Growing up I had plenty of chances to camp, and when I say “camp” I mean for real: small tent, heavy backpack, dehydrated foods, rain cover and minimal underwear changes!
When my brother and I were young, my father would have us spend the summer roughing it on his small army raft: We would leave Fiesole, Italy, with a car loaded with luggage and our power raft on a trailer bed. My father would drive us to whatever place he and my mother had picked for our summer vacation, and the fun would begin. We always had a home-base minimal rental apartment to store luggage, keep some groceries, and eventually rest here and there, but the real vacation was exploring the coast with the raft. My father would seek the most-isolated beaches; we would spend the day fishing and eventually land the raft at shore, make a campfire and cook our prey. We would sleep under the stars and wake up to the sound of the shore — it was the ultimate adventure for me and my brother.
As I grew up, I started trekking through Italy with my friends, especially during the years of high school. It was for us a great bonding experience, a constant exploration, a way to completely disconnect from basically everything, especially considering that in those days the only way you could call home for the occasional “Mom, don’t worry I am doing fine!” was a pay phone usually located miles away from where the adventure was taking place. We slept in the rain (read: did not sleep), got caught in terrifying May snowstorms, and sourced food hunting and fishing, but we also had to go through garbage at times to find that old soggy piece of bread we had unconsciously thrown away a couple of days before. What a vivid memory that still is, that night that four friends and I shared one red apple and half a jar of Nutella, stuck in a thunderstorm on the highest mountain of Isola D’ Elba, after grinding many miles of trails the whole day. It happened more than 20 years ago, and we still talk about it.
Now I am in my 40s, and I live with three girls who would define “camping” in a whole different way. We are a family of city people, and roughing it does not really apply. We have, however, enjoyed many moments in semi-wild settings, and I know that a true appreciation for “the wilderness” in fact exists within my girls; ultimately it is enough for me to know that even if they complain about cell reception, they still are able to enjoy the moment and build great memories.
After all, the memories are what you are after. Camping with family or friends is a fantastic excuse to unplug, but much stronger and deeper is the meaning of the memories you will collect along the way. So go ahead: Pack some food, a rain cover, a lighter and some matches, and a hook and line, and don’t forget your camera. Maybe take paper and a pencil, make sure your shoes are solid but broken in, dress in layers, get a hat with a visor, and sunglasses are a must. Always be aware of where you can find clean water. And last but not least, remember: Just because you have a smartphone or a GPS does not mean you don’t need maps or to know how to read them.
Summer is around the corner. It’s time to get ready and go fetch some good memories out there. Have fun!
Tune in to Extra Virgin tonight at 8pm ET to watch Gabriele take Debi and the girls camping as a family for the first time ever.