The ultimate guide on how to elope in Northern Italy IN 2021
So you are thinking of eloping in the Dolomites? You're my kind of people already!
The Dolomites hold a special place in my heart - having grown up in the Alps it's one of those places and views you just never get tired of.
In this guide I’ll share everything I know about eloping in the Dolomites - from shooting elopements as a wedding photographer as well as from personal travel. The most important tips, the do’s and don'ts and everything you have or have not thought of for an epic elopement experience.
WHAT SEASON TO CHOOSE
When is the best time to elope in the Dolomites?
One of the first things you might have been wondering before anything else is "when is the best to visit the Dolomites anyway?" Life in the mountains is heavily influenced by seasons and alpine infrastructure such as mountain pass roads, mountain huts or gondolas are not accessible all year round. Ski lifts that can take you high up into the mountains don’t operate and many hotels can be closed during off season.
So let’s talk about seasons in the Dolomites!
Summer, winter and everything in between
Summer season is, like everywhere in the Alps, usually rather short and lasts from end of June to end of August and sometimes extends right into mid September. This is the best and most versatile time in terms of accessibility for all the epic mountain locations your heart desires: the snow has melted from higher elevation trails, cable cars are operating and Rifugios (=Italian mountain huts) and mountain pass roads are open. The downside: it's also one of the busiest times to visit.
Fall season is an amazing time to be in the Dolomites! It usually starts in September and goes all the way through October into early November. Apart from the air and the views getting clearer, the change of colors of Alpine meadows into a more brownish tone and the larches changing into bright orange and yellow is absolutely beautiful. During that time cold weather snaps can occur for a 2-3 day period with even minus degrees and snowfall in higher elevations, but they are usually gone as fast as they came. The later into October, the more likely it is the snow is going to stay. Cable cars, Rifugios and some mountain pass roads like the road to Rifugio Auronzo at Tre Cime di Lavaredo are only open until the first half of fall - usually until the end of September to mid October depending on the weather.
Winter (and thus skiing) season in the Dolomites usually starts around early December (while snow is already likely and expected in November) and lasts until mid April. For winter elopements keep in mind that many locations are not as easily (or at all) accessible as they would be in summer. There can be a lot of snow in the Dolomites, mountain passes can be closed and snow chains mandatory, and depending on the snow height you’re not as free to roam around as in summer. On the plus side – the Dolomites in winter are perfect if you plan to elope in a skiing resort and bring your skiing or snowboarding gear. Some hikes turn into skitouring slopes or snowshoe trails and locations like Tre Cime di Lavaredo are only accessible via a couple of hours of skitouring ascent. In any case – the location you prefer to elope always needs to be taken into account with the season you plan to elope.
Seceda in August
Spring is considered shoulder season and lasts from May to mid June. While many mountain locations in higher elevations are still not yet accessible (either because if residual snow from winter or because most cable cars are closed for off season), it's a beautiful time to roam round in lower elevation locations such as the valleys, Alpe di Siusi or Lago di Braies. Also, some mountain pass roads can be temporarily closed during the daytime due to avalanche danger and melting snow.
Pro tip: I personally love summer time (July-August) and early fall for elopements (September) for various reasons. Rifugios and cable cars are operating during that time frame. Especially early fall is more stable in terms of weather (lower thunderstorm possibility than in summer), the air is clearer and the views are better. On the other hand, sunrise elopements during summer time are unbeaten!
If you are a fan of fall foliage, peak season usually starts kicking in mid October – the larch trees are a spectacular and colorful sight. Cold weather and snow is a factor to be considered though! If you are a fan of skiing, snowboarding and winter wonderlands - December to February/March are the best times with lots of snow to make your dream winter elopement come true! One thing is for sure – the weather gets more and more unpredictable every year, so if possible, plan enough time when you visit the Dolomites and be prepared for every weather situation!
HOW TO GET THERE?
The Dolomites are located in North-East Italy & South Tyrol (the autonomous Italian-German speaking part) and nestled close to Austria and Switzerland. Great airports to fly into are Venice (2 hours) and Milano in Northern Italy (4 hours), Munich in Southern Germany (4 hours), Zurich in Switzerland (5 hours) or Innsbruck in Austria (2 hours). Visiting the Dolomites often goes hand-in-hand with a road trip through Austria, Southern Germany and Switzerland as everything is quite close together.
Accomodation - where to stay?
The Dolomites offer a wide range of different accommodations – from luxury wellness hotels to more traditional B&B apartments, slow-tourism farmstays to the very rustic but iconic Rifugios (mountain huts high up in the Dolomites). There are over 140 mountain huts scattered that are run by the Club Alpino Italiano, the Alpine Club South Tyrol or owned privately – which gives you an idea about all the possibilites! The accommodation there is often very basic and rustic as they serve as base camps for multi-day hikes, climbs and treks.
Some Rifugios can hold up to 50 people or more and some are very intimate with maybe 15 to 20 beds. Regardless, the Rifugios are the best choice for a hiking or mountain elopements as a basecamp to experience a sunrise or sunset with epic views. Also, it is essential to have a safe place to stay in case the weather turns bad, but even more so to enjoy the views when the day tourists are long gone.
Pro-tip: I’m an AirBnB favorites list horder! Here’s my favorite airBnBs in the Dolomites for you:
My favorite AirBnBs in the Dolomites
Hiking elopement or easy access by car?
One thing to consider while planning your elopement is whether you want to incorporate a hike or not. Some locations are very easily accessible by car (mountain passes and trail heads), however the drawback is that easy to reach locations are often very busy and you won’t have a lot of privacy (Yes, Lago di Braies – I’m looking at you!)
The more remote a location is, the higher the chances are to find a unique, quiet and more secluded spot to say your vows or enjoy a sunset. A hiking elopement can be an amazing experience that goes way beyond what day tourists gets to see. A third option is to book a helicopter and fly exclusively to a spot that is unreachable by car or a more traditional hike. Specialized helicopter tour operators take you to the best spots!
Sunrise or sunset elopement?
The question whether to elope and say your vows during sunset or sunrise it’s not easy to answer! Both are beautiful and both have their pro’s and cons.
I personally love both times of the day for the most dramatic and best light in comparison to eloping at noon (yikes!) Pros for a sunrise elopement are most definitely more privacy and more stable weather conditions. Yes, getting up in the middle of the night can be a con – but honestly? It’s a beautiful experience to get ready, arrive or hike in the dark waiting for the first rays of sunlight. In the summertime when the weather gets really hot, thunderstorms often build up in the afternoon and the air can be hazy.
This almost daily afternoon thunderstorm thread is a phenomenon in the Alps that is and can be very dangerous. Usually thunderstorms build up very quickly and vanish as fast as they came. If you’re stuck on a mountain top with a thunderstorm in your neck – it’s time to head back to the Rifugio!
Sunrise getting ready
WHAT TO PLAN FOR YOUR ALL DAY ELOPEMENT IN THE DOLOMITES?
In the Dolomites usually everything is planned around beautiful views, mountains, lakes, cable car rides and hikes. Depending on where you go and what time of the year you are planning to stay, there are different things to do:
Unlike most US-national parks, no permits are required for a symbolic wedding ceremony or bringing a photographer to document your elopement in the Dolomites.
In oder to preserve the pristine nature and eco system, always be considerate of nature and practice Leave no Trace Principles.
OK, BUT FOR REAL NOW: WHAT ARE THE BEST PLACES TO ELOPE IN THE DOLOMITES?
There are so many places, mountain passes and hikes for beautiful views and it is very hard to suggest just one! Ask yourself first how your day should look like, what type of accomodation your prefer and how (easily) you plan to get to a certain location. Every location should be considered it’s possible to elope all year round or only in summer. Shoulder season is definitely less busy, but certain locations might not be accessible.
SOME AREAS TO CHOSE AS A BASE TO PLAN YOUR ELOPEMENT FROM COULD BE:
MY FAVORITE NATIONAL PARKS FOR ELOPEMENTS:
HOW ABOUT GETTING LEGALLY MARRIED IN ITALY?
Getting married legally in Italy isn’t impossible, but it’s a bit of legwork. The good news: You don’t have to be a resident in order to get married, however, you need to plan months ahead. Civil ceremonies can be conducted in town halls, old castles or palaces, outdoor ceremonies need to be approved by the local mayor or deputy - every town may have different requirements. The best practise here is to contact the local town hall you intend to get married at.
The documents you need for a civil ceremony will be:
2) Original birth certificates
3) Evidence of end of previous marriage status (Divorce papers, death certificate)
4) A Nulla Osta (certificate of permission to get married in Italy)
5) Marriage Declaration at the town hall in Italy that you intend to get married
Most couples chose to do the paperwork in their hometown in order to be free with planning their elopement and not worrying about the legal part.
INSPIRED, GOT QUESTIONS, READY TO ELOPE?
You've made it alle the way down here, but still have questions? Excellent!
AS A WEDDING AND ELOPEMENT PHOTOGRAPHER BASED IN THE ALPS&DOLOMITES I'M A LOCAL EXPERT - AND HAPPY TO HELP!