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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MAP: The best Italian villages to visit this year

Here are the remote Italian villages worth seeking out in 2022, according to a list compiled by one of the country's leading tourism associations.

MAP: The best Italian villages to visit this year

A total of 270 villages across Italy have been recognised as being especially tourist-friendly this year by the Italian Touring Club (Touring Club Italiano), one of the country’s largest non-profit associations dedicated to promoting sustainable tourism throughout the territory.

‘Orange Flag’ status is awarded if a village is judged to have significant historic, cultural and environmental value, as well as for being welcoming to visitors and outsiders, according to the initiative’s website.

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

Villages can apply for the status if they are located inland with no coastal stretches; have fewer than 15,000 inhabitants; have a well-preserved historic centre and a strong sense of cultural identity; demonstrate sensitivity to issues of sustainability; have a well-organised tourist reception system; and show an intention to continue to make improvements to the town.

The list is updated annually, and in 2022 three new villages gained orange flag status for the first time: Dozza in Emilia Romagna, Manciano in Tuscany, and Sasso di Castalda in Basilicata.

See below for the map and a list of the Orange Flag villages according to region:

Montepulciano in Tuscany has 'orange flag' status.

Montepulciano in Tuscany has ‘orange flag’ status. Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP.

Abruzzo – 7 villages

Civitella Alfadena, Fara San Martino, Lama dei Peligni, Opi, Palena, Roccascalegna, Scanno.

Basilicata – 6 villages

Aliano, Castelmezzano, Perticara Guard, San Severino Lucano, Sasso di Castalda, Valsinni.

Calabria – 6 villages

Bova, Civita, Gerace, Morano Calabro, Oriolo, Tavern.

Campania – 5 villages

Cerreto Sannita, Letino, Morigerati, Sant’Agata de’ Goti, Zungoli.

READ MORE: Six Italian walking holiday destinations that are perfect for spring

Emilia Romagna – 23 villages

Bagno di Romagna, Bobbio, Brisighella, Busseto, Castell’Arquato, Castelvetro di Modena, Castrocaro Terme and Terra del Sole, Dozza, Fanano, Fiumalbo, Fontanellato, Longiano, Montefiore Conca, Monteleone, Pennabilli, Pieve di Cento, Portico and San Benedetto, Premilcuore, San Leo, Sarsina, Sestola, Verucchio, Vigoleno.

Friuli Venezia Giulia – 7 villages

Andreis, Barcis, Cividale del Friuli, Frisanco, Maniago, San Vito al Tagliamento, Sappada.

Lazio – 20 villages

Arpino, Bassiano, Bolsena, Bomarzo, Calcata, Campodimele, Caprarola, Casperia, Collepardo, Fossanova, Labro, Leonessa, Nemi, San Donato Val di Comino, Sermoneta, Subiaco, Sutri, Trevignano Romano, Tuscania, Vitorchiano.

Liguria – 17 villages

Airole, Apricale, Balducco, Brugnato, Castelnuovo Magra, Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena, Dolceacqua, Perinaldo, Pigna, Pinion, Santo Stefano d’Aveto, Sassello, Seborga, Toirano, Triora, Vallebona, Varese Ligure.

Lombardy – 16 villages

Almenno San Bartolomeo, Bellano, Bienno, Castellaro Lagusello, Chiavenna, Clusone, Gardone Riviera, Gromo, Menaggio, Pizzighettone, Ponti sul Mincio, Sabbioneta, Sarnico, Solferino, Tignale, Torno.

Marche – 24 villages

Acquaviva Picena, Amandola, Camerino, Cantiano, Cingoli, Corinaldo, Frontino, Genga, Gradara, Mercatello sul Metauro, Mondavio, Montecassiano, Montelupone, Monterubbiano, Offagna, Ostra , Ripatransone, San Ginesio, Sarnano, Serra San Quirico, Staffolo, Urbisaglia, Valfornace, Visso.

Molise – 5 villages

Agnone, Ferrazzano, Frosolone, Roccamandolfi, Scapoli.

READ MORE: These are the 20 prettiest villages across Italy

San Gimignano has long been an orange flag destination.

San Gimignano has long been an orange flag destination. Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / AFP.

Piedmont – 40 villages 

Agliè, Alagna Valsesia, Arona, Avigliana, Barolo, Bene Vagienna, Bergolo, Candelo, Canelli, Cannero Riviera, Cannobio, Castagnole delle Lanze, Cherasco, Chiusa di Pesio, Cocconato, Entracque, Fenestrelle, Fobello, Gavi, Grinzane Cavour, Guarene, La Morra, Limone Piemonte, Macugnaga, Malesco, Mergozzo, Moncalvo, Monforte d’Alba, Neive, Orta San Giulio, Ozzano Monferrato, Revello, Rosignano Monferrato, Santa Maria Maggiore, Susa, Trisobbio, Usseaux, Usseglio, Varallo, Vogogna.

Puglia – 13 villages

Alberona, Biccari, Bovino, Cisternino, Corigliano d’Otranto, Locorotondo, Oria, Orsara di Puglia, Pietramontecorvino, Rocchetta Sant’Antonio, Sant’Agata di Puglia, Specchia, Troia.

Sardinia – 7 villages

Aggius, Galtellì, Gavoi, Laconi, Oliena, Sardara, Tempio Pausania.

Sicily – 1 village

Petralia Sottana

Tuscany – 40 villages

Abetone Cutigliano, Anghiari, Barberino Tavarnelle, Barga, Casale Marittimo, Casciana Terme Lari, Casale d’Elsa, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Castelnuovo di Val di Cecina, Castiglion Fiorentino, Certaldo, Cetona, Chiusi, Collodi, Fosdinovo, Lucignano, Manciano, Massa Marittima, Montalcino, Montecarlo, Montefollonico, Montepulciano, Monteriggioni, Murlo, Peccioli, Pienza, Pitigliano, Pomarance, Radda in Chianti, Radicofani, San Casciano dei Bagni, San Gimignano, Santa Fiora, Sarteano, Sorano, Suvereto, Trequanda, Vicopisano, Vinci, Volterra. 

Trentino Alto Adige – 8 villages

Ala, Caderzone Terme, Campo Tures/Sand in Taufers, Ledro, Levico Terme, Molveno, Tenno, Vipiteno/Sterzing.

Umbria – 10 villages

Bevagna, Città della Pieve, Montefalco, Montone, Nocera Umbra, Norcia, Panicale, Spello, Trevi, Vallo di Nera.

Val d’Aosta – 3 villages

Etroubles, Gressoney-Saint-Jean, Introd.

Veneto – 12 villages

Arquà Petrarca, Asolo, Borgo Valbelluna, Cison di Valmarino, Follina, Malcesine, Marostica, Montagnana, Portobuffolè, Rocca Pietore, Soave, Valeggio sul Mincio.