The Italian island Sardinia is known for its pristine beaches with fine, white sand. Now it’s also known for busting tourists who took pounds of sand from those beaches to sell.
Millions of people visit Sardinia each year. To prevent the cumulative loss of those visitors removing sand and shells, Sardinia passed a law to protect those resources. Tourists who take sand and shells face fines — and, possibly, jail time.
Now, 41 people were recently caught trying to leave the island with sand, seashells, and beach rocks that — all together — added up to 220 pounds, the Associated Press reports. Those individuals now face fines of amounts up to 3,000 euros ($3,600 USD).
Sardinia is a large Italian island in the Mediterranean Sea. It is west of the Italian Peninsula, north of Tunisia, and south of the French island Corsica.
Sardinia is also home to beaches with incredible colored sand that is pink or very white, and is particularly vulnerable to being stolen, the island’s forest rangers told CNN last year. The law passed in 2017, which makes it illegal to take sand from Sardinia’s beaches, was necessary because the incidents of theft “were becoming more frequent and increasingly problematic,” the forest rangers told CNN.
Tough On Crime
Having a law against taking sand and seashells doesn’t stop people, which is why police use x-rays to spot bottled sand in travelers’ luggage during customs checks at the island’s Olbia Costa Smeralda Airport, a Metro article explains.
Just how much sand is being taken? The Guardia di Finanza (Italy’s finance police) has discovered “a real illegal business on the web, with dozens of advertisements for the sale, even at high prices, of sand, pebbles, shells, and minerals stolen from the island’s coasts,” a L’Unione Sarda article explains. “A ton of sand and pebbles plundered from the most famous beaches of Sardinia in 2020 has been [seized] and returned to the beaches of the island.”
The Most Recent Case
In the most recent case, some of the most brazen of the 41 people caught taking sand, seashells, and beach rocks had even “put the beach booty up for sale on the internet, feeding a flourishing, illicit market for such souvenirs,” a Euronews article reports.
“Bags of sand, shells, and stones were seized at Sardinia’s airports and ports in keeping with a 2017 regional law that established fines ranging from 500 euros ($600 USD) to 3,000 euros,” the article continues. “The seized sand was brought back by authorities to the beaches.”
Know Before You Go
American citizens are now allowed to enter Italy, but only if they are traveling on an official “Covid-tested” flight, which requires that passengers have received a negative result from a molecular or antigenic COVID-19 test less than 72 hours before arrival. Travelers also may be required to self-isolate for 10 days and then take another molecular or antigenic COVID-19 test. More information about these requirements may be found here.
Also, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a Level 3: High Level of COVID-19 alert for Italy. If you do plan to travel to Italy, the CDC recommends being fully vaccinated. For more on Sardinia, consider The Best Things To See And Do In Sardinia, Italy, and 8 Gorgeous Hidden Beaches In Italy (Sardinia’s Bidderosa and Cala Luna beaches make the list).