How much would you pay for a perfect sunbathing spot in Italy? If you run afoul of the coast guard, that sliver of Italian beach could cost you 200 euros (about $220).
For decades, tourists have been “reserving” prime beach real estate by leaving towels, chairs, and umbrellas overnight. In an effort to discourage visitors from unfairly claiming space before a beach even opens, the Italian coast guard has launched operation “Safe Sea.”
Officials in the so-called “towel wars” are actively enforcing the new rules: fining beachgoers and even seizing the abandoned gear in the hopes of restoring justice to vacationers (and locals) who follow the rules and wait for the beach to open before staking out their sandy stretch of paradise.
According to La Repubblica, some 200 umbrellas and beach chairs have been impounded in the southern beach town of Roseta Capo Spulico.
In the Tuscan resort city of Livorno, coast guards have taken everything from lounge chairs to swimwear.
And in Cecina, it’s a crime to leave your unattended belongings before 8:30 a.m., when the beach officially opens to swimmers.
The next time you’re traveling to a public beach in Italy, consider paying a hotel for access to one of their neatly arranged lounge chairs or umbrellas—or just get there first thing in the morning.
Melanie Lieberman is the Assistant Digital Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @melanietaryn.