If you are considering walking the Via Francigena you may be wondering whether you can camp on the Via Francigena in Italy. We recently walked from Lucca to Rome, camping some of the way. Whether for budget reasons, or to avoid busy accommodation on the route, or just to enjoy the fabulous countryside, there are many reasons why you may choose to camp on the Via Francigena. We’ve put together a short guide to help you decide whether to camp on the Via Francigena and to find out how to do it in Italy.
You can read more about walking from Lucca to Rome here and can also find our guide to accommodation the Via Francigena here.
Is wild camping in Italy legal?
Whether or not wild camping in Italy is legal seems to be a little bit of a grey area. There are a number of websites which claim that wild camping in Italy is in fact illegal. There are also sites advising that it is legal to wild camp in certain circumstances.
When making our decision as to whether to wild camp in Italy on the Via Francigena, we trusted the advice of the official Via Francigena website. This states that:
Overnight bivouacking on state land is possible under Italian law from dusk to dawn, but some municipalities require notice at least one day in advance. Camping is always possible on private land by agreement with the owner.
In any case, we only recommend camping on the Via Francigena to those who have experience, a spirit of adventure, can adapt to precarious situations and accept that they may not be able to take a shower on arrival
On this basis, it appears that you can wild camp in Italy on the Via Francigena provided that certain conditions are met.
Firstly, if on state land, bivouacking is legal. The definition of bivouacking is a “temporary shelter or camp used overnight.” It seems that a small tent can be considered to be a temporary shelter. If you wanted to take a very strict interpretation of “temporary shelter”, you might suggest that a tent is not included, but a tarpaulin, makeshift shelter or camping hammock is.
Secondly, if you are camping on private land, you must ask the permission of the landowner. I am not sure if this condition can always realistically be met, especially in Tuscany. Clearly, there will some situations when it is obvious who owns the land. If, for example, you see a house connected to the land. However, in Tuscany and Lazio around the Via Francigena, there are vast swathes of land, which could be private or public, and ascertaining the ownership of the land would be impractical if not impossible.
Finally, stick to the “dusk to dawn” rules. Erect your shelter once the sun has gone down and leave before it rises. And, of course, don’t light campfires and leave no trace behind.
Where can you wild camp on the Via Francigena in Italy?
In our experience, finding a spot to wild camp on or near the Via Francigena in Tuscany and Lazio was fairly easy. Of course, you must be mindful to avoid private land (unless you have the land owners permission) and to keep your distance from permanent dwellings.
From Lucca to Rome, we were able to find spots to camp. Our strategy was to walk a little further than the main town at the end of each walking day. Where possible, we stuck to the Via Francigena route to avoid walking extra distance the next day. In general, there seemed to be ample public land whether in fields or in woodland areas. We also used Google Maps satellite function to check out the terrain before we arrived.
One thing to be aware of, is that many of the towns visited in Tuscany and Lazio on the Via Francigena, are perched high atop hills. Therefore, camping near to the main towns, or camping in the main towns on the Via Francigena is not really feasible.
As set out below, you do need to be mindful of wildlife and weather hazards when camping on the Via Francigena. We would strongly recommend that you avoid camping in dense woodland.
Are there camp sites on the Via Francigena in Italy?
There are some camp sites on the Via Francigena. They are much less prevalent than hostels and hotels and tend to be seasonal too.
We walked from Lucca to Rome recently and noted a few camp sites along the route. However, when walking in early spring, many of these did not appear to be open.
Aside from official camp sites, there may be opportunities to camp in the grounds of monasteries, convents or hostels. But, be aware that much of the accommodation on the Via Francigena in Tuscany and Lazio is in towns or cities and does not have outdoor space. We are however, aware of some that do have gardens and have accepted pilgrims with tents into the garden. But, you must ask in advance to do this.
Campsites on the Via Francigena in Tuscany
Here are the campsites in the Tuscany region from Lucca to Radiciofani and there contact details:
Certaldo – Agricamping Poggio ai Pini – website here
San Gimingnano – Villaggio del Pellegrino – website here
Colle Val D’Elsa – Campo Piro E More – Facebook account here
Siena – Camping Colleverde – Pitch Up booking details here
Campsites on the Via Francigena in Lazzio
Here are the campsites in the Lazio region from Radiciofani to Rome and there contact details:
Roma La Storta – Base Scout Valetta – website here
What are the pros and cons of camping on the Via Francigena?
Choosing whether or not to camp on the Via Francigena is a big decision. Not only that you may have to invest in good camping equipment, but you have to carry it all along the way. It is a finely balanced decision.
We chose to camp some of the Via Francigena and stay in hostels or hotels for the remainder. In retrospect, although we enjoyed camping and we don’t regret making the decision to camp on on the Via Francigena, we would not do it again if we walked the same route.
Here are our honest thoughts on the pros and cons of camping on the Via Francigena:
Pros of camping on the Via Francigena
The first pro of camping on the Via Francigena, is the cost saving. If you wild camp in nature, you don’t have to pay a penny to do so. If you camp in the grounds of a hostel, or on a camp site, you are still going to save money comparative to paying for a bunk bed. Read more about budgeting for the Via Francigena here.
As a couple walking the Via Francigena, one of the best things about camping for us, was that it afforded us privacy. Much of the accommodation on the Via Francigena is communal, unless you pay for private hotels on the whole route. We saw camping as a chance to take some time away from this “communal living” and enjoy our own space.
The views! The nights that we camped were some of the most memorable, simply because of the epic scenery that we were surrounded by. It was romantic and beautiful, even though we were exhausted. The sun rises also stunned us, there’s nothing quite like the sun coming up over the Tuscan hills.
Camping on the Via Francigena feels like a big adventure. Yes, it can be a bit of a faff. You have to plan carefully. You can’t sit in a bar until the wee hours enjoying drinks and good company. You have to carry more in your backpack. But we felt free! And we felt like we were on a unique adventure that nobody else was having.
Cons of camping on the Via Francigena
You may find it harder to meet other pilgrims and feel that you are missing out on opportunities for socialising in the towns on the Via Francigena in the evening. This doesn’t always have to be the case, especially if you socialise on the walk and perhaps spend a few nights in hostels. But, camping can make you feel a little isolated from others.
There are some risks when camping, especially wild camping. For a start, the legality of wild camping is a little unclear. And, it can be easy to mistake private land for public land. In practise, it is difficult to know whether accidentally camping in public land would cause much trouble for you or not.
The second risk to wild camping, is the wildlife in the area. There are some animals that are potentially dangerous. Firstly, wolves are reported to have returned to Tuscany and are allegedly getting closer to built up areas. Secondly, wild boar are to be found throughout Tuscany and Lazio. We recommend reading more about this before you decide to camp on the Via Francigena.
Finally, there are comfort factors. After a long day of walking, you may be desperate to shower and wash your clothes. You may be hankering after a comfortable bed and a glass of wine in a bar! Instead of sitting and enjoying your night, you might be spending time trying to find the perfect camp spot. Plus, if you’re wild camping and have to wait until dawn to erect your camp, you may find there’s a fair bit of waiting around.
Lotus Eaters Travel Top Tips for camping on the Via Francigena
- Contact hostels in advance to confirm if they may be able to allow you to camp in the hostel grounds, enabling you to use the facilities inside;
- Try to find public land, this is quite easy on the Via Francigena in our experience;
- Pack lightweight camping equipment that won’t weigh you down when walking;
- Spend a few nights in hostels or hotels if you can, this may help you to meet people on the way as well as giving you a chance to shower!
- Use the restrooms in cafes and bars to freshen up, top up water, or change your clothes and use plug points (with permission) to top up your phone and essential electronics;
- Beware of your surroundings, particularly wildlife and weather hazards;
- Pack lots of small plastic bags so that you can bag up any rubbish before you leave your site;
- Avoid keeping food in your tent;
- Abide by the “dusk until dawn” rule and don’t cause a nuisance;
- Limit your noise at night time and be courteous.
What to pack for camping on the Via Francigena
A lightweight tent
Here are five tents that could suit anyone walking and camping on the Via Francigena:
|Hyke and Bike Tent Yosemite 2 person tent||2.49kg||16x45x16 cm||£114|
|Wandelen Appalachian Lightweight Backpacking Tent||1.68kg||12.95 x 39.88 x 12.95 cm||£129|
|Forceatt Camping Tent 2-3 Person||2.5kg||14 x 14 x 41 cm||£96|
|Berghaus Lightweight and Compact Cheviot 2 Tent for 2 People||3.1kg||16 x 16 x 50 cm||£136|
|OneTigris COSMITTO Lightweight Backpacking Tent 2 Person||2.4kg||16 x 16 x 50cm||£124.99|
There are lighter options, but expect to pay a lot more for those.
Sleeping bags and roll mats
E uses the Besteam ultralightweight bag. This retails at around £100, which is not cheap. But, having tried some cheaper bags, we think this is one of the best at this budget. The best bit about this bag is that it is actually ultra-light at 1.6llbs (0.75 kg). However, this is not recommended for anyone tall as it’s not a long bag.
J travels with the Nature Hike Ultra light down bag. This is a super cosy bag and comes in a longer size for taller people. At around £109, it’s not cheap, but good value for what it is. Plus, it weighs 2lbs (1kg).
For roll mats, we’ve tried a few, but the one E uses at the moment is this self-inflating mat on Amazon. It retails at under £30 and is fairly light weight. It is super comfortable! The mat has a built in pump, which is great and easy to use. It rolls into a small cylinder and is easy to put away too. J uses a lighter roll mat, but it’s not as comfortable as E’s. Nevertheless, we would still recommend it for the Via Francigena.
What else should you pack for camping on the Via Francigena?
A Head Torch – a must pack for us. Doubles up as a light in the tent at night and required if you need to pop out when it’s dark. We use this basic rechargeable head torch.
A battery pack – to charge phones on the go.
Cooking Equipment – we pack a small stove, that fits into the tiniest box. Its easy to set up and dismantle, light to carry and boils water pretty quickly. We also use this Odoland pots and pans set.
A 3 Litre Water Platypus – like this one. It’s advisable to carry at least 3 litres, especially if it’s hot or water stops are few and far between. I like using a water platypus too as it fits into my Osprey Tempest backpack in a special water pouch.
Toiletries – essential for me (E) are my mooncup, wet wipes, sunscreen, deodorant and dry shampoo. I also pack a few small bags (doggy poop bags work well!) to ensure I can collect up any rubbish and used wet wipes and throw them away easily.
John and Emma’s hiking gear. These are items we love to use when we go hiking, find them here on Amazon.
Osprey 40L, Multi, O/S
HOKA ONE ONE Mens Speedgoat 4 Textile Synthetic Trainers
HOKA ONE ONE Women’s Clifton 8
CWVLC Unisex Cushioned Compression Athletic Ankle Socks Multipack
Compeed Callouses 6 Medium Plasters
Montem Ultra Strong Trekking, Walking, and Hiking Poles – One Pair (2 Poles)
Want to read more about the Via Francigena?
Most of our planning is done using other blogs, but you can’t beat a guide book at the bottom of your case.
Find them here on Amazon.
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