The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Beach brawl sours Clooney's Italian love affair

Laglio, March 20: For three years, George Clooney has charmed villagers in Laglio, the idyllic spot on the shore of Lake Como, that he made his Italian home.

Now, an attempt by the actor to buy a public beach in front of one of his many houses in the area has soured the love affair between him and the village's 400 residents.

Locals were so delighted when Clooney arrived on their doorstep, buying a villa, Oleandra, for a reported 8 million Euros that they bent over backwards to make him and his Hollywood friends feel at home. They did not discourage him from buying more buildings and land, including his most recent acquisitions, Villa Margherita, a dilapidated lakeside house, along with another opposite, for which he paid a reported 1.5 million Euros.

They even forgave him last year after he brought chaos to Laglio by throwing a glamorous party to celebrate the end of filming Oceans Twelve, with Brad Pitt, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Matt Damon among the guests.

After complaints, Clooney wrote a handwritten letter of apology to his neighbours, saying: 'My greatest desire is just to live in this wonderful village.'

His desire to add the town's only sunbathing beach to his property portfolio has prompted an unexpectedly angry reaction, although the area in question is no more than a 25-yard stretch of gravelly sand.

A shopkeeper who used to sing 43-year-old Clooney's praises said: 'We're not going to give him the beach. Just because he's rich and famous, doesn't mean he has to get everything that he wants.

'If he's not stopped, soon he'll be buying the public jetty and the municipal car park as well. Enough, I say. It's just not right.'

The actor is hoping to connect the grounds of his original villa with his latest purchase by an iron bridge across the entrance to the beach. He hopes that by doing so he will gain some privacy for himself and his guests by making the small and not particularly attractive strip of gravelly sand all his own.

The fear that by doing so he will block one of the only remaining points of free access to the lake has brought bubbling resentment to the surface. Opponents say if Clooney and his chequebook are not stopped, he will eventually 'buy up the whole town'.

Some refer to his expanding domain ' which includes an editing studio, a third house with terraced gardens, and an apparent intention to buy a fourth ' as Clooneyville.

Villagers are also critical of his apparently favoured treatment by the authorities.

'This beach business is becoming a bit of a problem,' said the actor's Portuguese caretaker, Antonio, shaking his head.

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