Shedding the superfluous in our everyday lives, learning to appreciate slow travel and rediscovering the simple pleasures in life while connecting with nature: these are just some of the reasons people choose camping. Or at least they were. Now even this kind of holiday, which has grown and developed over more than a century, is inverting the trend and offering new alternatives. Alternatives where you do not have to sacrifice luxury, even in a tent. Glamping (glamour + camping) was invented about fifteen years ago in Great Britain and is now enjoying worldwide popularity. It is a great alternative for those who love the idea of camping, but readily forego the prospect of sleeping bags, tinned food and communal bathrooms in exchange for four-poster beds, minibars and jacuzzis. It is payback time for “back to basics”, as this new-found luxury confirms a trend that has seen numerous campsites transformed into camping villages, real holiday villages which, while providing traditional pitches, also offer accommodation in bungalows and apartments with amenities that would make any five-star hotel proud and tireless entertainment staff for guests of all ages.

Outdoor holidays, inspired by a love for the countryside and a desire to get close to nature, became popular in the early 20th century as a sport combined with hiking. In German-speaking countries, the motto “Freie Natur, Freie Menschen” (“Free nature, free men”) summed up the new concept of symbiosis between man and his environment, a kind of “moral hygiene”, and in America the first protected natural parks were set up. The pioneers of this past time were sports lovers and eccentric members of the middle class of the day in search of adventure. The first club set up to popularise camping dates back to 1901 in Great Britain and, confirmation of the link with outdoor sports, was intended for cycling campers.

These words, from the magazine published by the Touring Club de France (founded in 1890), sum up the idea of camping: “Camping is a sport which involves living outdoors by your own means and with your own resources; it is also an art, the art of being interested in needs we would consider boring in our ordinary lives; lastly, it is a science where you have to get by on your own in nature… What makes it interesting is our return to primitive barbaric practices for just a moment, while still preserving a civilised mind.”

The first camping club in Italy, the A.C.C.P. (Auto Campeggio Club Piemonte), was founded in 1932 and the first campsite opened in 1949 in the Turin area. As the name suggested, the establishment of this club added a third element to the sport and the desire to be close to nature: the car, the symbol of modern living and nomadism that accompanied this past time, suggesting a more elitist hobby as it could only be enjoyed by the lucky few who could afford a car. As camping quickly become more and more popular, it became more organised and campsites began to open. As a result, larger family-size tents with a host of accessories began to appear on the market. The desire for comfort and advances in technology led to a shift from tents to caravans (in the ‘70s) and then to mobile homes (in the ‘90s) and the building of real camping villages, signalling the transition to structured, equipped tourism which was often oblivious to what lay outside.

Today, the structure and organisation of campsites are geared to the relaxation and safety of their guests, often forgetting the environmental vocation that is at the heart of camping. Camping villages may have come about to meet new market demands, discouraging anyone wanting to really connect with nature, but the glamping trend has reshuffled the cards once again, refocussing attention on the exclusive, idyllic life campers can have in the countryside, even if it is experienced from a king size bed in a design lodge with a transparent roof, or doing yoga in a custom-built (and eco-sustainable) yurt. Now, thanks to the new trend for glamorous camping, we can enjoy modern, functional campsites but with zero impact like the original pioneers, signalling a new evolution in camping which is undoubtedly more concerned about conserving the countryside and offering a quality experience.
Cover. Glamping treehouse
1-2. Glamping tents
3. Glamping circle sphere
4-5. Glamping igloo
6. Glamping teepees
7. Glamping yurts
8. Glamping on water
9-10. Glamping treehouse
11-12. Glamping airstream trailers