SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

DISCOVER ITALY

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.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

DISCOVER ITALY

REVEALED: The Italian beaches you might want to avoid this summer

Overcrowded, overhyped, or endangered by overtourism, some of Italy's most famous beaches are best avoided in peak season. Here's our selection of hotspots you may want to skip - and where to go instead.

REVEALED: The Italian beaches you might want to avoid this summer

Guide lists of the best beaches to visit in Italy and stunning social media shots of Italian coastlines have created hotspots of overcrowding.

Some of these coastal gems are in danger of being destroyed by the hordes of tourists that descend each summer season, while others can simply be a chore to find a patch of sand where you can lay your towel.

MAP: Which parts of Italy will get the most tourism this summer?

Instead of following the top beaches list, which sometimes focus on just the top ten, you can try one of the hundreds of gorgeous and environmentally sound spots throughout Italy.

As the summer season gets underway, here are the beaches best avoided if you want to escape the masses, with alternative suggestions for a more relaxing Italian seaside getaway.

Puglia

The southern Italian region of Puglia has a coastline that could give the Maldives a run for its money, with the waters consistently ranked the cleanest in Italy. As a result, it’s one of the most popular holiday destinations among Italians. It’s also soared in popularity among international tourists in recent years.

Unsurprisingly, this means it’s hard to find a beach in Puglia that could be described as peaceful at the height of summer. But, despite the enormous number of beautiful beaches along Puglia’s particularly long coastline, a handful of names tend to crop up again and again on lists of ‘must-see’ or ‘most beautiful’ beaches in the region – meaning a lot of visitors tend to pack into the same areas, and some beaches are more crowded than others.

READ ALSO: Ferragosto: Why the long August holidays are untouchable for Italians

While all of the below beaches are stunningly beautiful, often featuring breathtaking rock formations surrounded by turquoise waters, most are located in tiny cale, or coves, and space is very limited. In summer you’ll need to get there at dawn in order to enjoy them before the hordes descend.

Baia dei Turchi – Lecce

Torre Lapilo (Porto Cesareo) – Lecce

Torre dell’Orso – Lecce

Punta della Suina – Lecce

Punto Prosciutto – Lecce

Torre Guaceto – Brindisi

Lama Monachile (Polignano a Mare) – Bari

Here are some alternatives that are lesser-known, at least among international tourists: 

Porto Selvaggio – Lecce

Punto Pizzo – Lecce

Torre Vado – Lecce

Spiaggia degli Alimini – Lecce

Spiaggia delle Conchiglie – Lecce

Torre Canne – Brindisi

Baia delle Zagare – Gargano

The beach at Polignano a Mare, Puglia, may be highly instagrammable but it’s not very spacious. Get there early if you want to enjoy it in summer. Photo by Nassim Wahba on Unsplash

Sardinia

Visiting Sardinia can sometimes be a double-edged sword. Yes, it has world-class, astoundingly beautiful white sand beaches and crystal turquoise waters, but because of that, it draws in huge crowds in peak season.

Some beaches and stretches of coastline face severe environmental pressure – and don’t make for an enjoyable day out when you have to get there for 6am to grab a parking spot and a space to pitch your umbrella.

Here are some beaches in Sardinia that are probably best avoided:

La Cinta – San Teodoro

Cala Brandinchi – San Teodoro

La Pelosa – Stintino

Where you can go instead:

Spiaggi Di Li Cossi

Cala Romazzino

Spiaggia Rudargia

Spiaggia di Cala Cipolla

Sardinia’s Spiaggia della Pelosa beach in Stintino is extremely popular. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

Sicily

The incredible island of Sicily is a favourite destination for both Italian and international holidaymakers for good reason. Plus it has a longer summer season than the rest of the country, so there’s more time to enjoy the beaches outside of August. Still, as in other popular parts of the country, visitors are often directed to the same few spots all summer long.

The island has no shortage of stunning natural beaches, and those who venture off the beaten path will be richly rewarded – even if this means packing a picnic and forgoing sun loungers.

READ ALSO: Why Sicily’s archipelagos are the best part of Italy for island-hopping

While the following famous beaches deserve their top-ten spots on all the ‘most beautiful beaches’ lists, they’re likely to be extremely crowded in July and August:

San Vito lo Capo – Trapani

Scala dei Turchi – Agrigento

Mondello – Palermo

Cefalù – Palermo

Spiaggia dei Conigli (Rabbit Beach) – Lampedusa

Here are a few to try instead – though most have fewer services around, they’re arguably just as beautiful.

Spiaggia dei Francesi – Palermo

Baia di Santa Margherita – Trapani 

Lascari (next to Cefalù) – Palermo

Punta Bianca – Agrigento

Spiaggia dell’Asinello – Agrigento

Torre Salsa (nature reserve) – Agrigento

Sampieri – Ragusa

Italian families sunbathe on August 17th, 2017 in San Vito Lo Capo, northern Sicily. Photo by ludovic MARIN / AFP

Veneto

Veneto is not exactly the best place to go if you’re looking for crystal-clear waters and picturesque beaches girdled by rocky cliffs. In fact, the region’s beaches are for the most part narrow strips of fine sand with generally shallow seabeds and fairly decent waters.

But Veneto is still an incredibly popular destination for beach-goers. Why? The città d’arte (art cities) located just a few miles away from the coastline, the large number of seaside resorts, and the relative proximity of both Austria and Germany all make Veneto a very appealing haven for holidaymakers.

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

So it isn’t rare for the region’s most famed beaches to be packed during the summer months. Here are a few of the busier places that you might want to avoid:

Lido di Jesolo – Jesolo

Lido di Venezia – Venice

Spiaggia di Sottomarina – Chioggia

Spiaggia di Ponente – Caorle

This is where you might want to go instead:

Spiaggia di Cà Roman – Pellestrina

Spiaggia del Bacan – Venice

Spiaggia di Scano del Gallo – Rovigo

Spiaggia della Brussa – Caorle

Tuscany

With over 500 kilometres of coastline, Tuscany is the Italian region that offers the greatest variety of beaches of all. From narrow strips of white sand encircled by maritime pine groves to remote cale (coves) hidden away between cliffs and headlands, the region has it all.

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

The deep blue of Tuscany’s waters and the bonanza of nightlife venues skirting the coastline, especially in the famed Versilia area, prove irresistible to hundreds of thousands of both Italian and international tourists every summer. As a result, certain beaches in the region tend to get very crowded very quickly in July and August. 

Here are some of the region’s hotspots: 

Cala Violina – Maremma

Marina di Chiarone – Grosseto

Cala del Gesso – Monte Argentario

If you’re looking for somewhere quieter, consider heading to:

Cala Martina – Grosseto

Carbonifera – Piombino

Cala di Forno – Maremma

Buca delle Fate – Populonia

Emilia Romagna

The Romagna riviera is incredibly built up, with beach services offering hundreds of sunbeds and umbrellas that cover swathes of the wide and flat sandy beaches there.

Although not known for its crystal clear waters like other parts of Italy, it’s a popular area with tourists due to the convenience of back-to-back bars, restaurants, children’s playgrounds and lifeguards.

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

Some beaches get more packed out than others such as Rimini and Riccione, thanks to being popular with families for the former and being known as party central with youngsters for the latter.

Here are the most overcrowded beaches in Emilia Romagna:

Riccione Centro-Sud

Cattolica

Rimini

Cervia-Pinarella-agliata

Milano Marittima

Where you can go instead:

Some of the ‘lidi‘ further north can be quieter, still with beach services in places, but not as packed as the beaches above.

Lido di Volano

Lido delle Nazioni

Casalborsetti

Campania

The Amalfi Coast draws vast numbers of visitors to Campania every year – but while its rocky cliffs make for an impressive backdrop, its tiny, overcrowded beaches aren’t necessarily the best place to set up a sunbed.

Nor is the shore around greater Naples, where the sea is so often polluted that swimming is officially banned – though this doesn’t deter large crowds of bathers from taking a dip every summer.

Due to crowding, pollution, or both, some of the beaches you’ll likely want to steer clear of are:

Baia di Trentova

Spiaggia Calanca

Spiaggia di Minori

Spiaggia Lannio

Instead, consider heading to:

Cala Bianca

Spiaggia libera Lentiscelle

Spiaggia del Lago

Baia di Ieranto

Spiaggia le Saline

Calabria

Though perhaps not quite as popular a beach destination among foreign tourists as the likes of Sicily, Sardinia or Puglia, the Calabrian coastline still holds its own when summer hits, attracting large crowds to its shores.

Some of the most popular beaches to avoid:

Tropea

Le Spiagge di Pizzo Calabro

Spiaggia di Falerna

Le baie di Grotticelle

Beaches to go to instead:

Spiaggia di Copanello di Staletti

Spiaggia Paradiso del sub

Spiaggia Del Tono

Spiaggia Di Michelino

This list is of course not exhaustive. Do you have a top beach tip to share with other members of The Local? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

SHOW COMMENTS