Friday, November 27, 2020

Bolzano, Italy

One of our favorite things to do in Bolzano is to hike up Rittner Horn (Corno del Renon in Italian), 2260 meters (7415 feet, 1.4 miles) high, with a peak 2000 meters (1.25 miles) above Bolzano.  We start with a ride in the Rittner Seilbahn (Funivia del Renon) cable car up to Oberbozen (Sobrabolzano) at 1220 meters (.76 miles) and take the Rittner Bahn train (Treno del Renon) along the side of the mountain to Klobenstein (Collalbo) at 1160 meters (.72 miles), where we start up Path Number 1 to the top.

 Gondola ride up from Bolzano

The map tells us that Path Number 1 takes us 11.4 km (7.1 miles) to the peak, with a difference in elevation of 1100 meters (3600 feet, .7 miles),  and should take about 4 hours.  We start by hiking through several fields separated by gates.

 Starting up the trail, through fields and gates

The next stage of the hike is on paths through the forest, still continuing up gradually, with great views periodically appearing through the trees. 

 Through the woods, past the cows

Eventually, we reach Pemmern at 1538 meters (5045 feet, .95 miles).  From here, the trail continues up more steeply and we have the option of taking a gondola up rather than walking.  We continue on foot, hiking through fields of cows, goats, and horses, all of them seeming curious about us.

 Continuing up


The entire way, we're seeing incredible views of the surrounding mountains, as well as occasional glimpses of the summit to which we are headed.

 Surrounding peaks

The summit, our destination

 And, we're starting to walk through snow, which gets deeper as we approach the top.

 Starting to see snow

We pass Gasthof Unterhorn, the last Gasthof (and opportunity for food, beer, wine, and toilet) before the top and start up a set of steps to the summit.

 Gasthof Unterhorn

Steps to the top

We arrive and quickly admire the views.  It's beautiful, but very windy and cold.

 At the summit

We don't linger long and start back down the steps from the top, surrounded by sheep, cows, and goats.

 Heading back down

 Company along the path

At the bottom of the steps, we pop into Gasthof Unterhorn for warmth, a little lunch, and some wine,    dining on speck dumplings in hot broth, which are warm, filling, and just what we need.  Inside, we find almost everyone we've seen on the path, all with the same idea: warmth, food, and drink.

 Lunch inside Gasthof Unterhorn

Warm, rested, and ready to face the weather, we head out and continue down the mountain, passing through fields where the cows and horses have come out to graze.

 Descending through the fields

The animals seem as curious about us as we are about them and the young ones wander over to say hi as we go through.  The older ones just stare.


As we get back to Pemmern (the base of the second gondola, which we didn't take), we stop to look at the maps of the mountain trails and ski paths.

 Rittner Horn / Corno del Renon

From here, it's only another hour or two back to Klobenstein (Colalbo) to catch the train to the Rittner Seilbahn gondola station.

 Continuing down

At the train station, there is time for a glass of wine (1 euro, $1.17 USD) before the next train departs, taking us to the gondola back into Bolzano, treating us to more beautiful views of the mountains and the approaching city.

Our reward

 Descending into Bolzano

It's been a great adventure: we've seen beautiful scenery, met some livestock, had a simple, tasty lunch, and hiked up (and down) a mountain.  

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Bolzano, Italy

Bolzano (Bozen in German) is the capital of the South Tyrol province in Italy, but many residents are more comfortable speaking German than Italian.  Bolzano was part of Austria until 1919 and most signs, maps, and names are in both Italian and German.  As one resident remarked, "I speak a little English, ok Italian, but best in German."

Bolzano is also in the middle of the Dolomites, part of the Southern Limestone Alps, located in northeastern Italy, near Austria, shared between the Italian provinces of  Belluno, Vicenza, Verona, Trentino, South Tyrol, Uding, and Pordenone.

We start our morning in Bolzano with a ride up to Castel Roncolo (Scholoss Runkelstein), a medieval castle just outside the city.  Castel Roncolo was built in the late 1200s and passed through many hands, including several Archdukes of Austria, Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian I, various Prince-Bishops, the Count of Lichtenstein-Kastelkorn, and Emperor Franz Joseph.

The Castel was restored and donated to the city of Bolzano in 1893 and is now a museum showing works of the period and beautiful frescos painted in its rooms.

 Path up to Castel Roncolo

 View from above (we can't see this)

The interior of the castel is a maze with lots of small rooms and chambers on multiple levels and we wind our way up and down the stairs and hallways.

Wandering through

The restored frescos in many of the rooms are beautiful and a big feature of the museum.  This is one of the largest collections of frescos dating back to Medieval times, with stories of knights, court ladies, farm life, scenes from literature, and hunting panoramas.  Quite a collection.

 Frescos in the rooms

The views from the castle are great and we admire them as we head out and decide to walk back to town along the Talvera (Talfer) River.

 Views from Castel Roncolo

 Pathway along the river back to town

As we approach the center of Bolzano, we find the Saturday market in Piazza Vittoria going strong and we walk in to see what is there.  We quickly pass by the clothing, housewares, and kitchen equipment, looking for the regional specialties, and find the local produce, fish, cheese, and meat stands.

 Local food!

From the market, it's only a short walk through Bolzano back to Piazza Walther and our hotel.  It seems that everyone is out enjoying the beautiful day.

 Streets of Bolzano

One thing we are truly learning to appreciate in Bolzano is speck,  We are introduced to speck at a huge speck-only shop at the Innsbruck (Austria) train station, where we catch a train to Bolzano.  Then we find it in all the markets and the dishes of the restaurants

Speck available

Speck is a type of cured, lightly smoked ham made in South Tyrol, the region of the Dolomites (and Bolzano).  Speck is a close cousin to prosciutto crudo, but with its own personality.

Our first night, we share bruschetta, speck, and fried eggplant, participating in a great Bolzano tradition of speck with every meal. One lunch, we focus on the speck, sharing a speck platter. Everyone here has their own version of speck and they are all great! We can't get enough speck and look for it (and find it) when we get home.

 Speck platters