The Italian Almanac

Emerald Coast

Italian News - August 11

Millionaires clashed this week over a spate of new taxes being levied on wealthy tourists holidaying on the island of Sardinia this summer. The "luxury taxes", as they have been dubbed, were introduced in June and affect the owners of holiday homes, mega yachts and private planes.

The taxes were introduced by Sardinia's left-wing regional government chief Renato Soru, himself a billionaire who made his money by creating Italian internet service company Tiscali. Soru, who was elected in 2004, argues that the taxes will help conserve Sardinia's natural resources and will boost the flagging local economy.

"We want to preserve and protect the rare environmental and natural resources of our island's coastline. I think it's fair to ask those who benefit from these resources to contribute to their maintenance," Soru said when the taxes were first introduced. He said affluent visitors were being charged "relatively small sums" and that "those who love this island will be happy to make a financial contribution".

Flamboyant millionaire playboy Flavio Briatore has declared war on the measures, saying that they are driving well-heeled tourists away. Briatore lashed out at the taxes in advertisements placed in several Italian papers on Wednesday, saying that rich people generated income for the island. "Wealth is not a crime... The luxury taxes will bring money and development to France, Greece, Spain and Croatia but definitely not to Sardinia," he said.

Statistics appeared to show Briatore was partly right, with a sharp drop in the number of yachts putting in at the island. Figures from 33% of the island's 47 ports showed a 61% drop in the number of yachts longer than 14m in June compared to the same month last year. Italy's northeast Ligurian coast, meanwhile, attributed an unexpected 20% increase in the number of big yachts mooring at its ports to the Sardinian taxes.