Fine white sand and turquoise waters have made La Pelosa, in the town of Stintino on the north-west tip of Sardinia, one of the island's most popular beaches – but authorities have long struggled to protect its natural charms from the thousands of holidaymakers who flock to it each day in summertime.
Now local mayor Antonio Diana is planning the most radical measure yet: a limit on visitors, enforced by means of a paid entry ticket.
After environmental impact studies warned of the potential damage overcrowding could do to La Pelosa, authorities will try capping visitor numbers at around 1,500 per day in summer 2020, Diana told a meeting of the local council last weekend.
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“It will be an experiment,” according to the mayor, who said that the entry fee would help pay for the supervision and maintenance of the beach.
“The ticket will allow us to cover costs at La Pelosa and put the rest of the proceeds towards cleaning and maintaining other beaches. I'm convinced we'll get a good result,” said councillor for tourism Francesca Demontis.
The council has previously tried banning towels and beach bags as a means to stop beachgoers picking up La Pelosa's pristine sand – accidentally or otherwise – and taking it home with them. It also plans to remove the paved road that leads to the beach to make it harder to access by car.
While some locals have criticized the restrictions on what remains a public beach, the mayor insists that protecting the fragile coastline must come first.
La Pelosa attracts thousands of beachgoers each day at the height of summer. Photo: DepositPhotos
Sardinia sees several tonnes of sand, shells and stones disappear from its picture-perfect beaches every year, whether caught in damp towels or deliberately stolen as a souvenir. Stealing the island's protected natural resources is punishable by a fine of up to €3,000 and even prison time, and customs agents systematically search departing travellers' luggage for smuggled sand.
Stintino isn't the only tourist hotspot in Italy seeking to regulate the crowds. Venice has announced plans to introduce an entry fee for day-trippers from July, while authorities in the Cinque Terre are pushing train companies to help them limit the number of people who can pack into the coastal villages at once.