Retreat on the Alpe di Siusi

15 Sep

15 September 2019.

Sometimes you just need to escape even while you are away. Rick Steves calls this a “vacation from your vacation.” While we aren’t really in need of further relaxation, we do like the atmosphere of the Alpe di Siusi and it has become a tradition for us to pass a couple of nights there and be able to hike in the mornings without worrying about an early bus from Ortisei or racing to beat the last gondola down at 17:30. It’s a looonnggg walk if you miss the last ride.

Cabinovia

The gondola up to — and down from — the Alpe di Siusi. It only runs until 17:30 so don’t miss the last ride!

We are based for 2 1/2 weeks at the incredible Residence Astoria, our home in the Val Gardena the past four years. (See Training cats from 2016.) Taking only our backpacks with a change of clothing, we headed to Hotel Saltria for two nights, partaking of their half-pension plan and enjoying the convenience of being right there in the Alpe di Siusi for an early morning hike as recommended in our book, Walking in Italy’s Val Gardena. It’s good to travel light as this journey takes 3 buses and a gondola over the course of 90 minutes. Not fun with heavy luggage.

Hotel Saltria

The Hotel Saltria is a larger property, yet retains an intimacy

Arriving at the hotel, we had time for an hour’s walk in the afternoon sun through mountain meadows, then a shower before dinner. No extended Italian eating hours here! Dinner is from 19:00-20:30 and almost all of the guests arrived in the first 15 minutes. (We did see one couple, clearly new to the concept and not Italian nor German, waltz in at 20:28 and they were seated and served. I think they got the dregs of what was left, though.)

Rifugio

A rifugio on the Panorama hike. The pond is used for fire-fighting (rare) and snow-making in ski season.

The next morning we were on the trail before 10:00 and took what may be our new favorite hike in the Alpe di Siusi, Panorama to Zallinger. (I’ll be writing that in detail for another post.) This was a long-ish one. Leaving the hotel a few minutes before 9:00, we did not return until 15:30 what with transportation, a coffee stop, a lunch break, and a 10 km walk. If we had tried to do this from Ortisei, we would have been gone from 8:00-18:00.

It was so nice to be catered to for breakfast and dinner. No shopping (which we do daily when we are in a self-catered situation), no cooking or food prep of any type. We just showed up and let the hotel staff take care of everything.

Dining room Saltria

The dining room at Saltria. There were people of all ages: young couples with new babies, young couples alone, multi-generational groups, and people like us.

Breakfast was spread across a room bigger than our home living, dining, and kitchen areas combined! Set in a huge “E” shape, were baskets of various rolls and pastries, 8 types of preserves, 4 kinds of honey including one that was still in the comb, fruits, fruit salad, yoghurt, soft boiled eggs, a vegetable juicer, salad ingredients, 4 kinds of sliced meats, and at least 4 types of cheese. Beverages were on a separate buffet and the waitress made cappuccino, espresso, or “German” coffee to order.

This part of Italy is so Austrian that the first words out of anyone’s mouth are generally in German. In fact, this past week one of the German-language newspapers of the Südtirol expressed sadness on the 100th anniversary of the annexation by the Kingdom of Italy in 1919. Memories are long. So we were offered “German” coffee whereas in most of Italy we would have been asked if we wanted “American” coffee.

German is more prevalent in the Alpe di Siusi than it is even in the valley. A couple of our servers had trouble with Italian. One stumbled over the number 6 (sei in Italian) until I used the German word sechs. Some transactions became amusing mixtures: I told them I wanted my coffee senza milch. That high-school German comes back on occasion.

Vegetables

A sampling of the many vegetables available every night.

At the hotel, none of the food on the menus was described in English. Our evening meals — five courses if you wanted to eat that much — were described in Italian and German and the cuisine was decidedly fusion. Pasta or prosciutto and melon for a first course followed by roasted veal and a beetroot/potato puree. Or a cheese strudel as a starter with mountain lake fish on a bed of leeks with lardo. (Lardo is what it sounds like, though quite refined, a Tuscan specialty.) Like I said, fusion, or as our Italian friend would say, contaminated (contaminazione in Italian is a little pejorative, but serves as a false cognate in this case).

After our long day hike, we could have refreshed in the indoor-outdoor pool or worked on our skin cancer, but we retreated to a pre-dinner shower and coffee on the terrace overlooking the magnificent peaks. Just as the sun was setting, we headed to dinner, now greeted by a huge salad and vegetable buffet spread over the enormous “E” that once held breakfast. Perfectly sauteed artichokes, two types of asparagus, grilled peppers and eggplant, marinated mushrooms, more salad ingredients than the farmers’ market, and a cheeseboard.

Pasta

My primo one night, pasta with smoked salmon. Sensibly small portion as there was more to come.

That was the first course. After that, there were soup, a primo, a secondo, and dessert, plus (more) cheese and fruit. We confined ourselves to three courses (no soup nor dessert) but indulged in a fine and reasonably-priced wine list.

My middle-of-the-night trip to the bagno was blessed with the lovely sight of the great mountain peaks bathed in moonlight. That alone was worth getting up for at midnight.

Travelers often complain about “touristy” areas and that so many places are over-crowded, or that they encounter too many Americans carrying Rick Steves’ guidebooks. If one wants to have an experience unlike any you are likely to have in North America, this is a fine place to add to an itinerary.

Laurel and the Sciliar

Just starting out on the Panorama hike. Perfect day!

16 Responses to “Retreat on the Alpe di Siusi”

  1. Audrey Crocker September 15, 2019 at 15:21 #

    I can see you and Rick, are enjoying your stay, looks lovely, also the food YUM YUM!

    Like

    • Laurel September 15, 2019 at 20:30 #

      Gracie, Audrey! La prima colazione qui non è come nostra di venerdi!

      Like

  2. chloe erkenbrecher September 15, 2019 at 12:53 #

    I love this area of Italy, but it has been many years since I was last there. We did learn that one does not want to go in October as we found almost all of the hotels closed. I think this is the only time that they can take a vacation. Love your photos.

    Like

    • Laurel September 15, 2019 at 20:32 #

      Clearly we cannot stay away. October is still supposed to be gorgeous here, if cool. Might test that next year. Some hotels offer specials through October, November, and early December to encourage spa business, but I understand April is the really down month.

      Like

  3. kathyfromhouston September 15, 2019 at 12:36 #

    I have been so looking forward to hearing about your latest trip to Ortisei! It is such a lovely area. We will be there May 2020 – flight and lodging booked!

    Like

    • Laurel September 15, 2019 at 20:33 #

      Yea, Kathy! Hotel Albion?

      Like

      • kathyfromhouston September 16, 2019 at 10:54 #

        Yes, Laurel, Hotel Albion. Jim really likes the atmosphere there and the balcony with a view of the snow-capped mountains in May. He has traveled the world extensively for his work, and this area and Monterosso are his favorite places to soak up the views and the culture. Fortunately, I got to include 5 nights in my beloved Pienza to explore Tuscany a little more. Looking forward to your photos and tales of your adventures, including your favorite restaurants and cafes! Enjoy! Or should I say godere? My Italian is terrible, but I am using an app on my phone called “Drops” to try to improve before our trip. Fortunately, Jim still has a better recall of his two years of German classes which should help in Ortisei.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Laurel September 17, 2019 at 07:34 #

          Sounds wonderful! I feel like we are hearing more German this year, especially up in the Alpe di Siusi and in Castlerotto, so Jim’s skills will come in handy! Do write and tell me about your trip as we’ve never been here in the spring. I know lift and bus schedules will vary quite a bit. Several already changed on Sept 16! Although the forecast is for 80 degrees next week, summer is over as far as the transportation company is concerned!

          Like

  4. pagebypage14 September 15, 2019 at 12:30 #

    It looks like the scenery, food, and weather are all superb! It’s so much fun to return to well-loved spots. Enjoy the rest of your trip! Grier

    Like

    • Laurel September 15, 2019 at 20:34 #

      Ciao, Grier! Loved seeing your trip on FB, too. Catch up with you the end of October!

      Like

  5. Marcia Lynn Kakiuchi September 15, 2019 at 10:41 #

    This location looks and sounds like heaven on earth. The description of the veggies (and the picture) made my mouth water….yummmmm. And that smoked salmon pasta looked like it was to die for.

    I am curious about what ‘German’ coffee is. And what is the weather like? It looks sunny but maybe on the cool side? That Gondola looks really cool too.

    Thank you for my ‘foodie’ fix! I have always loved your food adventures….especially the strudel at high altitudes!! HAHA.

    Like

    • Laurel September 15, 2019 at 11:28 #

      “German” coffee is brewed, quite strong, but not espresso so served in larger cups, not tiny espresso ones. Sort of like “American” coffee, but stronger. Often it is served with hot milk so like caffe au lait, if you will. Weather gorgeous! Cool in the mornings but it was 80 this afternoon in the valley! Cooler up high, of course. High altitude strudel is a delight!

      Like

  6. Maarja September 15, 2019 at 09:59 #

    What a beautiful spot! This is going on our list for next September.

    Like

    • jonnietootling September 15, 2019 at 10:31 #

      With all the great food you find (and eat) on your travels it sort of forces you to hike for miles or you two would end up being rolly-polly’s.

      Like

      • Laurel September 15, 2019 at 11:25 #

        Jonnie, It is a struggle! The pastries here are divine!

        Like

    • Laurel September 15, 2019 at 11:24 #

      Maarja, We are coming back next September! Maybe we can hook up in the Val Gardena! Hope Provence has been grand!

      Like

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