Private lidos take up more than 40 percent of Italian beaches: report

With more and more of Italy's coastline being privatized, it's getting harder to find a spot to sunbathe for free, warns environmental association Legambiente.

Private lidos take up more than 40 percent of Italian beaches: report
More than 40 percent of Italy's beaches are occupied by private lidos, according to Legambiente. Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

Nearly 43 percent of Italian sandy beaches now occupied by private lidos, campsites, resorts or other businesses, the association reports in its latest annual survey on the state of Italy’s coastline.

Based on figures from the Italian government’s coastal monitoring database, the number of lidos alone rose from 10,812 in 2018 to 12,166 by the start of summer 2021, an increase of 12.5 percent. Legambiente estimates that they have doubled since the year 2000.

READ ALSO: What are the Covid-19 rules on Italy’s beaches this summer?

In some parts of Italy as much as 70 percent of sandy coast is taken up by lidos and other concessions, the association says. Liguria is the region that has privatized the most of its coastline (69.9 percent), followed by Emilia-Romagna (69.5 percent) and Campania (68.1 percent). 

The so-called Romagna Riviera, the stretch of the Adriatic Coast around Rimini that draws thousands of Italian holidaymakers each summer, is now almost impossible to access for free, the report says, with 90 percent of beaches in Rimini in private hands and 100 percent in Gatteo.

Private sun loungers cover a beach in Rimini. Photo by MARCEL MOCHET / AFP

In contrast, Friuli-Venezia Giulia (20.3 percent), Sardinia (20.7 percent) and Sicily (22.4 percent) have kept their beaches relatively free to date – though Sicily has allowed the number of lidos to increase by more than 40 percent in the past three years.

Consumer watchdogs have warned that lidos are hiking their prices this summer to make up for losses and cover extra costs related to the Covid-19 pandemic. Research by consumer study institute IRCAF recently found that June 2021 prices to rent two loungers and an umbrella ranged from €10 per day on some Italian beaches to a whopping €50 on others.

READ ALSO: Holidays in Italy will cost more this summer, consumer watchdog warns

While Italy’s coastline is supposed to be a public asset, there is no national rule about how much of it has to remain free for public use – unlike France, for instance, where at least 80 percent of beaches must be kept clear of concessions for at least half the year.

In Italy the decision is left to each region, and while Puglia and Sardinia have decreed that 60 percent of their beaches should be left free, no other regions protect more than half of their coastline. In five – Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Veneto, Tuscany, Basilicata and Sicily – there is no quota whatsoever that guarantees any of the coastline will remain public.

What’s more, much of the coast that sunbathers can access for free is inferior to the prime beaches where you have to rent your lounger and parasol. According to Legambiente, in many towns free beaches are the “second division” portions of the coast next to rivers or outlet pipes, where the sea is polluted and swimming banned.

Sunbathing in front of a steel manufacturing plant in Taranto, Puglia. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

In total nearly 8 percent of Italy’s beaches are too polluted to swim at, its report says, with off-limits sections heavily concentrated in Campania (13.5 percent) and Sicily (21.5 percent). 

Coastal erosion is also threatening Italy’s coastline, with more than 40 million metres square estimated to have disappeared between 1970 and 2020. Sandy beaches in Abruzzo, Calabria and Sicily are particularly at risk, with more than 60 percent suffering from erosion as global warming causes extreme weather events such as storm surges and tornadoes to become more frequent.


A growing number of lidos are adopting more environmentally friendly practices, Legambiente points out, including banning single-use plastic, serving locally produced food in beach bars, installing solar panels, protecting dunes and improving access for cyclists and pedestrians instead of cars. 

A total of 416 beaches across Italy were awarded international Bandiera blu (Blue Flag) status for 2021, based on sustainability as well as cleanliness, safety and other factors. Find a full list here

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How to avoid huge ‘roaming’ phone bills while visiting Italy

If you're visiting Italy from outside the EU you risk running up a huge phone bill in roaming charges - but there are ways to keep your internet access while avoiding being hit by extra charges.

How to avoid huge ‘roaming’ phone bills while visiting Italy

Travelling without access to the internet is almost impossible these days. We use our phones for mapping applications, contacting the Airbnb, even scanning the QR code for the restaurant menu.

If you’re lucky enough to have a phone registered in an EU country then you don’t need to worry, thanks to the EU’s cap on charges for people travelling, but people visiting from non-EU countries – which of course now includes the UK – need to be careful with their phone use abroad.

First things first, if you are looking to avoid roaming charges, be sure to go into your settings and turn off “data roaming.” Do it right before your plane lands or your train arrives – you don’t want to risk the phone company in your home country starting the clock on ‘one day of roaming fees’ without knowing it.

READ ALSO: Ten ways to save money on your trip to Italy this summer

But these days travelling without internet access can be difficult and annoying, especially as a growing number of tourist attractions require booking in advance online, while restaurants often display their menus on a QR code.

So here are some techniques to keep the bills low.

Check your phone company’s roaming plan

Before leaving home, check to see what your phone plan offers for pre-paid roaming deals.

For Brits, if you have a phone plan with Three for example, you can ask about their “Go Roam” plan for add-on allowance. You can choose to pay monthly or as you go. Vodafone offers eight day and 15 day passes that are available for £1 a day.

For Americans, T-Mobile offers you to add an “international pass” which will charge you $5 per day. Verizon and AT&T’s roaming plans will charge you $10 per day. For AT&T, you are automatically opted into this as soon as your phone tries to access data abroad.

READ ALSO: Seven things to do in Italy in summer 2022

These all allow you to retain your normal phone number and plan.

Beware that these prices are only available if you sign up in advance, otherwise you will likely be facing a much bigger bill for using mobile data in Italy. 

Buy a pre-paid SIM card

However, if you are travelling for a longer period of time it might work out cheaper to turn off your phone data and buy a pre-paid SIM card in Italy.

In order to get a pre-paid SIM card, you will need your passport or proof of identity (drivers’ licences do not count).

READ ALSO: TRAVEL: Why now’s the best time to discover Italy’s secret lakes and mountains

Keep in mind that you will not be able to use your normal phone number with the new SIM card in, but will be able to access your internet enabled messaging services, like WhatsApp, Facebook and iMessage. Your phone will need to be ‘unlocked’ (ask your carrier about whether yours is) in order to put a new SIM card in.

Here are some of the plans you can choose from:


WindTre, the result of a 2020 merger between the Italian company Wind and the UK network provider Three, currently offers a “Tourist Pass” SIM card for foreign nationals. For €24.99 (it’s sneakily marketed as €14.99, but read the small print and you’ll see you need to fork out an additional €10), you’ll have access to 20GB of data for up to 30 days.

The offer includes 100 minutes of calls within Italy plus an additional 100 minutes to 55 foreign countries listed on the WindTre website. Up to 13.7GB can be used for roaming within the EU. The card is automatically deactivated after 30 days, so there’s no need to worry about surprise charges after you return from your holiday. To get this SIM card, you can go into any WindTre store and request it.

A tourist protects herself from the sun with a paper umbrella as she walks at Piazza di Spagna near the Spanish Steps in Rome.
A tourist protects herself from the sun with a paper umbrella as she walks at Piazza di Spagna near the Spanish Steps in Rome.


Vodafone has had better deals in the past, but lately appears to have downgraded its plan for tourists, now called “Vodafone Holiday” (formerly “Dolce Vita”), to a paltry 2GB for €30. You get a total of 300 minutes of calls and 300 texts to Italian numbers or to your home country; EU roaming costs €3 per day.

Existing Vodafone customers can access the offer by paying €19 – the charge will be made to your Vodafone SIM within 72 hours of activating the deal. 

READ ALSO: MAP: The best Italian villages to visit this year

The Vodafone Holiday offer automatically renews every four weeks for €29 – in order to cancel you’ll need to call a toll-free number. The Vodafone website says that the €30 includes the first renewal, suggesting the payment will cover the first four weeks plus an additional four after that, but you’ll want to double check before buying. You’ll need to go to a store in person to get the card.


TIM is one of Italy’s longest-standing and most well-established network providers, having been founded in 1994 following a merger between several state-owned companies.

The “Tim Tourist” SIM card costs €20 for 15GB of data and 200 minutes of calls within Italy and to 58 foreign countries, and promises “no surprises” when it comes to charges.

You can use the full 15GB when roaming within the EU at no extra charge, and in the EU can use your minutes to call Italian numbers. The deal is non-renewable, so at the end of the 30 days you won’t be charged any additional fees.

READ ALSO: MAP: Which regions of Italy have the most Blue Flag beaches?

To access the offer, you can either buy it directly from a TIM store in Italy, or pre-order using an online form and pay with your bank card. Once you’ve done this, you’ll receive a PIN which you should be able to present at any TIM store on arrival in Italy (along with your ID) to collect your pre-paid card. The card won’t be activated until you pick it up.


Iliad is the newest and one of the most competitive of the four major phone companies operating in Italy, and currently has an offer of 120GBP of €9.99 a month. For this reason, some travel blogs recommend Iliad as the best choice for foreigners – but unfortunately all of their plans appear to require an Italian tax ID, which rules it out as an option for tourists.


Though buying a pre-paid SIM card is a very useful option for visitors spending a decent amount of time in Italy, as mentioned above, there’s a significant different difference between buying a one-time pre-paid SIM versus a monthly plan that auto-renews.

Make sure you know which one you’re signing up for, and that if you choose a plan that will continue charging you after your vacation has ended, you remember to cancel it.

UK contracts

If you have a UK-registered mobile phone, check your plan carefully before travelling. Before Brexit, Brits benefited from the EU cap on roaming charges, but this no longer applies.

Some phone companies have announced the return of roaming charges, while others have not, or only apply roaming charges only on certain contracts.

In short, check before you set off and don’t assume that because you have never been charged extra before, you won’t be this time.