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Wild camping in Italy is often forbidden. But just sleeping in your car or trailer for one night in a parking space with the purpose of recuperation is exempt from this (with good reason, you prefer people stopping to sleep to having them risk accidents). [citation needed]

But I would be travelling by bicycle: Is it legal to stop for less than 12 hours at a place, just put an isolation mattress on the ground (and a bivouac sack if it rains) and sleep there next to my bicycle? Are there conditions on it?

I'm aware this carries certain risks from criminals, but I wouldn't leave my stuff alone, ever and I would be surprised if someone was willing to actually fight me for my battered trekking bike and other heavily used but high quality gear or the amount of emergency money I would need to carry (no expensive watch, smartphone, camera and the like which are likely easy to sell). If you think I'm wrong, then feel free to make this part of your answer, otherwise keep it to the legal aspects.

I suspect I would hardly be fined for this, but I would like to know about the law.

On the motivation for my question: I would like to go to my limits concerning to distance traveled per day. This means that it's impossible to plan my stops ahead of time. The quality of roads influences my speed a lot, weather too and of course I don't always perform the same way either. I would expect to do anything between 100km and 250km a day depending on circumstances.

Because I don't handle heat too well (or is this just general good sense?), I would start very early in the morning, take a long break including a nap around noon and then continue very late into the evening.

So neither hotels nor campings nor anything of the like is really practical, even if I'm willing to pay for it.

Edit: Done this a couple of times now. To be one the safe side, I just made sure no one saw me... And I usually stopped 10-12pm and started before 6am, so I was never at a single place for long.

  • 1
    What area(s) of Italy are you aiming for? Have you done similar in Europe and if so where? Not that I doubt it, but do you have a source for the rule about recuperating one night? – mts Sep 13 '16 at 14:03
  • Two trips which have my interest: Lugano (Switzerland) to Venice and Lugano - Genoa. At the end points I would search for a proper camping or even a hotel, but while travelling, I would like to save money and keep my flexibility (arrive late in the evening and not know where I'll stop exactly). I have so far only done single day (12h-200km) trips and would like to slowly expand. Oh about the source, various camping books and also the internet, I'll look for something to add to my question. – Nobody Sep 13 '16 at 14:10
  • @mts Can't find a proper reference right now. This is the kind of information which is typically found in good camping guides for a country. – Nobody Sep 13 '16 at 14:27
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    How about warmshowers.org? – JoErNanO Sep 13 '16 at 15:14
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    @JoErNanO warmshowers.org and other couchsurfing systems are usually at least difficult to combine with the required flexibility: "arrive late in the evening and not know where I'll stop exactly)" – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Sep 13 '16 at 15:59
12

Ok. I'm taking no liability for what follows, ok? In Italy free camping is permitted, maybe.


Italian law define camping as the building of a fixed tent structure for no more than 48 hours, and bivouac as the staying in a tent structure overnight.

At a national level italian law allows for camping and bivouacking.

Then another law (D. Lgs. 31/3/1998 n. 112) transfers every aspect of tourism's related laws to local authorities, so that "camping and bivouacking is allowed unless explicitely forbidden from the local laws and signaled with the proper signposting"

From here on...is a total mess. Every county has its own rules, every province of every county has its own rules, every city in every province etc. etc.

Generally speaking, and with reference to your itinerary:

meaning: take no offence but I'm not going to read through every law book of every city to search for every detail

  • Lombardia: no existing laws. There is just a law to allow bivouacking after asking for a permit to the municipality
  • Piemonte: allowed as for national law
  • Veneto: totally forget it
  • Trentino Alto Adige: mixed. Forbidden on all county, but then more or less the same of the national law as you can stop for no more than 24 hours only if there are no explicit signs from the municipality forbidding it
  • Liguria: no existing laws, just a small mess for bivouacking over certain height

Conclusion: welcome to Italian bureaucracy.

My opinion: avoid it. The risk is too high, and there are so many wonderful place in the world without the need to risk your time in this often overcomplicated nation. Go cycling in Provence, for example.

My suggestion if you really feel the need for it: Lugano-Genova can easily be done going through Piemonte, where camping is allowed. Venice can be reached from Lugano through Trentino Alto Adige, where you can risk camping.


Edit after comment from OP

Sorry,, but I have not been able to find a clear indication of how laying down with a sack or a mattress is considered. I'm not a lawyer, in all honestly, and this things are a bit of bordeline. Technically, bivouacking and vagrancy/roaming are more or less the same, it just depends on the context. In your case, if you were an perfectly capable of speaking Italian it would be easy to explain what you were doing, otherwise you risk a little bit everytime. Honestly, if you want to do your bike ride, bring a tent and sleep in it. Still questionable (by the policeman) but at least a lot lot easier to understand. And you can put your bike inside, that at least will grant you that your bike ride will last more than a day ;-D

  • Thanks, but would my case really count as "bivouac"ing or staying in a tent? Because as said in the question, I would either use only a mattress, or a bivouac sack if it rains, but the latter really is just a sack - it's not fixed in any way, no rigid parts, not erected in any way, becomes completely flat unless you put luggage or yourself in it. Thing is I like the sea and those are by far the shortest itineraries (starting from any point in Switzerland because there public transport doesn't cost me anything extra). Geneva-Marseille is >400km. Considering that for later. – Nobody Sep 13 '16 at 20:23
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    Idiocyland? Is that really necessary? – JoErNanO Sep 13 '16 at 21:21
  • @motoDrizzt The one about not being able to explain myself is what I fear most, that's why I would probably only do it if the law was relatively clearly in my favour. That would be an advantage about France, I speak fairly decent French (on top of German and English). – Nobody Sep 13 '16 at 21:23
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    Oh, damn. It's just a word and I will not pay the rent with that anyway. Just give me a moment to think for something else, ok? :-) – motoDrizzt Sep 14 '16 at 9:22
  • @motoDrizzt great edit and as said above great research. I have retracted my flag, deleted my previous comments and converted my -1 to a +1 :) – mts Sep 14 '16 at 9:52

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