World · July 28, 2022

Say goodbye to your favorite Italian beach vacation

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(CNN) – It is the Italian dream: lying on one of the best beaches in the Mediterranean, with a drink in hand, moving only to eat freshly caught fish or to grab another glass of local wine.

But your summer life could get a little cheaper sweet from 2024, when new rules come into force that some experts warn could change the fabric of the Italian sea.

From December 31, 2023, concessions on the beach – whether it be a beach club that rents sun loungers, a bar or a restaurant – will be put up for tender, with a move that “puts the sweet life lifestyle at risk “, say those who work in the sector.

The novelty lies in a law that is progressively passing to the Italian parliament, with another vote scheduled for Monday, before the dissolution of parliament following the collapse of Mario Draghi’s government.

With 4,600 miles of coastline on the mainland alone, Italy is one of the largest beach destinations in Europe.

There are about 30,000 bathing businesses in the country, 98% of which are family-run, according to the Italian Federation of Bathing Enterprises (FIBA) which represents them.

But the new law will mean that, instead of automatically renewing their licenses, households will have to compete with other stakeholders from across the EU, which could include large companies.

Even if the concessions won’t be auctioned, anyone who wants 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 the vacationers might increase accordingly.

“He is selling off the Italian coasts [to the highest bidder]‚ÄĚLuciano Montechiaro, owner of the Lido Jamaica in Trentova Bay, in the southern region of Campania, told CNN.

“When the shopping centers arrived in Italy, the shops closed all of them. We small businesses will not be able to compete.”

Every day in the summer Montechiaro is on the beach at 8 am, sweeping the sand, preparing sunbeds and preparing cappuccinos for early arrivals in the shack built 40 years ago by the late grandfather, whose photo hangs above the restaurant area.

Visitors can rent loungers and umbrellas, or head to the bar where Montechiaro lounges for a traditional lunch, including regional first courses and salads. After closing, collect litter around the beach.

Now 35, Montechiaro moved to Australia when he was younger, but returned every summer to work in the family business.

“This bay is my life – I was born here,” he said.

“There was hardly anything here when mine not no arrived. He asked for this piece of land, it was granted to him, he built the hut and he created this business. Now they might say, ‘Well done, now go away.’

“If I had known they would have taken him away from us, I would not have returned from Australia.”

“I would dismantle my restaurant”

Marino Veri says he would dismantle his overflow rather than leave it to someone else.

Marino Veri says he would dismantle his overflow rather than leave it to someone else.

e55evu / Adobe Stock

Marino Veri, owner of Sasso della Cajana, a seaside restaurant in Abruzzo on the Adriatic coast, says the new law “is not right”.

His restaurant is located in a overflow – a wooden fishing platform overhanging the sea, reachable by a rickety walkway, typical of the area. The tradition dates back centuries, and most overflow they are still owned by the same fishing families who have had them for nearly as long.

Veri’s grandfather, a fisherman, built the overflow, before his grandson saved it from destruction by turning it into a restaurant in 2010 and changing the family’s financial fortunes. Dwindling stocks mean that making a living from fishing on the Abruzzo coast has become much more difficult in recent decades.

“I can understand that people who do not have the opportunity [to open their own] can be a little jealous, but we have to save the overflowing [people who make and work in them]”he told CNN.

“There is no company that makes them – it’s an art. We know which wood to use – we cut it with the waning moon in January, so it’s strong for years. Anyway, I would take it apart. overflow if someone else [won the space]so they would buy a square of sea “.

‘Done quickly’

In Italy there are 30,000 bathing establishments, of which 98% are family-run.

In Italy there are 30,000 bathing establishments, of which 98% are family-run.

Oleg Zhukov / Adobe Stock

The law – which was approved by the Italian Senate and now passes to the Chamber of Deputies, which will vote on June 25 – aims to level Italy with EU competition regulations. The blockade had introduced a rule in 2006, but Italy, along with other countries rich in beaches, had repeatedly postponed it.

The Italian concessions had been automatically renewed since 1992 and in 2018 the government had determined that the renewals would be valid until 2033. However, the holders – who may have taken out loans or mortgages on their assets – will now be deprived of their licenses. a decade ahead, with the government saying it needs to review competition laws to benefit from the EU’s pandemic recovery plan. A spokesman for the State Council, which proposed the law, did not respond to a request for comment.

Maurizio Rustignoli, president of FIBA, told CNN that the way the law was rushed was “not fair” and warned that prices could rise if large companies relocate.

“An entrepreneur who was told they had until 2033, made a 10-year projection and made investments and life choices, now finds that the state has taken 10 years away and so far there has been no guarantee of payment of compensation, “he said.

“It was done quickly, but a measure of this magnitude required more discussion.”

If entering companies have to pay compensation to outgoing operators, “prices will undoubtedly rise,” he said.

And he warned that the move could open the door to incoming organized crime, partly because of the funds needed to put together a winning proposition, and partly because few legitimate companies will want to invest in something that could be snatched from them within a few years. the line.

“Any entrepreneur needs certainty about the future if he works legally. Either the illegal world will move or we will have an impoverished system,” he said.

“Businesses focused on tourism are very attractive to money launderers, so the risk is there. I fear an infiltration of illegal funds.”

The beaches “could go to the multinationals”

Historic bathing concessions in Italy include Art Deco establishments in Tuscany.

Historic bathing concessions in Italy include Art Deco establishments in Tuscany.

gionnixxx / iStock Unreleased / Getty Images

Italy’s full bathing concessions are “unique in the world”, dating back to the 19th century, according to Alex Giuzio, author of “La Linea Fragile”, on the Italian coast.

Giuzio, director of Mondo Balneare, which deals with the sector, told CNN that the law as it is is too vague to reassure.

“It is very generic: we know there will be a tender, but not much more,” he said, adding that fears that the coast could end up being “sold out” are “valid”.

“Italy has more private concessions than anywhere else in Europe, and if the government does not limit them to one per person, or favors small family operations – and they haven’t done so yet – you risk that the beaches will go to the multinationals, and it is a little bit awful, “he said.

Beaches as a big deal

In Bibione, Veneto, beaches are a big deal.

In Bibione, Veneto, beaches are a big deal.

GitoTrevisan / iStock Unreleased / Getty Images

Not everyone is devastated. Some point to the current low license fees for dealers and the suspiciously low tax returns they often present.

And in northern Veneto the operators are already “above all large ones”, said Alessandro Berton, president of Unionmare, which represents them. Only two operators work the five miles of Bibione beach, for example; in other parts of the country, the owners have a matter of meters for themselves.

And Veneto already has its own law, similar, which “produces effective results”. Beaches are big business in Veneto: they contribute 50% of the region’s GDP, equal to 10.5 billion dollars.

“The Venetian law has helped us understand that difficulty can become an opportunity,” said Berton. “You can redevelop the area. We have chunks of land that was worth nothing 50 years ago … and we built $ 10.5 billion of GDP.”

He said recognizing the investments made by previous owners would be key to discouraging large companies from entering. “The least you should give me is pay back what I spent,” she said.

The death of the sweet life?

Luciano Montechiaro fears losing the concession to the Bay of Trentova.

Luciano Montechiaro fears losing the concession to the Bay of Trentova.

romanadr / Adobe Stock

For Maurizio Rustignoli, however, everyone is at risk.

“You may be great, but there is always someone older, and in five to 10 years you will see the change,” he said.

“Our concern is that small businesses will be squashed because they won’t have the financial strength they have in Veneto … and while they are excellent in Veneto, you can’t have a one-size-fits-all policy,” he added. he said she.

In fact, it is the whole sweet life holiday style at risk, says Rustignoli.

“We don’t just sell cots, we sell a lifestyle.

“Going to a hypermarket is different from going to a small shop.

“Tourism is a question of emotions, and the sweet life it is made up of many things: food and wine, human relationships, well-being. If you earn the same everywhere, you lose a lot. “