I’m writing this passing through the northern Italian Alps. The mountains are less craggy here, but still vast. There’s still some snow on the tops and quite a ways down. Then come the evergreens all looking perfectly upright and full-needled. And then the green valley with a scattering of large boxy wooden farms. We’ve left behind most of the vineyards here that are planted in step-like terraces on the mountain sides. The farmers here use every scrap of land they can, so one can see some pretty crooked shaped plots.
We had chosen the town of Ortisei (5000 pop.) in the area of the Dolomites called Val Gardena because it had a ski lift right up to an enormous alpine meadow called the Seiser Alm. I had imagined footpaths all over it, surrounded by mountains. This is the kind of meadow that undulates quite a bit, so you can’t see from one side to the other most of the time. On arriving in Ortisei we went to the Tourist information to be told that the “winter walking trails” were closed high up, but we were pointed to several other paths that were reachable either by foot or by the one working gondola in the area (it was between ski season and hiking season).
Our landlady told us a slightly different story, and we worked out that we could take a bus to the village of Kastelrotto, and then a taxi up onto the meadow. So for the price of a bus ticket (10 euros) and a taxi ride (30 euros) we got to the top of the Seiser Alm. We considered that if we were skiing it would be a lot more money so we got off lightly. It’s a UNESCO world heritage site by the way. All the way up to the meadow we had been astounded by the limestone buttresses of yet another peak across a vast gorge.
Once on the Seiser Alm everything became much more expansive, and there were signs of both the ski season because of the ski lifts, and rows of buildings catering to skiers which were all closed. took us a while to orient ourselves on the top of the meadow, We had brought several local maps with us, and with those and the signposts managed to find our way It but we found our footpath and only lost it a couple of times….in an expanse of snow. We missed our Amalfi guide Pete here!
In front of us were several of the massifs of this parts of the Dolomites: the Sassolungo and the Sella groups. At almost every step the view kept opening up. And opening up. Once we reached Saltria (a mostly deserted ski village up on the meadow) we began to descend. As we descended we came across snow on the path, and after this were able to find a dry patch of ground right by a river to eat our well-earned sandwiches of local herb cheese and sun-dried tomatoes. The whole day the temperature was between 14 and 18 C, so very comfortable with a slight breeze. The sky was very clear which made the views even more spectacular. The way down seemed very long, but again afforded ever-changing views, including the small town of St. Christina further up the valley. We identified it because it’s church steeple was different from that of Ortisei.
Otherwise it looked very much the same: clean white and yellow stucco houses, and ancient stone barns in its wide green fields. Walking back into the town we got a better look at some of the wooden barns that many of the houses by them. They store and dry wood in racks on the outside walls of the barns and there are stacks and stacks of it: lumber, firewood, poles etc.
So that was our walk on the Seiser Alm. Aching limbs the next day, but so what!
Oh, and guess where the Easter Bunny hid the eggs!