Italian Beaches Reimagined for a Social Distancing Summer

plexiglass beach cubicles italy

We have officially passed the 40 days that gave rise to the word “quarantine” from the Venetian practice of isolating ships carrying the plague. At this point, anything seems possible (or impossible as the case may be). No one knows what to expect from our first coronavirus summer in Italy. That hasn’t stopped architects and engineers from imagining what social distancing might mean at Italian beaches.

Stabilimenti, private beach clubs, are a staple of the Italian summer experience. Many families rent out chairs and umbrellas for the entire season or at least the month of August. They return to the same chairs on the same stretch of beach every day.

Sitting here, day after day, in the Mediterranean sun, you get to know the habits of your neighbors. They too also return day after day, claiming their spots. The rows closest to the water are the most desirable, but there this something undeniably beautiful about sitting a bit further back and watching the unbroken rows of colorful umbrellas barely moving in the wind.

It is not clear what is going to happen in Italy this summer, but these closely packed beach experiences certainly won’t be appearing. Even if the summer weather helps to control the viral spread (which is far from likely), social distancing will remain in effect.

One thing that is fairly certain is that there will be fewer people. Borders are likely to remain closed for some time and even Italians are unable to plan for much movement around the country at this time. 

So what will Italy’s first coronavirus summer look like? Well, a few companies have started to imagine what the decrees and regulations could mean for a trip to the beach.

What will all be wearing at the beach? It might be time to prepare for mask tan lines. If you want to do anti-viral but make it fashion, you may have to leave the surgical mask in your beach bag. Here is the trikini – with a coordinated facial covering. 

Studio Obicua based in Rome has imagined bamboo pods with two chairs, semi-enclosed with plexiglass. The interior would give users 12 feet of space, and be kept apart from other pods. The open roof would potentially allow for more airflow but I can only imagine that these would still heat up inside. 

plexiglass beach cubicles italy

Their version is a much more elegant take on the plexiglass cubicles that seem like they would become unbearable after a few minutes in the sun. 

What might be more likely (if it is eventually allowed) are simply far fewer chairs available. All of the chairs would need to be significantly spaced apart, grouping only those chairs that will be used by members of the same household. More space at the beach wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, I suppose. It will likely mean that the price of the chairs will go up to make up for the loss of being able to normally rent far more in the same area. It is unclear who will really be able to afford that in the economy that will be waiting post-lockdown. 

This example would keep chairs at least 1 meter apart and offer 10 square meters of sand per umbrella.

Curious as to how spacing would be enforced in the “free” beaches? Unfortunately, one Rome official has suggested that these free spaces won’t open this summer. You can read more about that here, in Italian. Summer this year might only be an option for those who can afford it.

All of these are only proposals from the private sector. We have no idea what the virus will mean for summer and for travel in Italy beyond this next season. Here are some pretty eery takes on the future of dining out in Italy, if you crave more dystopian news.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.