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Alassio's fine idea

Of all the ways to boost flagging tourism over summer it was arguably one of the most innovative.

In the Italian Riviera resort of Alassio – a few miles north of Imperia along Liguria's coast – tourists and other motorists who parked illegally got a €36 fine…along with a Lottery ticket.

The idea was the brainchild of Alassio's limelight-loving mayor Marco Melgrati. He explained: “It’s a way to make the fines digestible for tourists. We've always said that tourism depends on a smile.”

This being Italy though, that smile had to come with a certain, well, style. To launch the audacious scheme, local parking wardens were accompanied by famous Italian showgirl Alessia Ventura and a team of 10 bikini-clad women.

Mr Melgrati explained: "It's obvious that whoever gets a parking fine gets angry. But a Superenalotto (lottery) coupon, perhaps delivered by a very beautiful woman like Alessia Ventura and her 10 Supergirls, will definitely make them less angry."

The idea apparently came to him during a meeting with an official from Italian lottery organisers Sisal, who had merely wanted permission to sell lottery tickets on the beaches of the Ligurian resort.

The company were quite taken with the idea. Managing director Emilio Petrone said: "A jackpot such as that offered by SuperEnalotto will surely put everyone in good spirits.”

Good spirits, however, that weren’t going to be doled out to every Tom, Dick and Harry who fancied a ticking off from the beautiful Miss Ventura along with the chance of a multi-million pound lottery jackpot –because some drivers will find themselves with nothing more exciting than a plain old parking fine.

As Mr Melgrati put it: "I fear that some motorists may try to be crafty and deliberately get themselves a fine to be able to admire Alessia and the other splendid girls close up.”

Sisal were so taken with the idea that they considered extending it to other parts of the Italian Riviera popular with tourists. With the full blessing of the publicity-conscious First Citizen.

Mr Melgrati grinned: “I haven't copyrighted the idea of matching lottery tickets and fines. But I certainly won't be displeased if when the initiative is repeated in other areas, they specify that the idea was born in Alassio."

There was some irony in his championing the idea of women in bikinis doling out parking tickets. He had previously defended his resort’s ban on preventing swimming costumes being worn beyond the beach on the grounds of “good taste”.

He insisted: “That ruling was my predecessor’s, who had a different meaning. It was to avoid seeing, in shops and the city centre, certain spectacles of people who shouldn't allow themselves to be in a bikini. But this is different."

Ah, that’s all right then…