Friday, July 17, 2015


It's Sunday evening, May 24th, and we were about to board the bus in Bolzano for our trip to Castelrotto, Italy (elev. 3,510 ft.), where we have an apartment reserved for the week. It is located in South Tyrol (pop. 511,750), a province in the mountainous northern region of Italy, bordering on Austria to the north and Switzerland to the west. The alps in this region are called the Dolomites which rise to over 9,800 feet and cover 548 square miles. The spectacular gray vertical peaks and sheer cliffs are enhanced by the dense green forests, and narrow-deep valleys below. The dolomite rock is a unique variation of limestone.
We chose Castelrotto for our base because it was known for easy hiking and reasonable prices. Rick Steves Italy book describes Castlerotto as the “ideal home base for exploring Alpe di Siusi, Castelrotto . . .has more village character than any other town I know in the region.” The 50-minute bus ride involved dozens of hairpin turns which the bus driver took at a pretty good clip. I soon learned for future trips that it was more pleasant to sit in the back and enjoy the scenery, forgetting about approaching cars and near misses.
Our small studio at the Villa Tanya was booked seven months ago through (420 per week). Once again we were at the mercy of the website for our lodging which provides numerous photos and descriptions; however, there is always that little bit of doubt that it will not be quite what you had hoped for.
It is nestled in the mountains with a lovely mountain view, a patio for my morning coffee, birds that never stopped singing and a short walk to the town center. We were pleased with our choice. The proprietors were friendly and invited us to their home for a visit when we arrived. They showed a genuine interest in us and were extremely helpful in directing us to the easier hikes in the area. We also had fun neighbors from Stuttgart, Germany, whom we had brief conversations with using our limited German and their limited English.
On our first day, we headed out for a casual downhill walk to the neighboring town of Siusi/Seis. We would have been satisfied walking along the sidewalk and taking the bus back, however, the proprietors advised us to take a more scenic path through the farmlands and meadows. It was uphill to start, but then a gentle downhill walk along a dirt path which we thoroughly enjoyed. It was our first hike in the area. I returned on many late evenings to leisurely walk the beginning of the trail again.
I enjoyed the small town of Castelrotto/Kastelruth (pop. 6,500). Most of the people spoke German. The town was hilly and had a lovely main square called Piazza Kraus with a church and free standing bell tower with bells that ring on the hour. There was a small cemetery next to the church where the locals take great care in watering the plants and keeping the place perfect. There was always some activity here, even during the early morning when the rest of the town was empty. The sparkling gold crosses on the grave sites were impressive. I couldn't help but wonder how they keep them safe. Perhaps a bit of utopia exists here.
We purchased a one-week train, bus, and museum pass (34) for the entire South Tyrol area. It was great value and provided unlimited access to hundreds of miles in the region. Each day we picked out a place to visit or hike. We took day trips to the world famous ski resort of Cortina in the Venteto region of Italy, and to the South Tyroleon Wine Road for tastings and sightseeing. We also rode the bus to Brixen with its medieval old town and Val Gardena, famous for woodcarving and skiing. It was also convenient to visit nearby Siusi/Seis for hiking and the cable car to Europe's largest high-alpine meadow, Alpe di Siusi (elev. 6,500 ft.). On our day of departure, we used the bus/train pass to get all of the way to Brenner, on the Austrian border. Here, we purchased a ticket (8) to Innsbruck where we spent the next three nights.
Hopefully, we can return to South Tyrol again someday. I would probably chose to base in Castelrotto again, however, Ron might prefer a larger city like Bolzano. I guess I'm realizing that a small town in the mountains, where I can walk out the door and enjoy a mountain hike, is very much to my liking.  I was glad we had another week ahead of us in Gunten, a small town in the Swiss Alps.
                             Bridges of Ljubljana
                             Anticipating a Month in Europe
                      Hay Baths in the Dolomites, Northern Italy



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