Fifty years ago, the umbrella-lined beaches along Italy’s Adriatric coast used to be a popular place for Europeans to go for summer vacations. Then came cheap flights, and now the younger generation might be more likely to fly thousands of miles than take the train to the beach. But even as the tourist crowd starts to dwindle to elderly Germans, the local beaches face a bigger threat than lost business: climate change washing them away.
By the end of the century, the narrow stretches of sand may slowly begin to disappear. In a new series of photos, German photographer Bernhard Lang captures what the beaches near Rimini, Italy look like now.
Lang, an aerial photographer who has also documented a massive port in Germany and one of the largest coal pits in the world, was most interested in the patterns of each beach.
“A few years ago, I was on a short holiday in the area, and seeing these endless rows of sunshades from the ground, I started thinking this might look interesting from above,” he says. “I preferred the distance and freedom of the aerial view, compared to lying in between the masses of geometrically arranged canvas chairs on the ground.”
If rising water starts to reclaim the sand decades from now, the photos will show the area as it once was. “If these beaches eventually disappear, the images will be evidence of the Adriatic beach culture in Italy,” Lang says.
Of course, like other coastal regions, Italy faces more dire challenges than just lost vacation spots–seawater, for example, is likely to contaminate drinking water and water used to irrigate local farms. And when nearby Venice eventually goes underwater–something that scientists now believe is inevitable, despite new barriers to block the water–that’s obviously a greater loss than some hotels and beach umbrellas. Still, it would be sad to see this go.