Thursday, August 30

Private beaches in Italy

I have had a request for a post and I am happy to reply! Sharon in Hawaii wants to know what has happened to the beach here in the summer.

Well, as you all know this coast unfortunately does not have a neverending long sandy beach like in Florida, or the South of France. Instead there are many small coves along the coastline with grey pebbles or course sand.

Now, the Italians are always looking for a way to earn a bit of cash and one day, many many years ago somebody came up with a very clever idea:
"Ah-ha!" Exclaimed the clever man, sitting in the piazza with his cronies one day. "I've got it! With that little bit of money Papa left me I will buy the beach!"
The other old men looked at him in astonishment. They started murmuring to each other, "Eeh, he's lost his mind, old Antonio," "E's probably had too much wine for lunch," "The suns gone to 'is 'ead!"

But Antonio had thought it through well. He decided that he would buy the beach, set up a little cafe at one end and put in some deckchairs and sunbeds. So anyone who wanted to sunbathe would have to pay him an entrance fee to use the beach.

This may sound far-fetched, but this is how the majority of Italian beaches work. Here in Positano if you can afford it you pay to use the 'private beaches' where you are provided with sun-loungers, fresh water showers, clean bathrooms and cafes with tables in the shade. You can have fresh cool drinks and sandwiches brought right to your sun lounger, and can store all your beach toys and inflatables in beach huts, rather than taking them home every day.

The poor people who cannot afford to pay are to be seen the other side of the fence, on the free beach. This is usually a small section of the beach, roped off, with no shade, no shower or bathroom facilities, and lots of families squeezed back to back on towels spread out on the stones. Excuse me re-using this photo, but it shows clearly the divides between the private/free and boat access parts of the main beach.

So, during the winter months of the year we have a good-sized grey sandy/pebbly beach which the children can play on, fly kites on and walk up and down the shoreline, etc. Then around about April the fences go up, the beach is divided and made private. So unless you are willing to spend anything from 7-18 euro for a beach ticket, you will have to find another solution.

Some of the beaches are quite happy for you to go there and sit in the cafe, order some drinks or some lunch, then take a swim and sit on the shoreline. Which is what we do most of the time. Or you can get a boat to take you along the coast to a less accessible beach, where you can avoid the crowds. As the summer draws to an end, the sea often gets rough and the sunloungers on the private beach get moved higher and higher up the beach. At this point the barrier is often removed and slowly but surely we are allowed access to the whole bay again.


  1. Oh no, it’s worse than I thought! I was thinking that perhaps the local council gave out permits (for a fee of course) to wily vendors who then created the ‘them & us” state of affairs. I suspect the beach ticket price depends on my sun lounger location or length of time I stay? One wonders how many euros’ I’d have to slip Antonio’s nephew for a seat front and center?!

    I’m flabbergasted that it’s possible for an individual to ‘own a beach’? (though why this shocks me when Richard Branson can own an island just shows my naiveté)!

    And there’s a rope and in some cases a fence....mama mia, don’t get me started!

    Here in Hawaii all beaches are publicly owned and even if the land is developed up to the sand, legally there has to be a beach access pathway. This there is, but trust me in some areas you have to be a detective to find it! I suspect this all came about from a guilty conscience, or more likely massive protest from Hawaiians as foreigners stole their property from the Kingdom in the first place! I can hear it now “we robbed your land and don’t want to give it back, but hey, lets all just share the beachs and call it good...fair enough?”! Mama mia, don’t get me started...opps too late!

    Thanks for indulging me Niki!


  3. Hello,
    I have just discovered your blog two days ago and I like it very much. I went to Positano last year in november and enjoyed it a lot. It was warm and I even swem in the sea.

    My story is little bit the same as yours; I came from the Netherlands in Paris to change my life and stay with my boyfriend.

    Have a nice weekend


  4. I remember that that was one of my biggest culture shocks when I moved here. I love swimming and being in the water but unfortunately there are no public pools in Rome. So we went to visit friends who live near the beach - I was soooo excited as I packed my swimming costume, goggles, sarong, sunhat and flippers.

    Obviously, I didn't expect it to be Australia, but my first visit to an Italian beach (in Le Marche) almost made me cry. It was so crowded - with deck chairs and umbrellas every 3 meters, row after row of pre-cancerous looking people frying themselves in the sun and not going in the water and I had to pay 15 euro for our deck chair. And the water was so dirty that I was sick. And even though we were well out of the city, all the way along the water there was an endless line of cafes and shops playing loud music and more and more people (the Italians call this the "lido" and it's normal to them.)

    It's really sad that people have been allowed to privatise nature like this but I guess the damage has already been done.

    I can't wait to show the boyfriend a "proper" beach when we go back to Australia in january. :)

  5. I refuse to pay to go to a beach. Thankfully we have plenty of places that are still free down here. For me THE place is a park (Torre Gauceto) with a beach that is great. You have to carry everything you need so most people don't go far from the parking lot!!

  6. I'm just wondering... are the church people mad at the hotel people? The big light on the church roof has changed angles and is ruining my evening web cam view, esp. when the full moon is/was on the water.

    Thanks for a great read!

  7. hello Niki
    just wanted to say have a safe holiday weekend to you and all those who post. It is labour day weekend here and most of my friends have gone up north to the cottages and the beach. My husband and I will be painting the kitchen. I'm sure my daughter will be bored to tears all her little friends gone away. But school starts on Tuesday and for this I'm very glad!!!! Take care

  8. Glad the beaches Down Under are sandy & free :)


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