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During August the beaches in Italy are notoriously crowded and unless you arrive early (and we're talking before sunrise in some places), you cannot get a spot close to water.

I have observed that European holiday makers in these locales will place an unfurled umbrella and lounge chair at a prime spot the previous evening. This appears to be a signal that says "this place is reserved, pick a different spot". Sometimes this is also done by laying out two beach towels overnight. Apparently this is a widely observed convention that follows an unwritten rule: if somebody puts something there, the spot is reserved. The occupiers appear after after a leisurely breakfast to a prime spot.

I understand that some northern European tourists can be quite aggressive about enforcing this unwritten rule in southern Europe, to the extent of threatening police action if their stuff is moved or disturbed.

Notwithstanding the risk of theft, since an umbrella can be covered by travel insurance, is this a viable strategy?

Question: does it work to leave an unfurled umbrella (or other beach gear) set up on the beach overnight? Does it violate any regulations, for example on the west coast of Tuscany? Or the other way, can people get in trouble if they disturb your stuff which has been used in this way?

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    Any relation to the people who got fined for doing this recently? – Berwyn Aug 15 '16 at 6:00
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    In case if you missed the news: telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/08/08/… – Neusser Aug 15 '16 at 9:35
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    I doubt an umbrella or other stuff deliberately left in a public place is covered by insurance. If you make up a story about how it was stolen, even if you tell them that you just forgot your umbrella when you actually left it on purpose, you are comitting insurance fraud. – Bent Aug 15 '16 at 10:35
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    In Spain, effects left overnight are usually retired. You do not own a spot in a public place, preventing someone else using it by placing a towel is an uncivical actitude. To measure these things it is usually worth thinking what would happen if everybody did the same thing, or if someone took a prime spot in June 1st and did not remove the towel from there until Setember. Or someone who leaves the towel and appears two day later. If you value this or that spot so much, make the effort of getting up earlier to be in there sooner than other people. – SJuan76 Aug 15 '16 at 16:52
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    Additionally, for many of the major and most used beaches there are crews that clean and pick up trash in the morning. If you leave your belongings in the area they have to clean that day, they will do their job and clean their area. – SJuan76 Aug 15 '16 at 16:58
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Just to clarify: it's typical in Italy to have two kind of beaches, free access ones and paid ones. I'm answering about the free ones, as it's obvious you can't do that on paid ones (well...you could, actually, but then it becomes really complicated...just avoid it)

And I'm exactly from west coast of Tuscany. Missing since a bit of time, but situation is more or less the same.


In short:

  • Yes, you could leave your things overnight on the beach to reserve a spot
  • No, you shouldn't, too risky

It's a grey area. Just a few days ago police has gone through the beaches overnight to remove every left thing, for example, with the excuses that it is "illegal public land occupation", while the law states that a towel is not in any way included, nor a seat or an umbrella. But sometimes it happened to me and/or friends to go overnight to enclose an area with poles and rope, and nobody said anything.

More over, it's really the wrong moment. There is concern everywhere about safety and about immigrants, so police is in its picky mood.

Then, you have the problem with thieves. They are everywhere, they steal everything. They steal the things left under the umbrella during the day while you are taking a bath, you can imagine what will be of your things during the night.

Finally, we are a nation where ego prevails over everything. The law is never as it's written but as it comes useful to who will have to judge. So, if the law allow you to do it, a bored police commissioner will have your things removed and maybe get you fined, or the reverse, or maybe a mayor in search of a bit of notoriety will approve a small local law that will declare illegal to take spot on that specific beach, and so on (*)


Just my 2C: it's full of beaches everywhere where you have to pay a toll to enter and they'll give you two lounge chairs and an umbrella. While many can be really expensive (especially in the northern area of Tuscany), there are a lot which are cheap enough. Don't take risks, really. Or go to Emilia Romagna, that is even cheaper under every point of view.

(*) for example, our mayor once approved a law making it illegal to go around without a shirt and/or with bare feet.

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    @drxzcl I just quoted the OP. Technically...make no sense to me, either, but I can guess what the OP meant ;-D – motoDrizzt Aug 15 '16 at 11:23
  • Just wear a damn shirt, though. – njzk2 Aug 15 '16 at 20:29
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does it work to leave an unfurled umbrella (or other beach gear) set up on the beach overnight? Does it violate any regulations?

Yes. It's not a grey area; it is illegal by law (and also uncivilized) to occupy public beaches in this way, unless of course you're using the umbrella in that moment.

In the most touristic regions, local police (Vigili Urbani) periodically come and collect all beach equipment left overnight by people that were hoping to reserve a spot for the following morning. The equipment can be taken back by going to the police station and paying a fine, but nobody does this as the fine is usually much higher than the cost of the equipment.

Furthermore, your beach equipment could also be stolen overnight.

In short, don't do it.

EDIT: Here's the reference from a law firm's website: it's a violation of the art. 1161 of the Codice della Navigazione (law text here).
Here and here some recent news articles about police confiscating beach equipment, mentioning a fine of 200 EUR.
All links are in Italian language, but you can easily Google Translate it.

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