This New Law Could Kill Local Beach Clubs Along the Italian Coast

Say arrivederci to la dolce vita

Procida Island, Italy
Joao Benavides / EyeEm / Getty Images

If you've had dreams of visiting Italy's famous beaches, strolling the promenades, stopping for an aperitivo and a seafood lunch at an oceanfront hole-in-the-wall, then spending the afternoon sunning on a colorful lounger, you better book that trip now.

Italian lawmakers have passed controversial legislation that threatens traditional Italian beach culture—that is, local beachfront businesses from restaurants to bars to beach clubs with lounge rentals. Beginning December 31, 2023, new companies will be able to bid on beach vendor licenses, replacing the current process wherein current license holders received automatic renewals. That process, set in 1992, and originally set to expire in 2033, has now been cut short on account of the European Union's stance on business competition.

The new law affects some 30,000 beach businesses in the country, of which, as CNN reports, are 98 percent family-run. Now, Italians are concerned that large companies with robust investors may swoop in and offer sky-high prices for the beach vendor licenses, kicking out generations-old businesses. Consider it like a Starbucks replacing a locally owned coffee shop.

Part of the allure of the Italian coast—which spans some 4,700 miles around the peninsula—is the old-school businesses that contribute largely to the country's quintessential dolce vita. If there's too much commercialization, that ambiance and lifestyle may fade. And, as Italy passed the legislation under pressure from the European Commission, according to Reuters, there may be quite a bit of foreign investment into Italy's beaches, which could dramatically alter the experience there.

While the law has already been approved by the Italian senate, there are still a few more hurdles before it becomes concrete. But with so much controversy surrounding the decision, it will be interesting to see if anything changes before the law goes into effect.

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  1. CNN. "Say Goodbye to Your Favorite Italian Beach Break." July 28, 2022.

  2. Reuters. "Italy Plans to Open Up Beach Concessions from 2024." February 15, 2022.