Campground Serendipity in Umbria

Recently after passing through Rome on our way back from Pompei, we put away our two campground directories and decided to let serendipity provide our camping spot for the night.

It’s too bad we can’t take this kind of laid back approach more often.

When we stay by major cities, which we’ve been doing constantly for the past three weeks in Italy, we need to do a lot of research and have lots of niggly, circular conversations about which campground would be best.

The sites must meet certain criteria. Dogs must be allowed, of course. And our site must be shady, so Archie can be safe and comfortable at home while we’re out exploring all day. City access is a big factor too, for the child as well as the dog. If getting into the city is too complicated or takes too long, the kid will be drained before we even get there. Besides, with Archie waiting in the rig, we don’t have the time to do 12- or 14-hour days like we used to. Our first choice is a bike path into town; if that’s not possible, then we look for easy transit. Internet access matters to us, as does proximity to a grocery store or market of some kind.

Discerning all this from our various campground directories, which use complicated coding systems, are written in German and often have conflicting or inaccurate information, isn’t always easy.

So the idea of simply following some random camping sign was appealing. If worse came to worse, we could just pull over and free camp. No big deal.

It was getting dark, so either way we needed to get parked.

No attractive free-camp prospects were presenting themselves. But then up ahead we suddenly spotted a little campground sign.

Perfect timing.

Capitello Camping, Otricoli, Umbria

We turned and rattled down a dirt road, past vineyards and apple orchards, until we came to a small, newish looking campground. It was deserted and the gate was locked. No campers were there, but gleaming new electrical boxes beckoned to us in the twilight. We looked around. Roman ruins dozed in the distance, while nearby the Tiber river unfurled itself gently along the valley floor. It was a pleasant evening, quiet and peaceful, so we waited to see what would happen. If nothing else, we could free camp nearby.

Sure enough within a few minutes, a nondescript white Fiat puttered down from the direction of the village on the hill. Out of the car popped Alberto, the owner of the campground. He’d happened to notice our rig in the distance and drove on down.

Isn’t he sweet?

Alberto unlocked the gates, assuring us the place was indeed open. The rate was a fraction of what we’d been paying during the past month near Italy’s big cities. Alberto, who’d gone an International School in Rome, spoke lovely English, so while he checked us in, we all chatted.

Tiber river valley (view from the campground)

Apparently Alberto’s family owned all the surrounding land, blanketed with golden wheat and barely fields. At one time they’d raised cattle too, but times change; now cattle were out and campers were in. Before building the place, the family had been required to prove to local authorities the campground wouldn’t harm the adjacent archeological site.

Absolutely no one else was there, a relief after a month of noisy, urban campgrounds.

This place looked like it had been finished about five minutes ago. Fragile young willows, newly planted but promising one day to provide mammoth shade, separated the pitches. The washrooms were still sparkling. Alberto mentioned he had new kayaks at the ready, and he invited us to try one out on the Tiber the following day.

While we talked, Archie, who for the past month had spent more time inside than Anne Frank, joyfully scampered around off leash, growling at shadows and poking his nose into this and that.

Then, when we could ask for nothing more, Alberto blew our minds with this little bombshell.

They had free wi-fi.

Good God. Out here in this infant campground, next to nothing in particular other than Roman ruins and golden Umbrian fields?

Quick, someone hand me a tissue…

We had a great night’s sleep (obviously) and spent the next morning catching up on internet chores. Tragically we couldn’t stay and take advantage of the kayaks, as that that pesky Schengen visa limit was like a gun at our backs, forcing us out of the country in just two more days. If we could have, we’d have stayed for a week, just hanging out.

Before we left, Alberto showed up and gave us a bottle of the local olive oil as a parting gift. (In case you haven’t camped in Europe recently, campgrounds do not routinely hand out bottles of fresh-pressed extra-virgin olive oil as you roll away.)

Local Otricoli olive oil

We were genuinely sad to say goodbye. Being fresh off the tourist circuit, we were grateful to have been treated with kindness at a campground treated with care.

If you ever find yourself in Umbria, chugging along the old Via Flaminia on your way out of Rome, stop by Capitello Camping and say hi to Alberto for us.

Capitello Camping
Via Flaminia km 68
05030 Otricoli, Italy

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 joannbc August 16, 2011 at 7:36 pm

Yay for the free wifi. Funny how we’re all so dependent on it nowadays. Beautiful photos Renee, love the sun peeking out of the clouds and Archie on the path. How awesome to find a camp ground with such great hospitality — so you can feel refreshed.


2 Renee August 20, 2011 at 5:16 pm

Yes, it was great. Simple, but great.


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