Tourists Face 6 Years in Jail for Stealing Sand From an Italian Island

inflatable boat
Cala Mariolu, Sardinia | Gabriele Maltinti/shutterstock
Cala Mariolu, Sardinia | Gabriele Maltinti/shutterstock

At most beaches there’s either an eroded “No Littering” sign tucked behind a patch of beachgrass, or an unspoken rule that you should definitely not leave your shit all over the place. Most people assume, though, that taking part of the beach with them is entirely acceptable. What is there, anyway? Some shells, crab carcasses, plain ol’ sand... But when a French couple on the Italian island Sardinia was caught with 90 pounds of sand, they were told they may go to jail for up to six years. 

The couple had stored the sand using 14 water bottles and placed them in the trunk of their car. They were caught as they boarded a ferry back to France, and claimed they didn’t know the act was illegal. The Guardian reported that there are, in fact, signs indicating that it is illegal, as well as people patrolling the beach to catch souvenir enthusiasts.  

A law enacted in 2017 made the trade of Sardinian sand, pebbles, and shells illegal. They are considered public goods on the Italian island and their value is highlighted by the increase in natural resources found in the luggage of returning travelers this past summer. 

The couple was reported for “aggravated theft.” They may have to pay up to $3,300 and serve one to six years in jail. 

So, I guess, thoroughly wash out your bathing suit bottoms before you leave a beach in Sardinia.

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Ruby Anderson is a news writer for Thrillist.