Beaches in Italy are very different than those in the US. The water is usually clear and not many waves, very different than that of the Atlantic Coast of Florida or Georgia. Each beach is usually lined with “lidos”, or pay beaches. The “lido” will usually have a snack bar or restaurant serving everything from ice cream, sandwiches and drinks to freshly made lasagna or pasta with seafood (lasagna in a bikini in 100 degree weather is always something I want to do). You pay for a lounge chair and umbrella. The chairs and umbrellas are lined up in neat, perfect rows and you will be shown to yours. Lidos also come back with showers, bathrooms, and changing rooms.
Sundays are often so busy, you might not find a lido with available chairs along the whole beach, leaving you to go to the “spiaggia libera”, or the free beach. A lido usually has a parking lot, unless you are somewhere like the Amalfi Coast, where it will not have a parking lot. Lidos at the Amalfi Coast can cost upwards of €30 for two sun beds and an umbrella and then another €20 to €30 for parking.
Besides the “lido” concept, there are many other cultural differences than you would find in the US. Many people do eat a full, hot lunch at the lido restaurant in the 95 degree heat, not being able to let go of the tradition of pasta for lunch. Many men and boys wear Speedo style swimsuits. It is so normal here that I don’t even notice it anymore. Between my friends and I, we do joke, that there’s no way we would let our husbands wear those! Many young girls do not wear bathing suit tops, also so common, I barely notice it anymore.
Italians love to talk about if the water is “clean”. Clean meaning there’s no seaweed, sediment or trash that’s been pulled ashore. They are very particular about the water being “clean” and won’t go to many beaches because it isn’t as crystal clear as they like. This is a bit ridiculous sounding coming from someone who grew up going to the beaches on the Mid-Florida Atlantic Coast. Would that water not be considered “clean”? It isn’t filled with trash, but it is not clear due to the sediment that is poured into it upstream. I don’t think the Space Coast of Florida would be up to an Italian’s standards!
People sell things on the beach, anything from jewelry to bathing suits, purses, kids beach toys, cold coconut and granite. You could do some serious shopping just from your lido sun chair.