Living the Dream

The Naked Tyrants of Dante’s Beach

July 15, 2012

Multiple Pages
The Naked Tyrants of Dante’s Beach

My wife has a little house in Lido di Dante, a beautiful beach just south of Ravenna where Dante himself died in 1321. The beach is three miles of unspoiled sand dunes and pine trees.

But we don’t go to the beach because it has become Italy’s most famous nudist beach. Even if we did not have five small children, we would prefer not to be surrounded by so much unsolicited naked flesh.

Nor do we use the house even in the village which is next to the beach and named after it, because the nudisti attract various species of sexual weirdo, especially guardoni (voyeurs) and scambisti (swingers). If not the same species as the nudisti, the guardoni and the scambisti are closely related subspecies. You would need a Ph.D. in anthropology to tell the difference.

At night the little road outside my wife’s house is chockablock with curb-crawling cars that circle the village at a snail’s pace from midnight until dawn in search of a connection. When I’d make the mistake of sitting in the small garden to look at the moon or the stars, a car would stop sooner or later and the stranger at the wheel would stare at me, waiting. Sadly, Dante’s Beach is a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah.

Nearly the entire shore along the 70 miles of coastline in the Romagna region where I live pullulates with umbrellas and sun beds and the noise of pop music. Behind these infernal beaches begins the endless nightmare of ugly hotels, shops, and restaurants.

Dante’s Beach, on the other hand, is una spiaggia libera (a free beach). Anyone can use it at no charge. It is di tutti (everyone’s). And no one can use it to make money. So no one can even rent out umbrellas or sun beds on it, let alone build anything hideous in the pine forest behind. It is also in a nature reserve.

So how come Dante’s Beach is a nudist beach? Because the mere sight of nudists is enough to scare off nearly everyone else.

“How come Dante’s Beach is a nudist beach? Because the mere sight of nudists is enough to scare off nearly everyone else.”

As happens so often in this morally fucked-up modern world, the rights of a minority—in this case a group of people obsessed with wandering around a beach naked in the company of other naked people—defeated the majority’s right not to witness behavior that it regards as obscene if not criminally insane.

The nudists first started coming to Dante’s Beach in the late 1960s. Over the years, there were halfhearted attempts every now and again by the police and the politicians to get rid of them.

For years, the Partito comunista italiano (nowadays called the Partito democratico), which has run the show in the Romagna since World War II, positively encouraged nudism at Dante’s Beach in the name of freedom. The previous mayor of Ravenna, who is now a senator but to show solidarity used to strip off himself every now and again, officially authorized nudism on a 1,000-meter stretch of the beach.

But then in 2006 a new regional law came in which stated that nudism can only be authorized on a beach if it provides toilet facilities and a lifeguard complete with watchtower. This was problematic for the “ex” communists on the Council in Ravenna. As the beach is in a nature reserve, no one has the right to build any structure on it. So the new mayor of Ravenna, who took over in 2007, has been unable to authorize the nudists.

Naturally, the lack of Council authorization did not stop the nudists but it at least banished them from heaven and consigned them, if not to hell, to purgatory.

As a result, the Forestali which is responsible for policing Dante’s Beach finally felt able to swing into action. Its officers recently swooped down from the dunes on the nudists over a two-month period and charged about 80 of them with “atti contro la pubblica decenza” (acts against public decency), a very minor criminal offense used to prosecute, for example, someone caught urinating in public. The Forestali did not charge the nudists with the more serious offense of “atti osceni in un luogo pubblico” (acts of obscenity in a public place) because they say they want to guarantee successful prosecutions to deter all nudists.

It made no difference. In June, a female judge dismissed the first prosecution to come to court—that of a 55-year-old man caught naked at 11:40AM on March 25, 2012—on the bizarre grounds that although nudity is no longer authorized on the beach, the beach is “normally or traditionally frequented” by nudists and so to wander naked on it does not offend public decency.

However, let-it-all-hang-out communism is no longer as fashionable as it once was, and the majority may at last be stirring from its silence. There are now serious political moves afoot to force the nudists to move to a 250-meter stretch of another beach not too far away but outside the nature reserve. The nudists are having none of it. They regard Dante’s Beach, often listed in Italy’s top ten, as theirs.

On Thursday afternoon, I decided to go and give these naked tyrants a piece of my mind. With the temperature touching 40 degrees centigrade I went—clothed, of course—to Dante’s Beach and walked along it for about a mile past naked body after naked body. I passed hundreds of bodies, nearly all male. It was not a pretty sight. Eventually, I saw what I presumed to be the nudists’ HQ: A table and two benches made from driftwood and, next to it, a pole pitched in the sand from which flew an Italian flag.

I was right. Surrounded on all sides by naked men, I sat down at the makeshift table. The size of their sexual organs was far from impressive, which made me feel better immediately.

I asked them: “Is it right that this beach is di tutti but tutti cannot come here because you lot are here?”

“But tutti can come! It’s a spiaggia libera!” insisted Leonardo, a 49-year-old doctor.

So I said: “Oh, come off it! With their children?”

“Naked tutti! Tutti naked!” said Ezio, another middle-aged man. “When I go to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence I go to see beauty, the naked beauty of the statues of Michelangelo! It’s the same here.”

Not if you ask me. A fat naked woman in late middle age with cropped hair came and sat down. Franca was her name and she was Swiss.

“My six-year-old granddaughter is a nudist. For her to see naked people is totally normal,” said Franca. “We were born naked,” explained Franca’s very fat Italian husband Antonio.

“Why are there hardly any women here?” I asked. “Simple, they’re all culattoni (faggots),” said Daniele, a 54-year-old metalworker. “The couples come at weekends.”

They are nice enough people. But they do not get it. There is nothing wrong with a nudist beach, but not on a beautiful stretch of coast that belongs to everyone at everyone else’s expense.

But there is hope. The beach, dunes, and pine forest are full of rare birds. These include the Greater Spotted Eagle, the Avocet, the Black-winged Stilt, and the fratino (Kentish Plover).

The fratino, a small wading bird which nests in the dunes and decorates its nest with seashells, is on the verge of extinction—thanks, yes, to the mere sight of all those nudists. Last year, only 12 pairs nested at Lido di Dante and none of their young survived. As Giovanni Nobili, Vice Questore of the local Forestale, told the press a few weeks ago: “The situation of the fratino, this tiny wader once so common but now the species most at risk in the region, is deeply disturbing for all who care about the environment.”

To save the fratino, symbol of this earthly paradise, the Vice Questore is now moving heaven and earth to ban everyone, naked or not, from using Dante’s Beach to sunbathe and swim.

The majority’s rights, it is clear, count for nothing. But the rights of a small uccello (bird, but also slang for penis) just might swing it. True, the majority would also be banned. We’re used to it. But with the nudists gone, it might be safe to use my wife’s house again.


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