The mid-morning sun is in full force when two bronzed women arrive in the coastal town of Riccione in north-eastern Italy. Breezing past the scores of people lounging on deckchairs, all neatly positioned in rows facing the sea, Valentina Albiero and Chiara Antonini, both 20, make a beeline for a patch of cordoned-off sand that's become infamous around the world as the spiaggia rosa - pink beach.
They walk past an entrance sign displaying a 1950s-style, Cary-Grant look-alike with a pink line slashed across his chest - signalling that this is a women's-only beach - and claim a prime sunbaking position beside a white beach umbrella decorated with a pink lifesaver's buoy.
"We first heard about this place when we arrived here for our holidays last week," says Valentina, a student from Verona. "So we came to have a look," she adds, shedding her sarong to reveal a brightly coloured bikini and a butterfly tattoo on her sweat-beaded cleavage, "and never left."
Judging by the number of women on the pink beach, they're not alone. In fact, demand is hot for this tiny oasis and, not surprisingly, the segregation of the sexes has focused international attention on this strip of sand since it opened in June.
Its jovial manager, Fausto Ravaglia, came up with the concept after approaching a local marketing company to help shed the "disco image" of his beach, "Lot 134" - one of many hundreds of privately managed and numbered beaches dotted along the 110km of resort coastline on the Adriatic Sea.
Beaches in Italy aren't like beaches in Australia. Space is at a premium and the locals have divided their coastline into sharply delineated lots, crammed with rows of deckchairs and loungers. But they're a necessary evil; in this coastal region alone, about 15 million holidaymakers book out more than 2400 hotels each year.
Here at Riccione, the lots are magnets for young people who are attracted to the beachside bars, such as the one at Lot 134. They party into the early hours of the morning before going back to their hotels to sleep during the day, and then resurfacing at the beach late in the afternoon - ready to do it all over again.Read more about Italy's women-only beach in the November issue of marie claire.