Italy, Landscape Photography and the Law

landscapeWelcome back to the “Law, Order and Photography in Italy” series.
The second episode (the first being about Street-Photography) deals with Landscape Photography and, again, provides practical advise for the photographer who travels through Italy shooting its nature.


Landscape Photography, at first sight, looks like a piece of cake. No need to hip shoot, no fear of being confronted by an illiterate policeman or angry passerby, no model-release to carry… just you, your camera and your subject: the Nature. But things, as often in Italy, aren’t that simple since rules and regulations extend (literally) up to the top of the mountains.
To put it short, there are a few things to check before and while wandering around hills, mountains and sea-side:

  • Accessing a natural reserve is usually free (no payment) but is mandatory to get a permit from the local municipality office. Failing to do so can lead to a fine if the Guardia Forestale finds you without the papers. Actually, the probability of being checked is low, nevertheless it cost nothing do get the permit, and it saves you time and money should you be involved in some accident and found as having entered the natural reserve unbeknownst to the local authorities. BTW, this is a safety measure because you have to tell where are you going so, in case something bad happens, the rescuers task is less hard,
  • If you plan a more-than-a-day journey check first with the local tourist offices if camping is allowed in the places you want to visit. There are, in fact, part of the natural reserves that are labelled as “Full Protected Site” where nothing, NOTHING is allowed but walk by,
  • If the borders of a land are protected by a fence, wall or whatever else, entering this land is without authorization is not allowed and might be a criminal offense,
  • If there are no apparent fences, walls, etc. but the land is farmed you must look for “no trespass” banners or signs mentioning “art. 30 r.d. n. 1016 del 1939 modificato dall’art. 9 legge n. 799 del 1967 “. If you see one of these banner crossing the land is not allowed,
  • Where there are neither fences nor the above mentioned signs, crossing is allowed without damaging the farmed parts of the land – if any,
  • Beware of hunters. Each year every Region sets its “Calendario venatorio” (Hunting Calendar”.) Be sure to check whether or not the place you want to walk through is included in the list of those where hunting is allowed, and if so PAY A LOT OF ATTENTION. Much too often somebody gets killed or badly injured by some dickhead who can’t control his finger on the trigger,
  • Access to the beach shores is more and more difficult because those who got the permission to exploit it by setting up restaurants, bar and beach services are installing fences to prevent casual access and ask for money to let you in. This is illegal since the access to the beach in itself is free. So these “developers” have to provide a free of charge access to the part of the beach close to the sea.

Now, for those who really want to hurt themselves, let’s start with a the legal background* of these findings

Public Property vs Private Property

Under sect. 42 of the Italian Constitution

The property is either public or private

This principle is nailed in sect.822 of the Civil Code

Beaches, Shores, Ports and Docks, Rivers, Lakes do belong to the State and are part of the Demanio Pubblico …

While Sect. 832 of the Civil Code, that deals with private property, reads

The owner has is entitled to a full and exclusive ownership of a good, within the limits set by the laws

Accessing a third party private property might be a criminal offenses, as stated by Sect. 633 of the Penal Code

Whoever, without cause, invades somebody else’s land to either occupy it or get any other kind of profit is punished … to a jail term up to two years or with a monetary fine between 103,00 Euros and 1032,00 Euros

and by Sect. 637 of the same Code

Whoever, without cause, enter into somebody else’s land protected by a wall, a fence or whatever similar is punished … with a monetary fine up to 103,00 Euros.

The Right to Access Third Parties’ Land

As odd as it might seems, photographers must tank the hunters if they can (mostly) freely wander around the Italian countryside.

Back in the seventies (of the last Century) there was a strong legal argument between farmers and hunters about the existence of a “right to access” the land for hunting purposes.The farmers held that since they were the landlords, they had the right to allow or refuse access to their land at their sole will; while the hunters claimed that since they didn’t challenge the ownership of the land – they had the right to walk through.

The quarrel has been settled by the Corte costituzionale decision n. 57/1976 that ruled partially in favour of the farmers and partially in favour of the hunters. The Court affirmed two concurring principles:

  • the private property may be limited for the sake of activities of public (i.e. collective) interest,
  • the activities of public interest must be carried respecting the private property.

Thus, the Corte costituzionale ruled that since hunting is a socially relevant activities, the hunters must be granted the right to enter into private proprieties as soon as they don’t damage it. Says the Court in its decision:

This is an option limited to those parts of a land that is not protected by fences and that can be exploited only against those landlords who failed to assert their right to keep people away from their land, and shown – in case of farmed land – with specific “access forbidden” signs … this is a reasonable balancement between the right of the landlord (that still belongs to him as soon as he actually exploit it) and the protection of the right to hunt.

Thus, if a hunter is free to enter into private properties because hunting is a socially relevant activity, the very same can be said about photography (that, BTW, is surely less dangerous and threatening for a farmer.)

The Right to Photograph

At first sight one might argue that having the right to access a land doesn’t imply the right to shoot it. Maybe, and maybe not because the legal principle is clear: the right of the landlord is (partially) limited to allow the carrying on of a socially relevant activity. Thus, by analogy, if a hunter is granted the access to hunt, then a photographer is granted the access to shoot.

* All the translations of the legal texts are made by me and therefore cannot be held as “official”.

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