What happens when you get caught illegal camping in Italy?
The only thing you can shamelessly take for granted when travelling is that you never know. And this you-never-know is every wanderer’s daily bread kneaded out of the most delightful ingredients—and my favourite ones are the absurd and the unbelievable.
Picturesque Northern Italy. My train has just arrived in Alpine Trento. My stomach feels like an ADHD-stricken butterfly farm when I’m waiting for Gunnar. Not only are we freshly in love, long-distance sweethearts, but it is going to be our first law-breaking date. And for this occasion, my beloved got a brand new ‘one-second tent’. Wouldn’t you get thrilled yourselves?
After two cigarettes excused over his delayed train and enamel-annihilating teeth brushing at the station facility, I look as backpacker fresh as possible when my love is waving to me from the platform. It got quite late, but luckily enough, at least for the time being, we don’t need to walk far to spot that mausoleum towering over the place. How romantic! Travelling lovers camping at mausoleum… what a grasping story to tell! Plus the spot looks rather safe— who would climb a hill at night, except for the couple of the year?
The foot of the hill surprises us with a gate – a locked one, to be clear. Looks like our wild-camping is going to be stealth-camping after all. Who cares, during your first year as a cool peace/freedom/adventure backpacker you do not care, as a crazed rule. Hence, thanks to Mother Nature who fitted us out with skinny butts, the gate is more of a mockup, and we sneak in between the intruder-friendly bars with ease. Now, happy to get such a splendid accommodation for tonight we’re rushing up enjoying the fresh air while glittering windows of Trento become smaller and smaller as we climb the hill.
On the top it feels just perfect: tranquillizing view over the town getting ready to sleep, the illuminated mausoleum behind and the starry sky above…
Even the terrain is desirably flat and pitching our ‘one-second tent’ takes us only five seconds. The park opens at 9 a.m. so, fortunately and for the time being, we don’t need to take off at the peep of day. How much in love I am, how paradisiac my new life is! Falling asleep in his arms, waking up lazily to a morning kiss… (Listen, there are some people walking! Oh, okay, sorry.)
Having thought so… so what is the ‘knocking’ at the flap around 6 a.m.? Pants on, quickly, no kiss, a peep outside, oh crap…
Dummies of the year. Or so in love, or so dark that we didn’t notice we’d pitched our super invisible tent just under the keeper’s nose?
Now we’re having the police car just next to our tent—meaning they drove twenty meters across the lawn squashing it completely—to fine us for squashing the lawn with our tent. By the way, this is why camping is illegal in the EU: because of its “detrimental effect on the landscape.” On the bright side, we are not the only dummies here.
That would be 180€, then. So there. Nevertheless, full of hope and that ‘first-year backpacking awesomeness’, I’m standing there, tanned, denim shorts, activating my blue-eyed-blonde rescue mechanism: forgot my love, just a dummy trying to flirt herself out of trouble. But they ask for our passports anyway. One. Hundred. Eighty. I could travel for three weeks for the money. The uniformed dummy takes our IDs and hides in the car.
But wait, he is coming back.
– If you pack the tent up in the blink of an eye, we’ll report we found some people, but there was no tent.
And that would be the end of the trouble; the only wrinkle is that the ‘one-second’ in the tent description refers to putting it up, not taking it down. Since they were already pissed off when they arrived (bear in mind it’s six in the morning)—and now they seem to be more and more boiling—I jump to a little chat with the officers to entertain them with my Italian and win some time for Gunnar fighting with the tent that keeps springing out back to its ready-to-use form.
But yeah, we got away with it that time. Was it my powerful trick or Gunnar’s German passport? Or both, because say whatever but in the North of Italy they adore blue-eyed blondes. And Germans.
– And if you’re going to do that again tonight, you’d better go for that grill bar on the other side of the river. They close around 10 p.m.
– You mean we can camp there, officer?
– No, but it’s private property, and nobody is going to be there after 10, so nobody is going to bother us.
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