The work draws a comparison between the beach concessions regimes prevailing in Italy and Spain, having regard to national and Union law. National legal orders are considered auto-poietic systems, as per Luhmann’s conception; their reactions to the «irritations» brought about by the Union are examined with regard to each legal formant. The analysis shows that with respect to the subject of beach concessions, there are fewer similarities between the two legal orders than differences. In Italy, the courts have acted as drivers of change in accordance with supranational irritations, whereas the legislator has opposed any such change, albeit without committing to reform the overall sector. In Spain, by contrast, all legal formants have cooperated to resolve a long-standing conflict between private owners and public authorities concerning property rights over coastal lands; in this respect, the Constitution of 1978 has paved the way for a «Euro-constitutional» form of legality with which national law must comply. Still, Spain may be a point of reference for legislative reform in Italy, as both countries face similar needs.