Say goodbye to your favorite Italian beach holiday

(CNN) – It’s an Italian dream: to stretch out on one of the best beaches in the Mediterranean with a glass of wine in hand, moving only to eat some freshly caught fish or drink another glass of local wine.

But your summer biography it might get a little smaller sweet from 2024, when new rules come into effect that some in the know warn could change the structure of the Italian coastline.

From December 31, 2023, beach concessions – be it a beach club renting sun loungers, a bar or a restaurant – will be up for auction. sweet life risky lifestyle,” say those who work in the industry.

The change concerns a law that is slowly moving through the Italian parliament, with another vote scheduled for Monday before parliament is dissolved following the collapse of Mario Draghi’s government.

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

According to the agency, there are about 30,000 beach businesses in the country, 98% of which are family-owned. Italian Federation Imprese Balneari (FIBA) or the Italian Federation of Coastal Enterprises that represents them.

But the new law will mean that instead of families automatically renewing their licenses, they will have to compete with other stakeholders from across the EU, including big businesses.

While the concessions won’t be up for auction, anyone who wants to bid must submit a site plan – and those who have owned bars and restaurants for generations fear that wealthy investors will inevitably benefit – and prices for vacationers could rise as a result. .

“They are sold off the coast of Italy. [to the highest bidder]” Luciano Montechiaro, owner of Lido Jamaica in the Gulf of Trentova, in the southern part of the Campania region, told CNN.

“When shopping centers arrived in Italy, all the small shops closed. Our small business will not be able to compete.”

Montechiaro is at the beach every day at 8 a.m. in the summer, sweeping sand, preparing sun loungers and brewing cappuccinos for an early arrival in a shack built 40 years ago by his late grandfather, whose photograph hangs above the restaurant.

Visitors can rent sun loungers and umbrellas or visit the bar where Montechiaro serves a traditional lunch including regional pasta dishes and salads. After closing, he collects garbage on the beach.

Montechiaro, now 35, 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 almost nothing here when my nonnet arrived. He asked for this piece of land, they gave it to him, he built a hut, and he created this business. Now they can say, “Well done, now go.”

“If I had known they were going to take him away from us, I would not have returned from Australia.”

“I would take apart my restaurant”

Marino Veri says he’d rather take apart his trabocco than leave it to someone else.

e55evu/Adobe Stock

Marino Veri, owner Sasso della Cajanaa coastal restaurant in the Abruzzo region on the Adriatic coast says the new law is “wrong”.

His restaurant is on traboco — a wooden fishing platform, hanging over the sea, which leads to a rickety path, typical of the area. The tradition goes back centuries, and most trabocci are still owned by the same fishing families that have owned them for almost as long.

Grandfather Veri, a fisherman, built trabocobefore 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] maybe a little jealous, but we must save traboccante [people who make and work in them]”, he told CNN.

“There is no firm that makes them – it’s an art. We know what kind of wood to use – we cut it on the waning moon in January, so it will be strong for many years. Anyway, I would take it apart traboco if someone else [won the space]so they will buy a square of the sea.”

“Made in a Hurry”

There are 30,000 beach concessions in Italy, 98% of which are family owned.

There are 30,000 beach concessions in Italy, 98% of which are family owned.

Oleg Zhukov/Adobe Stock

The law, which has been approved by the Italian Senate and has now been submitted to the Chamber of Deputies, which will vote on June 25, aims to bring Italy into line with EU competition rules. Block introduced the rule in 2006, but Italy – along with other countries with large numbers of beaches – has repeatedly delayed implementation.

Italian concessions have been automatically renewed since 1992, and in 2018 the government ruled that the extension would run until 2033. However, owners who may have taken out loans or mortgages for their business will now have their licenses revoked. ten years earlier, when the government said it must revise competition laws to capitalize on the EU’s plan to recover from the pandemic. The Consiglio di Stato spokesman who proposed the law did not respond to a request for comment.

Maurizio Rustignoli, FIBA ​​president, told CNN the way the law was passed is “wrong” and warned prices could rise if big business gets involved.

“A business owner who was told he had time until 2033, made a 10-year forecast, made an investment and made a life choice, now finds that the government has taken 10 years and there has still been no guarantee of compensation” , he said.

“It was done in a hurry, but a measure of this magnitude required further discussion.”

If incoming companies are indeed required to compensate outgoing operators, “prices will certainly go up,” he said.

And he warned that the move could open the door for organized crime to infiltrate — partly because of the funds needed to put together a winning proposal, and partly because few legitimate businesses are willing to invest in something that could be out of their hands for a few years. years later.

“Any entrepreneur needs confidence in the future if he works legally. Either an illegal peace will come, or we will have a poor system,” he said.

“A tourist-oriented business is very attractive to money launderers, so there is a risk. I fear the penetration of illegal funds.

Beaches can go to multinational corporations

Italy's historic beach concessions include Art Deco establishments in Tuscany.

Italy’s historic beach concessions include Art Deco establishments in Tuscany.

gionnixxx/iStock Unreleased/Getty Images

According to Alex Giusio, author of La Linea Fragile, about the Italian coast, Italy’s overcrowded coastal concessions are “unique in the world” and date back to the 19th century.

Giusio, editor Mondo Balnearwho reports on the sector, told CNN the law as it stands is too vague to be certain.

“It’s a very general question – we know there will be a tender, but nothing more,” he said, adding that fears that the coast could end up being “sold out” are “founded.”

“There are more private concessions in Italy than anywhere else in Europe, and unless the government limits them to one per person or favors small family operations – and they haven’t yet – you risk the beaches being taken over by multinationals. and it’s kind of terrible,” he said.

Beaches are big business

In Bibione, in the Veneto region, beaches are big business.

In Bibione, in the Veneto region, beaches are big business.

GitoTrevisan/iStock Unreleased/Getty Images

Not everyone is devastated. Some point to the current low rents for concessionaires and the suspiciously low tax returns they often file.

And in the northern region of Veneto, operators are already “mostly big,” said Alessandro Berton, president Unionmarethat represents them. For example, there are only two operators on the five miles of Bibione beach; in other parts of the country, owners deal with meters for themselves.

And the Veneto region already has its own similar law, which “gives effective results.” Beaches are big business in Veneto – they generate 50% of the region’s GDP, equivalent to $10.5 billion.

“The Veneto law helped us understand that hardship can become opportunity,” Burton said. “You can reconstruct this area. We have plots of land that were worth nothing 50 years ago … and we’ve built $10.5 billion of GDP.”

He said recognizing investments made by previous owners would be critical to containing big business. “The minimum you have to give me is to recoup what I spent,” he said.

Death of the sweet life?

Luciano Montechiaro is afraid of losing his concession in the Gulf of Trentova.

Luciano Montechiaro is afraid of losing his concession in the Gulf of Trentova.

Romandr/Adobe Stock

For Maurizio Rustignoli, however, everyone is at risk.

“You can be big, but there is always someone bigger, and in five to ten years you will see a change,” he said.

“We’re worried that small businesses will be crushed because they won’t have the financial power they have in Veneto… and while they’re excellent in Veneto, you can’t have a one size fits all policy,” he said. . said.

Actually, this is all sweet life a leisure style that is at risk, says Rustignoli.

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

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

“Tourism is emotions, and sweet life consists of many things: food and wine, human relations, well-being. If you do the same thing everywhere, you will lose a lot.”

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