‘I went to Italy and tourists might be surprised by the beach’

In September, I travelled to Sicily, one of Italy’s most fascinating islands, with a group of friends. While we stayed in Palermo, we left the city to spend time in Mondello and Cefalu, home to some of the island’s prettiest beaches.

Both spots were incredibly beautiful with clear water, clean beaches and breathtaking sunsets at the end of the day. However, tourists might be surprised they will have to pay to enjoy the experience.

The majority of beaches in Italy are privatised, something that might bewilder Britons who are used to rocking up at Bournemouth or Blackpool and grabbing any old spot on the sand.

In Mondello, we found the entire beach was covered in parasols and deckchairs. Each area has its own payment system and workers.

In Cefalu, we paid 40 euros (£34.51) for three loungers and an umbrella for the day. While this might sound like a lot, prices can soar above £150 in top Italian destinations during peak season.

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Both resorts do have small stretches of beach where tourists don’t have to pay for an umbrella and parasol to access the sea. However, we found this was mostly a narrow strip with constant footfall.

The free areas were also much dirtier with cigarette butts and empty bottles. They seemed to be mostly used by teenagers and there was no room to put up your own umbrella.

It’s estimated around 50 percent of Italy’s coastline is currently privatised which means tourists are likely to have to shell out for a parasol if they want to visit the beach.

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There’s definitely pros and cons to the system. On the one hand, paying for a sunbed and umbrella guarantees shade and the paid areas are usually kept very clean.

However, it makes beaches far less accessible for people who are unable to pay. Although Italy does have free beaches, these are often hard to reach.

People without cars or with accessibility needs might struggle to reach the country’s free stretches of coastline.

While Italy perhaps has Europe’s strictest beach system, Britons may find they have to pay in other top destinations. I found this was the case in Ksamil, one of Albania’s top holiday resorts, although sunbeds were far cheaper there.

Sunbed prices can vary throughout the day so if you’re looking to save, visiting the beach in the afternoon could cost half the price. They’re also often cheaper outside of peak season.

On the same trip, I found there’s a key charge on Italian restaurant receipts that Britons will need to watch out for.

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