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Tag Archives: ortisei

Easy hiking

16 Jul
16 July 2016. We unabashedly take hikes rated as “easy” these days. Having injured both knees over the past two years, hikes labeled “moderately strenuous” are now usually just plain strenuous for us. Altitude gain doesn’t bother us too much once we are acclimated, but tough footing, disappearing trail signs, and steep descents give us cause to pause and think about how much we value our lives.
Marinzen is a lovely rifugio. Many people just ride up to hang out and not even hike.

Marinzen is a lovely rifugio. Many people just ride up to hang out and not even hike.

According to the book “Walking Guide Around the Alpe di Siusi,” the hike we chose for Friday, #10 for the record, was to be an easy hike. It was depicted as a round trip that was to take 2.5 hours with 214 meters of altitude gain and loss. We are slow hikers, so we figured even if it took 3 hours, we’d be fine, and there were two rifugi where we could get lunch. Piece of proverbial cake. Ha!
The Marinzen chairlift. Scenic, but such a cold wind this day! It goes up, up, up into the trees ahead.

The Marinzen chairlift. Scenic, but such a cold wind this day! It goes up, up, up into the trees ahead.

The lift to our starting point at Marinzen leaves from Castelrotto at the base of the Alpe di Siusi. Marinzen is an older chairlift. Nothing wrong with it, but it is less comfy than some others in the area. It is a long ride, about 20 minutes, and this day, in JULY no less, it was cold, about 9 degrees Celsius (48 Fahrenheit) with a biting northerly wind. Brrrrr. Once we hit the trees we were shielded from the wind and the sun came out. At the top, we found a delightful refugio with baby goats only a couple of weeks old. They (the rifugio, not the goats) served great strudel, one of the best we’ve had, and a perfect cappuccino. God, I love hiking in Italy! We could have stayed awhile, but there was a hike to do.
Goats being fed parsley stems at Marinzen.

Goats being fed parsley stems at Marinzen.

The hike starts on a gravel road then veers off across a meadow with a faint track leading to a shrine. Past the shrine is a trail sign. We knew to follow #12. The path steepened so we took out the hiking sticks. It was a steady climb, but not bad, with occasional rocky sections, nothing horrible. We are, after two weeks here, acclimated to the elevation and the level of activity. Still, as we trudged on I felt it better to go forward because I really did not want to go back down that steep trail. My knees and my nerves dislike steep descents. A couple of places it was hard to discern the exact trail but we were able to look up and spot the CAI red and white sign and determine the proper path.
Looking back toward Marinzen as we set off on Trail #12. Such a promising start!

Looking back toward Marinzen as we set off on Trail #12. Such a promising start!

Younger people were passing us by, but we persevered. Then we came to a place where the trail might have gone straight or might have taken a left steeply uphill to a set of log steps with a railing. I was tempted to go straight, but a man was coming down from the left so it seemed a good bet that was the trail. No sign, of course. The next part was navigable, although basically a deer path with a steep drop off to the right. So glad we had our hiking sticks! Up and up we went, the drop to our right so steep that a misstep would mean waving goodbye and planning a funeral. Then we encountered an avalanche of boulders blocking the trail. It looked like a landslide from a long time ago. I wanted to turn back, but knowing how challenging the ascent had been, it made me weak in the knees to even think about it. Was there a trail that continued after the boulder field? Ric bravely scrambled up to see. Yes, he thought we could make it, so grabbing handholds on the boulders and carefully placing our feet so as to not twist an ankle or take a header over the cliff, we managed to clamber over the 40 feet of boulders blocking our way. It was not something one would expect on an “easy” hike.
Rest stop view. By this point most of the harrowing parts were over. Looking down on the valley where Castelrotto sits.

Rest stop view. By this point most of the harrowing parts were over. Looking down on the valley where Castelrotto sits.

Continuing on, now aided occasionally by some log railings to prevent a disastrous fall, at last we came to a lovely overlook with a picnic table, perfect for a rest. This was just over an hour into our supposedly 2.5-hour round trip, but we still had a long way to go. We could see the Cabinovia Alpe di Siusi and it was still a long way off. We knew our objective was past the line of the lift as it ascended. Our 1:25,000 scale hiking map showed we were past the rocky areas, but we hit one last bit of scree to navigate in an area of some water run-off then, luckily, the trail veered into the forest and the deer-path-with-a-drop-off disappeared in favor of a woody path with some rocks and roots. Relief! Eventually we joined a road and walked easily to Hotel Frommer. Walking time was about 2 hours. We are not fast, but we were moving as best we could. I think the trail is severely mislabeled at 1 hour. 
We were so concentrating on hiking that we did not take trail pictures. Oh I wish I had a picture of the boulder field and Ric crossing it! Here, the deer path is bordered by a fence to prevent falling. Not the case everywhere along this trail

We were so concentrating on hiking that we did not take trail pictures. Oh, I wish I had a picture of the boulder field and Ric crossing it! Here, the deer path is bordered by a fence to prevent falling. Not the case everywhere along this trail

In fact, in post-hike wonderment, I went seeking more information on this trail, which was very hard to find. A source I found in Italian put this section alone at 2 hours with 400 meters of elevation change given the ups-and-downs. This is, to our point-of-view, more accurate. Ric used his altimeter app to check the altitude at several points and determined the authors just checked the altitude at Marinzen and the altitude at Frommer and did the math, not accounting for higher points along the way. Losers. Oh, and the second source rated the trail intermedio, not easy.
Can you see the little blue ovals? That is the cabinovia that whisks people up-and-down from the Alpe di Siusi. We are nearing the end of the hike, having passed under it.

Can you see the little blue ovals? That is the cabinovia that whisks people up-and-down from the Alpe di Siusi. We are nearing the end of the hike, having passed under it.

Starving by now, our strudel long forgotten, we decided to have lunch at Hotel Frommer. But there was no one in sight. Seemed closed. Time to break out the emergency trail mix and, unbelievably, wait for a bus to rescue us. Since we are in a land where travelers and hikers are catered to with public transportation, we found while sitting at our little picnic rest area that there is a bus that stops at Hotel Frommer. Score! The next portion of the hike was to be on a different trail, and the signs indicated perhaps an hour, but based on the experience to this point, we had our doubts. We did not want to chance it. In 20 minutes a bus came along and for €8.50 per person we rode down in comfort, all the way to Castelrotto, instead of finishing the hike.
Note the sign at teh bottom, 1 hour to Marinzen. We were 2+ at this point on the "easy" hike.

Note the sign at the bottom, 1 hour to Marinzen. We were 2+ at this point on the “easy” hike.

In a bit of a snit since we have now done three hikes from this book and two of them severely under-estimated the duration, I wrote a very thorough email to the author, who had invited feedback. Wouldn’t you know, the email bounced. I’ve tracked down the publisher in Castelrotto and forwarded our thoughts to an “info@” email address. No reply as yet.
Thank goodness we are experienced enough to weather a hike like this. Thank God we didn’t have small children along! Or a dog! Our old collie would’ve been impossible to get over the boulder field. The book has warnings about hikes not suitable for kids, but this particular trek carried no such warning. Surely things change in trail maintenance over the years, and this book is 6-years-old now, but I guarantee that boulder field has probably been there since before local hero Luis Trenker was in utero. It was not an “easy” hike.
Baby goats!

Baby goats!

 
It's all about the view and I love this one of the Sciliar and Punta Santner.

It’s all about the view and I love this one of the Sciliar and Punta Santner.

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Festa!

14 Jul
14 July 2016. Small town festivals were a part of the fabric of our youth: parades, bands, queens, community dinners, and carnival rides. Quite a different animal in Italy.
We arrived in Ortisei in time for the annual sagra, or local festival, complete with beer hall, folk-costume parade, and band concert. In Italy, many sagre (plural of sagra) are agricultural-based celebrating artichokes, chestnuts, truffles, and so on. Not so in Ortisei: They celebrate their Ladin culture.
Three of the more elaborate costumes.

Three of the more elaborate costumes.

The Ladin people are the historical inhabitants of this ethnically and politically confused region. Before WWI, this was Austria. They are still a part of the Tyrol, with which they share culture, history, traditions, environment, and architecture; However, they are Italian residents of the autonomous region of the Trentino-Alto Adige and have their own language. Luckily everyone speaks German and Italian, and most speak English as well as Ladin, so communication is interesting. It is not uncommon to hear three languages among four people in a single conversation. 
The band, smartly attired in Tyrolean costumes. Our hosts' daughter is one of the flautists.

The band, smartly attired in Tyrolean costumes. Our hosts’ daughter is one of the flutists.

As a community gathering, the sagra in Ortisei was remarkably simple and it seemed the entire town participated. We saw the beer hall go up in the piazza Friday night, forcing the buses and taxis to do their pick-up and drop-off on the highway 100 meters away. At noon on Saturday, several loud reports from a cannon and the vigorous ringing of church bells announced the start of the festival and drove LibbyJean into hiding.
The festival hall/beer tent on Saturday night. Teeming with people of all ages.

The festival hall/beer tent on Saturday night. Teeming with people of all ages.

Saturday night on our way to dinner we passed the beer hall — now encompassing the large bus-and-taxi piazza — where at least 2000 people were crammed tightly into picnic tables with little room for the beer servers to maneuver. We happily passed by to enjoy dinner at a relatively empty restaurant. The BIG day was to be Sunday.
Note the beer hall is set up in the bus piazza.

Note the beer hall is set up in the bus piazza.

Sunday morning at 9:45 the crowd began to gather outside the village church, awaiting the folk-costume parade, led by the town band. Many of the parade watchers also donned Tyrolean dress: boys large and small in lederhosen with women and girls in dirndl skirts. The rest of us were festively attired in hiking shorts and tee-shirts.
The short parade of extremely elaborate costumes depicted traditional dress associated with a Ladin wedding. From helpful neighbors to the “inviter,” the grandparents, and the woman with the keys to the wine cellar, everyone had a role and a costume with special meaning. The band was an assemblage of young and old musicians who after leading the parade also performed a two-hour concert during Sunday lunch. 
I nonni, the grandparents, of the bride and groomi n distinctive Ladin attire.

I nonni, the grandparents, of the bride and groom in distinctive Ladin attire.

Of course, after the parade passed everyone followed it down the street to the piazza where it was apparently not too early for wine, beer, or a spritz con Aperol. We tucked into elevensies and enjoyed the band along with our own spritzes.
Post parade parade of the uncostumed surges down ther main drag.

Post parade parade of the uncostumed surges down the main drag.

From our hillside aerie we could hear music on-and-off all afternoon and into the evening, as well as the continued firing of the cannon and overuse of the church bells. By Monday morning it was all swept away to make room for the weekly market. 

 

Sweet children in elaborate cosumes. These take an hour to put on.

Sweet children in elaborate cosumes. These take an hour to put on.

Even the tiniest participant has to have the right attire.

Even the tiniest participant has to have the right attire.

Tyrolean dress for all ages.

Tyrolean dress for all ages.

Horse drawn carriage for the wedding couple.

Horse drawn carriage for the wedding couple.

Smaller crowd Sunday after the parade. Note the street lamps and taxi station signs.

Smaller crowd Sunday after the parade. Note the street lamps and taxi station signs.

Elevensies! A spritz con Aperol with bocconcini di pollo and insalata di patate (chicken nuggets and potatoe salad). We hiked after....

Elevensies! A spritz con Aperol with bocconcini di pollo and insalata di patate (chicken nuggets and potato salad). We hiked after….

Small town memories

6 Jul
6 July 2016. My husband loves grappa. Over our years in Italy he has come to appreciate the good stuff versus the lighter fluid they sometimes give you free after dinner in a Roman restaurant. The good stuff, by the way, is usually yellow and aged, sometimes called barrique grappa. 
In 2014, during a trip to Ortisei with family, we stopped at a gelateria with the little grandnephew and grandniece. I noticed a shelf of grappas at the back of the shop and pointed it out to Ric and nephew John.  The young man serving the gelato immediately dropped the scoop into the hands of his colleague and offered to do a tasting for Ric and John at the back of the shop. We walked out a short time later with a most expensive bottle of grappa. Oh, and the rest of us did get gelato. 
Sibona Grappa di Porto. Golden and delicious, just the right ending to a meal. It is a digestivo, after all. (That's Libby in the corner of the banquette.)

Sibona Grappa da Porto. Golden and delicious, just the right ending to a meal. It is a digestivo, after all. That’s Libby in the corner of the banquette. She didn’t drink any.

We loved this grappa! It was smooth and delicious enough to (almost) replace my craving for the occasional Scotch. It proved to be hard to find this particular grappa in Roma, so the next summer, 2015, when we passed two weeks in Ortisei, Ric asked the shop for two bottles: one to drink while visiting and one to take back to the U.S. for a friend. The young man had one bottle in stock but asked us if we would please wait while he went to fetch another. I don’t know if he went home to get it from his private stock or bought it from a competitor, but 15 or 20 minutes later, after we had consumed a gratis gelato, he returned and we sailed off with our two bottles. 
Today we stopped in and went directly to the back of the shop and grabbed a bottle. A clerk asked us if we knew what it was, then stopped mid-sentence: “You were here last year! You waited and bought two bottles!” Unbelievably, even with the thousands of people they serve gelato to in that shop, this woman and her partner (the young man from the prior encounters) remembered us. I guess two bottles is a memorable sale. 
We’ve since found a source in Roma as well as one online, but as far as we know, you cannot get this stuff in the U.S. If anyone finds it, please let us know for future needs. I don’t think we can afford to ship home a carload.

Training cats

2 Jul
2 July 2016. Cats are considered untrainable, for the most part. They use the litterbox, but beyond that, it is pretty difficult to train a cat, unless you live in Italy and can take your cat on the train! Yes, Janie and LibbyJean are on vacation in the Dolomites. A few days ago we loaded them on a Trenitalia Frecciargento bound for Bolzano, where Taxi Ivan Moroder met us for the trip to Ortisei. In years past, Ric and I have taken the pullman (bus) service, which is very nice; However, with the cats along plus luggage and supplies for a month, we popped for a transfer service. It was so nice we may never take the bus again.
Janie showed a lot curiosity on the train.

Janie showed a lot curiosity on the train.

Libby hyperventilated much of the time. They don't find the train as relaxing as we do.

Libby hyperventilated much of the time. They don’t find the train as relaxing as we do.

I cannot say the cats enjoyed the train; they tolerated it. You can take a cat on a train without paying, but the cat has to go in the luggage storage area, which is very limited and they would be subject to constant disruption including people poking fingers in their crates. So we bought four standard-class seats at the super-economy rate of €29.00 per occupant. The capotreno never batted an eyelash at two seats occupied by cats. We let them take turns sitting (crated) on the table so they could see us and look out the window, which seemed to entertain Janie, who at 20 is ever-adaptable, in particular. Libby is not fond of strangers nor strange situations and even hissed at a little girl who got too close to her kennel. 
The long trip was worth it and the girls seem to have taken to the new digs, with a sunny terrace overlooking the village. 
A terrace with a view, even for cats. We see them peeking out between the slats on the railing.

A terrace with a view, even for cats. We see them peeking out between the slats on the railing.

Sunrise on the iconic Sassolungo as seen from our terrace.

Sunrise on the iconic Sassolungo as seen from our terrace.

Our terrace overlooks the lovely village of Ortisei.

Our terrace overlooks the lovely village of Ortisei.

We have an incredible apartment at Residence Astoria (#5 if you want to take a peek) with views over the valley and up Mont Seuc. We can see the round red cable cars rising from the valley to the top of Mont Seuc and if we peer around the corner of the terrace we can see the Sassalungo. Last summer we enjoyed our two weeks in Ortisei so much we decided to go for four weeks this year and take the cats along. We really do miss the girls incredibly when we are gone, and while during our significant travels there has been a parade of fabulous cat sitters (you know who you are!), we decided to close up the city apartment like so many Romans do when they go on summer holiday. Lots of apartments allow dogs but not cats. Then we met Justine and Siegfried who said yes to cats, but no dogs as they have their own cat. We signed up on the spot. 
My favorite hiking companion neare teh chapel at Rasciesa.

My favorite hiking companion near the chapel at Rasciesa.

Me on the Rasciesa hike.

On the Rasciesa hike.

We have already put in two days of hiking but are taking it easy adjusting versus last year when we pushed it the first day. See my entry for July 6, 2015, in this too-long post about hiking last year. This year we took one of our favorite hikes on Day 1, the Rasciesa Ridge, but it still tired us out. We walk a lot in Rome and everywhere we travel and would expect to have greater endurance; However, when we consider that Rome is sea level and flat, while Rasciesa is at about 2100 meters/6900 feet, no wonder we felt the exertion. 
Day 2, today, saw us on a forested path overlooking the valley. We got some kilometers in and managed to return to town moments before a huge thunderstorm hit. The weather is really everything we hoped it would be. The high today was about 21 Celcius/70 Fahrenheit. In Rome it was 34 C/93 F. I needed a sweater to go to dinner last night. It’s a nice temperature range for outdoor activity. 
Colorful bicycles are all over the village of Selva, celebrating the Sellaronda.

Colorful bicycles are all over the village of Selva, celebrating the Sellaronda.

Noah's Arc fountain in Selva, just down teh valley from Ortisei.

Noah’s Arc fountain in Selva, just up the valley from Ortisei.

We will suffer through August in Rome, taking walks at 06:00 and hiding in the apartment during the hottest hours as much as possible. The beauty of Rome in August is that so many people leave the city that traffic is greatly diminished making sleeping more peaceful and the streets less chaotic. 
I am not sure how much I will blog this month. I am hoping to read more and study Italian when I am not out busting my butt on the trails. We shall see. So for now, we wish you all a great summer, and Happy Independence Day to our compatriots in the U.S! 
How to know when you are in the part of Italy that was formerly Austria. There's nothing like a beer at elevensies!

How to know when you are in the part of Italy that was formerly Austria. There’s nothing like a beer at elevensies!

 

Hiking in the Dolomites, July 2015

25 Jul
25 July 2015. This post may be a bore for some readers, but at least the pictures are pretty. I am writing it mostly so I have a good reference for “what I did on my summer vacation” and can remember which hikes to do and not to do next summer.
For hiking enthusiasts, especially those who are “of a certain age” this may be a reference for hikes in the Dolomites that do not require pitons, crampons, or the energy of a 30-year-old. Many of the guidebooks talk about “easy hikes” and then do not tell you about the knee-pounding descents or heart-pounding ascents, not to mention narrow trails above steep ravines and gorges. Some so-called “easy” hikes end up being 4+ hours. We can do that now-and-then, but not every day.
FYI, the pedometer readings include everything for the day, whether on the trail or walking to dinner or to get groceries.
This is an abbreviated version, believe it or not. It was a very active two weeks!

Monday, July 6 – Long way down: Rasciesa to Ortisei via Val d’Anna

We happened upon this carving in the middle of the forest, unsigned, a  gift from a local woodcarver.

During our descent, we happened upon this carving in the middle of the forest, unsigned, a gift from a local woodcarver.

We arrived in Ortisei on Sunday afternoon in the middle of their sagra and settled in. It was HOT so we decided to take it easy with a mostly downhill hike through the forest on Monday. WRONG! We ascended via a funicolare at Rasciesa which we have done many times prior. Rather than hike the sun-exposed Rasciesa plateau in the heat and humidity, we decided to take “easy” Trail #35 east, descending on Trail #9.  Bad move. It was a knee-jarring, quadriceps-pounding, mostly-exposed, slippery-rock-studded mistake. Three-and-a-half hours of downhill tromping made us wonder why we came on vacation. Now we know why we saw only mountain bikes and no other walkers. Actually, it would not have been so bad had we not missed our turn to a planned rifugio where we could have rested and had some refreshment (hiking goes better with strudel), followed by a wooded path following a burbling stream through a valley. Oh, would-that-had-happened! One sign pointed downhill to the rifugio, but when we were 100 meters down the hill, another sign pointed back the direction we had come. In frustration, and believing ourselves to be near the finish-line, we carried on, but it was another hour to the bottom. Ugh! It was a good workout in terms of calorie-burning, and at least we were in good enough shape we could still get out of bed the next morning.
Pedometer: Didn’t freaking work! Estimate 8 km for the day.

Tuesday, July 7 – Abandoning waterfalls for high ground: Monte Pana to Saltria

VIew from the trail to Saltria.

View from the trail to Saltria.

Planning an easy hike today, we took the bus to the village of Santa Cristina and the Monte Pana chair lift, where at the base we were to find an “easy” waterfall walk. We found the waterfalls – at least one of them – after hiking across an unsigned meadow, but no official path. Having Val Gardena Passes in hand, we could ride any of 12 lifts in the valley, so we thought we’d ride the chairlift and have a look around. Of course, we found a rifugio (really more of a hotel) at the top of the lift, so over a cappuccino we pondered our options. There was a bambini trail, but that seemed too silly. Saltria, a location we know well, was purported to be a hike of 1h:45m so off we went, knowing that at the end we would find a hotel with a nice café and a bus to Compatsch, followed by a
Cute little Santa Cristina.

Cute little Santa Cristina.

dramatic cableway descent and a comfy bus back to Ortisei. This hike, for the record, followed Trail #30A through mostly wooded terrain to Trail #18, which leads to Saltria. There were a few nice viewpoints, and some sun exposure although mostly at the start and finish. Hot and humid, so we had quite a trek…not the easy waterfall walk we had planned but an easy enough hour-and-forty-five. The Alpe di Siusi was having a record heat wave and this was the second consecutive 36-degree Celsius day. I felt sorry for the little ponies at Compatsch who had to stand in the sun waiting for tourists to go on carriage rides. Brutal for them! The cows did not seem to mind the weather.
Pedometer: 18,766 steps; 10.3 km

Thursday, July 9 – Cool at last: Ciampinoi to Passo Sella

Snuggled up against the Sassolungo, there is an vast terrace and lawn. The little pods swivel on their bases.

Snuggled up against the Sassolungo, there is a vast terrace and lawn. The seating pods swivel on their bases.

It was a pleasant 10 C/50 F at the top of the lift. Jackets required! Sunny and clear, hiking sticks at the ready, we headed off to Rifugio Emilio Comici, our first stop, which turned out to be a gem. The rifugio is tucked up under the Sassolungo, modern, with an enormous terrace, a generous lawn with sun chairs, and the cutest pods for lounging and dining. It also has THE BEST bathrooms, employing technology at every turn and clean as the proverbial whistle.  Heading off after a perfect espresso and, for me, yogurt with 4 kinds of fresh berries, we completed our hike to the large hotel at Passo Sella, complete with bar (serving strudel of course), restaurant, and the strangest lift we’ve ever seen. The “cable cars” looked like flying refrigerators and we took one up to the VERY high Rifugio Toni Demetz. Click on any picture to enlarge and view the slide show.
The Sella Pass is at 2244 meters/7362 feet, and the rifugio is at 2685 meters/8809 feet.   One cannot merely step into one of the refrigerator lifts, one is bodily thrown in by two young, strong men who use a firm grip to propel you and slam the door firmly behind you before you can change your mind. At the other end, they pull you out and thrust you off to the side to avoid being hit by incoming cars. Repeat upon return. Ric and I did not understand the drill as when we arrived there was no line, so we did not manage to get into the same compartment. We rode separately, waving from time-to-time across a divide of a few meters. On the way down we managed to get thrust into the same car. For the record, we took Trail #21 to Comici and #526 to Passo Sella.
One can continue to hike from Passo Sella, or return via the same route, but we opted for lunch at the very nice restaurant, then took a bus (included in the free bus card most lodging establishments give you) back to Ortisei.
Pedometer: 20,815 steps; 11.5 km

Friday July 10 – Same but different: Ciampinoi to Mont Seüra

Trail side company.

Trail side company.

Thursday provided exactly the type of hike we like: clear, cool weather, glorious scenery, long enough but not too long, good exercise, fabulous photo ops, food in the middle and at the end, and good transportation. (A loop hike or one with good transportation is ever more desirable than an out-and-back.) We liked Thursday’s hike so much that we returned to Ciampinoi and this time headed west, opposite of the prior day. Rifugio Emilio Comici was on the way, so we knew exactly where second-breakfast was to be found. With our trusty map in hand, we set out from Comici intending to take #526B to Mont Seüra. We ended up on #526A (a harder trail) because we missed a tiny little turn onto a short portion of #528 that led to #526B, sooooo we ended up on a hike across a scree field that was 1¼ hours longer than planned. And we had not even had strudel! The final section of the hike was across a beautiful meadow with a killer view of the Alpe di Siusi in the distance, and since we survived, I have no complaints.
Pedometer: 18,926; 10.4 km
Ric hikes across the unexpected field of scree. We were supposed to be in the meadow below.

Ric hikes across the unexpected field of scree. We were supposed to be in the meadow below.

From Mont Seura, view of the Alpe di Siusi, largest high-alpine meadow in Europe.

From Mont Seura, view of the Alpe di Siusi, largest high-alpine meadow in Europe.

Sunday July 12 – Witch hunt: Fiè to Castello di Presule

Once upon a time, this area witnessed the persecution of nine women judged to be witches. In the 16th century, they were tortured and burned, source of the so-called Schlernhexen stories. Today, the emblem of a witch on a broom is used in marketing the area to tourists, enticing them with the natural beauty. Go figure.
Castello Presule from early in the hike.

Castello Presule from early in the hike.

We started with a bus ride from Ortisei to Fiè, about 45 minutes. Although one can actually take a bus to the village of Presule and visit the castle, we had not hiked below the Sciliar (German: Schlern) on this side, the west side, and were drawn by what we thought would be a shady hike. It was about 50% exposed to the sun, so not bad. Nothing spectacular but nice enough, with some good views of the castle. We were too close to the mountain to see it, though.
Arriving at the castle, we missed the English tour by 10 minutes and the next one was 3 hours off.  We settled for coffee in the shade. This was one of those locations that makes you shake your head in wonder. There was a castle here as early as 1200. The current one dates to the early 16th century. Yet there is a tiny coffee bar where a nice lady pulls good shots into ceramic cups and dispenses directions on bus routes and schedules. There was a nice shady picnic area to lounge in before hiking 20 minutes downhill to wait for a bus back to Ortisei, where we arrived in time for lunch. Not a bad outing on a day that was getting too hot for hiking comfort.
Pedometer: 17,835; 9.8 km 

Monday July 13 – Giorno di riposo: Shopping in Bolzano

Piazza Walther, Bolzano

Piazza Walther, Bolzano

In a longer trip, taking a day off (giorno di riposo) is a nice change of pace. No hiking and no sightseeing, just a morning shopping expedition in Bolzano, followed by a fabulous lunch at a very inventive new restaurant in Ortisei, and an afternoon of relaxing, reading, writing, organizing photos, and so on. So relaxing we didn’t even go out to dinner.
In fact, on this trip we decided to prepare meals in more often. After all, we’re retired and we have time! The result of cooking a few simple meals was a savings of about Euro 400.00 over what we would normally spend in two weeks of travel. Niente male!
Pedometer: 10,304; 5.7 km 

Tuesday July 14 – Harder than we thought: Rasciesa to Malga Brogules

Little Rifugio Malga Brogules, beneath the Seceda Plateau, Puez-Odle.

Little Rifugio Malga Brogules, beneath the Seceda Plateau, Puez-Odle.

Back to Rasciesa, from the funicolare we headed east, opposite of our hike on Saturday. This was labeled an easy hike by some source or another. I’d say it had nothing technical, but there was a VERY steep downhill at the beginning, along a path of set stone (Appia Antica style, but less level and with a significant downhill grade) which required one to watch every step. So happy to have my hiking sticks! I have become a very cautious hiker since injuring my knee in a fall in Roma last March. The knee is still a bit grumpy, though not painful, and the thought of re-injury makes me shudder. This trail (#35) also has a very steep descent to the rifugio Malga Brogules, about a kilometer of the same type of stone path. There was no turning back as the thoughts of a bathroom and espresso were front-of-mind. It was, however, the longest kilometer I have ever walked.
This rifugio was under major renovation and I feared would be out-of-service. Luckily, in the spirit of true mountain hospitality they had table service and freshly-baked strudel as well as a sparkling clean facility. Retracing our steps on this out-and-back hike we found climbing the steep sections of paving stones much easier than descending them. This was a 4h:10m hike altogether, with a ½ hour stop at the rifugio and a couple of brief water/rest stops along the way.
Pedometer: 24,005; 13.2 km

Friday July 17 – Friends in high places: Hiking Piz Sorega

Ortisei in the morning. The two steeples look the same size from this perspective, but the closer one is a fraction of the size of the big church on the hill.

Ortisei in the morning. The two steeples look the same size from this perspective, but the closer one is a fraction of the size of the big church on the hill.

Our friend Marjory was staying in San Cassiano in the Alta Badia, so we headed over the Passo Gardena to meet her. Holy cow, what a bus trip! Fabulous scenery and so happy I did not have to drive so I could look at the view! We had promised ourselves that with two weeks in Ortisei we would take some time to explore neighboring valleys we had heard about: The Val Badia, Val di Fassa, etc. (We made it to the Val Pusteria in June.) Here we are, two days from end-of-trip when we finally head over the pass to expand our horizons.
The Alta Badia is fabulous, too. We were impressed with the mountains that are just the other side of the Sella Group from the Val Gardena. Marjory scouted out a lovely hike and we could see the potential for a lot of exploring just from the top of the lift at Piz Sorega, and there are many other towns in this little enclave that beg exploration as well. I think a small side trip is in order for 2016. Thanks for the introduction to the A.B. Marjory!
Pedometer: 14,859; 8.2 km

Saturday July 18 – Last day hike: Mont Seuc to Monte Piz and back

We have fond memories of our Christmas Day hike, so we did about half of it, returning to Mont Seuc after coffee at Hotel Icaro. It was an easy hike across to Icaro. We returned via Sole so we could take the chairlift to make an easy morning. Lots of people out, and thank God it was cooler due to rain the night before. In fact, we had a terrific thunderstorm. We would have expected at least two each week, but only had one good one. No doubt a result of the wacky summer weather: climate change in action. I am worried for our planet.
Pedometer17,952; 9.9 km
Three years ago I took this picture from Mont Seuc, looking toward the Sassolungo & Sasso Piatto.
Hopeful benches, 2012. This is the view that made me fall in love with the Val Gardena.

Hopeful benches, 2012. This is the view that made me fall in love with the Val Gardena.

Same location in 2015
Same benches, three years later, but today we are in the clouds!

Same benches, three years later, but today we are in the clouds!

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