A controversial new law could ruin Italy’s beach culture


Italy’s culture of family-run beach loungers could be threatened by a new law. The law, which is due to come into force in 2024, means beachfront concessions will be put on the market rather than automatically renewed.

An age-old Italian institution – the humble beach deckchair – is among various Italian traditions that could be affected by a new law pending in parliament in Italy. That’s not to say beach loungers are about to be burned down or banned, but the families currently installing them fear that over time this new law will lead to bigger companies buying up the coast. The “Starbucks-ification” of Italian beaches, if you will.

The new law is due to come into force on December 31, 2023. The law means beachfront concessions – licenses granted to restaurants, bars and beach clubs – will be put up for auction. According NC, statistics of the Federazione Italiana Imprese Balneari shows that of the 30,000 beach-based businesses in Italy, 98% of them are family owned.

(Not so) dolce vita… The longevity of family businesses in Italy would be threatened by a new law. Image credit: Getty Images

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

“Although the concessions are not auctioned, anyone wishing to bid must produce a plan for the site – and those who have owned bars and restaurants for generations fear that, inevitably, investors with deep pockets will win – and prices for holidaymakers could increase accordingly,” CNN reports.

The decision was made taking into account the increasing competition. 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 calls from the European Commission for them to compete .”

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Reuters also reported that “sun lounger and umbrella rental licenses have traditionally been controlled by the family…despite rival contractors claiming they have been unfairly excluded from a large company”.

Talk to CNNLuciano Montechiaro, owner of Lido Jamaica in Trentova Bay, in the southern region of Campania, described the law change as follows: “Selling the Italian coastline [to the highest bidder].”

Beachgoers enjoying Monterosso al Mare. Image credit: Getty Images

Much like when the big retail chains arrived and shut down local clothing stores, could this spell the end of the local sunbed and beach club scene in Italy? Or will it be more of a case of a failed Starbucks launch in Australia (read: a failure, with the public choosing the more worthy/expensive option)? Or do you just don’t care if you believe that the current beach bed, whether 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 reform of the licensing system “is part of a bill approved by Italy…to increase competition in product and service markets to spend more than 200 billion euros ($227 billion ) from a European Union post-COVID recovery fund.”

So. Potentially not such sweet news for your beach holiday in Italy after 2023…

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