Law Change Sparks Fears For The Future Of Italy’s Beaches

Is this the 'Starbucks-ification' of Italy's beaches?

Beach goers enjoying Monterosso al Mare. Image Credit: Getty Images

Italy’s family-run beach sunlounger culture could be threatened by a new law. The law, due to come into effect in 2024, means beachside concessions will be put out to market, rather than renewed automatically.

A time-old Italian institution – the humble beach lounger – is among various Italian traditions that might be impacted by a new law making its way through parliament in Italy. That’s not to say beach loungers are about to be burnt, or banned, but the families who currently put them out are concerned that over time, this new law will lead to bigger businesses buying out the coast. The ‘Starbucks-ification’ of Italy’s beaches, if you will.

The new law is set to come into effect from December the 31st, 2023. The law means that beachside concessions – the licences given to beach restaurants, bars and clubs – will be put out to tender. According to CNN, statistics from the Federazione Italiana Imprese Balneari show that of the 30,000 beach-based businesses in Italy, 98% of them are family-run.

(Not so) dolce vita… Family run businesses’ longevity in Italy are allegedly under threat by a new law. Image Credit: Getty Images

CNN reports: “The new law will mean that instead of the families automatically renewing their licenses, they will have to compete against other interested parties from across the EU – which could include big businesses.”

“Although the concessions won’t be up for auction, anyone wanting to bid must produce a plan for the site – and those who have owned bars and restaurants for generations fear that, inevitably, deep-pocketed investors will win – and prices for vacationers could rise as a result,” CNN reports.

The decision was made with increasing competition in mind. As Reuters reported in February: “Italy plans to boost competition for contracts to manage bars and other facilities on its beaches from 2024…after repeated requests from the European Commission for them to be put out to tender.”

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Reuters also reported that “the licences to rent out sun loungers and beach umbrellas are traditionally family-controlled…despite rival entrepreneurs saying they have been shut out unfairly from a major business.”

Speaking to CNN, Luciano Montechiaro, owner of Lido Jamaica at Trentova Bay, in the southern Campania region, characterised the law change as: “Selling off Italy’s coastline [to the highest bidder].”

Image Credit: Getty Images

Much like when big retail chains came and put local clothes stores out of business, could this spell the end for Italy’s local beach lounger and beach club scene? Or will it be more a case of Starbucks’ failure to launch in Australia (read: a failure, with the public choosing the more dignified/expensive option)? Or do you simply not care, believing the current beach bed set up, locally owned or not, is an unnecessary addition to what should be a natural beach? Only time will tell.

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Reuters reports that the licence system’s reform “is part of a bill Italy approved… to increase competition in product and services markets to spend over 200 billion euros ($227 billion) from a European Union post-COVID recovery fund.”

There you have it. Potentially not such dolce news for your Italy beach holidays post-2023…

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