Hiking Like an Italian in the Dolomites

I like hiking the Italian way.

On a recent trip to Italy’s Dolomite region with my husband and daughter, we spent a few days hiking some of the many trails that criss-cross these mountains.  Our home base was just outside the town of Castelrotto (in Italian) or Kastelruth (in German). We were in the south Tyrol region of the Dolomites, but this land once belonged to Austria, so even though now the border had it part of Italy, there is still a very strong Austrian influence in the region.  All signs are in both languages, and German is the predominant language – as is the cuisine.

For the first day we picked a hike that sounded pretty – through the woods that would eventually lead past two lakes, and then climbed up to Tuff Alm where we were told there was an Alm Hutte or Hut for refreshments. (Alm is the German word for meadow).

A very inquisitive Albina.

The hike started through woods that looked much like our woods back home-lots of pine trees with some deciduous trees and under-brush. At one point we passed through a meadow that is shared by hikers and the cows that roam free in the area.  The cows are very friendly and inquisitive. They have large bells around their necks that give out a deep clank as they move, and since the cows were moving constantly, we were serenaded by a concert of cow bells as we hiked the meadow. They also have name tags attached to their ears with names like Arabella, Albina, Lena and Isreal.  Albina was particularly friendly and was happy to pose for my daughter’s selfies.

After about an hour and a half of hiking we got to the two lakes that we saw on the map. We were imagining mountain reflections in pristine water photo-ops, but that was not the case. These were recreational lakes for sunbathing, swimming and boating, with an adjacent restaurant.  So, we grabbed a very Tyrolean lunch of spatzle (a type of German pasta), dumplings and very good ice cream sundays at an outdoor picnic table and enjoyed the sunshine.  As it turned out there was a parking lot about 100 yards away so we didn’t need to hike all that way through the woods for our lunch reward.

After lunch, on we hiked, uphill for about another hour and a half to get to Tuff Alm.  It was a nice, wide, well groomed path. About half way, we were passed by a horse and wagon, taking folks the easy way up to Tuff Alm. Onward and upwards we hiked.  Once we finally reached the meadow, it truly was a beautiful sight. A huge expanse of green with the towering granite mountain looming above it.  And at the end of the hike on the meadow was the Alm Hutte – though not really a hut.  It was a full service restaurant and bar with a small outdoor stage where a concert was in full swing.  A local band was playing a combination of american rock, regional folk music, and polkas and groupies were singing and dancing along and everyone was enjoying a glass of beer.

Tuff Alm Hutte – a restaurant with a view

The menu tells the story of the Tuff Alm restaurant – it’s a family run operation and their motto is “Our work is like a vacation” and their goal is to bring that same feeling of relaxation to their guests. All their food and cakes are prepared on site, and they hustle to fill orders.

 

If you’ve had too much beer, the horse and wagon can take you back down the hill from the Tuff Alm.

I could get used to the Italian way of hiking – a horse drawn wagon to take you quickly uphill to a restaurant where you can spend the day with a beer or two, a view and live music. Once the band packed up and the tables started emptying out, we decided it was time to head back down the hill also.  We could have done it the Italian way, and taken the horse and wagon, but we’re not Italian, so we did it the old fashioned American way-we walked.

Thanks for visiting.

Rose