My whole life, I have been going to the beach in Fregene, a small seaside town outside of Rome. In the 40s, this area was nothing but swamp. In the 60s it was abandonded beach, and the Italian government allowed for a sort of stewardship of Italy’s beaches to take place. People who were willing to pay a very healthy yearly fee to the government were allowed to claim a section of beach, take care of it, clean it, and sell food or rent sunbeds to people who wished to visit it. That is how Italy’s beach clubs were born and, as they got more popular, people started building restaurants, bars, pools, houses, and even hotels on or near the beach. Those restaurants got passed down the generations, or sold to others, and some have become vertiable institutions of the seaside towns. There was no Fregene before Mastino, or Glauco, or Cigno, and Cigno in particular is sought out by people living all around Rome for having some truly excellent fish. I spent my childhood summers there, I worked and met my current boyfriend there, and Fregene itself would not be what it is without those historical beach clubs and restaurants.
But soon, those beach clubs will be no more. Despite the fact that those owners have continued to pay the yearly government fee, and if they don’t their property can and will be seized, the EU has decreed that passing down those restaurants across the generations is illegal. The Italian government tried to extend their stay by four years, at least to allow people who just bought a beach club to make back their investment, but the EU courts have declared that to be illegal too. It has now been decided that all of them, both the old institutions and the newly purchased clubs, will have to tear down everything that has been built, houses and restaurants alike at their own cost, and return the beaches as they found them 50 years ago. Then, the beaches will go up for auction. Anyone with the money and an idea will be able to petition the government with their plans and take stewardship of their piece of beach for a certain number of years, and then tear everything down again, vacate it again, and allow for someone else with a better idea to take their place.
So, who the Hell will have the money to go through all of this? Certainly not the current owners of the beach clubs, especially after they have to pay to tear down their own restaurants. One group is the mafia, who have in recent years invaded the legitimate restaurant business market in Italy (more on that later). The second (and this is the EU’s real intention) is the foreigners, the Germans and the French and the Dutch, who according to the EU should all be allowed in on that Italian beaches action. As my father said thank god for Brexit, as this current situation would have caused the anti-EU muttering going on now to turn into a request for some serious action, if it wasn’t for the clear Brexit consequences fresh in everyone’s minds.
My point is: are the seaside restaurants in Italy something you always wanted to try? Have you always wanted to experience the traditional Italian beach clubs? You have one year left. 2017 is the last year which is guaranteed to those restaurant owners. After that, any year could be the one that they force them to tear it all down, pack up and go… well, not home, but somewhere else. I also find them forcing everyone to tear everything down as a giant waste of time and resources, but no one cares about my opinion.
So, if the Italian seaside dinner and beach lounging was on your bucket list, make it a priority in 2017, cause you might not get a second chance. As for me, I’ll keep coming back here so long as it remains Fregene, but I’ll start looking into other seaside destinations for the future. I’m thinking Greece, perhaps.