Italian Word of the Day: Spiaggia (beach)

My husband and I are extremely lucky live just a stone’s throw away from the beach, which translates as spiaggia (feminine, plural: spiagge) in Italian. It is a derivative of the now-obsolete word piaggia which means a variety of things including slope, shore and land.

IPA: [ˈspjaddʒa]

Below are the verbs you’ll most often see used with the word spiaggia in context:

  • andare alla / in spiaggia = to go to the beach
  • stare sulla spiaggia = to stay on the beach
  • scendere in spiaggia = to go (down) to the beach
  • trascorrere la giornata in spiaggia = to spend the day at the beach
  • passeggiare sulla / lungo la spiaggia = to walk along the beach
  • trascinare sulla spiaggia = to wash up on the beach

Mi piace camminare lungo la spiaggia al tramonto.

I like walking along the beach at sunset.

couple walking on the beach at sunset

There are a number of different kinds of beaches people can visit when they go on holiday to the seaside with their families. A spiaggia libera is a free public stretch of beach where you can bring your own umbrella and beach chair from home, whereas at a spiaggia a pagamento, you are required to pay a fee to use the beach. A spiaggia attrezzata has complete amenities including beach loungers and umbrellas.

Unfortunately it isn’t easy to find a spiaggia tranquilla (quiet beach) in Italy during the summer months so most have to settle for spiaggie affollate (crowded beaches).

couple running on the beach
Fitness sulla spiaggia = Fitness on the beach

Some well-known things you’ll see at the beach include:

  • sabbia = sand
  • mare = sea
  • conchiglia = shell
  • ombrellone da spiaggia = beach umbrella
  • lettino da spiaggia = beach lounger
  • castello di sabbia = sand castle
  • costume da bagno = swimming costume
  • paletta = spade
  • secchiello = bucket
mum and daughter building a sand castle
Costruiscono un castello di sabbia sulla spiaggia. = They’re building a sand castle on the beach.

Spiaggia can also translate as any shore where the land meets a body of water. They may be sabbiosa (sandy), rocciosa (rocky) or fangosa (muddy).

If you call someone a tipo/a da spiaggia (lit: a beach type), the implication is that they are a bit strange or bizarre. This expression is an allusion to how a person wearing beach clothes – say, a bathing suit and water wings – would be perceived in the context of everyday life.

Another popular expression is ultima spiaggia (lit: last beach) which is another way of saying l’ultima speranza (last hope) or last resort.

Per molti lavoratori stranieri l’Italia è l’ultima spiaggia.

For many foreign workers, Italy is the last hope.

A synonym used to describe a touristic sandy beach complete with lounge chairs, umbrellas, and bars selling refreshments is lido. It also stands for a strip of land which separates the sea from a lagoon such as, for example, the Lido di Venezia.

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