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How to choose a camping holiday in Italy: A guide for the uninitiated

Camping can make for an enjoyable and cost effective holiday - but before you book, it's important to know what you're signing up for. Here's our guide to maximising your fun and avoiding disappointment on an Italian camping trip.

Before setting off on an Italian camping holiday, consider what you want to get out of the trip.
Before setting off on an Italian camping holiday, consider what you want to get out of the trip. Photo by Aleksandra Sapozhnikova on Unsplash.

With sites that stretch from the feet of the Dolomites to the golden shores of Sardinia, camping in Italy can be an ideal way explore the country and see its natural wonders up close.

Before you set off, though, it’s worth doing a little research to make sure you don’t end up on the Italian camping trip of your nightmares.

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

The first and most important question to consider is what kind of stay you want.

Some campsites in Italy – particularly ones near famous lakes or beaches – are veritable behemoths, encompassing hundreds or even thousands of plots.

If you pull up to one of these venues with vague notions of drifting off not long after sunset to the sound of crickets chirping and the long grass rustling in the breeze, you’ll be in for a shock.

That’s not just because of the hordes of other holidaymakers surrounding you, but because despite identifying as campeggi, many of these places are less campsites than they are holiday villages, with a full programme of events that run until late at night and sometimes into the early hours of the morning.

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

You’ll notice that much of the space at these sites isn’t given over to tents or camper vans at all, but is instead occupied by pre-fabricated bungalows or wooden verandas hooked up to long-stationary caravans.

You might find your Italian campsite is less of a peaceful haven than expected.
You might find your Italian campsite is less of a peaceful haven than expected. Photo by Anders Nielsen on Unsplash.

These more permanent structures can be rented out, but many of them are owned outright by families who return every summer and stay for weeks at a time.

Facilities will typically include a swimming pool and a restaurant and bar, and you can expect any of karaoke, sports competitions, dance or gymnastics classes, and both daily and nightly entertainment provided by animatori (children’s entertainers).

If you like the idea of organised activities and partying late into the night, or are considering camping because it’s a cheaper alternative to hotels and holiday rentals but you don’t actually enjoy the more rustic aspects of the experience, these campsites could provide the ideal set up for you.

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

If, however, you’re the kind of person who’s more liable to ask yourself where you went wrong than ask to join in when you find yourself lying awake at midnight listening to your neighbours belt out an Eros Ramazzotti ballad for the third time on their DIY karaoke kit, you’ll want to look a little further afield.

Luckily for the latter kind of holidaymaker, there are plenty of smaller and quieter venues that more closely resemble the traditional idea of a campsite – you just need to know how to find them. 

READ ALSO: MAP: Which regions of Italy have the most Blue Flag beaches?

The smallest and most wild types of Italian campsites are often referred to as agricampeggi. They typically have just a few plots, and no permanent shelters. Facilities are likely to be basic, with only toilets and showers, though they may in some cases also include a small pool and/or restaurant.

Agricampeggi campsites can provide a more relaxing experience.
Agricampeggi campsites can provide a more relaxing experience. Photo by Reuben Kim on Unsplash.

If you’re looking for something in the middle of the spectrum, with more services than an agricampeggio but less chaos than a camping village, base your campeggio search on the total number of plots available.

Campeggi with no more than a couple of hundred plots tend to be relatively laid back, but are also more likely to have restaurants, pools, and laundry rooms if you’re seeking some comfort. If you’re considering one of these, it’s always worth checking online reviews to see if they also put on high-volume nighttime entertainment (as some smaller campeggi do).

READ ALSO: MAP: The best Italian villages to visit this year

What about wild camping? 

Unfortunately for more intrepid campers, wild camping tends to be highly restricted in Italy – and setting up camp on beaches or in built-up areas in towns and cities is out of the question.

That said, if you’re determined to stake your tent far away from any signs of civilisation, there are some options. You can read our guide to wild camping in Italy here.

READ ALSO: What are the rules on wild camping in Italy?

If you know what you’re signing up for, camping in Italy can be the perfect way to experience the country’s natural beauty for a fraction of the cost of a hotel stay.

Just take some ear plugs or brush up on your Italian ’90s hits (depending on which side of the canvas flap you sit) … and remember that even after the worst of nights, you can always drive off and leave it all in the dust the next morning.

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What you need to know about Italy’s free museum Sundays

Want to see the Colosseum or Michelangelo’s David for free? You can on Italy’s free museum Sundays.

What you need to know about Italy’s free museum Sundays

People across Italy will be able to visit museums for free once again this Sunday, August 7th, under the nationwide Domenica al Museo or ‘free museum Sundays’ scheme allowing ticketless entry on the first Sunday of every month.

First introduced in 2014, the offer was suspended during the coronavirus pandemic amid concerns about crowding but reinstated in April 2022.

READ ALSO: What to do in Rome this August

As tickets for major historical sites and museums in Italy often cost upwards of €15 per person, there are big savings to be made and the free Sundays scheme is understandably popular among both tourists and residents.

The remaining dates for the year are: August 7th, September 4th, October 2nd, November 6th, and December 4th.

Where can I go?

The scheme applies to hundreds of state-run museums, archaeological parks and monuments, including world-famous sites like the Colosseum, Pompeii, Florence’s Galleria dell’Accademia, the Reggia di Caserta and Trieste’s Miramare Castle.

The offer does not apply to sites that are run by local authorities rather than the state, though many cities run similar initiatives of their own.

READ ALSO: Nine ways to get into trouble while visiting Venice

Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

How do I book a free ticket?

In many cases you don’t need to and can simply turn up and walk in.

However, some venues such as Rome’s Galleria Borghese require advance booking, so it’s always wise to find the attraction’s website and check the rules before you go.

Are there any Covid restrictions?

Right now the Italian government does not have any health restrictions in place for museums.

The culture ministry recommends visitors wear masks, but this is no longer obligatory.

Individual venues – as well as local authorities – can however set their own requirements, so it’s another thing you may want to check before your visit.

Will museums be overcrowded?

This really depends on where you go. Italy most famous attractions always draw huge crowds in summer – free entrance or otherwise – while lesser-known spots or those outside the major tourist areas may be less chaotic.

But frankly, it’s likely to be busy in most places. The scheme was cancelled in 2019 (and then reinstated after a change of government) due to concerns about long queues and overcrowding – long before anyone had heard of Covid-19.

Some sites capped visitor numbers when the scheme was initially reinstated in spring but it’s unclear how many still do this.

What else should I know?

You can find a full list of the sites included and links to further information for each on the Italian culture ministry’s website here.