Ban on sandals, sand castles and hugs by Italy's mayors

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BRITISH holidaymakers heading to Italy this summer may be advised to keep an eye on public notices after as numerous councils have brought in lists of silly laws.

Power-crazed mayors are enforcing a zero tolerance summer across the country after being given sweeping new powers to protect public security as well as clamping down on illegal street selling.

Already this summer an Austrian tourist was fined 1,000 for buying a fake Louis Vuitton handbag after being spotted by patrolling officers on a beach near Venice. Austrian pensioner Ursula Corel, 65, was spotted handing over seven euros (5) for the handbag copy from a street vendor and hit with the penalty as part of a clampdown on unruly behaviour.

Last week Giada Carnevale, 24, and her friend Ignazia Fronterre, 25, were fined 100 each for "breaching public decorum" simply for sitting on the steps of a statue at Vigevano near Milan.

Giada said: "We had only been there for about ten minutes. It was really hot so we sat down for a while - it was the only place to sit. The bar was looking at a minimum purchase of 5 euro to sit at a table in the piazza.

"We weren't smoking, eating or setting up a tent; we were only talking. All of a sudden a police car stopped and said we had to get up and move on.

"Next thing I knew he had asked us for our documents and given us a fine. There was no sign or anything that we could see."

Local mayor Andrea Sala said: "Ignorance is no excuse. I will not go into individual cases, but I will say that every month we spend a small fortune on cleaning the square and statue."

Among other edicts that have amounted to the ultimate "stato di nonna" - or nanny state - are bans on public kissing, sand castles, noisy sandals, lawn mowers and leaving a towel unattended on the beach to bag a top spot.

Italy's interior ministry gave town mayors sweeping powers as part a public order clampdown which says they now have powers to "operate wider and better safeguard the security of citizens".

The move was part of a wider effort by Silvio Berlusconi's government to make local people feel like they had more involvement in local law enforcement.

Other examples include the town of Eboli near Salerno which has introduced fines of 500 euro (412) for anyone found in a parked car in an amorous clinch.Extra patrols have been dispatched to a park on the outskirts of the town frequented by courting couples and already more than a dozen lovers have been fined.

At Eraclea, near Venice, a popular destination for British holidaymakers, the mayor has banned the building of sand castles and all ball and racquet games on the beach.

For good measure the mayor has also banned collecting shells and sand from the beach as a souvenir.

Fines for breaching the laws go from 25 euro (21) right up to 250 euro (210), and if you're thinking of diving into the sea - don't because that is also banned.

Having a picnic on the picturesque beaches of Capri, Positano and Ravello has also been banned.

Noisy sandals are outlawed in Capri and using a lawn mower during the afternoon siesta in snooty Forte dei Marmi on Italy's Tuscan coast is also a big no-no.

Walking around town in a bikini or bare-chested is also forbidden in the seaside resorts of Alassio, Diano Marina, Riccione and Amalfi.

But its not just seaside towns that have introduced mad by-lays, mountain areas in Alto Adige and the Gran Paradiso are also off limits to mushroom pickers - and collecting berries is banned, too.

Feeding pigeons in Venice has also been made illegal as has giving food to stray cats, as officials say the mess they leave adds up to a 5 million a year cleaning bill.

Italy's La Stampa newspaper said that on the last count there were 156 new bylaws that had been created by Italian councils dealing with "decorum".

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