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    Default Wild camping struggle in Italy?! Is it even possible? | Day 7 of TMB to Courmayer

    Wild camping struggle in Italy?! Is it even possible? | Day 7 of TMB to Courmayer, Rifugio G. Bertone


    In today's episode of Tour de Mont Blanc we hiked from Plan de Veny to Courmayer, Rifugio G. Bertone in Italy.


    Watch the full video here:

    The morning of that day was very cloudy and chilly with lots of humidity and wetness in the air. It was one of the first cloudy mornings on the trail. We woke up quite early at 6 am and were just chilling out in the tent for a while. We were so grateful for the privileged location that we camped in yesterday evening. The views from the site were incredible with the massive rocks and waterfalls coming down from them right in front of us. It was so beautiful that Angelina even got desire to draw a quick sketch of this view just for the souvenir sake.

    We got out from the camping quite late at 11am because we had an accident with that map application we are using for GPS. It was accidentally deleted with all the maps of the countries and regions when trying to update other application and freeing up the space. And so we had to download them once again. And the Internet access had a limit of 500MB of use so it took quite a bit of time to do so.

    We knew that in front of us there is another mountain to climb and we didn't want to do that today because we were doing one mountain every day the last several days and got a bit tired. So we had a plan to get to the village Courmayer and then to look around in search for the camping spot.

    All the first part of the trail we were walking along the pavement car road with a gentle downhill which felt so easy and great. And fortunately there wasn't much traffic on it. We still got the amazing views of the mountains, Mont Blanc in the clouds, waterfalls and glaciers. In about an hour or so we were in the village Courmayer. We hoped in the supermarket in the last moment before it was closing for siesta and bought some local products to try like cheese, focaccio bread, cherries and some yogurts. There were quite a lot of cheese variations on the shelves and many of them we have never seen before.

    The town Courmayer was a nice village with lots of rock buildings and beautiful views all around. We would even stay there for a while because we like this kind of mountain villages quite a lot. There were a lot of pizzerias too, so we definitely had a plan to try pizza in it one day.

    We had our snack and started to get out from the town. Unfortunately there were no campsites close to the village so we had to continue along the trail going uphill in search for some place there. We saw that there were some flat spots not far from the path but they were all too accessible from the route and parking down the trail so we thought it won't be a good idea to stop there. Also we continued seeing the camping crossed signs with no fire no littering signs together but we still wanted to believe that it was referring to a camping during daylight and not to wild camping for a night.

    The trail was going up in a zig zagging style and it was easy enough all the way through. It was going through the forest with lots of shadow and the weather was very comfortable too. The weather forecast was apparently wrong saying that it will be thunder storming all day long. And it was great because the rain is able to ruin many plans. We were just quite tired to enjoy it because all the last days we were conquering the mountains and were pushing to the same muscle groups so they got quite a bit sore. Also we met a squirrel on the way which was a very pleasant encounter.

    In about an hour and a half we got to the top of the hill and we had to do 800m of elevation from 1200m to 2000m. There was a refugee house staying on top of the mountain and we wanted to ask them whether it is possible to set up a tent close to them. We asked the receptionist about it and he definitely denied that. He said that in this region of Italy wild camping is not allowed in any place. That the refugee houses are a private business and if the owner will see the tent on its property he will be unhappy about it. Also he said that there are forest rangers and people can get fined but not always. So you can do it on your own risk. We felt really disappointed about that. In our opinion it is unfair to the people like us to not allow to stay in tent which was our own choice and personal preference. And we were even ready to pay some set price for the spot and using the toilet but it wasn't even offered to us. It wasn't even an option. France could do it differently allowing the bivouac for a night and we just didn't get it why it should be so different in the neighboring countries in the same mountain massif. Unfortunately we see that it is very commercialized because this trail is so popular and the prices are very high for everything. We are sure that there are people just like us who like to stay in tents and cook their own food and don't like dormitories and shared spaces.

    So after searching for quite a while going downhill and uphill with almost no powers we luckily found a good place to camp. It looked like it was just made for a tent - so flat it was. So it was a real reward at the end of the day. So we had our buckwheat mixed with rice and cheese for dinner and very exhausted hoping that nobody will disturb us went to bed.


    What is your opinion about wild camping prohibiton?

  2. #2
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    In my travels in France, Switzerland, Spain and a small part of Italy (just on the TMB) “wild camping” has seemed discouraged in most places and I rarely saw tents. What I’ve been told is that if you set up a low profile camp at or after sunset and are gone by sunrise, you’re not likely to have issues but I wouldn’t condone anything illegal. I’ve been resigned to using the lodges in Europe which makes for a more expensive and, at times, more crowded experience, but the upside is a much lighter pack and meeting more people from all over the world.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Coffee View Post
    In my travels in France, Switzerland, Spain and a small part of Italy (just on the TMB) “wild camping” has seemed discouraged in most places and I rarely saw tents. What I’ve been told is that if you set up a low profile camp at or after sunset and are gone by sunrise, you’re not likely to have issues but I wouldn’t condone anything illegal. I’ve been resigned to using the lodges in Europe which makes for a more expensive and, at times, more crowded experience, but the upside is a much lighter pack and meeting more people from all over the world.
    That is true that wild camping doesn't seem to be well tolerated at least on this trail. But still in France there were places fro bivouac in some areas and nice campsites on the way so it's a bit better than in Italy. Also there were signs saying that the bivouac is allowed only for the night hours which is what we do anyway, we don't ever stay in tent late in the day. This culture overall of wild camping is not so well developed here in Europe compared to US and it is not that popular.

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    Things in Italy have changed over the decades.
    In the 80ties it was very common in Italy that climbers were car camping and any sort of wild camping everywhere around the climbing areas. Same at the beaches.
    Litter was everywhere and piles of sh1t behind the bushes.
    In later years, maybe in the 90ties, came Italian people in masses driving out into nature doing picknicks. You can't imagine how much waste they left, huge areas full of.
    Then the authorities started to wake up and set up regulations, and pretty strict ones at that.
    Wild camping is strictly forbidden throughout the country. The fines are pretty high.
    And its not only the police that might see and get you, its also the locals that might call the police to come and get you.
    Been there, done this, and it had happened.

    Now the only way to stay over night without charge and fine is sleeping in a car on an official parking place, without showing any sign of camping (like, not having chairs+table outside).
    You may be lucky to slip through by stealthing well, but chances are high that you get caught sometimes.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Leo L. View Post
    Things in Italy have changed over the decades.
    In the 80ties it was very common in Italy that climbers were car camping and any sort of wild camping everywhere around the climbing areas. Same at the beaches.
    Litter was everywhere and piles of sh1t behind the bushes.
    In later years, maybe in the 90ties, came Italian people in masses driving out into nature doing picknicks. You can't imagine how much waste they left, huge areas full of.
    Then the authorities started to wake up and set up regulations, and pretty strict ones at that.
    Wild camping is strictly forbidden throughout the country. The fines are pretty high.
    And its not only the police that might see and get you, its also the locals that might call the police to come and get you.
    Been there, done this, and it had happened.

    Now the only way to stay over night without charge and fine is sleeping in a car on an official parking place, without showing any sign of camping (like, not having chairs+table outside).
    You may be lucky to slip through by stealthing well, but chances are high that you get caught sometimes.
    Yes, we perfectly understand that this is the main reason they did it so strict, we didn't know the history but we were guessing that. Thank you for providing information from real life experience. We are not glad to learn it at all but it's important to know. There is almost nothing that can stop us from stealth camping because we simply see no point of hiking without camping. It just puts things more difficult to us. When we can we try to stay at campsites but that is not available everywhere neither unfortunately. Guess we were lucky enough to not get caught in two months hiking in Italy and quite many nights stealth camping.

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    We have a very similar situation here in Austria, wild camping is forbidden, with very few exceptions (like, in some Alpine areas you are allowed to camp above tree line).
    I'm still doing stealth camping, but try to hide away as perfect as possible, so nobody ever will find me or notice me having been there later.
    Here in Austria, the biggest treat is not the Police itself, but the hunters that have rented the area for his private pleasure.
    There is a huge pressure from the Mountainbikers which are banned from all the forests but are pressing hard to still ride through everywhere, and they are huge numbers, and those MTB people (might call them idiots) drive the hunters crazy and now they start picking hikers and any other person they might find in the forests.
    It has happend here that a hunter was stopping a hiker, accused him for pouching, and called the police to search the hikers pack. Totally legal on the hunters side.
    A nightmare if said hunter would find me camping in his range.
    Best protection being bad weather - no a-hole hunter out there in the rain.

    Too many people in a too tiny country, so everybody is stepping on someone else's toes, I guess.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Leo L. View Post
    We have a very similar situation here in Austria, wild camping is forbidden, with very few exceptions (like, in some Alpine areas you are allowed to camp above tree line).
    I'm still doing stealth camping, but try to hide away as perfect as possible, so nobody ever will find me or notice me having been there later.
    Here in Austria, the biggest treat is not the Police itself, but the hunters that have rented the area for his private pleasure.
    There is a huge pressure from the Mountainbikers which are banned from all the forests but are pressing hard to still ride through everywhere, and they are huge numbers, and those MTB people (might call them idiots) drive the hunters crazy and now they start picking hikers and any other person they might find in the forests.
    It has happend here that a hunter was stopping a hiker, accused him for pouching, and called the police to search the hikers pack. Totally legal on the hunters side.
    A nightmare if said hunter would find me camping in his range.
    Best protection being bad weather - no a-hole hunter out there in the rain.

    Too many people in a too tiny country, so everybody is stepping on someone else's toes, I guess.
    We haven't really think much about the hunters before you described the situation in your country. Although we stayed several times in the spots where we saw some leftover wood, some instruments and hunting structures and we were a bit worried about them coming at night. We were just hoping that nobody hunts at night but we don't know much at all about hunting anyway. We had to stop there because of the difficult mountainous relief so having no other options. Now that you are saying it we feel again being lucky not having a trouble with it. We too always hide as good as possible but still all these thoughts don't allow to sleep well often.

    So the hunter seem to have more rights than hikers obviously. Being a licensed hunter seems to be the only solution so that you can walk and hike in the forest at least. Did he accused the hiker who was just walking on this territory?

    And yes agree on the bad weather, it feels more secure even though may not be that comfortable.

    Overpopulation is an issue right now all over the world.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Leo L. View Post
    We have a very similar situation here in Austria, wild camping is forbidden, with very few exceptions (like, in some Alpine areas you are allowed to camp above tree line).
    I'm still doing stealth camping, but try to hide away as perfect as possible, so nobody ever will find me or notice me having been there later.
    Here in Austria, the biggest treat is not the Police itself, but the hunters that have rented the area for his private pleasure.
    There is a huge pressure from the Mountainbikers which are banned from all the forests but are pressing hard to still ride through everywhere, and they are huge numbers, and those MTB people (might call them idiots) drive the hunters crazy and now they start picking hikers and any other person they might find in the forests.
    It has happend here that a hunter was stopping a hiker, accused him for pouching, and called the police to search the hikers pack. Totally legal on the hunters side.
    A nightmare if said hunter would find me camping in his range.
    Best protection being bad weather - no a-hole hunter out there in the rain.

    Too many people in a too tiny country, so everybody is stepping on someone else's toes, I guess.
    We haven't really think much about the hunters before you described the situation in your country. Although we stayed several times in the spots where we saw some leftover wood, some instruments and hunting structures and we were a bit worried about them coming at night. We were just hoping that nobody hunts at night but we don't know much at all about hunting anyway. We had to stop there because of the difficult mountainous relief so having no other options. Now that you are saying it we feel again being lucky not having a trouble with it. We too always hide as good as possible but still all these thoughts don't allow to sleep well often.

    So the hunter seem to have more rights than hikers obviously. Being a licensed hunter seems to be the only solution so that you can walk and hike in the forest at least. Did he accused the hiker who was just walking on this territory?

    And yes agree on the bad weather, it feels more secure even though may not be that comfortable.

    Overpopulation is an issue right now all over the world.

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    I can only speak about the hunting system here in Austria, and it might be totally different in other European countries.

    All the forest belongs to somebody, either private or state. All forest is divided into hunting ranges.
    A hunting range typically is 100ha (100x1kmx1km) and is owned or rented by one single hunter, who typically is a very rich person, otherwise he could not afford the annualy rent.
    This hunter typically has to employ one or several guys who are also hunters, but poor ones, to do the actual work year-round. The rich guy typically comes 2-3 times a year only in a group together with some of his rich friends to shoot the alpha trophy.
    Now you maybe understand that the rich guys, having paid tremendous money to rent the range, doesnt like to have other, private persons within his range.
    He strictly orders his poor working hunters to kick out everybody he can get hold of, no matter what the law says.
    We had cases where an angry poor hunter stopped MTB riders at gunpoint or runover by the Jeep and in case the MTB went to court the hunter had the best lawyer available for his defense, provided by the rich hunter.

    Now if you happen to encounter a hunter while hiking or stealth camping, it widely depends on the person and his personal mood what might happen.
    You might exchange a friendly greeting, or a quizzikal look, as well as a terribly angry shouting, agressive dogs chasing at you, or a stiff and cold notion "stop, you're poaching, let me look into your pack" (which is his totally legal right ot do) and if you refuse, "stop and wait for the Police".

    Now guess how much I like the situation...
    Last edited by Leo L.; 12-19-2019 at 04:08.

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    You can head up to Sweden and Norway. There you are allowed by law to camp on almost any undeveloped, unoccupied, and uncultivated land with no permits, fees, or permission required, It does not matter if it is private property. A few exceptions are sensitive natural areas protected as national parks, where there are likely to be designated camping areas. As in other parts of europe, there are many Backcountry huts you can use for a fee if you prefer that.

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    Retirement nearing, I already set my scope for this areas.

    What I'm resenting is, that I'm actually living in the middle of what is said to be the most lovely part of the Alps (and millions of tourists know about this and proof it as a fact), but we locals can't live here to our private liking like roaming free through the country - no way.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Leo L. View Post
    Retirement nearing, I already set my scope for this areas.


    What I'm resenting is, that I'm actually living in the middle of what is said to be the most lovely part of the Alps (and millions of tourists know about this and proof it as a fact), but we locals can't live here to our private liking like roaming free through the country - no way.
    Yes, that is really terrible when you can't live freely on your own land. It is one of the only true things left in our life that make our living worthwhile. We have been only to the South Tyrol in Italy this autumn but we already could see what you're talking about, the area is incredible there.

    We also been thinking of travelling to the North as we've heard beautiful things about it. The only thing that worries us a bit is the prices for food and stuff. It is believed to be quite expensive compared to the South of Europe. Not sure if some country can beat the Switzerland though in this regard

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    Norway sure is way more expensive than Swizerland.
    But then in Scandinavia you never have to pay for the night if you have the the skill and right stuff, so all you pay for is transportation and food.

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    The more I learn about other countries, the more grateful I am of all the wild places we have left in the United States where we can backpack with zero permits, and even those that do require some work to obtain permits. So much better off than many other parts of the world.

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    You are perfectly right!
    And its one reason why we Europeans look in envy over to the US.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Coffee View Post
    The more I learn about other countries, the more grateful I am of all the wild places we have left in the United States where we can backpack with zero permits, and even those that do require some work to obtain permits. So much better off than many other parts of the world.
    I do agree with you, although I would not call the AT a "wild place". On the other hand, I would not want to come face to face with a grizzly or a mountain lion, so the AT is wild enough for me .
    As for the OP, you should try Corsica, France. They call it "Ile de beaute" for a reason.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Leo L. View Post
    You are perfectly right!
    And its one reason why we Europeans look in envy over to the US.
    It's just such a different experience and I try to embrace the differences. Overall, I must say that I prefer to end my day in my tent cooking my own meal to being in a lodge most of the time, but that being said I just was in Europe this fall on the Camino and it was terrific as well although I didn't finish.

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    Check out these air bnb listings. It is Sweden's tongue in cheek way of advertising the fact that the whole country is available for free lodging.

    https://sweden.withairbnb.com

    And Sweden is not as expensive as Norway. Just take the 18 hr overnight train from the Stockholm airport to Abisko Turistation a few hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle and just start walking. The train is only about 100$ for a sleeping compartment.

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