Italian nudists â€˜forcedâ€™ to go abroad
Italians are increasingly fond of baring their bodies but do not have enough opportunities to do so in their homeland, according to the Federation of Italian Naturists.
"Italy has not done much for naturism," Federation President Gianfranco Ribolzi told ANSA. "We only have about 10 nudist camps and 20-25 beaches where nudists can go".
Ribolzi said this is not nearly enough for Italy's growing population of regular naturists, who number 600,000, according to the federation's estimates.
As a result many Italian nudists opt to take their holidays abroad, where there are more facilities, he complained.
Spain, for example, has some 200 nudist beaches, about eight times as many as Italy.
"The amazing thing is that when you go to nudist beaches in France, Croatia, Spain and Greece you find lots and lots of Italians there," Ribolzi said.
"This shows there is a demand here that is not being met".
A recent poll of 500 Italians aged 25-55 conducted by the Osservatorio Alviero Martini institute claimed that 55% of Italian nudists holiday abroad.
A surprising 37% of people interviewed in the survey said they had practised naturism at least once in their lives.
Ribolzi said the figure of 37% sounded a little high, but he confirmed that nudism is more popular in Italy than commonly thought.
He also believes that many more Italians would give naturism a try if there were more opportunities to do so.
Ribolzi said Italian society has become much more open to nudism in recent decades, even in the more conservative south.
But some prejudices linger and continue to obstruct naturism's development, he said.
"Some Italian people still think nudism is linked to sex, which is wrong," said Ribolzi. "Naturism is a family-friendly activity".
Italy's highest appeals court, the Court of Cassation, has ruled on several occasions that nudism is fully legitimate in places where it has become the norm.
Ordinary courts also frequently acquit nudists dragged before judges for stripping off on beaches set aside for them but within sight of 'normal' beaches.
But there is another problem. Rome nudists complain that their beach at Capocotta is frequented by "people who wear costumes and are attracted by the nudity of others".
Nudism's popularity in Italy is part of a wider trend growing throughout the western world, experts say.
It is estimated that there are around 20 million naturists in Europe.
Earlier this month hundreds took part in the fourth annual world naked bike ride in London, Paris, Madrid, Vancouver and other international cities.
The event was staged to celebrate the human body and to encourage people to dump their cars and ride bikes for the good of the environment.
According to the American Association for Nude Recreation, the naturist tourism industry is worth around $400 million worldwide each year, 10 times more than a decade ago.
Italy should be doing more to get a bigger slice of the action generated by this growing tourism market, Ribolzi believes.