Are you leaving for Dolomites and want to travel with your tent? Your dream is to sleep under the starry sky or do you love the idea of a low-cost travel? Beware, it’s not so simple. Italy is well known for having one of the most complicated bureaucracies in the Western World, and camping rules are not so clear. So it is much better to ask before leaving, so as not to incur in sanctions. Below I give you some indications.
First of all, there is no one law in Italy that regulates overnight stay in the tent throughout the whole National territory. As in many other cases, the Regions or Parks issue different laws depending on the area. For this reason, you may find different laws depending on the area you are visiting.
Let’s start by distinguishing two important things: the campsite and the night bivouac.
For Italian law, it is defined as camping to stay in a tent site for at least 48 hours. This is generally prohibited in all areas not specifically dedicated to camping (camping, caravan parking areas, and similar). In this case, if you settle down for more than 48 hours in the same place you are definitely be punishable by law. For a closer look at the rules in the various Italian regions, take a look here (in Italian).
In any case, in the 2 Regions that particularly concern to us (Veneto and Trentino-Alto Adige), camping is strictly forbidden outside the areas specifically dedicated to.
It is different for the night-time bivouac.
For night-time bivouac is meant to spend the night outdoors from evening to morning, which can be done in the mountains either by necessity (f.e. impossibility to reach a hut, bad weather, physical difficulties), and by choice (and it is the case that we are seeing).
We have already seen in another post that in the Dolomites, in addition to huts, there are free and unattended bivouacs, in which you can stay overnight in case of need or even during an excursion.
But what if I would sleep in my tent? Can I do it?
Here we go into a not very clear regulation. In general, the night-time camp for necessity or emergency is always allowed, but of course in case of control of the Forestry Guards you should explain why, if you did not think about sleeping outdoors, you had a tent with you. And if we check the website of the Parco delle Dolomiti Bellunesi we see that the ban applies only to camping. However, I wrote to the Park and the answer was that both the campsite and the night bivouac are always forbidden.
During my excursions it happened to me to find hikers with tents.
My personal impression is that Regions and Parks try to limit the number of overnight stays in the tent, and this is understandable, considering the protection of the environment, security reasons (not each hikers is well prepared to sleep in the Dolomite enviroment!) and all the unforeseen events that can happen during the night on the mountains.
It is not possible for the Forestry Guards to sanction each hiker or hinder those who want to move to the mountains by going to the tent, however they try not to publicize this possibility. In any case, the best choice is to ask the Tourist Office or the Alpine Guides Office closer to the Dolomite town you are, and of course to get all informations about the areas where you are going.