A French couple who were caught with 40kg (90lb) of Sardinian sand in their car could face up to six years in jail.
They say they wanted to take the sand home as a “souvenir” and did not realise they had committed an offence.
Sardinia’s famed white sand is considered a public good and it is strictly forbidden to remove it from the island.
The couple face a jail term of between one and six years for the crime of theft with the aggravating circumstance of having stolen an asset of public utility.
Under a 2017 law, the trade in sand, pebbles and shells is illegal, and usually punishable with fines of up to €3,000 ($3,330; £2,750).
Police discovered the sand crammed into 14 plastic bottles taken from the beach in Chia, southern Sardinia, in the trunk of an SUV belonging to the couple.
They were about to board a ferry in Porto Torres heading to Toulon, France, reports say.
In 1994, access to the renowned pink beach on Budelli island to the north-east of Sardinia was banned amid concerns about its future.
The authorities are concerned as several tonnes of the island’s precious sand disappear every year.
Tourists, mainly Europeans and including some Italians, bottle it up to then auction on online sites.