*** Italian boys outdoor activities summer camp

Italian Summer Camps

Italian summer camps
Figure 1.--Here is a group of boys attending a summer camp along the coast (colonia estiva) in 1956. The camp was organized by a company for the children of its workers. It was in Lido di Camaiore in Tosacana (Florence). The boys have been provided a uniform by the camp.

We have some limited historical information about summer camps in Italy. The Scouts before World War I began organizing summer camps, but camp became an activity organized by the Balial after the Scouts were banned in the 1920s. Italian Fascism was not as absolute as the NAZIs. Thus although Scouting was banned, groups such as companies were allowed to organize summer camps for the children of their workers. An Italian reader writes, "Summer camps in mountain or countrysides were and are organized by Boy Scout groups. These camps usually are with tents, but for younger children, the "lupetti" (little wolves), they use organized camps. During the Fascist era were the party organizations that organized summer camps: the "Balilla" (younger) and the "Avanguardisti" (older) for the boys and the "Figlie della Lupa" (younger) and the "Giovani Italiane" (older) for the girls. The Italian term for summer camp is "campo estivo". Since the 1970s there are many summer camps organized from parishes and religious movements called "campo scuola" (school camp), because they have also an educational goal. There is an other traditional summer camp in seaside resorts, called "colonia estiva". This sort of summer camp is the more common in Italy. Italy is of course virtually surrounded by the sea. There are numerous organizations that organize "colonie estive": for example the big companies organize these summer camps for their laborers' children. I attended my father's company sea summer camp between the late 60s and early 70s. We had a simple uniform: blue shorts, white t-shirt and cap, open-toe sandals without socks; for the seaside: blue trunks." One interesting note is that even though Italy after World War II had a very large and active Communist Party, the Young Pioneers were never organized in Italy. There were thus no Young Pioneer camps, the Party did, however, sponsor some summer camps.


The term for summer camp in Italy is "colonia estiva". I am not sure why the Italians choses the term because it is alsi the term for colony, such as the term used for Italian colonies in Africa. The term camp (campimento) would seem a more likely choisem but for some reason colonia was chosen. And we see different kinds of colonia. Some times the different colonia were categirized based on where they were located. The main type is the seaside summer camp (colonia marina), but there are also camps in the mountains (colonia montana or colonia alpina). A summer camp in the fields was a colonia campestre, campestre meaning cojuntryside. In Italian field is translated 'campo' and camp 'campeggio'. While ca,pestre means countryside, we gert the impression that there were colonia ca,pestre in or near cities. Perhaps there were open areas in the city or fields on the outskirts of a city. This type of colonia was more common in the early 20th century when the people didn't travel far from home. Later the Fascist regime sponsored especially seaside camps.

Chronological Trends

We have some limited historical information about summer camps in Italy. The Scouts before World War I began organizing summer camps, but the number was fairly limited. Summer camps became an activity organized by the Balilla after the Government banned Scoutung in the 1920s. Italian Fascism was not as absolute as the NAZIs. Thus although Scouting was banned, groups such as companies were allowed to organize summer camps for the children of their workers. Thus there was some non-Balilla camps. We do not know of there was any effort by the Baillla to cordinate or influence the colonia. The colonia estiva were normally located at sea-side resports and very popular. They continued after World War II. Scouting was revived and Scout camping revived. There were also camps opened by church groups. The Communist Party (CPI) was very important after the War. They never organized a Young Pioneer movement as done in the Soviet Union nd satellite countries. The CPI did operate summer camps. v Summer camping is now a popular activity with Italian children.


Italian summer camps (colonie) are primarily located at beach stes. Italy is a huge Mediterranean peminsula. There is more thasn 7,000 km of coastline. Most Italians can go to the seaside with just a short trip. As aresult, it was natural that beach sites were sought out for the camps. Fascist propaganda promoted heliotherapy. It was thought that sunshine was very healthy for children.

Sponsoring Organizations

Several organizations in Italy sponsored summer camps for children. This has changed over time. As far as we can tell, the camps were primarily or perhaps even entirely established after World War I in the 1920s. The Fascist youth movement set up many camps. Unlike in Germany, they did not seize the camps of other groups, although they may have seized some. And they did not control all of the youth camps in the country. Many groups like municipalities and trade unions also set up camps. They were controlled by the Fascist Party, but not by the Fascist youth movement. After World War II, the Fascist Party was abolished, but many other groups supported summer camps. There are public colonie (for example organized by compsnies, municipalities, and trade unions), but there are now also private ones. Some important companies organize colonie for the children of workers.


Heliotherapy is the use of sunlight for therapeutic purposes. The Sun has been a focus of humans dince the very dawn of humnity. And many ancuient civilizatiins worshipped the sun. It is only in moder times that medical practice based on sun light has developed--heliotherapy. It is also now knon as light therpy as artificial lamps are used. I recll experiencing this at a very young age, alhough I do not recall why. I only remember I didn't like it as I had to sit under a UV lamp in just my underepants. As far as we can tell, for most of history, the sun wa to be worshiped, but exposure to be avoided. Europeans wanted pale complexions. A tanned skin was a sign of manual labor outdoors. A French doctor noticed that leg sores healed faster when exposed to the sun (late-18th century). A Danish doctor reported similar findings (19th century). Dr. Niels Finsen, who later was awarded a Nobel Prize, first noted that what he dscribbed as 'sluggishness' was improved with a dose of sunlight. He began investigating this and found that sunlight was bneficial in the treatment of smallpox, lupus and tuberculosis. It was his work on lupus that earned him his Nobel Prize. Sanitoria had begun opening in Europe with a focus on fresh air and sunshine. Heliotherapy only began to be adooted as a medical practice when Swiss doctor, Auguste Rollier, started championing it (early-1900s). Rollier was primarily concrerned with tuberculosis and opened sanatoria he called 'solaria' in the mountains with a special focus ion sundshine. American doctors primarily focused on tuberculosis found benefits in the arid, sun-drenched southwest. Doctors across Europe promoted heliotherapy as a cure for tuberculosis and lupus, cuts and scrapes, burns, arthritis, rheumatism, and nerve damage. The German Army during World War I opened sun-hospitals for its soldiers. Tans after the War began to become trendy as a sign of good health. Americns began flocking to Florida and southern California. Researchers began to understand the actul benefits. They found that sunlight killed the bacteria that caused tuberculosis and other diseases. Others proved that sunlight and UV light could cure rickets caused by a dietary deficiency (vitamin D). In Italy sanatoiria were opened. Rickets was the primary concern. We also notice heliotherapy summer camps in Italy. We are not sure if these were just local sessions for the expressed purposes of heliotherpy or sessions as part of a regular camp experience. We note this during the inter-war period. The practuce declined afyter World War II with the invention of antibiotics. And now the concern is more the danger of skin cancer resusting from over exposure to sunlight.

Individual Camps

We have found information on several specific Italian summer camps. We only know about a few camps ad our information here is often sketchy. But we have begun to collect some basic information. We incourage our Italian readers to send along informatioin about the camps they attended as children.


Baldoli, Claudia. Exporting Fascism: Italian Fascists and Britain's Italians in the 1930s


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Created: 2:05 PM 1/4/2005
Last updated: 6:57 PM 7/11/2021