The Italian Almanac

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Italian sand

Italian News - August 30

Italian environmentalists are worried about the future of the country's finest beaches, which they say are threatened by a growing trade in 'souvenir sand'. Concern flared after it was discovered that an enterprising German was trying to sell packets of sand from a beach on the island of Elba over the Internet.

"It's a new fad for collectors which is putting our natural resources in danger," said Umberto Mazzantini of Legambiente. Illegal trading in sand from Italy's beaches was aimed at a market of sand collectors which was expanding fast, he continued, adding that buyers were both tourists and people interested in minerals.

According to Legambiente, it is possible to buy sand from several Italian beaches over the internet. Among the sands on offer are samples from beaches near Ferrara, the Sicilian island of Salina and even the shores of Lake Garda. "This seems like a harmless way of remembering a beach resort. But grain by grain and stone by stone it is doing serious damage to our coasts," Mazzantini said.

There are various ideas about how best to stem the phenomenon, which is not entirely new and which probably always goes on to a certain extent. One famous case involved the 'Spiaggia Rosa', a Sardinian beach famed for its pink sand. The sand appealed to many visitors so much that they started taking it away and the beach began to lose its distinctive colour.

Here the problem was confronted by limiting the number of people allowed onto the beach in a day and making them pay for the privilege of being there. Some expected this approach to make people even keener to take away some sand, as a sort of payback for their entry fee. But in fact it seemed to make visitors more aware of the beach's value and fragility.