Italy and Germany fall out in a heated row over beer, topless bathing and beach etiquette

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The Independent Online

The guide has been issued by the Italian Union of Bathing Establishments (SIB). It consists of a series of "suggestions" for good behaviour on beaches, some of which critics allege are targeted at northern European holiday habits. As well as nudity and drinking, the tourists' habit of hanging clothes from seaside umbrellas is also frowned upon.

Yesterday's Bild claimed that the Italian authorities "want to ruin our holidays" by banning German tourists from such practices.

A war of words erupted as the La Stampa of Turin newspaper attacked Bild for "stigmatising the Italian summer", by claiming there are so many rules banning activities on Italian beaches that "Germans are unable to enjoy themselves".

Bild claimed it was bewildering for northern visitors to Italy to be faced with bans such as playing football, eating noisily, drying swimming costumes and changing outside cabins.

The anti-beer drinking sentiment in the guide, La Stampa observed, "is a heresy for Germans, not unlike outlawing pizza in Italy".

In an effort to defuse the row, Riccardo Borgo, the SIB president, emphaisised that the guide consisted of "suggestions" and should not be confused with the by-laws introduced by mayors and local councils.

"These are just indications for good manners and security," Signor Borgo said. "For example not throwing cigarette butts on the sand, avoiding swimming when there is a red flag flying, not deafening neighbours with radios at full blast."

But mayors in several coastal towns have come out in support of the guide. Marco Melgrati, the mayor of the Riviera resort of Alassio, has defended local signs showing an X mark over a picture of a bikini-clad woman, emphasising a ban on wearing bathing costumes except on beaches.

"It is a question of good taste," he said. "We have never fined anyone for wearing a bikini. The most that has happened is our police have asked people to cover up nude torsos."

More restrictive is Franco Regine, the mayor of Forio d'Ischia, who has outlawed shouting in the street, hanging towels and washing out of windows that face roads and unauthorised camping, with fines of €50 to €78 (£34 to £54).

"Our aim is to recover our image and improve what is on offer to tourists by ensuring their tranquillity," Mr Regine said.

Each year, Italy's media take exception to what is seen as the Germans' failure to appreciate the finer aspects of Latin beach culture. But this year tour operators are more touchy than usual. The association of Italian hotel owners estimates that six million fewer Italians are taking domestic holidays this summer as a result of the economic downturn.