Record number of Italian beaches gain prestigious Blue Flag classification
Hermione Kitson in Rome
A record number of Italian beaches have been given the prestigious Blue Flag classification this year for their high water quality and environmental initiatives.
Most of the 15 new entries are in Italy's central-southern regions, such as Pescara in Abruzzo and Minturno in Lazio.
The national total is now 416, more than double that ten years ago.
For Minturno beach club owner Davide Camerota, it's recognition for years of hard work. "It's as if it is a medal. This work is my life because the beach club has been in my family since forever and this award gives us an important opportunity to restart," he said.
The flags are awarded by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), an independent organization comprising 77 countries worldwide.
Claudio Mazza, the Italian President of the FEE, said: "There are 32 criteria that need to be respected, first of all, water quality. Then quality of the services and environmental initiatives such as bike and pedestrian paths."
Mayor of Minturno, Gerardo Stefanelli added that it means "waste management and curating green spaces. It also means educational programs in schools about sustainability."
In 2021, the region of Liguria once again claimed the top spot with 32 beaches making the list, followed by Campania with 19 and Tuscany and Puglia with 17. Abruzzo recorded three new entries to take its total to 13 Blue flags.
The FEE said community cooperation is fundamental. "The objective to obtain and retain the Blue Flag is the responsibility of the whole community - business owners, the council and citizens," Mazza added.
The annual awards come as Italy's beaches open for the season and it's hoped the Blue Flag classifications will help boost the government's campaign to attract tourists.
As the COVID-19 infection rate falls, the prime minister has declared Italy open to international visitors who have been vaccinated or test negative on arrival.
By mid-June, most regions should be classified as low-risk "white zones."
"I believe there is a desire for normality, freedom and fun. For this reason, it will be a summer full of life and we're ready to welcome tourists with all our Blue Flag improvements," Stefanelli said.