It’s August which in Italy means vacation time. For a few weeks every year Italy slows down. When I first moved here, I found it inconvenient, especially at the height of the tourist season. That’s no longer the case. Every August for the past 12 years, Francesco and I travel somewhere.
I am privileged to have traveled to many destinations in my life. I caught the wanderlust bug a lifetime ago. This year the bug will be kept at bay. We will be settling into a staycation in Rome with our puppy Chloe.
As we settle into our staycation, I realize that now more than ever in this new reality, I cherish moments. As I wrote in my 10 moments in Sicily piece, I find myself living by this quote “collect moments, not things.” – Anonymous. We will never have this day again. It will never be repeated.
Last August, we escaped to higher altitudes and cooler temperatures. Our base was Kastelruth (Castelrotto), South Tyrol in Northern Italy. This part of Trentino-Alto Adige is German and Italian speaking. The traditional food is, admittedly, unlike anything you’ll eat in other Italian regions. With its history and geographical position, local dishes are a fusion of Austrian, Italian and Swiss flavors, which provide sustenance for snowy winters.
Located at the foot of Alpe di Siusi, the picturesque village of Castelrotto offers activities and events year round. We hiked, biked, ate and recharged. It was one of the best vacations of my lifetime. As an aside, if you want to enjoy nature, great food and escape crowded Italian cities, add South Tyrol (Castelrotto, Ortisei, and the Sciliar Natural Park) to your travel list. We planned to return in August 2020 for the week of Ferragosto. We, like many, have postponed our vacation until 2021. So as we hunker down in Rome and I treasure the present, I’d love to share with readers 10 of my favorite moments from our trip to South Tyrol, in no particular order.
- Desserts – I would travel to South Tyrol just for the desserts. I’m not one for syrupy sweet dolce. Give me Strudel stuffed with fruit, Torta di Mele (apple cake), Krapfen, Linzer torte, or Torta di Grano Saraceno breakfast, dessert or any time of day with un caffé of course. We noshed on strudel in restaurants, cafes and at rifugi (mountain lodge/restaurants) which gave us extra fuel for our hikes.
Torta di Grano Saraceno / buckwheat cake filled with lingonberry jam was my favorite local dessert at many rifugi. I love the nutty, earthy flavor that buckwheat has. Buckwheat was historically a food for the poor often used by farmers. It provided energy for a hard day of work. Energy or not, it’s delicious!
2. A bike ride with views around the Alpe di Siusi. I took a spill years ago when we were mountain biking on the island of Elba. As a consequence, I was reluctant. But the views, crisp air and e-bike helped me to get back in the saddle. Giddy up!
3. Sagra della Polenta for Ferragosto lunch at Kastelruth-St. Ulrich. I love sagre (local festivals usually involving food, and often associated with a holiday or season). With the comfortable temperatures, we dug into plates of polenta with pork roast and sausages to celebrate August 15. Washed down with a crisp beer and accompanied by traditional South Tyrolean music and dress, I was buzzing with glee.
4. The views that I breathed in with every bit of my being as we trekked, hiked and biked. I was in awe each day. Thank you Mother Nature.
5. I love animals, cows included. I thought all cows were sweet until that moment when a gray one chased me down. Disclosure: these are not the cows that followed me. I was too busy pedaling to snap a shot.
6. An afternoon stroll around the village of Ortisei ending with an aperitivo. I ordered a Hugo, my summer go-to cocktail. What made this so special? The Hugo originated in South Tyrol. The refreshing mix of prosecco, elderflower syrup, seltzer and mint leaves is summer in a glass for me.
7. A room with a view. Our apartment rental had a balcony. Early evenings were spent reading, talking and drinking wine with snacks while watching mountains and horses go by: priceless.
8. Time spent at rifugi or mountain inns/restaurants. Set in breathtaking locations in mountain ranges, rifugi in the Dolomites are amongst the best in the Alps. Most of these are accessible only by foot and are open mostly in the summertime, welcoming trekkers, bikers and families to kick back, eat and drink while taking in gorgeous views and making new friends like baby goats!
9. Sunday sagra on the piazza in Castelrotto where we ate our weight in sauerkraut and canederli (dumplings). Stale bread, eggs and milk are the base of these traditional dumplings. Cheese, spinach and/or cubes of speck are often added for flavor.
10. The chair and ski lift rides at the start of a day when we had time to imagine what the days would bring, as well as the return rides, when we talked about what we saw, did and ate, plus the VIEWS.
Have you ever traveled to the Dolomites? If not what are you waiting for!