Milan (AFP) - Milan sun-worshippers, finally emerging from months of coronavirus lockdown, do not have to travel far to find a deckchair and a parasol: a "beach" beckons right in the middle of one of the city's main business districts.
It's not the seaside, concedes 22-year-old student Mauro Manara Rossino. "But we're nearly there, with some imagination!"
Lido Bam, or Bam Beach, appeared at the weekend in a park in Milan's Porta Nuova district, home to Italy's tallest skyscraper, the Unicredit Tower.
Around 80 parasols are scattered across the park, with deckchairs spaced to respect the social distancing rules still in force since the virus lockdown began easing last month.
"It's a beautiful way of escaping the city routine," says Francesca Gatti, a 21-year-old economics student sunbathing with a friend.
The urban treat, an initiative of the park's owner, the Riccardo Catella Foundation, is free for the time being -- but next week punters will pay up to eight euros (about $9) for their place in the sun.
Rosalia Scarcella, a 45-year-old nurse, praised the sandless urban beach. After difficult months working through the pandemic crisis -- which hit Italy far harder than most countries, claiming more than 34,000 lives -- "I needed to take a break," she said.
"For those who can't get away, it's a great alternative," she added.
Of Italy's 60 million people, around 34 million will take some holiday this year, a decrease of 13 percent from 2019, according to a survey released Wednesday by Coldiretti/Ixe.
Of those, 93 percent plan to stay in Italy, the highest proportion in at least a decade -- and a quarter of them have opted to stay in their home region despite the lifting of travel bans.