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Feeling German in Italy

25 Jul
A nice Italian man - who lives in NYC - offered to take our photo high in the Alpe at Puflatsch.

A nice Italian man – who lives in NYC – offered to take our photo high in the Alpe at Puflatsch.

I am feeling rather German – or perhaps more accurately, Austrian – right now for three reasons.

  1. I bought a pair of hiking shorts for the first time in 12 or 13 years. Thanks first to my vascular surgeon, but also to my personal trainer, my legs are in better shape than they have been in 25 years;
  2. We are drinking beer with lunch;
  3. We are eating apple strudel every day.

Even some of my high-school-and-university German is flooding back into my head, crowding the Italian I work so hard to speak. The other day I asked for a spiesekarte (menu) at a restaurant. What deep and obscure part of my memory bank did that come from?

We are in far northern Italy, the Val Gardena, an area that was Austrian until the end of WWI and has kept its flavor more German than Italian. Here we see menus with spaghetti aglio, olio e pepperoncini alongside weinerschnitzel and strudel.

This is a hiker’s paradise. First stop, the Alpe di Siusi, the largest high-alpine meadow in Europe.  We scoped out the area on our

Sunrise on the mountains as seen from our hotel at Saltria.

Sunrise on the mountains as seen from our hotel at Saltria.

2012 trip to Ortisei and made a two-night stay in the meadow a priority this year so we could hike more up in the alpe (meadow). We chose the Hotel Saltria  for its relative remoteness. One train, two buses and the cable lift/gondola up to the meadow made for a varied travel day, proving you can visit the alpe without a car.  Hotel Saltria is a half-pension hotel: both breakfast and dinner are included in the per person price, something we’ve not experienced before, preferring to find our own dining options. Did I mention this place is remote? There are no other dining options. The food was plentiful and nicely done.

I didn’t really understand the Alpe di Siusi until we had visited. It sits at about 6000-6500 feet with mountain peaks towering over the meadow. The meadow is rolling, with tiny barns, haying operations, herds of cows and horses, crisscrossed with hiking paths for every level of fitness and dotted with wonderful little places called rifugi, refuges where one can take sustenance, quaff a beer, or spend the night. Ric said the word “refuge” brought to mind a rustic lean-to to shelter to use in case of inclement weather. Far from his description, in a rifigio you can find food to rival a café in a major city.

Rifugio means a place to refresh, eat, even take a room for the night.

Rifugio means a place to refresh, eat, even take a room for the night.

Monday we took the first bus out of Saltria, connected to a chairlift at Panorama, and set out on a four hour excursion, a loop that had us walking to a point where we could make our descent to the hotel at the end. This up-and-down hike allowed a stop for second-breakfast at cute Rifugio Molignon, serving apple strudel and great coffee.  We marched on through alpine splendor, ending at another rifugio for lunch before taking a final chairlift down.  For those seeking this particular journey, and for the record so I can look back at this blog and remember, after ascending to Panorama, we hiked to Rifugio Molignon, and then on to Rifugio Zallinger, ending at the Florian lift, using trails 2 & 7. It’s briefly described in Rick Steves’ guide where he calls the hike “moderately strenuous.” We’d agree!

Tuesday we only had time for a two-hour trek, but what a walk it was! Taking the Puflatsch-Bullaccia chairlift, we toured the north side of the Alpe di Siusi, looking back at the previous day’s venue and taking in the view down into the Val Gardena and little Ortisei, where we were to spend the next four nights. From the very edge of the Alpe di Siusi we could make out Castelrotto and see far to the north toward Austria before moving on to complete our hike, descend the Alpe and make check-in time at Ortisei. For the record, trails PU and 14 make a nice moderately easy loop.

The trails are amazingly well-signed. You barely need a map once you have a vague idea of the area you wish to hike. The landscape

Well-signed trails make it easy to find your way.

Well-signed trails make it easy to find your way.

changes from lush meadow with wildflowers to alpine scrub, with rushing streams – some of which need to be forded – as well as forested glades. You hear only the sound of cowbells on the breeze, occasional bleating of goats, and the voices of passing hikers. Pure serenity seasoned with the odor of freshly mowed hay. Some paths are carefully laid rock while others are more traditional dirt. All are well-engineered for drainage. It is much easier to navigate than the Cinque Terre and much less crowded.

We made it to Ortisei Tuesday evening. But that part of the trip will have to keep for another post.  Time for dinner, but I cannot resist adding a few more photos to illustrate the beauty of this area.

The varied landscape of the Alpe di Siusi.

The varied landscape of the Alpe di Siusi.

Chairlift at Florian

The way up…and the way down. Chairlift at Florian.

One of the fun aspects of hiking here is seeing the path you travel unfurl behind or in front of you.

One of the fun aspects of hiking here is seeing the path you travel unfurl behind or in front of you.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away....Does it count if it's in your strudel?

An apple a day keeps the doctor away….Does it count if it’s in your strudel?

Rifugio Zallinger. Amazing location!

Rifugio Zallinger. Amazing location!

You can hike from rifugio to rifugio, for snacks, meals, rest, restroom. What a concept!

You can hike from rifugio to rifugio, for snacks, meals, rest, restroom. What a concept!

One segment led through a pasture with horses and cows.

One segment led through a pasture with horses and cows.

Cows have the right of way.

Yes, this is the trail. Cows have the right of way.

Alpine meadow view of the Sciliar

Alpine meadow view of the Sciliar

Cat on suitcase

Ric’s overbonded cat Janie planted herself on his suitcase as if to say “Don’t go.”

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13 Responses to “Feeling German in Italy”

  1. rebecca August 3, 2013 at 05:46 #

    Oh, this is great information, especially since I will be visiting this region in September. But, I have a shopping question…can I realistically count on buying hiking boots in this region, larger foot, women’s 9.5 US or 40 EU? Maybe in Cortina or Bolzano? I don’t feel like carrying boots through my two weeks prior to the tail end of my trip. I have no use for hiking boots in Rome or the Venice Bienalle!

    Like

    • gooddayrome August 3, 2013 at 05:49 #

      Yes, I believe you can buy your shoes/boots there. We both bought them in Ortisei when we realized our walking shoes were not cutting it. In Ortisei there are a couple of shops we liked to the right of the main piazza. Ask for a recommendation on good soles for mountain hiking.

      Like

  2. Anita HIlmoe July 28, 2013 at 22:42 #

    What beautiful scenery! Sounds like a wonderful, serene vacation. Although I think my legs fell off after just hearing about the first day of walking 🙂

    Like

  3. Kim July 28, 2013 at 02:33 #

    Gorgeous photos. Did Ric also get a new pair of shorts? Saw Carl and Vern this morning and we had fun discussing your escapades. No longer a home owner and finally in our new apt. as of yesterday. All our love.

    Like

    • gooddayrome July 28, 2013 at 05:26 #

      CIao Kim and Mark! Yes, Ric bought new shorts for his trim body as well. And we both got special new trail hiking shoes that are simply wonderful. Just doing our part to keep the Italian economy chugging along. God clothes are expensive! I think you will find the apartment situation liberating. (We may never own anything we live in again.)

      *Laurel L. Barton* *Roma, Italia* http://www.GoodDayRome.com

      Like

  4. Sharon July 25, 2013 at 21:30 #

    STUNNING! I missed this part of Italy but will certainly make it a point to visit on my next trip.
    I enjoy your posts tremendously….it is like being there….well maybe not but pretty close!
    Let’s see those shorts! Show off your Betty Grable’s !! LOL
    XO

    Like

    • gooddayrome July 26, 2013 at 06:02 #

      Legs are still Scandinavian pale! The glare would blind you!

      Like

  5. R. July 25, 2013 at 20:07 #

    Absolutely stunning. Thanks for this post. It is so beautiful, it feels like a generous gift!

    Like

    • gooddayrome July 26, 2013 at 06:01 #

      You should come and see for yourselves! More to come about the last half of our trip.

      Like

  6. Will McAllister July 25, 2013 at 17:38 #

    Hi Laurel, we visited the Alpe de Siusi for a couple of days in late May 10 yrs ago as part of a Rick Steves tour. I remember heading out for a hike up to a restaurant on a beautiful sunny spring morning – many of us wearing sandals. By the time we reached the highest point of our hike and had our lunch it clouded over and started to snow. It was a cold hike back to the hotel where we spent the afternoon in the hotel bar watching 4-5 inches of snow pile up outside. It was beautiful – I’ll always remember that day.

    Like

    • gooddayrome July 26, 2013 at 06:01 #

      Great story, Will! They told us there was 40cm of snow that fell at Seceda just 30 days ago! It can happen any time. I ALWAYS take a jacket for that reason.

      Like

  7. gayleseely July 25, 2013 at 16:09 #

    I loved this, Laurel. Thanks for all the details. I am saving them in case I can use your plan as a map for how to do it. I LOVED this area when we went through there, but of course did no hike. I am so glad you did. And the history of the region is as fascinating as it is beautiful. Unique, I think. SO GLAD you are doing this and loving it!!!

    Like

    • gooddayrome July 26, 2013 at 05:59 #

      More to come, Gayle! I have the rest of the trip to write about.

      Like

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