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Hot sand: Italy’s illicit souvenir

Sep
7
2006

Normally, tourists take home memories of love affairs — however brief, however imaginary — from Italian shores.
A German carted home a load of sand from the Italian isle of Elba and sold it on eBay.
Italian environmental group Legambiente found out about it and raised the alarm.


Speaking to news agency Ansa, Umberto Mazzantini of Legambiente decried this “new fad for collectors which is putting our natural resources in danger.”
Sand collectors, the group claimed, were also selling golden grains from beaches near Ferrara, in Sicily and Lake Garda.
The Elba sand was yanked off eBay the day after the story broke and a quick Google shows that the other sand items were pulled, too, but it raises a few interesting questions.
I, for one, wondered whether there really were people with nothing better to do than collect sand. You have to have a certain mentality to collect anything, I guess, but sand? I don’t really get it.
Arenophiles, they are called. And they really do exist, as this webring and Italian magazine prove.
It’s not illegal, exactly. Most of the travelers on this forum, for example, talk about various natural trinkets (sand, rocks) they’ve taken back that have passed under the agricultural inspector’s scrutiny without any problem.
The trouble starts when it becomes a business. It’s one thing to take back a few teaspoons of sand — the collector’s sample amount and less than what might fall out of your shoes and swimsuit– and quart bottles filled with it, to sell.
Hawaiians consider every grain of their beaches — as well as all the flora and fauna — sacred, so collectors have to deal with the bad luck taking it away is supposed to bring. They have also wisely set up a series of laws to keep you from harvesting more than a little of it without a permit.
Somebody should tell the Germans that Italian beaches have a similar curse, should you try to haul away large amounts of shore to sell it. They might just come looking for you.

Share  Posted by Nicole Martinelli at 8:42 AM | Permalink

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