Easter holidays in Northern Italy

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A fairy-tale-trip to South Tirol


On Friday, April 15th, my boyfriend Dorian and I started our trip to Italy. We had decided to leave early so that we could do a quick hike before getting to our hotel in the evening. So, we left the apartment at 7:30 AM and headed towards Italy. We were in a good mood, looking forward to our holidays, and we didn’t even mind too much that his radio was broken, and we had to listen to music on our phones during the ride.

Rieserferner-Ahrn National Park

It was supposed to be a 6-hour ride and we should arrive at 12 PM in the Rieserferner-Ahrn National Park. Unfortunately, we encountered two traffic jams on our way and we only arrived at 3 PM. Three hours of delay is quite a lot, but it wasn’t too late for our hike yet, because it would only take one hour from there to get to our hotel in San Vigilio.

The weather wasn’t great; it was cloudy and, from time to time, raining a bit. For us, this wasn’t too bad, because we were wearing warm clothes and, this way, we were the only people in the park. The Rieserferner-Ahrn park is a nature reserve in South Tirol. It is characterized by high mountains with rugged peaks and lakes, waterfalls and a very specific fauna and flora: golden eagles, falcons, dwarf willow, sticky primrose, etc.

Our hike started in Riva di Tures on an altitude of 1700 m and we ascended – and descended – about 400 m, with the highest point at the Durra-Alm Jausestation (2100 m). The hike took us 1h30 and it was about 7 km long. After sitting in the car all day, the hike up was a bit exhausting, especially because it was quite steep, but it was so worth it. The views were stunning and the area is absolutely beautiful. In some spots, there was still a lot of deep snow and we sank in many times. We had brought our snowshoes on the trip, but since there was not much snow any more, we had left them in the car. Honestly, they were not necessary any more. Even though we did sink into the snow a lot, it was fun and putting the snowshoes on, then taking them off again all the time would have been annoying. Just before arriving at the Knutten Alm, we found a big wall of snow and ice blocking our trail. Even with snowshoes, we probably wouldn’t have been able to climb it. So, we went along the river for a couple of metres and crossed it a bit further down, jumping over some big rocks. It was a lot of fun and we had a great time! 😀 Even the weather was on our side and turned much nicer, so we even got some sun.

After our hike, we took the car once more and after another hour, we finally reached our hotel. To get to San Vigilio, you have to take a small road but, when we got there, the way signs suddenly said the way would end in 60 m and that you should turn around. We were at a loss. What do you do when even Google Maps doesn’t know where to go? Fortunately, there was a nice man standing outside of his house who came to talk to us. Apparently, only a week before they closed this road because the new tunnel a few hundred metres away had finally opened. All right then, let’s try to find this tunnel. Indeed, we found it quite easily, following the way signs “Val Badia”. When we finally reached San Vigilio, it was already 7 PM, but it had been good to get out of the car and do a nice hike, even though it meant arriving late.

We were staying at the Garni Erna Hotel that had been recommended to us by my colleague, Paul Videsott. This hotel belongs to his brother, and I don’t regret having followed his suggestion. The rooms were very nice and spacious. It was very clean, and they had a nice little Spa area with a sauna and a whirlpool. In addition, the breakfast was fantastic! I can warmly recommend it.

Right after arriving to the hotel, we left again in order to find some food. We hadn’t eaten much during the day and, after our hike, we were very hungry. Unfortunately, everything in this town seemed to be closed. Before booking our hotel, we had searched for available hotels and hadn’t found many options. We had assumed this was because everything was full already. Well, it turned out that it was because everything was closed: hotels, restaurants, everything. Later, Paul and his brother would explain that the winter season in San Vigilio finished in March and now they are on a spring break until the summer season starts in the end of June.

In the end, we found one of the two open restaurants in this town, the Vives Pizza Loungebar. We had a couple of beers and a very good pizza there and enjoyed a nice evening before going back to the hotel.

Fanes-Sennes National Park

The next morning, on Saturday, April 16th, we wanted to visit the Fanes-Sennes National Park, but we were not exactly sure where to go. Dorian wanted to go to this famous blue lake called “Lago di Braies”/”Pragser Wildsee”, but when we told our host that, he was shocked. He told we should not go there; it’s much too touristic and not very nice for hiking. On the other hand, there is a very nice trail going to the Fanes Rifugio and the Lavarella Rifugio starting only a few kilometres away, at the Albergo Alpino Pederü.

We decided to follow his suggestion and leave the Pragser Wildsee for some other day. So, at 10 AM, we left the hotel and we went to Pederü. Just the way to get there was spectacular! The high, steep mountains with their rugged peak were very beautiful and I enjoyed every second of our ride there.

When we arrived at the parking lot, it seemed like there was not much snow left on the mountain, so we decided to leave our snowshoes in the car, which would turn out to be a bad decision. We had chosen a hike of about 3 hours on my Komoot App that seemed quite nice. However, shortly after starting the hike, we had to realize that there still was a lot of deep snow around. On the first part, we both sunk in a couple of times and, once, I hurt my leg and my knee swell up quickly. Fortunately, I could continue walking and it wasn’t as bad as it looked. So, we continued on this trail until it crossed the main road. Our next question: should we continue on the main road or on our hiking trail? We had already experienced that there was still a lot of deep snow on the hiking trail, but we figured that it would be okay to take the hiking trail anyway. Well, we were wrong; so wrong. The hiking trail was covered in about one-metre-high snow which wasn’t frozen any more but melting below or feet. So, when we were lucky, we could walk a couple of metres on the snow, but then we would sink in again. It was super exhausting and quickly we grow sick of this. We tried walking alongside the bushes and trees or on the rocks, but it was very strenuous and not completely safe. Also, in a natural reserve you’re – obviously – not allowed to walk on bushes and trees, but what else could we have done?

At some point, we decided to give up on this trail and take the shortest way to join the main road. We had to cross some big rocks, but, in the end, we made it safe and sound, and we were very happy to not sink into deep snow any more. The main road still was covered in snow, but only about 5 cm high, so it was okay to walk on it.

Another hour later, we finally arrived to the lake and to the cottages where we enjoyed our well-deserved lunch. In the Lavarella rifugio, they brew their own beer and, of course, I had to try it. It was quite good, but nothing compared to the quality of the food. Dorian had the spicy pasta, and I had some green pasta with game meat; absolutely delicious!

On they way back, we decided to walk over to the Fanes rifugio, just to have a different view over the valley. Obviously, we hadn’t learned anything from our earlier experience on walking on the snow: here again, hip deep snow we sank into all the time. After reaching the cottage, it was back to the car via the main road. The way back was much faster but also much less fun.

The whole hike had taken us much more time than planned, just because of the snow, but it had been a lot of fun and, as you can see in the pictures, the Fanes-Sennes nature reserve is gorgeous. I can warmly recommend you go there too, but maybe in summer, with snowshoes or walking on the main road. 😉

That afternoon, we were exhausted and didn’t feel like doing much, so we spent the rest of the afternoon in the Spa of our hotel, enjoying the sauna and the jacuzzi. Later, we went for dinner to Ristorante Da Arnold’s on the camping in San Vigilio. Besides the pizza place we had eaten the night before, this was the only restaurant in town that was open. It was very crowded and we could only stay for one hour before we lost our table again, but we were just happy we got something to eat. We had had some Champagne earlier and driving to a different town would not have been a good option. My food was quite good, Dorian’s a bit less, but it was all right.

Puez Odle National Park

The next day, on Easter Sunday, we had planned to go to the Pragser Wildsee and then to Santa Magdalena near the Puez Odle National Park. After talking to our host, we decided to leave the Pragser Wildsee for the next day and only go to Santa Magdalena. Our host had told us that Santa Magdalena is way too touristic and that it’s not worth going there. Still, we decided that we want to go there. We had found a nice hiking trail and we were determined to do this hike; a good decision, as it turned out.

First, we went to a famous sightseeing place from which we could see the town’s church and, in the background, the mountains. There were some tourists, true, but the view was amazing.

Then we went to the starting point of our hike, a few kilometres further. The road was very narrow and winding, and you have to drive carefully. There were lots of people, but most of them took different hiking/walking routes, not the same we did. The trail started with a little ascend, but nothing crazy. Today, we had taken our snowshoes; yes, we had learned from our past mistake. And rightly so: when we reached the fork where our path went up the mountain while the round way followed the main hiking trail in the forest, we were thrown back into a land covered in deep snow. The hike took us much more time than expected, because we were still sinking in a lot and, close to the summit, we had to cross slabs. There were patches without snow as well, but it was exhausting to put on, then take off the snowshoes all the time; so, we just kept them on, even on the spots without snow. Also, it was a bit dangerous to walk with snowshoes on rocks, gravel, and hay – no idea why there was hay on the ground – and to walk (with snowshoes) on snow slabs. We couldn’t see the hiking path, so we climbed as well as we could, but we were very happy when we reached the top. Well, it was not exactly the top, but we decided it was high enough to have a snack, enjoy the view and turn around. We had just left our snowshoes in some place and didn’t want to go any further than where we could go without snowshoes any more; we had had enough.

The view was absolutely worth it, though: it left us breathless! The mountains with their rugged peaks and the view over the rest of the Alps in the background was gorgeous and we were delighted we had managed to climb up there.

The way back down was much quicker and easier. From the top, you could actually see that it was possible to go down (and up) on a path without snow, covered by stones and grass. So, where it had taken us almost 2 hours to get up, it only took us 30 minutes to get down. Also, running down through deep snow with snowshoes while sinking in from time to time was quite fun.

We then rejoined the main hiking trail where we met other people again – on the other path we had been all alone. It took us another hour to get back to the car, but the hike had been beautiful, impressive, gorgeous, and fun.

On our way back to San Vigilio, we stopped at the famous Chiesetta di San Giovanni in Ranui where all the tourists stop to take pictures. I mean, it is a very nice setting, but if you don’t go hiking as well, I wouldn’t go there just to take a picture. In that, our host had been right.

That night, we were invited to dinner at my colleague’s place. Paul and his family were very friendly and welcoming, and we had a great evening with them.

Pragser Wildsee

Finally, on Easter Monday, we had to get back to Switzerland. Considering all the traffic jam that we would probably encounter in Austria, we decided to first go to the Pragser Wildsee, then to Bolzano and, finally, via Graun im Vinschgau and Scuol, home.

The lake was nice, but there were lots of people and the lake in the Fanes-Sennes park had been nicer. Apparently, this lake was famous because an Italian series had played a scene with Silvester Stallone there. Paul had told us the night before that in the last couple of days, several people had crashed into the icy water of the lake, but, apparently, nobody there knew about it or cared; about 50 people were walking on the frozen lake, even with baby strollers. Honestly, how stupid can one be? The ice on the border of the lake was clearly melting and you could see very well that the ice was not thick any more. And we were right; a couple of hours later, Paul send me a news article saying that an hour later than we had been there, 8 people including a baby fell into the lake and almost died. Several emergency services had to go save them, some of them crashing into the water too. What a mess!

After visiting the lake, we went to Bolzano where we had some nice lunch and enjoyed the beautiful city. On our way back home, we stopped at the Campanile di Curon Venosta Vecchia (Kirchturm von Altgraun) and took a couple of pictures. In Engadin, we then took a train through some tunnel. It was my first time taking a train while sitting in the car and it was a bit weird. But well, it saved some time, which was good.

And that was it; our Easter weekend in South Tirol and in the Dolomites. We had a lot of fun, enjoyed good food and spectacular sights. I can definitely recommend you go there too some day.

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