We spent a long weekend in the beautiful valley of Senales in Italy (Schnalstal in German). The men in our family wanted to go for a ski vacation and convinced me to go along. I don’t ski or much care for the snow & cold weather, but I agreed with the caveat that I would get to pick the place. I planned for a dull weekend stuck inside by myself, with a lot of reading and sleeping while the guys played outside in the snow. Instead it turned out to be a weekend full of beautiful weather, hiking, sightseeing and eating amazing food – an experience I would love to repeat again in the future!
Located in South Tyrol, Schnalstal was a bit of a drive from Görlitz, but totally worth it. Most people we encountered during our stay there spoke both Italian and German. When we approached our hotel we noticed a significant lack of snow, which had the guys a bit worried, but the glacier in Val Senales was of course covered in snow and they tell me that the skiing was good. Perhaps because it didn’t look very wintry, there were less people on the slopes, making for more pleasant skiing.
We stayed at the Berghotel Tyrol in Unser Frau with half board. The food was delicious, with a different menu each night and a choice of appetizers. My absolute favorite menu was on our first day – pasta night. Unfortunately I had a migraine and couldn’t really enjoy it. When I told the owner that I had really loved the food that night, they made me a special plate on our last night with my favorite dish! They had an indoor pool, sauna and table tennis, which the guys really enjoyed.[wpdevart_youtube]QPiB2P9lVew[/wpdevart_youtube]
The first day there we had beautiful, sunny weather so the guys wanted to get on the slopes right away. I took the gondola up with them for the views and drank beer in the restaurant up top while I waited. Gondolas and ski-lifts are not my favorite – I get a little sick and anxious every time I ride them, but the views from the top were magnificent!
On the second day, Mike decided to skip out on the skiing and we went for a short hike that morning that took us up and around Unser Frau for great views of the village and the Wallfahrtskirche. The hiking path was part of an old pilgrimage route to the church. Mike wanted a better angle of the church and walked into a field to get a picture when a dog started barking at him. This was the moment when I learned that my husband is apparently afraid of dogs. He took off running, which naturally made the dog chase him and he jumped over the fence. I told him I could tell the dog was just being a good guard dog and wasn’t going to attack him but he didn’t really believe me. Later during our hike as we came to the other edge of the same field, the dog came towards the fence to bark at us. Mike stayed up on the hiking trail as I went down to greet the dog and pet it. So not only did I get great views of the valley but also a little puppy interaction.
After our hike we drove about an hour to the city of Bozen. I attempted to plan out some things for us to see in the city before we left but two of the things I wanted to see were unfortunately closed: the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology and the Runkelstein Castle. The museum contains the remains of Ötzi, a mummy that was found in Schnalstal. Feeling a little frustrated at this setback, we arrived in the city with not much of an idea what to do. Fortunately, the sun was shining and we took a nice stroll through the city. The Arcades is a long, narrow street lined with shopping opportunities. We decided to stop and buy Mike a jacket while we were there. We happened upon the Fruit Market’s Square, which had not only fruit but lots of Speck and cheese, which are typical foods from the area. YUM!
We stopped for lunch at the Pizzeria Restaurant Tirol (Piazza delle Erbe 50) and really enjoyed the Knödeltris, a trio of different flavored Knödel (cheese, spinach, and Speck). Naturally we checked out the cathedral on the edge of the Walther Square as well as the controversial Victory Monument that was erected by Mussolini and symbolizes the tension between the German and Italian speaking communities in the area.
On our final day in Schnalstal we decided to take another hike, this time a longer one that the hotel recommended that went from Vernagt to Finailhof where we were promised a fantastic view and lunch. We started out our hike by getting off at the wrong bus stop in dreary weather and then asking a man we could barely understand for directions. Finally on the path, we started to question what we had gotten ourselves into as we hiked higher and higher up the side of the valley.
The path went from being paved to being just a tiny dirt track that winded around the valley and past lots of little farmhouses that seemed to be clinging precariously to the side of the mountain. We hiked further and further and started to doubt that we would find lunch at the top.
Finally we reached Finailhof just as the clouds parted and the sun came out. It was another farmhouse perched on the side of the mountain. We hesitantly walked in the charming home which seemed to also be a pension and found a couple sitting in the kitchen. They told us we could have a seat outside. We sat at a wooden table in the sun overlooking Schnalstal with the sun shining on us and a cat came out to greet us. The waitress came out and we gratefully ordered our food and drink and she warned us that the cat was cheeky. This was definitely the case, but I appreciate cheeky cats!
Much to my surprise, this trip came to an end much too quickly for me. Between you and me, I rate my vacations based on three factors: weather, food and animal contact. This trip was a winner on all fronts with plenty of sunshine, delicious food and encounters with local cats & dogs that made me feel all warm & fuzzy inside.
I can only imagine how gorgeous the valley must be when it’s green and all of the sheep are grazing along the sides of the mountain. I told Mike that we have to go back here in the Summer to take more hikes, eat more pasta and see Ötzi!