German holidaymakers are the main focus of a new Italian guide to beach etiquette which looks to outlaw nudity, drinking beer and hanging skimpy swimwear out to dry. Needless to say, the Germans aren't pleased.
Italian beaches have a new code of conduct -- and Germans will obey
It may not be exactly pistols at dawn -- more like fluorescent tanga thongs and sun-baked nudity at dawn -- but a row over beach etiquette could be about to get out of hand between vacationing Germans and their Italian hosts.
In what could be the biggest exchange of metaphorical 'handbags' this summer, Germany and Italy are squaring up to each other over a new beach etiquette guide that advises against topless bathing and the consumption of beer on Italian beaches, two of holidaying Germans favorite pastimes while perfecting those golden tans.
The guide, issued by the Italian Union of Bathing Establishments (SIB), contains a series of "suggestions" for good behavior on beaches. As well as "suggesting" that nudity and boozing have no place on the golden sands of Italian resorts, the guide also "advises" against hanging the skimpy smalls from seaside umbrellas while basking in the all-together.
Bild defends the German right of naked drinking
The guidelines, which critics say are specifically targeted at northern European beach habits, have got the Germans with their Speedos in a bunch. Italian authorities "want to ruin our holidays" screamed the popular German tabloid Bild, which has taken particular umbrage to the Italians infringement on what it sees as the Germans right to do whatever they want while on holiday.
The tabloid goes further by claiming there are so many rules banning activities on Italian beaches that "Germans are unable to enjoy themselves." In response, the Turin newspaper La Stampa has accused Bild of "stigmatizing the Italian summer."
As the spat escalated, Bild retorted by saying that it found it impossible to understand why the Italians would consider banning such innocent pastimes as playing football, eating noisily, drying swimming costumes and changing outside cabins.
The response from the Italian camp was one aimed fully below the belt: banning beer drinking "is a heresy for Germans, not unlike outlawing pizza in Italy."
Guide consists of "suggestions," soothes official
"These are just indications for good manners and security," Signor Borgo said. "For example not throwing cigarette butts on the sand, avoiding swimming when there is a red flag flying, not deafening neighbors with radios at full blast."
Despite Borgo's best efforts; it still looks as though the Italians and Germans are heading for an ugly showdown over spilt kebabs and pools of cocktail-induced vomit. Mayors in several coastal towns have come out in support of the guide and have made it known that they will enforce the "suggestions" to the letter of the law.
Resort leaders rigidly enforce "guidelines"
Marco Melgrati, the mayor of the Riviera resort of Alassio, has made the covering up of bare-skinned beauties his main goal, defending signs on his beaches that show an "X" mark over a picture of a bikini-clad woman, emphasizing a ban on wearing bathing costumes outside of beaches.
"It is a question of good taste," he said. "We have never fined anyone for wearing a bikini. The most that has happened is our police have asked people to cover up nude torsos."
Franco Regine, the mayor of Forio d'Ischia, has gone further by outlawing shouting in the street, hanging towels and washing out of windows that face roads and unauthorized camping, with fines of 50-78 euros ($60-$94).
"Our aim is to recover our image and improve what is on offer to tourists by ensuring their tranquility," Regine said.
Fear of rowdy Germans exacerbates economic woes
While the argument is likely to keep bored tabloids sniping at each other through the news-light summer weeks, there is a more serious aspect to why the Italians are concerned.
While Bild will want to promote a clash of beach cultures, fired by La Stampa's assertion that Germans consistently fail to appreciate the finer aspects of Latin living, the real undercurrent is an economic one.
The association of Italian hotel owners estimates that six million fewer Italians are taking domestic holidays this summer as a result of the economic downturn. Rowdy Germans displaying barely concealed private parts while downing ale are unlikely to make the prospect any more appealing.
However, before Bild and La Stampa managed to get to grips with each other and fall brawling into the hotel pool in front of shocked guests, Riccardo Borgo, the SIB president stepped in, emphasizing that the guide consisted of "suggestions" and should not be confused with the by-laws introduced by mayors and local councils.