Italy is epitomised by its beach life, especially by the beach clubs, Lidos or Bagnos. The concept is fascinating especially to an Australian where the beaches are public spaces. 

The reason why a day at the beach in Italy isn’t as straightforward as it should be stems from the fact that the majority of beaches in the country are private, well sort of.

The government actually owns all the beach land, but more than 30,000 businesses rent and effectively own large sections of any beach in Italy during the summer months.

These ‘concessions’, usually private family businesses, occupy over 90 percent of coast and the fee paid by a balneare (roughly translated as beach manager) is largely viewed to be wildly out of sync with the profits available to some of them.

The seafront still belongs to the public, and a Supreme Court ruling a decade ago declared that access to the sea could not be impeded by private property or business – but in reality that simply means that public access points are required. So, although access to every beach is for all the public, that does not make the whole beach ‘public’.

In short, a beach in Italy is big business for various people, and it’s effectively a regulated industry. Indeed, it was estimated that beach concessions turnedover about €15 billion in 2016.

Mike Briggs Margate Tasmania. May 2021

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