I was recently invited to Italy as part of the Tentsile Team, to see something that has never been done before…..the development of a “tree hotel”, in a UNESCO world heritage site, in Italy. One tremendous story, two out-of-the-box-thinkers!

Andrea Bertocchi, is a local business man in the area surrounding Milan, Northern Italy. 2 years ago, he teamed up with Tentsile’s Italian representative, Adriano Ribera, and together they have been quietly laying foundations for an idea for a Tentsile Experience Camp (TEC) in one of Europe's most idyllic beauty spots.

The site, is located in one of Italy’s most loved National Parks, just outside of Milan. The Ticino Nature Park, lies on the Ticino river (the largest protected river area in Europe) and a portion of it, has such beauty that it holds UNESCO heritage site status. There is a strict no-development-of-any-kind, policy on the area, so when the idea of a small Tentsile camp was raised, the response was a flat “no, never”.

However, that was not the end of it. Andrea and Adriano continuously petitioned the local economic development minister, the local national parks representative and ministry of local tourism, to come and see with their own eyes, the possibilities of a floating tent camp, that has no footprint and leaves no trace and a project that can act as an environmental education centre. The only hope was that, due to the fact that the Milan area’s shoe industry and fashion houses have relocated to the far-East, the area has been economically hard over the past 20 years, and they are desperate for new ideas.

Finally, the officials agreed to come to the site and put an end to the pair’s plans and get them off their backs, once and for all! On arrival, the straight-laced bearcats came forward with their suits and clip boards, ready to crush Andrea and Adriano’s dreams. As they rounded the corner, and saw the tents hovering above the ground for the first time, they stopped and stared. They looked at each other with raised eyebrows, and the expressions on the faces lightened. They were interested. Very interested.
Summer 2019, saw a pilot project open on the forbidden site. 10 Tentsile, for 10 weekends only, from July to September. After this time, an assessment was to be made on the environmental impact of the camp to the trees, to forest floor and the overall health and disturbance of the area. I got invited, along with some other members of our team to present the case in the town hall, in front of the local government officials, press and high society from the surrounding area. The interested parties turned out in force to hear the presentation and were invited afterwards, to make a site visit to see it all for themselves.
The day went very well. The speeches were translated into Italian, and when the officials and press saw the site, they went bananas for it! Officials were taking selfies in front of the tents, the press was lining up the ministers and national park representatives, together in giant hammocks and everyone had smiles on their faces. A week later, Andrea and Adriano received notice that their camp had permission not only to continue for 2020, but to expand the operation and allow the provision of catering onsite, for the guests.

We are now proud to present to the world Tentsile’s 2nd UNESCO TEC ( the first one being in Finland and has been operating since 2017), proving that our leave no trace concept in eco-tourism is no longer a dream, but a growing reality and new way to generate sustainable economic development in environmentally sensitive locations around the globe.

If you think you have what it takes to run a Tentsile Experience Camp of your own, you can get in touch via, info@tentsile.com

Alex Shirley-Smith