is punishable by a heavy fine and/or arrest. [www]
Italy was the cradle of Western opera at the end of the 16th century, so it is not surprising that it has one of the most famous opera houses in the world, the most famous of which is the Teatro alla Scala in Milan. The very first opera was Jacopo Peri’s Dafne (now lost), first performed in 1598 in Florence’s Palazzo Corsi. However, the oldest opera still regularly performed today is Claudio Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, which was premiered at the court of Mantua in 1607. Another important city in the history of opera is Venice, where the first public opera house was built, allowing paying members of the general public access to what was once court entertainment for the aristocracy. In fact, Italian opera was the most popular form of entertainment for the aristocracy in all European countries except France in the early 18th century, and even operas premiered in non-Italian-speaking regions such as London and Vienna were written in Italian. Many Italian composers such as Monteverdi, Vivaldi, Rossini, Verdi and Puccini are still revered by classical music lovers, and some of their works have even found their way into modern pop culture. In addition to the locals, many foreign composers such as Handel and Mozart composed several critically acclaimed Italian operas that continue to delight audiences today.
In addition to opera, Italy has historically been instrumental in the development of other genres of Western classical music. The concerto was first popularised by the Italian composer Arcangelo Corelli in the Baroque period, and the symphony has its origins in the overtures of Italian Baroque opera. The ballet, although it has a French name and terminology and is more commonly associated with France or Russia, originated in Italy during the Renaissance. Indeed, it was de rigueur for European composers, regardless of their origins, to spend some time in Italy studying music, and to this day most of the terms used in Western musical scores are still in Italian.
Visit the vineyards
Italy is famous for its wine. And its vineyards are mostly located in the middle of beautiful landscapes. An organised trip is probably the best solution. Day trips can usually be organised by your hotel if you are staying in a large wine region like Chianti, or by the local tourist office. Many companies offer longer tours that include meals and accommodation. A simple web search for “Italian winery tours” or “wine tour Italy” will help you find them. Note that these longer tours usually emphasise good food, good wine and quality accommodation and are therefore expensive. If you want to hire a car and organise your own excursions, a useful website is the Movimento Turismo del Vino website. www] The Italian site includes a link to the itinerary, which is not available in English. Even if you can’t read Italian, you can find the addresses and opening hours of some interesting wine producers. Note that “su prenotazione” means by appointment only.
Several companies offer cycling excursions in the Italian countryside. They provide bicycles, a guide and transport for your suitcase, and for you if it all gets a bit too tiring. The tours vary depending on your interests. Usually you change the city and the hotel every day. If you like cycling, this is a great way to get to know Italy off the beaten track. Search Google etc. for “Cycling Italy” for companies.
Sailing is one of the best ways to see Italian islands like Sardinia and Sicily. Most charter companies offer many options, from unmanned boats to crewed boats with cabins, with all types of boats.
Italy is a sports-mad country and as such football, rugby and many other sports are followed with devotion, albeit sometimes violently. In the 1980s, Italy was one of the first European countries to adopt American football, although corruption within the national federation and scandals have since greatly reduced interest in the sport.