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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.


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.)


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.


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.


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!

Bits and pieces from our 2018 trip

15 Nov
15 November 2018.
Our trip photos rotate on my screen saver and stir up memories to the point I don’t want to pause them so I can use the laptop. We have been home for a month and are still talking about our trip to Italy and Switzerland while planning for another adventure in the Spring.
Some are funny, some unusual, and there are cats.

Cats, cats, cats

We love cats and seldom get good photos. Somehow they know when the shutter is about to click and they look away. I had pretty good luck this trip.

High above Rapallo, Italy, we found a charming hotel and restaurant with about a dozen dependents who happily posed for us.

Another of the lovely cats of Montallegro near Rapallo.

A cold, glacial stream satisfied this hardy neighborhood cat. Lauterbrunnen, SW.

This little guy joined us for lunch one day in the mountains and shared our prosciutto. Fermeda Hütte near Santa Cristina, Italy.

We were enjoying strudel and espresso when the chef came out to offer this little guy his breakfast: thinly sliced prosciutto. Alpe di Siusi, Italy.

Signs and Labels

Amusing word choices and translations that don’t work.
I am sorry that  I neglected to take a picture of the sign above a place for parking bicycles that called it a “Bike Reck.”

Watch out for those dangerous, rampaging suckler cows! Seen all over Switzerland.

3-out-of-four in English. But we know what they mean. Pontresina, SW.

The lift had an official sign saying 4 people could ride in it, but this hand-written note warned us it was only safe for 2 people to go down. Beat the Paris elevator we had last year that only accommdated one person.

Findus is a big brand in frozen foods in Italy, but this product name in Switzerland threw us. They were good but not addictive.

Throughout Austia one can find the amusingly named Mozart’s Balls.

I am ham. Milan, IT. And why French?

Funny name for a hand wipe (Lausanne, SW).


Honor kiosks and roadside cheese vending were among our favorites.

Cheese vending machine found along a rural road in the Lauterbrunnen Valley, SW.

Same machine dispensed sausage.

Truly an honor kiosk: cheese and honey in an artful roadside box.

An enterprising person laid these out for purchase on the honor system, 5 Euros per item. Alpe di Siusi, Italy.


No idea how to classify these gems.

10:30 in the morning is a great time for a beer break when you are hiking with your baby. Near Passo Sella, Italy.

Ric found this facility in a men’s room in the Val Gardena.


14 Jul
14 July 2016. Small town festivals were a part of the fabric of our youth: parades, bands, queens, community dinners, and carnival rides. Quite a different animal in Italy.
We arrived in Ortisei in time for the annual sagra, or local festival, complete with beer hall, folk-costume parade, and band concert. In Italy, many sagre (plural of sagra) are agricultural-based celebrating artichokes, chestnuts, truffles, and so on. Not so in Ortisei: They celebrate their Ladin culture.
Three of the more elaborate costumes.

Three of the more elaborate costumes.

The Ladin people are the historical inhabitants of this ethnically and politically confused region. Before WWI, this was Austria. They are still a part of the Tyrol, with which they share culture, history, traditions, environment, and architecture; However, they are Italian residents of the autonomous region of the Trentino-Alto Adige and have their own language. Luckily everyone speaks German and Italian, and most speak English as well as Ladin, so communication is interesting. It is not uncommon to hear three languages among four people in a single conversation. 
The band, smartly attired in Tyrolean costumes. Our hosts' daughter is one of the flautists.

The band, smartly attired in Tyrolean costumes. Our hosts’ daughter is one of the flutists.

As a community gathering, the sagra in Ortisei was remarkably simple and it seemed the entire town participated. We saw the beer hall go up in the piazza Friday night, forcing the buses and taxis to do their pick-up and drop-off on the highway 100 meters away. At noon on Saturday, several loud reports from a cannon and the vigorous ringing of church bells announced the start of the festival and drove LibbyJean into hiding.
The festival hall/beer tent on Saturday night. Teeming with people of all ages.

The festival hall/beer tent on Saturday night. Teeming with people of all ages.

Saturday night on our way to dinner we passed the beer hall — now encompassing the large bus-and-taxi piazza — where at least 2000 people were crammed tightly into picnic tables with little room for the beer servers to maneuver. We happily passed by to enjoy dinner at a relatively empty restaurant. The BIG day was to be Sunday.
Note the beer hall is set up in the bus piazza.

Note the beer hall is set up in the bus piazza.

Sunday morning at 9:45 the crowd began to gather outside the village church, awaiting the folk-costume parade, led by the town band. Many of the parade watchers also donned Tyrolean dress: boys large and small in lederhosen with women and girls in dirndl skirts. The rest of us were festively attired in hiking shorts and tee-shirts.
The short parade of extremely elaborate costumes depicted traditional dress associated with a Ladin wedding. From helpful neighbors to the “inviter,” the grandparents, and the woman with the keys to the wine cellar, everyone had a role and a costume with special meaning. The band was an assemblage of young and old musicians who after leading the parade also performed a two-hour concert during Sunday lunch. 
I nonni, the grandparents, of the bride and groomi n distinctive Ladin attire.

I nonni, the grandparents, of the bride and groom in distinctive Ladin attire.

Of course, after the parade passed everyone followed it down the street to the piazza where it was apparently not too early for wine, beer, or a spritz con Aperol. We tucked into elevensies and enjoyed the band along with our own spritzes.
Post parade parade of the uncostumed surges down ther main drag.

Post parade parade of the uncostumed surges down the main drag.

From our hillside aerie we could hear music on-and-off all afternoon and into the evening, as well as the continued firing of the cannon and overuse of the church bells. By Monday morning it was all swept away to make room for the weekly market. 


Sweet children in elaborate cosumes. These take an hour to put on.

Sweet children in elaborate cosumes. These take an hour to put on.

Even the tiniest participant has to have the right attire.

Even the tiniest participant has to have the right attire.

Tyrolean dress for all ages.

Tyrolean dress for all ages.

Horse drawn carriage for the wedding couple.

Horse drawn carriage for the wedding couple.

Smaller crowd Sunday after the parade. Note the street lamps and taxi station signs.

Smaller crowd Sunday after the parade. Note the street lamps and taxi station signs.

Elevensies! A spritz con Aperol with bocconcini di pollo and insalata di patate (chicken nuggets and potatoe salad). We hiked after....

Elevensies! A spritz con Aperol with bocconcini di pollo and insalata di patate (chicken nuggets and potato salad). We hiked after….

More false friends

21 May
21 May 2016. As I continue to struggle with study Italian, I like to amuse myself with false cognates, or false friends: words that sound like an English equivalent but have a completely different meaning. We call them falsi amici in Italian. These are the bane of every foreign language student. If you haven’t read it already, you might enjoy my post from 2014. Here are a few more for your enlightenment or enjoyment.
Eventualmente is not something you’ll get around to, rather it means something you might do…possibly…maybe…if need be, as in “Maybe I’ll look for a new job” but you are not really motivated. If in the fullness of time something did or will happen, we say alle fine.
Attualmente is something going on at this very instant, not something that is “for real.” In Italian we might say per davvero, in realtà, or incredibilmente, depending on the context. 
A fattoria is a farm, not a factory. The place stuff is manufactured is a fabbrica. This is really confusing because fatto is the past participle of the verb for “make” so you’d think fatto=fattoria therefore “made.” Nope.
Italian sheep farm or fattoria. Not a factory.

Italian sheep farm or fattoria. Not a factory.

Confrontare does not mean to confront, but rather to compare. If you want to confront someone, the verb is affrontare.
Parente is a relative while genitore is a parent, not sexual body parts.
Cane parkingYour cane (pronounced KHAN-ay) may greet you at the door, but not allow you to lean on him for stability. One day on the bus we overheard an American couple remark “Look, cane parking!” when they saw a sign saying such and a little metal hook planted in the wall. It was, of course, a place to park your dog  with a leash tie-up.
Pretendere is demand or insist. If you are dressing up as Wonder Woman you fare finta.
Crudo means uncooked, as in prosciutto crudo, not crude. A person who is crude is rozzo.
Attendere is to await something, such as to hold the line when on the phone or to wait for the ATM screen to load, while participare is what you do when you go to the opera.
Tastare is to touch, not to check the quality of your cooking. That’s assaggiare. When one goes to a winery one does un assaggio.
In Paris we did a wine and cheese tasting, un assaggio.

In Paris, we did a wine and cheese tasting, un assaggio.

A capitolo is a chapter in a book, but Roma is the capitale of Italy.
What may be conveniente to you may be expensive to me as conveniente means affordable or suitable. Comodo means convenient as well as comfortable.
At the bottom of a letter, there is a firma (signature). This is not a company. A company is an azienda or una ditta.
A most famous firma.

A most famous firma.

Occorrere is to need, succedere is to occur.
Baldo does not describe a hairless head, but rather someone who is bold. Calvo means bald.
Accidenti is not a fender-bender: that’s an incidente. Accidenti is an exclamation like “darn it!” Safe enough to say in front of grandma.
When your computer crashes you might shout "accidenti!" (or somehting stronger.)

When your computer crashes you might shout “accidenti!” (or something stronger.)

If you want to call someone an ass, a scumbag, or a bastard, try stronzo which clearly does not mean strong. When someone parks in the pedestrian crossing, they are a stronzo. (This is not a nice word, BTW.)
Eh basta! That’s enough for now! (Basta is a perfectly nice word although it sounds rather naughty.)


A walk in the park

19 Jan
Sometimes a park is just a park. Sometimes it is Italian. Sunday we took a long walk in Villa Ada, Rome’s second-largest park (Villa Doria Pamphilj is the largest) and happened upon some photo-worthy sites.
To look at a map, Villa Ada is close to our home, but it’s a bit of a PITA to get into on foot. We’ve walked along the periphery many times and waded into the shallows, but finally, we had time and good weather on our side so we ventured a bit farther.
One of the busier paths, Villa Ada. We stuck to the woodsy ones, while most of the Italians embraced the sun.

One of the busier paths, Villa Ada. We stuck to the woodsy ones while most of the Italians embraced the sun.

The grounds and house were once owned by the House of Savoy, Italian royalty. From this family sprang four kings of Italy and also beloved Queen Margherita. Eventually, the estate was purchased by a Swiss gentleman, Count Tellfner, who named it for his wife, Ada. The Savoys bought it back again in the early 20th century turning it into the royal residence until they were ousted in 1946. In the 1950s, it became a public park.
Today Villa Ada is a sprawling landscape of paths, frequented by dog walkers and runners, but it also contains some surprises.
Egyptian Embassy, Villa Ada.

Egyptian Embassy, Villa Ada.

The Egyptian Embassy occupies the old royal residence. It was given to Egypt by the Savoys as a token of their gratitude for the assistance provided during their exile in 1946. Imagine walking through Forest Park in Portland and coming across armed soldiers guarding a foreign embassy. Yeah, it’s that weird.
Rounding a corner in a distant end of the park, we came across an equestrian center, 3C – Country Club Cascianese. There were riding lessons in session in the lovely January sun, and it has an air of exclusivity about it, although I always think that when horses are involved. Quite a contrast to the Egyptian Embassy.
Equestrian center, Villa Ada.

Equestrian center, Villa Ada.

We’ll have to go back to explore a few more paths, and there’s an entire quarter of the park we didn’t get to. Much like our beloved Hoyt Arboretum in Portland, after a few visits we should know our way around. 
In the category of NOT a walk in the park, we had an interesting visit to our bank this week. In fact, we had three visits in two days. Ric’s debit card was cracked and required replacement, so we ventured into the main branch of BNL on Via Bissolati. We had to wait about 25 minutes to be served (there’s a take-a-number machine), but the teller was able to give him a new card and PIN on the spot. We were impressed! No waiting for the mail to deliver it to our flat! Who says Italian systems are inefficient?
All’s well until we stopped at the market on the way home. With a huge line at the cashier, my BNL card wouldn’t work.  We trotted down the street to the Parioli BNL and tried my card in the ATM. The ATM took my card! Said it was deactivated! A very nice teller in this branch retrieved it only to tell me my card was no good, that I had to go back to the branch in the center to get a new one and that she needed to destroy my card. She cut it up. 
So off we went the next day to BNL on Via Bissolati. Here the teller told me that my card was perfectly good, according to the system. “It didn’t work yesterday,” I said. He asked to see it. “No, I told you, the woman on Viale Parioli took it and cut it up.” He told me she was wrong, and since I did not bring the card to him, we should file a denuncia (a formal complaint about the “lost” property) with the Carabinieri!
I was doing this in Italian, and I hate it when they tell me “no” because then I have to enter into the realm of the Italian argument, and my skills really suffer. I am just not that eloquent and my pre-rehearsed sentences collapse in a useless heap around me. But one has to push back. If you take the first no and walk away, you absolutely will make things harder for yourself. So I pushed back. “Just because his colleague at the other branch made an error, it should not be my problem,” I told him in grammatically incorrect Italian. Much to my surprise, he agreed and said “Well next time, bring the card here if it doesn’t work,” and he went on to issue me my new card and PIN. Thank God he backed down because I am no match for an Italian who is up for an extended negotiating session!
I am pleased to report that both of us now have access to our funds, but it certainly was not a walk in the park.
Click on the photos below for a better view.
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