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Kat
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Amanda, I think the size of public beach is different every year, and apparently it tends to shrink throughout Italy. Unfortunately. You will see, it is really, really small. The 5 m rule is also highly debatable. (I started to read all about it last night). The law says you should have access and be able to bathe, but whether or not your are allowed to sit or put down a towel next to the shoreline, nobody really knows. Also the highly lucrative beach concessions are granted on a non-transparent basis without competition, for a ver long time, at the discretion of the municipality discretion, whereas the EU rules state that they should be auctioned.
We are just back from Santa Marinella, and I am appalled, absolutely appalled. It is a small beach, and nice as such, but it is almost entirely private, and you are forced to rent an umbrella/beach chair if you want to stay. That in itself is not that big of a deal (although I think it should never be a prerequisite to be on a beach), but when it gets full, like it was today, with no chairs left, YOU GET KICKED OUT OF THE BEACH. It works like this: According to the establishments, you are not allowed to place anything or sit down anywhere 5 m from the water. From 5 m onwards it becomes "private property" - the establishment lease the beach for 5 years and they can do whatever they want with it. The "lifeguard" who told us to move away was nice enough to explain that part. The are a few lifeguards on duty, one for each establishment, and their entire job is to be vigilant that the general public doesn't get a piece of the beach. There is more: although there were still empty chairs left in each place, we were not allowed to rent them: Turns out people lease them for an entire month. Sure, the is a tiny "public" beach next to all this, but is of a miniscule, laughable size of perhaps 2 m x 10 m on the outskirts of the main beach, rather horrible, and people were on top of each other on that one. I know this is common in Italy. And many other places have "private" beach parts. But this is wrong, plain wrong, that businesses take over the whole thing, and the public has no access to the water. Somebody is extracting handsome rents out of this. Access to sea/ocean should always be a public good, and it is by law in most countries I know. I have lived in many places (Europe, North and South America) and visited many beaches, but never in my life have I seen such a seizure of an entire town beach. Shameful. I can't understand that people who have apartments in this town (or other similar towns) don't make something about it, and continue to be squeezed by this system. NOT RECOMMENDABLE! (In case this happens to you, you can head a little further South to Santa Severa - if you have a car - where the public part of the beach is bigger and a lot nicer).
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Jul 28, 2012