The Beach Page

During one weekend in July 2000 10 million Italians went to the beach! That's one-fifth of the country's total population. Not the same beach, you understand. But still, while temperatures soared to 43C (100F), sunbathers were jammed together like fat opera singers on a tour bus, not a pretty sight. Apart from entailing an unprecedented depletion of Neapolitan ice cream stocks, this spontaneous outing also showed that Mediterranean beaches are not places for a solitary wander these days. Extra police had to be drafted in to affected resorts during July and August to stop heat-crazed Italians fighting each other.

Madding crowds: the Lido di Camaoire
in Tuscany is prepared for the hordes
this summer.

Of course, if you're rich enough to important enough, you don't have to mingle with the brawling riff-raff on your favourite beach. Consider the Blairs. In 1998 the Prime Minister and his family went to stay at a villa in San Rossore in Tuscany and suffered a little local difficulty. The villa, near Pisa, is owned by Tuscany's Regional President, Vannino Chin. He told locals and tourists alike that they weren't allowed anywhere near the place while the Blairs were in residence, access to the sea was also restricted. It all made Prime Minister Blair seem like a latter day King Canute, holding back the waves of Italians. Weren't beaches originally free for everybody to use?

But there was a serious reason for the restriction, namely that Signore Chin and his officials were worried that local agitators might intrude on the Blairs. The local Communist Party threatened to stage a demonstration against the Prime Minister's visit by displaying banners bearing slogans such as “Why don't you go on holiday to Kosovo?”. Worse still, British ex-pats were reported to be poised to take the Prime Minister to task for his party's policies on fox hunting. Obviously the exclusion zone ruling drove Italians crazy. Tony, with the saintliness we have come to know and feel disturbed by, stepped in to lift the Blair Exclusion Zone and allowed locals to use their own beach. They were properly grateful.

There are wonderful restaurants right
on the beach at Fregene.
Eat fantastic seafood, drink great wine.....

.... then sweat all those calories off.
Jealous yet???

Senator Andrea Guglieri, the mayor of Diano Marina, a small family resort west of Genoa, and his council drew up a plan in 2000 to ban fat and ugly women from walking around in two-piece costumes. Traffic wardens were to be entrusted with the task of stopping and examining women to ensure that they passed eight out of ten requirements, ranging from the size of their bust to the firmness of their buttocks. New applicants flooded the predominantly male traffic warden force, and sexual harassment suits were expected to follow.

Signor Guglieri also said there was no reason why bare-torsoed men sporting tight or daringly cut trunks should not be made to pass a similar set of requirements. A local newspaper cast aspersions on Signore Guglieri's own looks - and called for all ugly mayors to be sacked!

One can't imagine such a row taking place in Weston-Super-Mare or Bournemouth (well actually, it could happen in Bournemouth).