Search results for 'ortisei'

Good morning, Ortisei!

1 Aug
Good Day Rome is on-the-road this week. We head back to Rome this evening, but I wanted to share a few pictures from the last couple of days. We are traveling with our Seattle-based niece, nephew and their children.  Hoping Grandma Deb, who is cycling across the U.S. this summer, has a chance to see these pics of her grandchildren and their time in the mountains.
Sunrise on the Sella Group and the Sassolungo, towering over Ortisei, Italy, as seen from our terrace.
Sunrise on the Sella Group and the Sassolungo, towering over Ortisei, Italy, as seen from our terrace.
Across the Val Gardena, viewed from our apartment, the tiny village of Bulla. Every trip I say we need to go there. I find it enchanting. Maybe next time....
Across the Val Gardena, viewed from our apartment, the tiny village of Bulla. Every trip I say we need to go there. I find it enchanting. Maybe next time….
High above the Val Gardena, William, Elizabeth and John head down the trail. It was a chilly 13 Centrigrade.
High above the Val Gardena, William, Elizabeth and John head down the trail. It was a chilly 13 Centigrade.
Ric in front of the rifugio at Raciesa, high above the Val Gardena. Lovely stop for

Ric in front of the rifugio at Rasciesa, high above the Val Gardena. Lovely stop for “elevensies” of coffee, hot chocolate and berry crostada. Yes, it was cold enough for hot chocolate.

Elizabeth cannot resist the flower displays. The Val Gardena is well-named.

Elizabeth cannot resist the flower displays. The Val Gardena is well-named.

Horses and cows cross paths with hikers at Raciesa. We encountered a herd of about a dozen horses looking for handouts and petting. William said it was the highlight of the hike for him.
Horses and cows cross paths with hikers at Rasciesa. We encountered a herd of about a dozen horses looking for handouts and petting. William said it was the highlight of the hike for him.
Caught Elizabeth in a candid moment, bundled up against a chilly breeze at the high altitude. In the valley we did not need jackets.
Caught Elizabeth in a candid moment, bundled up against a chilly breeze at the high altitude. In the valley we did not need jackets.
Susan, Elizabeth, John and William riding the funicolare to Raciesa, Val Gardena.
Susan, Elizabeth, John and William riding the funicolare to Rasciesa, Val Gardena.
The horses were very friendly. No doubt looking for apples and carrots. John, Elizabeth and William (hidden) offer some pets.
The horses were very friendly. No doubt looking for apples and carrots. John, Elizabeth and William (hidden) offer some pets.
Ciao tutti! If you haven't been here, you should put it on your list!
Ciao tutti! If you haven’t been here, you should put it on your list!

Laurel & Ric on vacation: Part II – Ortisei

28 Jul

It’s been hot everywhere it seems. Ric and I took it hard here in Rome when the heat hit in mid-June, earlier than “usual” we are told. Hottest June in 231 years said one source. Who knew weather records were kept for more than 200 years?  We’ve also been warned that “Rome closes down in August. All of the Italians leave town.” Everyone, it seems, goes to the beach or the mountains to escape the hot city.

Now we get it. Three refreshing days in Ortisei (OR-tee-zay) in the Alto Adige region was an amazing, revitalizing getaway.

VIew down the main pedestrian-only street in Ortisei.

The town is absolutely charming. While heavy on tourist lodgings with more rooms available for tourists than there are residents of the town, Ortisei retains its character and doesn’t come off as phony or overly commercial.  Ortisei feels more like Austria or Germany than Italy.  One of our Italian colleagues said “It’s not Italy!”  The food, the bread, the signs, the architecture all led to a we’re-not-in-Italy-any-more feeling.  Given that the region was Austrian until 1919, this is not so terribly surprising. Residents generally speak three languages: German, Italian and Ladin, a regional dialect. While many also speak at least some English, the first words out of their mouths are likely to be German. But respond in Italian or English and you will likely end up in a polyglot conversation!

From our balcony we had a view up the valley toward S. Cristina and the Sella Group.

We stayed in the very lovely Hotel Garni Walter. It was a short hike up from the central piazza, and oh-so-pretty and serene. La famiglia Demetz has owned and managed the B&B for 43 years and recently renovated the entire place. Each room is outfitted in pine furniture, Tyrolean fabrics, and federbetten (German-style feather comforters) that kept us warm during the cold nights. No A/C required! To give you an idea of how refreshing the summers are, Sylvia told us on arrival that it was “warm for here: 24C (75F) degrees.” Ortisei is the first of a string of three villages in the Val Gardena. Only a few minutes apart by car or bus, you can also easily visit S. Cristina and Selva Gardena.  All three towns have two names: one Italian and one German. Ortisei is St. Ulrich to the German-speaking population. Each street has two names as well. (Luckily they are clearly marked unlike many in Rome.) The architecture is Tyrolean, with onion-domed churches throughout the area.

Gondolas or “cabinovia” ferry people up — or down — from the Alpe di Siusi.

We love trains, as most of you know, and the area is easy to access by train and bus. Local transportation options include great, comfortable busses plus the cabinovia and funivia: cable ways, lifts, funiculars. Serving skiers in the winter and hikers in the summer, these lifts crisscross the hills, mountains, and high meadows.  (Ric was in heaven with all of these transportation options. During our 6 day trip we took 4 trains, several busses, and 4 cable lifts.)

In the Alpe di Siusi, starting our hike at 44 degrees F, bright sunshine, and a terrain so beautiful it could bring tears to your eyes.

The Val Gardena is a hiker’s paradise. One can hike in the mountains on either side of the Val Gardena, or from town-to-town in the valley. You can hike up to the high meadows or ride cable ways up and hike – or bike – down. We had a lovely hike in the Alpe di Siusi. Starting out one morning at 09:00 the temperature up on top was a brisk 44F/7C but sunny and clear. The green meadows, wild flowers and soaring peaks of i Dolomiti are achingly beautiful.  The peace was disturbed only by the distant ringing of cowbells carried on the light breeze. We set off for Saltria, a “town” at the other end of the meadow from the terminus of our cable way. As is often the case in Italy, the trails are not groomed in the way they are in the Pacific Northwest. Sturdy hiking shoes are a necessity. The trails in the Alpe di Siusi are well-signed however, so getting lost is unlikely. Our terrain included a road large enough for a horse-drawn cart, a footpath through a grazing herd, and a forest path much like in Oregon.

Ric on the hike to Saltria, through a meadow with grazing animals. Yes, this was the marked path, through the herd.

Not common in Oregon are cows straddling the road

Wildlife in the Alpe di Siusi.

nor ponies looking for a handout. (Shannon T., this photo is included for you.)

Moments earlier, this little guy had been rolling in the grass, thoroughly enjoying the alpine morning.

The “town” of Saltria consists primarily of two resort-hotel/spas and a large bus stop. You can take a comfortable bus from Saltria to Compatsch, where there are more resorts, lifts, and hikes. We were quite taken by the opportunity to actually stay in the Alpe di Siusi, and plan on doing so next year.

I could go on and on. The food is great, as we have come to expect in Italy. You can have a fine pizza from a forno a legno  (wood burning oven), and certainly there is pasta, but also many regional specialties like canaderli (dumplings), Wiener schnitzel, and speck (a type of bacon) is everywhere. We saw – and ate – more potatoes in a weekend than we’ve had in two months in Rome. One of the more unique pasta dishes was spaghetti con cervo, a sauce made with venison.  And a vegetarian option of grilled vegetables is served with a round of warm camembert cheese. That’s one dish I plan to try at home.

We will likely make this an annual trip. Rates go up significantly in August when Rome empties out, so I think we’ll take our annual cool-down break in July when the area isn’t over-flowing with everyone else escaping the hot cities.

We’ll be back next year for certain.

Second edition: “Walking in Italy’s Val Gardena”

2 Feb
2 February 2019.
If anyone ever tells you writing a book is difficult, ask them how the editing and publishing process went.  Publishing is to writing as cooking is to eating: It takes a lot longer to create the meal than to eat it. At least it does for me, self-published as I am. The writing process was a piece of cake. Floundering through Kindle Direct Publishing gave me a stomach ache.  In fact, the author page links still are not working on all Amazon sites. Grrrr.

Ric on a new walk at Passo Gardena, with Jimmy Hutte in the distance. Many of our walks feature great places to relax and have lunch along the trail.

It has been a while since I last posted in November. We’ve been very busy. The last trip was, in part, to update our book and at last, we have published the second edition of “Walking in Italy’s Val Gardena!” Now containing 23 hikes (previously 20) and updated information as of autumn 2018, this is the book to take along on a trip to Ortisei or anywhere in Italy’s Val Gardena. There’s not much written in English in detail on this part of Italy. 
We had such a magnificent trip again last fall that I could hardly wait to get this published. Alas, the writing and (worse) editing process did take some time, but now the content is fresca fresca fresca, as our Italian friend Pellegrino used to say.

The approach to Fermeda on one of our new walks. How about having pizza with this view?

If you have never been to the Dolomites, put it on your list and spend a week. Heck, spend a month if you love hiking and mountains. Our best trip ever was passing the month of July parked in Ortisei while we did the initial research and writing the first edition.
Click on over to and get your copy, paperback or Kindle. Also available worldwide on,,, or any other country Amazon site you buy from.
Note the first edition is still out there because that is where the reviews are. I am hoping to see some reviews of the Second Edition soon! (Hint Hint.)
I will be back with a new post soon about cooking while traveling. Until then, Ciao!

This little marmot was hanging out with his “madness” at Seceda, above Ortisei. Hiking directions are in our book.

We make a point of hiking to this little chapel at Rasciesa each trip.

Also from one of our new walks at Passo Gardena. What a view!

On the trail from Ciampinoi to Passo Sella, a marvelous view of the Sciliar.

Postcard from Switzerland: Pontresina, Graubünden

21 Sep
21 September 2018.
The signs in Pontresina are mostly in German, but we are hearing – and speaking – Italian as much as we did in Ortisei. We’ve moved out of Italy, stopping at Innsbruck, Austria for a couple of nights, and now we are in the part of Switzerland wedged between Austria and Italy. I am speaking as much Italian as English. The other night the waiter thought we were French as we mashed up English and Italian in response to his preferred German. The French would be appalled. We don’t dress that well. 

The morning view from our apartment.

Most everyone is multilingual. A young grocery store clerk moved seamlessly between German and Italian, hesitating only slightly to engage her English when needed.
Our time in Ortisei went by too fast! A final night of pizza at Maurizkeller with new friends (and fans of our book!) Cathy and Gene was a fitting end. We said reluctant goodbyes to Justine, Siegfried, and Minno the cat. Always best to leave while you are still enjoying.
Innsbruck was a convenient stop to avoid a 7-hour train from Bolzano to Pontresina. (Nothing is easy in the mountains.) It was fine, certainly a pretty alte stadt and some dramatic lifts, but nothing as pleasing as our beloved Val Gardena. And it was hot. Had some decent Nepalese food for dinner. You won’t find that in Italy.

So here we are, high above St. Moritz at 8,156 feet, and I am served chamomile tea — loose tea in a basket mind you — on a wooden tray, already steeping with a timer set. #ThingsnotfoundinUSA

The funicular arrives at Chantarella above St. Moritz. Lots of cyclists surging down mountain trails.

Pontresina is very pretty and we are enjoying our junkets. The weather is cooler than it was in Italy and Innsbruck, so I might need to break out the gloves and a jacket is a daily requirement, at least to start.
One day we took a horse-drawn omnibus through a glacial valley for lunch at a hotel, then enjoyed a peaceful 4-mile walk back to town. This may be the ultimate easy-hiker hike. Of course, there was great food at the hotel by the glacier.

The horse-drawn omnibus is an easy-hiker solution. Take the carriage up and walk 4 miles back.

The Roseg Glacier from the trail. Hikers, bicyclists, and horses share the path.

The path along the Roseg Valley stretches alongside a glacial stream.

When hiking in Switzerland one must always watch out for the “suckler cows.”

Another fun transportation thing to add to the journal: we had to signal for a train to stop at a somewhat remote station. If you don’t signal, they fly by. Works for getting off, too. The transportation system is a miracle here with prices as high as the heavens that support the system. Pristine cleanliness and timeliness have a price and the Swiss are willing to charge for it.

Just across the river from our hotel is the Surovas station. Trains stop on demand only.

Surovas station. See the little red train through the trees? They glide by so quietly we have to be watching for them.

The Morteratsch glacier easily accessible by train and on foot.

This part of Switzerland, so famous for winter sports, is less refined than our beloved Val Gardena or Berner Oberland as far as hiking and transportation. It is actually very quiet now in September. There are, however, many mountain bike trails and these are very busy. I cannot imagine hurtling myself down these mountains on skis nor on a bicycle!
See you in Lauterbrunnen (The Berner Oberland) next week!

Mountaintop to sea level: Girovaga’s 2018 Euro-trip

4 May
4 May 2018.
When the weather is miserable travel planning can be a great escape. At any given time, I have three or four European itineraries rattling around in my head and usually one of them has moved beyond theoretical and into reality. This year our theme is Mountaintops, Lakes, and Seashore. We will visit 4 mountain areas, 2 lakes, and the Ligurian sea. Purtroppo, we won’t be going until late summer.
I’ve spent a fair amount of energy in planning, securing lodging, researching hikes, and just yesterday I started making train reservations so as to get the super economy fares where possible. (I love every minute of the pre-trip tasks.)
Here’s what we have planned.
Having learned our lessons last year during The Grand Tour, we are not going to hop all over the continent. Our modus operandi now is longer stays in fewer places. This trip we will confine ourselves to Northern Italy and Switzerland with a tiny stop in Austria.
In a nutshell, here is our route: Milano – Ortisei – Innsbruck – Pontresina – Lauterbrunnen – Stresa – Camogli – Lausanne over the course of seven weeks. No cars, no planes, just trains. 
Milano is a city we’ve visited many times and while there are not any major sites we plan to see, it will be a buffer between a long Transatlantic flight and our train-plus-taxi to Ortisei, a journey of about four hours. We like Milano and have a favorite hotel there, the Hotel Berna. Alas, the Berna’s prices are sky-high due to a Gran Prix event so we will be staying across the street at the oft-recommended-to-me Hotel Garda. Nothing fancy, but (I am told) comfortable. We’ll recover from jet lag, buy SIMs for our phones, enjoy browsing, and perhaps take in a special art installation. After Milan, there will be no large cities this trip.

The last time we spent the night in Milano was in December 2015. Expect it to be much warmer when we arrive end-of-August.

Ortisei is, of course, our favorite place in Italy. This will be our seventh year there and eighth visit overall. Can’t wait to see our hosts Justine & Siegfried, visit our favorite shops and restaurants, and hike to the rifugi all over the Val Gardena. We will stay in the apartment we occupied in 2016 and 2017 and use this opportunity to update and add to our book, “Walking in Italy’s Val Gardena.”  We are planning to add a couple hikes to the book as certainly we will try something new in addition to repeating the hikes and riding the lifts we love.

One of my favorite views in the Alpe di Siusi. We will surely hike here and update our book.

I was in Innsbruck in 1972 but Ric has never been. I remember it being quite lovely and it makes for a convenient break in the otherwise long journey by train to Pontresina in Switzerland. Just passing two nights here.
Pontresina is near St. Moritz and is purported to be a good base for easy-hiking so we will spend a week. We’ve found a darling apartment overlooking the route of the Glacier Express and a lively river. Can’t lose with lodging overlooking a train line in Switzerland.
From Pontresina, we head to Lauterbrunnen via the famous Glacier Express. The Lauterbrunnen Valley and the Jungfrau Region offers an incredible combination of transportation and easy-hiking. It is, so far, our favorite area in Switzerland. This will be our fifth visit. It vies with Ortisei for favorite mountain locale, but the food is better in Italy.

On the hike from Männlichen to Kleine Scheidigg, above the Lauterbrunnen Valley. There was snow at high elevation in October.

If Disney wanted to invent a new attraction, they could not accomplish anything more fantastic than the Swiss have already done in the Jungfrau Region. Train to 11,333 feet? Check! Thirty-minute gondola ride in complete silence through a stunning landscape? Check! Behind-the-scenes at a James Bond’s mountaintop location with a revolving restaurant? Check! Seventy-two waterfalls in 9 kilometers? Check! We have a favorite apartment here, too, and fall brings reasonable rates, pleasant weather, and fewer tourists.

This is the view from “our” apartment in Lauterbrunnen: Staubach Falls and  a small herd of cows as well.

Then we are back in Italy, stopping at Stresa on Lago Maggiore for three nights followed by Camogli, Italy, for six nights. Stresa makes a nice place to break up a long transfer (with several changes-of-trains) to Liguria. Stresa has been on my list for years and promises not only some light mountain hiking but lakeside strolls and island hopping.
Camogli is our seaside destination. We have not been to Liguria since 2014 and our previous four visits we always stayed in the Cinque Terre. I am hoping Camogli will be a little less frenetic and allow us to experience a different part of Liguria. I am so looking forward to Ligurian cuisine! Alici marinate (marinated anchovies) are the best in Liguria most likely because they are caught nearby and fresh as can be, marinated with local lemons. Then there is pesto pasta, focaccia, and almost anything they do with a fish.
Finally, we will wrap up with a week in Lausanne, Switzerland. Several trains are required for this transfer, which is a bit kludgy, but we like a train day. Since we pack light, it’s not too difficult. Lausanne is featured in so many books and movies — especially stories of intrigue — that it has been on my list for years. We look forward to exploring Lake Geneva, the vineyards, castles, etc. It should be a rather low-key end to a long trip. We will fly out of Geneva, a mere hour by train from Lausanne.
Have you been to any of these places? What are your insights? Favorite restaurants, sights, hikes, or tours?
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