We were convinced that Otto would have liked the snow very much! But we never thought that he would know it during the tour organized for us by Gallo Rosso in the area of the Sciliar-Catinaccio Natural Park.
It is generally not a time when it snows, but in mid-November last year there was a lot of snow, so much so that the white coat not only suddenly transformed the scenario from autumn into winter, but also created many road problems and of power outages.
Between the Sciliar Plateau and Alpe di Siusi
So, before tackling the 1000 kilometers that separate our Puglia from Trentino Alto Adige, we wanted to get informed and reassured we left for this area in which we had never been before.
Our first impression? A fairytale place, an integral part of the Trentino Dolomite group and with an unmistakable shape thanks to the two peaks Punta Santner and Punta Euringer. The first, which is the terminal part of the massif, was called “the Devil’s tip” and took its current name from the climber Johann Santner who first climbed it in 1880.
The plateau is made up of a limestone massif, which has steep rocky walls, but at the top its shape flattens ensuring green pastures for the herds that are brought here in the summer. But what really fascinated us are the ancient legends from which it is wrapped. In the Middle Ages, in fact, it was thought that the Sciliar was a meeting place for witches and devils.
It is said that the Witches of the Sciliar, Schlernhexen in German, gathered in these places to trigger heavy thunderstorms. The legend blurs its outlines in history and documents of the time testify that, only in the area of Fiè, nine women were tried and killed for witchcraft.
Today of all this remains the story and a certain aura of mystery, as well as the names of some particular rock formations called the Witches’ Benches (Hexenbänke, in German), a sort of armchairs with armrest and backrest, located on Monte Bullaccia. While in the woods just above Castelrotto, in Tiosels, there are two stone blocks, known as Chairs of the Witches.
Given the heavy snow, it was not possible to reach these places, but we nevertheless crossed the story of the witches by visiting the Castle of Presule, which stands right in front of the veranda of the apartment in the Funtnatscherof maso, where we stayed in Fiè allo Sciliar.
Here was the court of Fiè where witchcraft trials were held from 1506 to 1510. In the trial documents, kept in the National Museum of Innsbruck, testimonies of locals are read that women were seen flying on the Sciliar in the middle of the night, riding a broom. The reality, however, would tell of expert women knowers of plants and herbs with healing properties, frequenters of woods to collect them which, in popular imagination, were defined as witches and held up as dedicated to mysterious nocturnal gatherings during which they danced in the company of the devil.
Not only witches, but also sorcerers with extraordinary powers and strength, apparently inhabited the area. But in the procedural documents there is no trace of men who were burned at the stake for witchcraft, while the atrocities of the events against the witches are remembered by a plaque placed in front of the castle.
Along the driveway on the right, it is important to pay attention to a sculpture representing the three souls of South Tyrol: the German, the Ladin and the Italian.
If the castle is located just outside the town, the Parish Church of Fiè allo Sciliar, in German Völs am Schlern, is located in the main square of the village, at the highest point of Fiè di Sotto, between the towns of Fié di Sopra and Peterbühl. Originally in Romanesque style, in the 16th century following a stake, it was rebuilt in Gothic style, while subsequent renovations took place in the 16th and 18th centuries when the bulb dome was added to the bell tower.
The exterior is in late Gothic style, while the interior features the triptych by Maestro Narziss from Bolzano, which dates back to the fifteenth century, the rich baroque pulpit and the rococo-style organ, built around 1760 by Tyrolean Ignaz Franz Wörle.
Before continuing the walk towards the little lake, which is one of the symbols of the village and it is hidden by ice and snow, we wanted to reach the oldest church in Fiè and the whole area of Alpe di Siusi, that of San Pietro standing alone in silence on the Peterbühl Hill.
In the same area we stopped to taste traditional South Tyrolean cuisine in the Pitschlmann restaurant which offers not only tasty home-made cuisine, but also the possibility of a singular encounter. The one with the three camels of Sepp Haselrieder, Sharan, Tiguan and Toucan, who in spite of the South Tyrolean harsh climate have adapted very well, spending the winter in the stable together with donkeys and horses, and the summer outdoors on the Tuffalm Malga feet of the Sciliar. But how are they found here? They were a welcome gift from Mr. Haselrieder’s 50th birthday and have now become an attraction for tourists. Compared to their similar who live in the desert, they have a thicker coat due to the different climatic context and live in harmony with alpacas and llamas.
To digest, nothing better than a jump up to the imposing Sciliar massif which borders the Alpe di Siusi, a ski area connected with that of Val Gardena and part of the Dolomiti Superski ski carousel. The lifts are still closed because the amount of snow that has fallen out of season has taken everyone by surprise, but the panorama around Compaccio (Compatsch), where the mountain station of the Alpe di Siusi cable car and the Bullaccia cable car station are located, enchants despite the sun has not guaranteed its presence by highlighting the whiteness of the peaks.
Of course Otto also enjoyed diving and rolling in the white and soft blanket in this magnificent setting, a UNESCO natural heritage site since 2009.
Staying on the theme of a fairy tale, one of the countries that we liked most is Castelrotto, or Kastelruth in German, and Ciastel in Ladin, famous for the Kastelruther Spatzen, the “Sparrows of Castelrotto”, a real phenomenon of German popular music, as evidenced by the countless gold and platinum records won by the group.
The village is surmounted by the imposing baroque bell tower of the parish church consecrated to Saints Peter and Paul, 88 meters high and a symbol of the importance and wealth of Castelrotto during the past centuries. The first, Gothic and with eight bells, was destroyed in 1753 by a fire, the current one, built in a classicistic style, boasts nine bells and is detached from the church, a rather rare thing in South Tyrol.
What did we miss? The hay bath, whose tradition dating back 110 years, has its origin in Fiè allo Sciliar. Due to the closed holiday structures we had to postpone this healthy bath for which the hay is cut early in the morning, still damp with dew, or in the evening, because then the etheric oils contained are higher, then dried for three days and heated at a temperature from 40 ° to 60 ° C. This treatment, tried many years ago in Pejo, is truly miraculous to relieve pain and I would have liked to try again the pleasant sensation of being wrapped in hay and warm water cushions. Another of the reasons that will bring us back here again soon!
In collaboration with Gallo Rosso Agriturismo in South Tyrol