I spent the last week in South Tirol, the bit that’s in Italy amid the Dolomites. The day after my last post, we woke early to drive out of Innsbruck and up through the Brenner Pass to Bolzano, Italy. Stuffed with the excellent Tyrolean breakfast, the mountains scraping to the crystalline blue sky, and the towers and turrets of the city had me gurgling with glee from the back seat of our minivan. Í commented gravely from further forward in the car that I had apparently come down with a case of the Alp Giggles, for which there was not much of a cure. The view continued that way for the whole trip through Austria and down into Italy, and then we turned off to the left to follow a narrow, winding road through a string of Tyrolean villages, all painted houses, beautiful sculptures, and skiers everywhere.
Our destination was the village of Selva-Wolkenstein, about a two-hour drive from Innsbruck. Although technically Italy, the place was a mishmash of languages and influences. Some signs were in three languages- Tyrolean, German, and Italian, and in most places the greetings were in German in shops and restaurants. For the most part though, it was all Tirol- leather trousers, frilly blouses, lots of silver buttons, and houses with long overhangs, gently sloping roofs, and plenty of deep balconies to enjoy the blazing Alpine sun.
The mountains there were even more astounding than the Alps in Innsbruck were, with sheer vertical cliffs stretching improbably high, topped with scalloped peaks, and everywhere the surface leveled off even slightly, pines had taken root. It’s all been formed into a skiing paradise, so ribbons of trails and chairlifts streamed down the hill, zig-zagged by skiers plunging back to the narrow valleys. Interestingly though, in spite of the vast skiiable area (500 km of downhill trails, plus x-c skiing and toboggan runs), the lift tickets were about half the price of one in the US, and due to the challenges in getting there, I met not a single other American. It was all Germans, Italians, some English, other Icelanders, and a smattering of people from other European locations.
We’d rented an apartment for the week in the center of the town, a spacious and airy full- floor of a chalet, complete with views of the ski slopes and blanketing morning sun on the balcony. We bought our own breakfast at the grocery around the corner- fresh bread, thinly sliced Italian ham and salami, chunks of cheese, and Tirolean yogurt. From the house we could walk to one of the large chairlifts in our ski boots, and then ski all day, exploring the mountains and valleys, stopping at one of the little huts for a sit in the sun, a sip of mulled wine, or lunch, your choice of Italian, Tyrolean, or German food.
More later... I also have photos but I have apparently hit the limit on my free flickr account and cannot currently upload! You’ll be stuck imagining for now.