CHIA BEACH - Add sand theft to the list of crimes that could land tourists in trouble in Italy.

According to local media, two French tourists were charged last week with stealing nearly 90 pounds of sand from Chia beach, on the southern coast of Sardinia. The visitors reportedly filled 14 bottles with sand and tried to drive onto a France-bound ferry in Porto Torres when they were discovered by Italy’s Guardia di Finanza.

The Corriere Della Sera newspaper said the tourists claimed they were just trying to take back a vacation souvenir and didn’t realize they were breaking a law on the Mediterranean island. They face between one and six years in prison, according to media reports. Officials with the police force could not be reached.

A law that went into effect in August 2017 made it illegal to take sand, pebbles or seashells from Sardinian beaches, the BBC reported at the time, noting that some of the sand was being sold on eBay. Offenders could face fines of up to 3,000 euros, or $3,330.

Last year, authorities slapped a tourist visiting from the United Kingdom with a fine of more than 1,000 euros for taking sand. While the French tourists apparently said they were not aware of the rule against taking sand, the Guardian says signs warn that it is forbidden and that “vigilantes” keep watch at beaches.

“What may seem like a small regulation at first sight is a serious matter in Sardinia,” Germany’s embassy in Rome warned in a Facebook post in August 2018, because “tourists take tons of sand, stones and shells every year as a souvenir from the island. This is a significant environmental damage and is therefore prohibited by law.”

The measure is just one way popular destinations are trying to counter the damage caused by crowds of tourists as the number of travellers around the globe increases and cities and attractions increasingly find themselves overwhelmed.

Some tourist spots have closed permanently or temporarily. Others — many of them in Italy — have put strict new rules in place. Officials in Rome said last month that tourists who damage monuments or other historic and artistic sites could be fined 250 to 400 euros. That means no jumping in fountains or sitting on the city’s famous Spanish Steps. Under new rules in Venice, a couple of German backpackers were asked to leave and fined 950 euros, or more than $1,000, for making coffee on a portable cooker at the foot of the Rialto Bridge, the BBC reported in July.