Campervanning with my dog in the Dolomites

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In this series of “my travel journal”, we present people and their travel experience with the campervan/RV in Europe. They are our customers, our team members or our collaborators. They will tell you what attracted them to camping in the first place and what it is about their chosen destinations that move them. And of course, useful camping tips are to be shared!

This time Antonia, our Chief of Staff traveled with Grey, her dog to the Dolomite Mountains in Northeastern Italy with one of our vans for the first time, the Mercedes Marco Polo.

Antonia and her dog travelling to the Dolomites in Italy with the Mercedes Marco Polo Van

Growing up around nature in Northern California, it was always on my bucket list to do a road trip in a campervan. That chance came in September, when I decided to do a six-day trip to the Dolomites in Italy.

  1. Why the Dolomites and where to stay
  2. The companion Alejandro – the Mercedes Marco Polo
  3. The best of the Dolomites
  4. The essentials for a first-time camper!
  5. What I would do differently

Why the Dolomites and where to stay

The Dolomites are no stranger to me, and it is one of my favorite travel destinations in Europe. Every mountain has its own personality, and every turn in the road reveals yet another breathtaking vista. Alpine rivers cut through picturesque towns, surrounded by misty forests. Some places just take your breath away… connecting you to nature like nowhere else. For me it’s these mountains. A camping trip seemed like the ideal way to experience them in a new way.

Since it was my first time camping, and I was traveling solo with my little dog Grey, I wanted to stay in a traditional campsite and use it as a home base. Thankfully, the Dolomites had many options to choose from, since it’s such a pastime in that area.

⭐ I decided on Camping Sass Dlacia. It’s nestled at the base of a mountain in Alta Badia, with hiking and climbing literally meters away. They have full facilities, including a wellness spa & sauna (!!!). I was pleasantly surprised that the cost was comparable to other campsites in the area.

the majestic Dolomite Mountains in September against the blue sky

My smart travel companion: Alejandro!

I loved having my little home on wheels (a Mercedes Marco Polo named Alejandro), where I could make a tasty breakfast and then easily head out for a drive to a new mountain destination.

Travel photography and hiking are big hobbies of mine, so everyday Grey and I wandered through the mountains and visited Rifugios for a Kaiserschmarrn or Schnitzel lunch. Grey was very brave on the gondolas and lifts because he knew we would have an exciting new adventure every time.

The Marco Polo was an excellent fit for my needs as well: comfortable driving experience, compact and warm. It was super easy to drive through the winding mountain passes and narrow village streets. The controls were easy to understand, so I was up and running with the stove and fridge right away. In the chilly autumn nights of September, the heater was definitely warm even though I slept in the upper bed with the pop-up roof. There was just enough space to store what I needed, but I imagine for two people it could get a little tricky if you pack too much. So, keep your luggage light is my advice!

⭐ Another tip: If you are also looking for a similar and equally good van model, I also recommend the VW Bulli California Ocean

Mercedes Marco Polo Van in the Dolomites, South Tyrol, Northeastern Italy

The best of the Dolomites

Some highlights were the famous Cinque Torri, Piz La Ila, and Val Gardena areas, however I also enjoyed stopping at random points to admire less touristy parts. There is so much nature, history, and tradition packed in the Dolomites! In addition to the mountains and villages, the Dolomites has its own unique South Tyrol culture and emotionally moving World War I sites.

The most surprising moment was when Grey and I visited the Cinque Torri. I knew the Torri themselves would be recognizable and beautiful, but what I didn’t expect was the breathtaking 360-degree close-up vista of the surrounding mountains and valleys that hits you the moment you reach the top via ski lift. It is absolutely one of the most beautiful spots in the world.

a dog on a camping and hiking trip looking at the dreamy mountain range of the Dolomites

The essentials for a first-time camper!

My trip was very typical for a “first-time” camper. I didn’t bring any special gear with me, as I am a novice and wanted to keep things simple. It was important to me to learn the essentials, like driving a larger vehicle, cooking in the camper, and the daily routine of staying at a campsite. I booked the required dog package, which was very helpful to provide the essentials for Grey’s safety and comfort.

I was happy that I packed an extra sleeping bag, in addition to reserving the bedding package, to be extra cozy. Bringing my own olive oil and spices was a game-changer and made the simple campervan meals much tastier.

a stunning view of the greenery and the Alps in South Tirol, Italy

What I would do differently

Next time, I think I’ll try a slightly larger vehicle with its own bathroom, so that I can feel more independent and confident wild camping or overnighting in less traditional places.

I would like to stay at a coastal site to do some water sports like stand-up paddleboarding or kayaking (which Grey also enjoys!).

I didn’t realize until I did it myself, but there are a million different ways to do a camping trip. It was especially cool to learn from other campers at Sass Dlacia about how they approach camping. At the end of each day, we would sit around the bonfire at the outdoor bar and share stories, tips, and tricks!

Antonia Ford-Roberts on her campervanning trip in Europe

Regardless, you can’t really go wrong camping in Europe. It’s been a pastime here for over 100 years! Meaning, you can have a rugged and off-the-beaten-path adventure, a full-service glamping holiday, or something in between, which will always be memorable and unique.

I am looking forward to 2023, when I can hit the road with Grey on a new camping adventure!

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