Italy restricts vehicle access to the Dolomites to protect mountains from excessive tourism

Italian authorities have started restricting motor traffic into the Dolomite mountains during summer to prevent the Unesco world heritage site being overrun by tourists.

In previous summers as many as 5,000 cars a day trundled through the Sella Pass, at the border between Trento and the German-speaking province of Bolzano.  

Now only 350 vehicles with special passes valid for 60 minutes will be allowed to enter from Monday to Friday from 9 am to 4 pm until the end of August. 

The passes for the scheme dubbed “Dolomitesvives” (the Dolomites live) are issued for free at information points on the road to Sella or using a smartphone app. 

Public transport to the area is being bolstered to provide shuttle buses to nearby car parks every 15 minutes. 

Last year authorities experimented a similar scheme on Wednesdays only.

“This is a new phase of the test with which we are experimenting a possibility of making the experience of the Dolomites more sustainable,” said the provincial alderman for the environment, Richard Theiner. “The target for this summer is to reduce daily traffic by 20 per cent.”

Officials in the neighbouring Veneto region have criticised the experiment, arguing it will merely shift the traffic to other passes around the DolomitesCredit:

“This is an innovative and sustainable way to allow people to experience the Alpine world, both for residents and tourist, so as to protect this sensitive area reducing traffic, pollution and noise.”

Nevertheless officials in the neighbouring Veneto region have criticised the experiment, arguing it will merely shift the traffic to other passes around the Dolomites.  

“This was an unconstitutional decision,” the Veneto regional alderman for the environment, Giampaolo Bottacin, a League politician, told la Repubblica newspaper.

A committee of restaurant and hotel owners in the Dolomites also took umbrage, saying the scheme will damage their livelihood.

“If they take away the tourists passing through they will bankrupt us,” said Oswaldo Finazzer, a committee representative.

Exceptions to the restriction will only be electric-powered vehicles, public transport and local employees or emergency service vehicles, though the restrictions are aimed at day trippers while tourists staying in hotels or B & Bs are exempt.

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Tourists and residents should “leave the car at home and take advantage of public transport, buses, trains and cable cars,” said provincial alderman for mobility Florian Mussner.

Italy is battling to contain excessive tourism especially in the lagoon city of Venice where many families have moved out because of sky-high rents.

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