There’s a scene in the movie Eurotrip where three American guys and an American girl go to a nude beach. The girl strips off her crochet cover up, and, in slow motion, the nostrils of the European men flare. In an animalistic stampede, the lusty Europeans chase the four Americans off the beach. End scene.
I hate to rain on Hollywood’s parade, but European nude beaches are not like this.
However, that said, my first nude beach experience was semi-daunting nonetheless. The first weekend I got to Italy, my host parents took me camping in their RV on Italy’s east coast, next to the Adriatic Sea. The first night, I adapted to the language barrier, the new food, jetlag exhaustion, and sleeping in the back of a cramped van with four complete strangers and two dogs, just fine. The next day, it was sunny.
“Potty, we go to the beach?” my host mom asked me. Sure, I replied, I love beaches, and I came to Italy for sun–why not.
We hiked about three quarters of a mile through a jungle-like thicket on a cliff-side down to a rocky under-hang along the shore. And then I saw it. Out of breath, sweating, and still jet-lagged, I wasn’t sure I read the sign correctly until I did a double take.
Spiaggia frequentata dai nudisti.
Did it seriously say what I thought it said? “Dona, what does this sign mean?’ I gestured to my host mom.
“Is a naked beach, you have in America? See: [she jabbed her finger at the word “nudisti”] in English–Beach frequented by nudists.”she replied.
Gulp. “Not that I’m aware of.” But what the hell… when in Rome, right?
So I went with it. Sort of.
I sat on a huge rock near the waves next to Donatella, who by this point, had tossed all of her clothes, and her pink sparkly headband in a pile next to her feet. Her bare bottom was turned upward to catch the best rays of the sun. She laughed at my visible apprehension and said, “Tan lines Potty, are no good. In two months, you have no tan lines, you’ll see.”
I gingerly took my shirt off and untied the back of my bikini string halfway. Dona, looking as Italian-glamorous and naked as ever, fell asleep, a small string of glamorous drool dripping out of the corner of her mouth. No one was around, so I bit my lip, took the rest of my clothes off, and untied my bikini. This was my full-on embrace of the Italian/European thing…oddly, my discomfort was delightfully thrilling and liberating.
Until I saw him.
At first he was a speck on the horizon. Then, as he walked closer and closer, I made out his Italian, muscular chiseled figure. I scrambled to throw my suit on, and made it just before I was in eyesight. He didn’t break his stride but as he passed by, he said, “Ciao, bella.” On reflex, I looked up, and there he was, all Italian naked glory, striding right by me.
It was a short encounter, and if my shirt wasn’t on backwards and he wasn’t stark naked, we could’ve be standing in an ordinary grocery store. As I watched his back muscles and butt cheeks flap away into the distance, I groaned and rolled over. Italy was going to take some getting used to.
But, two months later, Dona was right. When I boarded a New York bound plane, I didn’t have any tan lines.