An Alpine view worth paying for?

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The Independent Online

Travellers wishing to drive through Europe's most beautiful mountain passes, high in the Italian Dolomites, may have to pay for the privilege from next year.

Plans are already in place to charge motorists using the 2,757m Stelvio Pass, the highest paved route in the eastern Alps, with prices ranging from €5 (£4.30) for cars, to €12 for campervans and considerably more for coaches.

Local hotel owners have already expressed alarm. Luisa Gapp, who runs the Prato allo Stelvio Hotel, said: "We're extremely worried by this toll, not least because it comes at a very bad time. We're feeling the recession very badly."

But Luis Durnwalder, president of the South Tyrol province of Trentino, said the money collected from the Stelvio tolls would be used to improve the areas for tourists and climbers and "not for the provincial bank account".

Officials in the neighbouring province of Bolzano and in Belluno, in the Veneto region, are also considering tolls in some of their most famous mountain routes, including the Sella, Stalle and Gardena passes.

Last month, Unesco named the Dolomites a World Heritage Site on account of the area's exceptional beauty.

The Italian mountaineer Marco Confortola, who last year survived an ill-fated attempt to scale K2 in the Himalayas, told La Stampa newspaper he backed the tolls – but only if the money could be seen to improve tourist facilities. "If not, they'll just push tourists away," he said.

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