Sardinia sand thieves face fines of up to €3,000

Italian officials and vigilantes tackle tourists taking souvenirs of island’s beaches

Sardinian authorities are getting tough with tourists who steal sand from the island’s pristine beaches as a souvenir and are issuing fines of up to €3,000 (£2,700).

Earlier this week, a 40-year-old Italian who lives in the UK but is originally from Naples, was fined €1,000 after police caught him in possession of a bottle of sand from Gallura beach, on the island’s north coast.

Vigilantes have also started to patrol some of the island’s beaches. Perhaps unaware of the seriousness of the offence, some tourists find the sand so lush that they can’t resist taking it home.

The problem has affected Sardinia for years, with more than a tonne found in tourists’ luggage at Cagliari airport last summer. This is despite beach signposts clearly warning that it is forbidden to take sand.

The sand is usually placed in plastic bottles or bags and labelled with the name of the beach from which it was taken. Authorities say that although the practice is seemingly harmless, it is not only an offence but detrimental to the island’s environment.

The German embassy in Rome also warned holidaymakers last week against stealing Sardinia’s sand.

The embassy wrote on its Facebook page: “Sardinia has some of the most beautiful beaches in Italy, for example Cala Goloritzè, but the taking of sand, stones and molluscs is a serious problem.”

Residents set up a Facebook page called “Sardinia is being robbed and pillaged” a few years ago. A note on the page reads: “With the excuse of acquiring a souvenir, each year tourists are taking from the island what nature took millions of years to create.”

Some sand thieves do repent, however. In 2016, a woman who took sand from Budelli, an island off Sardinia that is famous for its pink-sand beach, returned it after 29 years. The pink shade is created due to a mix of fragments of coral, granite and shells.

The woman sent the sand back with an apology note, which read: “I read in some newspapers and heard on the TV what this sand is and how it is made. I understood how unique Sardinia is. I felt guilty.”

Sardinia, which is popular with wealthy visitors, boasts miles of beautiful beaches. Twenty-eight of them have gained Blue Flag status due to their cleanliness.


Angela Giuffrida in Rome

The GuardianTramp

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