I had never seen anything like it: sapphire blue parasols, dozens of them, studded along the shore like little gems, twinkling in alabaster sand, stretching on forever. Beneath each parasol was a chair, contorted every which way, and filthy from the sandy debris deposited by their previous occupants. I paid my €15 toll to a young, shirtless man, claimed a spot with unobstructed access to the water, and began unpacking my wares for the day’s activities, scanning the faces and bodies on the beach, taking it all in. So this was a lido.
Innocuously derived from the Latin word for “seashore,” the lido is best described as a private beach club, accounting for a multi-billion euro industry, with the ones in Sicily serving well-to-do Italians flocking from the mainland in August and fewer initiated tourists like myself throughout the remainder of the year. I had come to Sicily on a pilgrimage, to see the island as the hero Odysseus had, to lay my own eyes upon Scylla and Charybdis, the sea monsters who once perched on the Strait of Messina, the Isole dei Ciclopi, home to Poseidon’s son Polyphemus and his fellow one-eyed horde, and maybe even catch a squinted glimpse of the nymph Calypso’s Maltese home, just beyond the southern coast.¹ I discovered lidos through my travel research, which consisted mostly of Google image searches and poring over Tripadvisor forums, all promising an experience unlike any I’ve ever known with drone captured photos of desolate beaches, sanitized of people, the desire for solitude burrowing deep into my mind. Neither the forums nor photos warned of Italy’s politics and their bearing on the Sicilian beach, that the lido would become a crucible for examining the country’s anti-Black and anti-migrant ideologies, and that my own internal sense of Blackness would shift, ever so slightly, as I reclined on those shores.