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DISCOVER ITALY

What are the rules on wild camping in Italy?

Is it ever possible to camp outside of officially designated campsites in Italy? Read on to find out the rules and restrictions on where you can and can't camp along the peninsula.

Where can you wild camp in Italy?
Where can you wild camp in Italy? Photo by Kevin Ianeselli on Unsplash.

It’s the ultimate Italian camping holiday dream, setting up your tent right on the beach or in a deserted pine forest and waking up to spectacular views, all to yourself.

But is this even possible or legal? Are you actually allowed to camp or sleep in open fields or on mountainsides or beaches in Italy?

The short answer is… not really. 

Simply showing up to an unmarked spot and staking your tent is generally prohibited in Italy, and could land you with a fine of anywhere between €100 and €500.

The situation is complicated, however, by the fact that each of the country’s 20 regions have their own rules governing wild camping, ranging from the very strict to the moderately lenient.

READ ALSO: Travel in Italy and Covid rules this summer: what to expect

What do the rules say?

Firstly, it’s important to know that there’s a legal difference between wild camping and bivouacking.

The former is just camping outside of an equipped camping area, while the latter entails setting up some kind of makeshift camp (with or without a tent) at dusk and leaving around sunrise the next day, staying for no more than a few hours. In some situations where wild camping is banned in Italy, you’re still allowed to bivouac.

Don’t assume, though, that saying you’re bivouacking will get you out of a fine if you’re found by a park ranger or policeman: in many instances, you also need to get permission to bivouac before setting off.

In some regions, both wild camping and bivouacking is occasionally allowed, but you’ll need to familiarise yourself with local rules to make sure you’re staying on the right side of the law.

READ ALSO: Dining outdoors and hiking: How visitors plan to holiday in Italy this summer

If your aim in wild camping is to save money rather than to spend a night on a deserted mountaintop, there are less picturesque alternatives available.

Sicily and Abruzzo, for example, allow local municipalities to create designated (unserviced) parking lots where campers can stay for free for a fixed period of time; while asking private individuals for permission to stay on their property is another – often surprisingly effective – option.

Regardless of region, you can expect to find universal bans on wild camping on beaches or in built up areas in towns and cities.

In some parts of Italy you can camp in designated parking lots.

In some parts of Italy you can camp in designated parking lots. Photo by Anders Nielsen on Unsplash 

How do the rules vary between regions?

Some regions, like Sardinia, Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia, have a blanket ban on camping outside of campsites.

Others, like Basilicata and Lazio, say the decision is up to local municipalities, to whom would-be wild campers have to make a written request. If permission is granted, you can camp in Lazio for up to 15 days in the same spot (Basilicata doesn’t specify a time limit).

Trentino Alto Adige allows bivouacs for a period of no more than 24 hours in areas where they are not explicitly prohibited by the competent local authorities (e.g., all of Sud Tyrol’s national parks have a blanket ban). Val d’Aosta allows bivouacking above 2,500m, but not in Gran Paradiso National Park or nearby any existing shelters such as mountain refuges (rifugi).

READ ALSO: Ten ways to save money on your trip to Italy this summer

Some regions don’t appear to have any regulations on wild camping; in these cases it’s safest to email the local council (comune) of the place where you’re planning on staying to seek permission.

For information on what each region says about wild camping, the lawyer Claudia Cimato has compiled a detailed list of the relevant regulations in each Italian region, which the website of the outdoor gear store Bergzeit has sorted into a helpful summary and table (in Italian).

Is it worth trying to wild camp at all in Italy?

If you’re a foreign tourist, probably not. You’ll need good Italian to make a request to the local authorities and decode their answer, and you’ll need to have your route mapped out well in advance.

For those coming on holiday to Italy from abroad, then, you’re probably best off booking a pitch at an official campsite.

If you’re a keen camper based in Italy and speak good Italian, however, exploring the option of wild camping might be worth the effort.

READ ALSO: Is Italy’s west or east coast the best place for a holiday?

You might assume that a request to a local authority doesn’t stand the slightest chance of getting an answer – but that’s not necessarily the case.

The travel and camping blogger Simona Scacheri says she’s obtained permission to wild camp and bivouac by asking ahead, and particularly recommends a site along the Grande Traversata Elbana on Tuscany’s Elba Island, as well as the Via Degli Abati and the Asiago plateau.

You’d also be surprised how willing other private landowners are to let you camp on their land in exchange for a nominal fee or donation, or simply an agreement that you’ll patronise their facilities (e.g., go to the restaurant of an agriturismo if you’re camping on their land).

The writers behind the Novo-Monde travel blog say that on their wild camping trips across Europe they’ve never once been turned down when they’ve asked to stay on someone’s private land, so it’s always worth asking!

In sum, plan well ahead, prepare to move on regularly, and don’t be timid about asking – when it comes to wild camping in Italy, fortune favours the brave.

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DISCOVER ITALY

Why some of Italy’s food festivals are ‘fake’ – and how to pick the best ones

Italy's countless sagre, or food fairs, are an autumn highlight. But how do you find the best events - and avoid the more commercial ones? Reporter Silvia Marchetti explains.

Why some of Italy’s food festivals are 'fake' - and how to pick the best ones

Italy’s renowned food fairs are one of the most exciting events during autumn and winter, particularly the coldest months when we’re looking for culinary weekend distractions. 

For the uninitiated, sagre are key gourmand exhibitions mixing local food, premium products, cheeses and olive oil – all the ‘excellences’ of the area – but lately I find some are just, well, fake. 

READ ALSO: The best Italian food festivals to visit in October

Instead of selling traditional indigenous delicacies, vendors sell a little bit of everything which they think appeals to foreigners and city people desperate for a rural break. 

Last weekend I went to the sagra at Osteria Nuova, near Passo Corese in Lazio, and found mozzarella from Naples and limoncello from Amalfi: now what do those have to do with the Rieti countryside?

It was sad and disappointing. Even though it takes place in an area which is famous at this time of the year for exquisite porcini mushrooms and chestnuts there was not even one single vendor selling these. Instead, there was codfish from Venice and porchetta from the Castelli Romani.

Up until a few years ago the Osteria Nuova food fair was very genuine and appealing: it was actually a real farmers’ market where animals were sold: not just rabbits and hens but cows, horses and donkeys. It was a vibrant event. 

Now the cages that once kept the animals are empty. And people just go there to stuff themselves with huge sandwiches and hotdogs. It’s always hell finding a parking spot because the fair is very close to Rome, luring day trippers on a ‘scampagnata’.

Photo by Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP

My advice is to avoid visiting food fairs which are too close to big cities and towns, but pick offbeat villages or unknown rural spots where the sagre are small and with local producers selling authentic, ‘indigenous’ products. Choosing the remote hillsides, where traditions tend to survive, is of course better than the touristy areas. 

READ ALSO: Seven reasons autumn is the best time to visit Italy

Also, it’s best if the food fair is not too heavily sponsored or advertised in national newspapers. The best thing to do is search online for all food fairs in the area you plan to visit during the weekend or even during the week, and ask friends and locals as word of mouth can often be more reliable. 

Among the authentic sagre I would recommend the porcini mushroom food fair in San Martino al Cimino in the pristine hills of the Tuscia countryside in Lazio, where the woods are dotted with porcini. 

At the fair not only bags of huge porcini are sold but you can also buy a lunch ticket and taste various mushroom dishes sitting down at wooden tables. Last time I was served a delicious potato and porcini soup which inspired me to replicate (successfully) the recipe at home. 

However, the best thing is to search for the weird and unknown – food fairs with funny names and showcasing products that sound and look really bizarre. So forget about the usual truffles, mozzarella, limoncello, ham and pasta-filled events. I suggest opting for quirky food festivals in never-heard-of-before villages where the culinary adventure comes with a cultural jolt. 

Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

When I hear about something amazingly off-the-wall and tasty, with a particular story or legend behind it, my curiosity and taste buds tingle.

Last weekend I was surfing the web and came across the Ciammellocco festival in the tiny hamlet of Cretone, Lazio, which immediately aroused my curiosity. 

READ ALSO: 14 reasons why Lazio should be your next Italian holiday destination

As I had never heard of it before, I jumped in the car the following day and ventured out to an isolated woody area with a few small dwellings, where one single bakery makes this huge, funny-sounding, highly-nutritious sweet-salty doughnut with fennel seeds which has been around since at least the middle ages. Housewives used to make it for their husbands as a substitute for lunch when they went off working in the fields. 

Even though I have tasted similar ciambelle in my life none come close to ciammellocco, crunchy and tender at the same time, made with eggs but light.

Next I heard about the Sagra della Papera in Carassai, Marche region, offering succulent duck meat dishes with pappardelle pasta and roasted duck breasts, and given duck isn’t something you’d normally find in Italian restaurants, it makes the cut for authentic food events. 

Vegetarians can’t miss the Festival degli Orapi in the village of Picinisco north of Naples where guests are treated to platefuls of a unique, delicious spinach variety which is made exquisite by the fact that it grows beneath goat poo, a natural fertilizer. Locals actually roam the countryside with a knife to scrape away the poo and extract the orapi.

In Pedagaggi, Sicily, local housewives organize the Sagra della mostarda di fichi d’india, with gourmet dishes made from exotic-looking prickly pear mustards. 

READ ALSO: ‘La scampagnata’: What it is and how to do it the Italian way

Other curious sagre include the Festa del Gorgonzola set in the town of Gorgonzola in Lombardy which is the real birthplace of Italy’s iconic blue cheese. Huge pentoloni of steaming pots of gorgonzola in the middle of the piazza lure pungent cheese addicts. 

Also Diamante’s festival del peperoncino in Calabria is a must stop for lovers of strong, authentic hot dishes spiced up with chili peppers (there’s even a peperoncini eating marathon).

Real sagre tend to showcase one premium native product rather than a myriad with overlapping origins.

The more ‘local’ you dive into the deepest, remote corners of Italy full of tradition and folklore, the more genuine the sagra and the more satisfying the gastronomical experience.

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