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Why Italy’s beaches are getting harder (and more expensive) to access

Elaine Allaby
Elaine Allaby - [email protected]
Why Italy’s beaches are getting harder (and more expensive) to access
Accessing some of Italy's most popular beaches is getting harder. Photo by Azat Satlykov on Unsplash

Italy's beaches are becoming increasingly subject to booking requirements, quotas and entry fees, rousing the ire of Italians who say access to the sea is a basic right.


There were protests in Naples' Posillipo on Friday as activists stormed two public beaches in defiance of a local government quota on bathers, as Italy's dwindling number of 'free' beaches reportedly move towards bringing in access fees and registration.

An estimated 50 percent of Italy's coastline is given over to private beach clubs, and the number of privately-run beaches has increased by 25 percent in the last decade alone, according to La Repubblica newspaper. In some areas, up to 90 or even 100 percent of accessible coastline is given over to private beach clubs.

The cost of going to a private beach club has also spiked since the Covid pandemic - and now both private and free-access beaches increasingly require advance booking, to the frustration of those who say the sea should be freely accessible to all.

READ ALSO: Why are so many of Italy's beaches privatised?

Italy's 'private' beach clubs are state-owned, but are leased to private operators under an opaque concessions system whereby licences are automatically renewed and passed down from one generation to the next with little to no oversight.

The EU issued a directive to put Italy's beach resorts up for tender in order to bring fair competition to the sector, but Italy's hard-right government, which came to power in 2022, has repeatedly postponed the process.

Though costs vary significantly by region, the average daily rate for a slot at one of Italy's private beach clubs rose by more than five percent over the past year, according to La Repubblica, and by as much as 11 percent between 2022 and 2023.

Visitors can expect to pay around €30-35 for two sunloungers and a beach umbrella for the day, though prices can rise as high as €90 in Salento and €120 in parts of Sardinia.

More and more of these clubs are using online advance booking systems: 21 percent of clubs registered at least one online booking in 2023, compared to just a few hundred in 2020, according to data published by bookings site in its 2023 Beach Sector Observatory.


Meanwhile the space reserved for Italy's public beaches, particularly in the south, is shrinking, with Calabria adding 328 private clubs between 2011 and 2021, Sicily 198, Campania 184, and Puglia 160.

Now activists say local authorities are rubbing salt in the wound by introducing advance booking requirements for public beaches - along with quotas and, in some cases, booking fees.

Every Italian region has at least one public beach subject to booking requirements, reports Repubblica. Sardinia has as many as 15, with three - Le Piscine a Cannigione in Arzachena, Cala Luna in Nuoro and Rena Bianca in Santa Teresa Gallura - added this year.

Local government officials say the restrictions are needed due to a combination of environmental protection and public safety concerns related to overcrowding, but opponents remain unconvinced.

The main beneficiaries, they argue, are the nearby private beach clubs; and the managers of those clubs don't disagree.

"Since entry to the beach is limited and costs €3.50, many prefer to come to us", Cristina Bocognano, the owner of 'Lido 4 Mori' next to the 'public' beach in Sardinia's Santa Teresa Gallura, told Repubblica.


"If the majority of the beaches are in private hands, we cannot complain that the remaining ones are too busy," said Agostino, an activist from the association Mare Libero ('Free Sea').

"We're not against quotas, but only if the right to the sea can be guaranteed."



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