Interview with Professor Italo Farnetani, creator of the Green Flags

Beaches suitable for families with children awarded with the Green Flag: let's find out more about the criteria for choosing the 142 winning beach resorts.

On March 27th the 142 beach resorts awarded for the year 2019 with the prestigious Green Flag were announced, namely: the recognition that goes to beaches suitable for families with children . had the honor of being able to interview Professor Italo Farnetani, pediatrician and teacher, who in 2008 created the green flag system to report those seaside resorts suitable not only for children but for the whole family.

2019 Green Flags

read the full article to discover all the winning Italian beaches

Before 2008 it was widely believed that parents with young children should choose seaside resorts, and their beaches, which are not crowded for family vacations so that children could relax and enjoy the sea. "With the creation of the Green Flags, and consequently with the signaling by Italian paediatricians of the most suitable beaches, the traditional concept of family vacation has been reversed . Some old rules such as: quiet beaches, children in bed early in the evening and uncrowded places, have proven to be wrong over the years for the proper development of children ", explains Professor Italo Farnetani to "Children do not need a relaxed environment, they need stimulation . The more stimulating the environment in which the child grows, the better the synapse development conditions will be. The beach holiday with the family is a privileged moment for the little ones at home because they are surrounded by people who are not part of their own family unit and this helps them in their growth ", replies the creator of the Green Flags on why most of the winning cities is made up of busy beaches. However, a clarification must be made in this regard: “They must be crowded places to let children receive more visual and auditory stimuli but the beaches must absolutely have sufficient space between the umbrellas to allow them to play. Children up to six years of age want to play with their parents, but after the age of six they prefer to socialize with their peers and therefore have to have areas suitable for the game ".

Beach vacation with the family: the Green Flags overturn the traditional concept

During our conversation, the true innovation of the Green Flags emerges: “However, a beach holiday is not only a holiday for children but for the whole family, including parents, because everyone wants to have fun, so parents also have the right to have services and entertainment for them. The concept of children's beaches has changed with the creation of Green Flags because the family has to go to seaside resorts where even parents can have fun with activities and events dedicated to them ". With these words Professor Italo Farnetani explains the true revolution accomplished by the Green Flags which has been changing the social point of view on where to go on vacation for years. Beaches suitable only for children are not awarded, but beaches suitable for families with children, that is: seaside resorts that offer services and entertainment for both adults and children. This is the pivotal point on which the Green Flags system revolves: matching the fun needs of parents and children in a single seaside resort that can satisfy both generations. It therefore follows that the beaches equipped or with bathing establishments are the most favored for obtaining the green flag but it is not a fundamental requirement. What is indispensable, to be both candidates and evaluated by the pediatricians' commission, is the safety factor. "There must be rescue operators in the water and we must increase the security service on the beach," confirmed Italo Farnetani during our interview. He also announced that the safety on the beach for the little ones is just one of the topics that will be discussed during the awards ceremony to be held in Praia a Mare (Cosenza, Calabria) on June 28th . When it comes to safety on the beach, images of armrests, life jackets and – increasingly fashionable – bracelets will immediately come to mind. Professor Farnetani, however, gave us another important piece of information about safety: "The data on children's swimming skills are alarming, 30% of children between 7 and 11 years old cannot swim; 40% only know how to float and move forward (of this percentage: 10% know how to float and move forward, but only if it is in the pool, in the sea it does not know how to swim and the remaining 30% can float and move forward both in sea and in the pool); finally: 30% know how to swim well and face small emergencies at sea ". It would therefore be advisable for those who intend to book a beach holiday to be certain about the water rescue service of the chosen location if the children do not know how to swim.

Green flags: criteria for applications

The candidacy for the awarding of the 2019 Green Flags was the same as in the other years: Italian pediatricians, in a voluntary service, propose with reports of the possible worthwhile seaside resorts. This is an important step in the complex process of the Green Flags because there are no self-candidacies but it is precisely the pediatricians who, according to science and conscience, propose places suitable for families with children. The choice is not based therefore only on social or aesthetic criteria, nor on the size of the beach or on the granulometric composition of the sandy shores. The choice of the winning beaches takes place with scientific criteria since it is the pediatricians in the first place to know if in a certain place there is the spread of pathologies that could be dangerous for the little ones and consequently to admit or not certain locations. Unfortunately, the pollution factor of bathing waters still affects many parts of our country; it is therefore essential – for the assignment of the green banners – to check the data on bathing, information provided both by the local ARPAs ( Regional Environmental Protection Agency ) and by the union ordinances of the seaside resorts in question.

2019 Green Flags, on the podium: Calabria, Sardinia, Sicily and Puglia

Calabria with 16 Green Flags is the Italian region to have won the most banners for the year 2019, followed by Sardinia and Sicily tied with 16 flags while the bronze medal goes to Puglia with 13 flags. All regions that have a high number of seaside resorts and therefore, proportionately, more chances to get on the podium. It must be said, however, that many of the winning beaches are not famous seaside resorts, quite the contrary: it is thanks to the assignment of the Green Flags that they have begun to establish themselves on the national and international tourist scene . “Since 2008 we have included parameters that could be met by all Italian seaside resorts because it was not our intention to privilege only the most renowned ones . We have always tried, in these twelve years, to discover beaches less known but suitable for families and that could be, from North to South, within everyone's reach, both in terms of geographic location and economic possibility to give parents more opportunities of choice ”. The last question we asked Professor Farnetani during our interview concerns instead the relationship between parents and children on vacation, taking inspiration from the numerous volumes he published with Arnoldo Mondadori Editore. Do you have any advice for parents who are planning their beach holidays? "The parent must be himself. The time of vacation with the family is important because it gives greater freedom to all members of the family unit. The parent must not take an ad hoc lifestyle for their children, must live with their children and actively involve them in family life, even on vacation ”.

To find out more information on Green Flags:

visit the site of Professor Italo Farnetani