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Friday, February 23, 2024

The Political and Environmental Wars to Reclaim the Beaches in Italy

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The beaches in Italy are crowded with millions of Italians in the summer. This frequently involves paying a sizable price to rent the same cabin, lounger, and umbrella covering the same area of sand at the same lido closer to the seashore year in and year out. Private beach clubs are already dominant along Italy’s enormous stretches of coastline.
Many are automatically renewed to the same owners rather than through a tender process, resulting in an unbreakable dynastic structure. Statistics show that less than half of the nation’s beaches are considered open to the public and suitable for swimming.

The result is that these seaside lidos are frequently criticized for having a grasp on the country’s coastline and for becoming increasingly out of reach for the average Italian family. By occupying nearly half of its beaches, they eliminate all competition. Even within the restaurants, obtaining a lounger and umbrella to rent might be difficult because entire rows are frequently set aside for regulars.

The Political Debate on Reforms of Italy’s Beach Clubs

Parliamentarians and environmentalists in Rome are actively pursuing legislative changes to allow for concessions along Italy’s coastlines. Italy’s multi-party government has decided to tender the private beaches by January 2024.
Beach clubs in Italy are wary of these measures because they will upend and jeopardize the privilege they have enjoyed for a long time. They contend that the in question beaches are public and that closing off areas with towels or umbrellas is privatizing a location created for the use of the community.

Conservative lawmakers, whose protectionist principles align with the desire to uphold the interests of Italy’s beachside economic class, have vigorously opposed such concerns. Some legislators claim that the media has unfairly characterized these bathing clubs and their proprietors as parasites taking advantage of the system. The future of Italy’s beach clubs is uncertain, while the bill’s specifics are still up for discussion.

Bathing Clubs Need Their Work to Be Recognized

Italy has a long history of having beach clubs. Their rows of chairs, umbrellas, and vibrantly colored wooden huts have become an inescapable characteristic of the Italian coastline. They are mainly family-controlled and handed down to the next generation. Some people believe they symbolize the nation’s post-World War II economic recovery.

Club owners are concerned about the direction the bidding process may take. They claim there is a chance that global corporations or corrupt business owners may try to seize coastal property, leading to a depersonalized beachfront. This comes after Red Bull recently acquired a port and an island close to the city of Trieste in northeastern Italy.

People’s Opinions: Will the Reforms Threaten Tourism or Improve the Market?

However, something might be about to change. Italy’s government agreed to reforms requiring lidos to reapply for their licenses as part of the country’s post-COVID strategy. This is a result of the Bolkenstein directive’s goal of market liberalization in the EU.

While the existing system has been criticized for encouraging nepotism and a closed market, it has also contributed to the fact that some of Italy’s 12,166 lidos are nearly as ancient as the nation’s constitution.

Although the changes are not significant, Sebastiano Gambetta of the Bagni Valentino highlighted that many of their clients have been frequenting our beach club for decades. Because of this reform, local business owners perceive it as a threat.
They are concerned that the reform will have a negative impact on Italy’s tourism industry, adversely affect the livelihoods of hundreds, and lead to unfair competition as larger businesses attempt to seize lucrative beachfront property.

Environmentalist Perspective of the Reforms

Environmental activists speak for the opposing side of the beach debate. Under the leadership of Agostino Biondo, they contend that beaches are an area where revenue shouldn’t be involved because the environmental threat is greater. The advocates use Barcelona’s oceanfront as an example of a public beach that would be perfect for cities.
They contend that a fundamental overhaul of beach management in Italy could drastically alter the coastline, turning much of it into a true gem in a nation that depends heavily on tourism. Everyone should have free access to the ocean at public beaches.

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