As outlined in our recent article about Italian beaches, access to the sea can be tricky and expensive in Italy. Despite the many fee-paying beach establishents, the public ought to have free access to the water's edge. Often, however, this is hard or even impossible. Each summer there are protests in Italy from consumer groups. And this year they have an unlikely hero: British actor Rupert Everett. During his trip to the 2007 Venice Film Festival (official website), held at the seaside Lido, he apparently attempted to put his towel down on the sand at the water's edge and was moved on. (He obviously didn't trek to the 'free beach'). Now there are hopes (perhaps unlikely) that he will spearhead a test case against Venice council.
We've tried walking along the sea in front of all the expensive beach concessions on the Lido and not been ordered off (a beach guard did follow us for a while though). And there are usually a few bold sunbathers who've brought their own towels to the water's edge, so we're a bit surprised that Everett encountered these problems. A good thing though, if it focusses more attention on this Italian problem. There's so much money being made by beach businesses that local politicians (who are generally also businessmen) turn a blind eye to fenced-off beaches. Italians care what foreigners think of them, though, so perhaps this will be a catalyst for change. A shame it didn't happen at the start of the summer season.
> The Guardian: How Rupert Everett became the hero of Venice's bathing classes