Bolkestein will destroy the Italian system of beach tourism

the death of Italian style beach resort

the death of Italian style beach resort

This new European law called “Bolkestein,” from the name of the politician who sponsored it, will take away the beach resorts from their actual owners at the end of their contract, causing the destruction of this traditional and successful system of tourism unlike anywhere else in the world.

This is a functioning system of friendly competition between more than 30.000 families working in various kinds of beach-tourism activities.  All  highlight the local flavor and customs of their individual regions, offering their communities and their customers the opportunity to “breathe” a familiar atmosphere where the owners know all of their customers by name… a friendship built over time.

Each individual Italian beach resort maintains its individual tradition for many decades, in some cases a century, with generation after generation of the same family owners.  It is exactly this reason why our tourist-families return year after year to the very same beach resort that for some is the same chosen by their parents and grandparents. This type of customer would never vacation anywhere else.  At “their” beach, they consider themselves a part of the family.  They look forward to the same people, the same service, the same food… home.

The Italian system of beach tourism is a “Made in Italy” that rather than be destroyed by being sold to the highest bidders (multinationals, foreign investors) should be promoted –  not exported.

In this ever increasing global marketplace, the lessons that should be learned from the past are being ignored:  small, unique markets are being swept away by giant supermarket chains where everything is standardized; personal relationships between buyer and seller no longer exist; sophisticated marketing determines what the seller wants to sell rather than what the buyer wants to buy;  food, often of lower quality, is positioned on the shelves to augment profit more than value. Those who want to globalize Italian beach-tourism rather than stimulate it, don’t understand that they will destroy it in the process.  Taking away all that already exists in this sector will render every beach the same – a stereotype where it may not be possible to tell in which region, or in which country, it is.

This Bolkenstein proposal that puts the current Italian beach-tourism system at risk is like watching a horror movie made especially for those who presently work in industry, those who have continued to contribute to the industry year after year, who provide personalized service to their customers and their communities,  who observe the regulations and respect the environment, planning and often paying with their own money for projects the protect from and repair beach erosion.

It’s clear at this point that there are enormous economical interests behind these proposed auctions.  For normal people like us that make a normal living from this work, that obessive interest just doesn’t make sense.

It is naïve for groups like the environmentalists to think once the auctions come to pass that all of the privately run beach resorts will become one great public beach.  The reality more likely is that instead of  finding  “Bagni Ceriale”, “Bagni Royal,” “Bagni Vittoria,” etc., there will be huge beach-supermarkets in their place – huge structures to allow their new owners the profit they expect.  And there will be no more public beaches.  Otherwise, why would the multinationals be so interested in the beaches?  Of course they will build on them.  And it won’t be like today when acquiring permission to make any changes in existing structures is difficult at best, even to place removable bricks in the sand as a base for cabins. Some beach resort decks and cabins are still all made in wood, and everything is removed at the end of the season…

Will be the same in the future?

Of course not.  Rest assured, the next owners, after the auctions, will build huge structures without any problem getting permission.  After all, money talks, and multinationals have money.



Anna Acconci: a choice with and for the family

dsc_1721My  history as the owner of a beach concession is the past and the future of my  family.

It is a recent story that started in the summer season 2000. My husband and I decided to create something for our son’s future. One of them graduated–the other one not yet.  We were working by the sea.  It was a wonderful summer and it gave us the idea for our son’s future:  we decided to manage a beach.  We thought would be the perfect way to capitalize on our different abilities.  We were sure that it was a very good decision.  We are a close family who have always shared our good and bad moments as a real team.  A business where we could all work together was for us a dream come true.

In 2001 we started this adventure. For the first 5 to 6 years on the beach, my two sons helped with our support. They were almost 20 years old. Our customers were happy about this generation change and this supported my sons in their work. They were 12 seasons of very good, happy work.  Our sons learned all facets of the business:  direction, parking, reception, wood maintenance, painting – little necessary changes, lots of new ideas.

Suddenly, in 2009, this dream changed direction with the Bolkenstein law. Now the future is bleak because our family might lose everything.

Anyway, we still believe in this work and we will fight for it with all our might.  It is our sons future.


Anna Acconci is on Facebook. To visualize her profile, click on her picture.

Marina Bagno Beppe

2731_1044263954779_8179208_nThis letter written by Marina Bagno Beppe was first published on November 29, 2012, when the time for the auctions was set for 2015.  Even though 5 more years have been added to the deadline, her words are still very valid.  Five more years does not make the difference considering the painful realization that everything she has worked for has an expiration date.  We hope that these words inspire those who read them to not remain undecided.

This date, this day, causes me to reflect and remember…February has 29 days only once every 4 years…and in 4 years it will be February 29 2016.                                                                         No one can presume to know the future, let alone the distant future.  But I think that all of us immagine our children will live beyond us, as it should be in nature.  As parents we can’t but hope that our children grow up to be healthy and strong and to have long and happy lives.  It is a reference point for our own end.  Therefore, I feel as if someone has scheduled the execution of one of my children;  on February 29, 2016,  my small beach business will die.

Giving birth to and nuturing this beach has been a tiring 10 year effort for more than one generation.  It is a healthy business made not of numbers but of people and their hundreds of stories that overlap and intersect here.  This tiny little piece of world is everything to me and to many others.  It is our home, our work, our future.  How can one continue on while thinking that all they have has an expiration date, from life to death from one day to the next, “The End” as if in a film.  But this is real life.  I am speaking of real sacrifices, real renouncements, real work to make my small business what it is today.     

Certainly nothing lasts forever, and it is logical that there are many risk factors that can force the close of a business, expecially in this time of profound economic crisis.  What I cannot accept is that my future is being swept away by a bad law interpreted badly by the bureaucrats who it seem to have no desire or intention to save thousands of families from personal ruin…perhaps to clear the path for private interests?  It is incredibly difficult to find the strength and inspiration to move ahead.  More and more I find myself putting on the brakes to what I have always done, enhancing and improving on my beach and the services it offers.  Certainly these enhancements and improvements were to make my beach more desirable, but mostly I’ve made them because when you love something you want it to be the best that it can be, as you would for a loved one. It is clear that the Bolkenstein law has put a damper on my enthusiasm, but on the other hand, it has made me more informed and combatative.  I will do all that is in my power to save this child of mine from the heist of the century. From the depths of my heart I wish all of my colleagues in every region of Italy with whom I am sharing this drama, that their “children” can continue to grow healthy and strong and that on the 29th of February, 2016, we will be smiling at the memories of these fears.


Borgo (SIB): Barnier’s answer is innacurate and we need a concession-reform in Italy

sibAfter the point of order made by the member of the EU Parliament Mara Bizzotto, in which she asked if the Spanish law would be compatible with the 2006/123/CE directive, and if it would be enforceable to the Italian situation, Michel Barnier stated that the Spanish reform project is compatible with the principles set by the Directive on services because the 75-year extension is not applied to those who provide services on the beach, that have movable structures such as bars and vending stands, but is only applied to those concessions which have been given to the owners of buildings that were expropriated by the government an given to the sea state property.

Riccardo Borgo, president of SIB (sindacato italiano balneari) states that the answer given by the Commission is innacurate for the following reasons:

First of all, the length of the extension provided by the Spanish government is not 75 but 45 years (30 years currently) because current concessions are extended till 75 years;

Secondly, the Spanish extention doesn’t refer only (former art.49)  to the owners whose buildings have been expropriated (Ley de costas n. 22 28 July 1988) but also to all public maritime domain granted in concession.

Finally, as it happens in Spain, in our country there is a legal equivocation because beach enterprises are strictly connected to the beach concessions underneath. An eventual public tender concerning the concessions themselves would affect the connected beach enterpirses which would be forced to move.

The answer Barnier has given recently demonstrates the the commission made the right choice providing legal certanty for the Spanish owners, but that it is ill-informed of both Spanish and Italian situation.

It would be necessary a dialogue between the European and Italian institutions to examine in depth this important problem.

“We need a concession-reform and we ask for the safeguard  of a legitimate expectation, which was previously in force, and for the preservation of the  legal certanty for our enterprises that are going to be damaged by public tenders of maritime concessions directly connected to them” states Borgo at the end.

Anna Maria Falasca: “As I promised, I am sending you my story…very sad for me. It was very sad to write it and it reopened some painful memories”

295971_2309681830371_4585387_n-1This story began 34 years ago when my father decided to buy a beach. He left his work in a bar of our little town in September and invested all of his money and money loaned to him. He loved his work as a barman but he needed to devote more time to his family during the winter as some health problems in my family obliged him to be present.

In December waiting for his first seasonal work to begin, he received a phone call advising us that a bad sea-storm took away a big part of the beach. He had to rebuild much of it. He also had to build a more stable foundation. Without anymore money, he had to ask for more loans. He had no money from the Government.

So my parents rolled up their shirt-sleeves.  The first years were hard and we were really worried about our future. At the same time my father was really happy with his work. His customers were happy with him. They used to tell my father the stories of their lives. He liked to know everyone’s life story and his clients knew ours. Still today, they often tell me little pieces of my parents lives that I did not know before.

My mother always at my father’s side. She was a comfort to my father. She encouraged him to build what be built. A kind and good person, she was always supportive. That work was an anxiety for her. It was too stressful for her, but she never left my father alone to do everything himself. Sometimes they could not bear the long working day and the frantic rhythm, ending up in the emergency room.  The doctors would always say the same thing: “You need a rest!” But after a few hours they were back at work. Yes!  Because the owner of an Italian beach is always present. He is the customer’s reference point. If they do not see you, they ask for you, but at the same time they ask, “Don’t you ever rest?”  In this work you can not delegate…customers want to see you…and you want to stay there!!!

Ten years ago my father decided to restructure the beach. He had to decide between restructuring or selling.  My mother, my brother, my sister and I wanted him to sell it. “You can not do such a stressful job for your whole life!” we told him. At that time, my brothers and me were working for other firm. We have always preferred a different job allowing us to stay home more and help. People did make offers to buy the beach business, but my brother loved working at the beach and he wanted to improve and expand.  It was his life dream.  So we got a ten year mortgage (that we just finished paying off two years ago) and got to work.

All of our money has been invested in our beach for my parents old age. All their money in that beach!!!…unaware of what it would happen some years later.

A sad event suddenly destroyed their project for future. Four years ago, on the Monday before the first day of rest after 3 long working months, my father went to have a nap in the afternoon, but he never woke up. His body decided to have a never-ending rest. My mother’s dream of a future with more time with her husband: a soap bubble. All dreams and sacrifices suddenly vanished. They always put off till tomorrow what they desired to do. “When we will sell our beach”, they used to say, “we will travel, we will rest, we will renovate the house, we will buy this, we will do that…STOP!

After having considered different possibilities, knowing that it was a bad time to sell our beach, I decided to leave my job and I assumed the reins of the bath with my mother. Her anxiety was growing. She was very worried about the next summer season. “Do you think we will be able to do it ourselves?” she used to ask me. I knew only the practical area of that work, but not the laws, the rules, NOTHING! The first three years were very hard and I was really worried too, but I am proud of our work. My customers and my precious staff gave me the energy to face that work. The first two years my mother was always at my side, a necessary and important help. Then, at the end of the season, one morning she was very tired and stressed. She wanted to have a rest …forever..10 days coma, 3 months in the hospital…She is still with us now, but I forbid her to work anymore.

Disappointed by a life of sacrifices worth nothing…her husband gone, and now the savings for her old age put up for auction!!! I left my job to defend and protect my family interests and sacrifices, to grant a good old age to my mother, but now they want to put up for auction. And OUR LIFE? OUR SACRIFICES? We have the misfortune to live from the sand!!!

When we use to speak about this in our family, I would see my mother’s eyes dimmed with a deep sadness and the only thing I can think is that this is extremely unfair. Once, to make sacrifices meant to have something…now it means NOTHING!!! It will be better to live from hand to mouth, having nothing …so you lose nothing!!!

The most sad thing is that a life dream is vanished..

What is our beach for me? It is a story of a simple and humble family. It is the dream and the sacrifice of a life. It is the story of human lives that interlaced with each other…it is the story of the life of my family.

Anna Maria Falasca is on Facebook. Click on the picture to visualize her profile

Mariagrazia Scartabelli tells the story of Mamma Rosa

530726_3954536310405_1063011076_nThe Bolkenstein proposal is an ugly idea; that is true. But when you get to know people like the family of Fabrizio Maggiorelli, you discover that not everything is so hopeless, that you are not alone in this battle.
Rosa, a woman to love!

My mother and father began their working life together before the war. They worked the summers in the forests of Maremma, in the Pistoiesi hills of Sardegna. They cut wood and produced coal, building coal cellars. Yes, I am the daughter of coal workers, honest people accustomed to hard work, sometimes working up to 18 hours straight and then resting in the woods under a tent on a bed made of straw and leaves from a chestnut tree.

My mother’s name was Valeria, but everyone called her “Rosa”. At the time of my brother Sergio’s birth in December of 1946, my parents were still working in the woods of Maremma. In order to give birth in a warm, safe place, my mother had to walk in the hills for more than four hours to Massa Marittima. She was a strong and courageous woman.

In 1947 my parents moved to Viareggio, in the “Darsena” neighborhood. With a loan from my father’s uncle, they started a business selling wood and charcoal. (After all these years, my father Giuseppe, 92 years old, is still known as “Beppe il carbonaio” (Beppe the Coal-man). But in 1967, my mother decided to buy a beach resort in the Darsena even if my father wasn’t happy about it. He thought it was much to expensive, but she loved challenges. She knew it would be hard, but in the end she convinced my father to buy and they made the deal. I still have that first license. My mother was very proud of it.

In the beginning our beach was only 14mt long and 432 square meters wide. We had 23 cabins, a little guard house, a 14,5 square meter bar, and only 92 square meters for beach-chairs and umbrellas. Everything was made with wood and wasn’t very fancy; our customers were just friends and local workers with only few foreign customers.

The first summer at the beach, in 1967, I was only ten years old, but I remember I was very happy to be near my parents. My brother Sergio was the lifeguard so we were always all together. Those were hard years but good years. I remember my parents were always very tired.

After our first season we got a letter from the Viareggio city hall: our beach Bagno Arizona and all the beaches of the east side were being moved to a different place called “Costa dei Barbari”, because they wanted to restore the area where we were for other uses. So we started all over one more time, with no help or money from the city government. When we bought the beach we did it with a regular contract by a notary, but in that moment we discover that our beach was not really our beach…

We  were given from the city government a new beach between the sand dunes of Migliarino Park in San Rossore. There was nothing there but a tiny asphalted road, and I still remember my father saying, “We will build our beach to be even more beautiful than before!” It was not easy; there was really nothing there: no houses or hotels, no roads, no sewers, even the water pipe was to small to bring enough water to serve all the beaches. Today the situation is not much better, but we’ve worked for so many years here that our beaches are beautiful and well organized, and we love this place.

Of the 13 beaches that were relocated to that place, some quit, but some did it and made something beautiful like we did. Even if we still don’t have much work because our beach is far from the town, my family did so much to attract new customers with new ideas like a new swimming pool, some new delicious dish in the restaurant, good and friendly service.

I still remember my mother used to work and work. She never stopped…first in the kitchen, than cleaning the cabins, than helping the lifeguards. Not a break nor a holiday…until the day she died, in January of 1977, too soon, of cancer. I was only 16 but it was necessary for me to stop school to take care of my father, the house and the beach.

In 1979 I married Fabrizio, and we have 3 beautiful children, the grandchildren of Rosa. Valeria, the oldest, Paolo and Giacomo all work in our beach Bagno Arizona. Together we work hard every day, fighting against damage from big storms, tornadoes that break everything and turn the beach upside down, very hot days full of people, and gray days with nobody around. But now we have a new enemy, this new European law called Bolkestein.

This rule will kill all our work, our investments, our sacrifices and the sacrifices of the past generations who spend their life living and loving their beaches and their ocean.

Why would somebody want to destroy all this? How can they know what we did all these years for our beaches, for our customers, for our country? How can they know how to fight against bad weather, sea storms, tornadoes? They know just how to be bureaucrats, to make laws.

But they don’t know that this is our life. They don’t know we will fight until the end to protect it like we fight against the wind and the waves, like my mother fought against her illness, until the end, dreaming of a good future for her children. And like my mother did, and like we learned from her, we will fight for our work, our rights, our future, until the end, with no fear.

Nobody will hurt my family!

To all the burocraties, to all the italian beach owners, I wish you a Merry Christmas
Mariagrazia Scartabelli
Viareggio dec. 23. 2012

Vittoria Ratto

525142_486457291387942_1745758126_nIn 1936 my grandfather and his brother, just simple tradesmen, decided to buy and run the first beach resort of Rapallo. At that time, our beach resort was just a little wood deck with four cabins on top and a few beach chairs. They started to working hard to improve our beach, and because they were experienced carpenters, that little deck became a long deck with many cabins. It was war time and was not easy to do that job, but  my grandfather was determined and he put his heart into it. After a few years the city hall of Rapallo made them move their business away from the main promenade to a rocky pier with no sand. Some of our very old customers told me that my grandfather and great-uncle used to remove the big rocks with their bare hands —  one by one — to create a nice beach for their customers. He built year after year to make that little beach with just five cabins into what it is today: a beautiful beach with 156 original wood cabins lovingly maintained inside and out. We maintain the original cabins with such care out of respect to our personal history and that of our regular customers.

Eventually our entire famiy began to work at our beach:  grandfather, his brother, my father and his brother as lifeguards and my grandmother and mother at the cafe before they became the management. I don’t remember exactly, but when I was born, faraway from our beach, my family loved that beach so much they named me after it, VITTORIA!!! Everything happed to me at Bagni Vittoria:  my first swim, my first sand castle, my first school girl crush, my worried grandmother because my bathing suit was always wet, the enormous afternoon snacks my uncle prepared for me, my father, after a day full of my whining, taking me out on the boat when he finally had time… And lets not talk about the parties with our customers at Ferragosto… sangria and focaccia for everyone, big barbeques with  dancing and music where everyone, grown ups and children, had a wonderful time.

Many of these families and what became the families of their children have remained our loyal customers.  And many, in time, have become our dear friends. For several years I had a job unrelated to our beach which I enjoyed very much. But in 2004 when my uncle died suddenly, my father asked me to take his place as management. A day does not pass when I don’t remember my grandparents, my childhood and everything this beach business has been to me. Now my brother has come to work here  in our kitchen, while my mother, a former real estate agent, runs the cafe. It is unthinkable to me to lose this family business with its history of love and care and sacrifice.  And for what?  To add us to the long list of the unemployed?  They take from us our right to work in what we built from nothing? Whatever little money they give to us to cover our loss of income does not begin to cover the emotional loss.  No, I’m sorry…that’s not right.  We will never stop fighting for our beach. We owe it to our children and our parents. Thank you Grandfather and Grandmother; thank you Papà; thank you Uncle. Thank you for everything you have done for us. We will fight to the end because this horrible thing they want to do to us must not happen    …you don’t deserve that!

Vittoria Ratto is on facebook, click on her picture to see her profile