Towel wars: Italy to fine tourists for saving a spot on the beach

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Holidaymakers in Italy who leave deckchairs and umbrellas on the beach overnight to “reserve” prime spots for the morning could get hit with a €200 (£170) fine following a crackdown by the coastguard.

From the coasts of Tuscany to Sardinia, operation Safe Sea is coming down hard on holidaymakers who seek to claim territory on public beaches, with officials saying such behaviour is widespread and unfair to others who follow the rules.

On Saturday, the Livorno coastguard seized 37 deck and beach chairs, 30 umbrellas, towels and even some bathing suits, according to a report in La Repubblica.

The paper called the reservation of beach spots an “ancient and ingrained habit” that began as the first big waves of tourists started to visit Italy after the second world war. Attempts to claim back chairs and umbrellas could be an expensive exercise, as some areas are ready to dole out fines.

The city of Cecina, in Tuscany, has made it a crime to leave any unattended equipment on the beach before 8:30am, when it is opened to swimmers.

Seizures of beach paraphernalia were also reported in Tortoreto, an area in Abruzzo, and on the beach of Roseto Capo Spulico, in Cosenza and Salerno.

It is not the first time Italian authorities have been forced into action. A few years ago, coastguard officials at a resort in Liguria fined six tourists about €1,000 after they unrolled 10 towels before 6am to reserve spaces on the beach. All the of the alleged wrongdoers were over 60.

In another case, a British coach driver was arrested – but not ultimately charged – after he burned towels that were holding spots for German visitors.

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