Tourist Receives $1,200 Fine For Trying To Take Sand From Italy

There are some things you definitely aren’t allowed to pack into a suitcase—weapons, foreign fruits and vegetables, animals—but you would never expect sand to be on that list.

Apparently, sand is a big deal in certain places, and a French traveler found himself in a bit of trouble when he tried to take a bottle of it home as a souvenir.

He Was Caught At The Airport

An airport security agent's badge is pictured
Photo Credit: ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP via Getty Images
Photo Credit: ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP via Getty Images

When trying to fly home, the French tourist was stopped by security on September 1 while in Cagliari Elmas Airport, which is located on the Italian island of Sardinia. He was caught with a water bottle that contained about 4.4 pounds of sand, which was instantly confiscated.

Why Is Sand A Big Deal, Though?

Cala di Roto bay. Spiaggia Rosa beach. Isola di Budelli island. archipelago della Maddalena. La Maddalena. Olbia Tempio. Sardinia. Italy. Europe.
Photo Credit: Luca Picciau / REDA&CO / Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Luca Picciau / REDA&CO / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The sand on Sardinia is either white or a unique pink color and, often, tourists will try to take some home as a souvenir or try to sell it on the internet. Since 2017, the sand on Sardinia has been federally protected, and the punishments have become increasingly severe over the past three years.

It’s One Of The Most Commonly Caught Contraband Items At The Airport

water bottles in pile
Photo Credit: Robert Alexander / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Robert Alexander / Getty Images

Security says that they collect many bottles of sand over the course of every year. Fines for getting caught with the sand range from $600–3,550 USD, depending on where the sand was taken from and how much the person was trying to smuggle out.

The Punishments Can Get Intense

man looking through prison bars
Photo Credit: Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images

In 2019, a couple who were also from France faced up to six years in prison after attempting to steal almost 90 pounds of sand using 14 separate water bottles.

Not All Thieves Have Bad Intentions

Spiaggia Rosa. Isola di Budelli. La Maddalena (OT). Gallura. Sardinia. Italy. Europe.
Photo Credit: Luca Picciau / REDA&CO / Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Luca Picciau / REDA&CO / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

In 2016, a woman who had visited the island of Budelli located near Sardinia 29 years before found out how important the sand is and, wracked by guilt, traveled back there to put the sand back onto the beach and even wrote an apology letter.