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Italy allows public tenders to manage beaches – Science-Environment News – Report by AFR

Italy has some spectacular beaches, but most are private and managed in an obscure and sometimes shady manner that the government has finally brought to light.

Parasols and matching sun loungers line the 7,500 kilometers of Italy’s coast, with only a few so-called “free beaches” in between.

They offer comfort and shade from the sweltering heat, but they’re also a lucrative deal, with a set of two loungers and a parasol costing up to €100 a day at peak times.

But the beaches’ concessions have been automatically renewed since 1992, meaning they often pay pittance and are poorly supervised – opening the door to tax fraud, mismanagement and even criminal elements.

After years of pressure from the European Union, Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government has finally agreed to introduce a public tender system to come into effect from 2024.

Anyone who owns a concession will have to re-apply, but details of how the losers can be compensated for past investments in umbrellas, shower stalls and restaurants are still being ironed out.

Maurizio Rustignoli, chairman of Fiba-Confesercenti, a union representing beach managers, says the uncertainty is “unacceptable”.

In Fregene, a popular seaside resort north of Rome, Fabio Di Vilio is the third generation to run the restaurant and resort La Scialuppa.

“I think it’s fair if it’s done seriously,” he said of the reform as he prepared the tropical-style straw parasols for the start of the season last month.

He pointed to the need to “ensure – if we were to go to the auction – that there were no irregularities”.

But the 38-year-old is frustrated by the lack of thought for concessionaires like him.

“You have to give reassurance to those who have a whole story behind them, it’s not just an economic investment, it’s also a sentimental issue,” he told AFP.

– “Not always legal” –

Although the idea of ​​paying to sit by the sea comes as an unwelcome surprise to many tourists, most Italians are used to the idea as long as the facilities and beach are kept clean.

“It would certainly be good if there were more free beaches, unless, as we often see, they become a dumping ground,” remarked Luca Siciliano, 71, while sunbathing on Fregene beach.

He said it was a “good thing” to introduce more competition into the private sector.

“Because as we know, and I’m sorry to say, there are sometimes things behind all of this that aren’t always legal,” he said.

As so often in Italy, the mafia gets involved.

Last month, the Italian agency that manages assets seized from organized crime groups launched a public tender for a concession in Calabria, home of the ‘Ndrangheta.

And there is also the issue of undeclared earnings. Despite their number – according to official figures, there were just over 12,000 concessions in May 2021 – the state only takes 100 million euros a year from such facilities.

The beaches are managed by local authorities and there are big regional differences.

In 2020, 59 concessions in Arzachena on Sardinia’s exclusive Costa Smeralda fetched just €19,000 – an average of €322 that everyone pays a year, according to daily Il Fatto Quotidiano.

The government has already taken steps to regularize the system by introducing a minimum annual payment of €2,500.

Even so, many beach concessions are big business.

Nearly 6,000 Treasury-monitored concessions reported average revenue of €180,000 a year, according to Il Fatto – and two-thirds did not report the full amount.

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