Villanders Live Cam

Situated in the Eisack Valley above beautiful Klausen


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  • South Tyrol - Italy
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In the Eisack Valley above Klausen

Follow this itinerary through the province of Bolzano, a wine-lover's paradise where miles and miles of vineyards alternate with vast flowering orchards.

The best time of year to drive the Vineyard Road is late September or October, but the region is lovely (and wine is abundant) any time from April to November. Starting in Bolzano, drive along the Via Druso to Ponte Adige, dominated by the massive walls and turrets of the uncompleted Firmiano Castle. The largest fortified manor in Alto Adige, it was built in 1473. Once you've crossed the bridge, the road veers left and heads up towards Cornaiano, with spectacular views across the entire valley all the way to Merano. Cornaiano is an important stop on Vineyard Road; surrounded by an ocean of grapevines, the local wineries produce Pfefferer, Jungferl and Schreckbichl.

Nearby is San Michele Appiano, guarded by its imposing castle whose walls are up to sixteen feet thick. In the town, the baroque church of Calvary is reached by following the stations of the cross. Every April, local residents host a celebration of rural cuisine (Bauernkuchl) and all the restaurants serve local delicacies accompanied by local wines. Be sure to try the polenta.

The next stop is in Caldaro, where the lake is warm enough for swimming from May to September. Nearby Castle Ringberg has an excellent restaurant on the premises. In town, visit the Wine Museum, which illustrates every step of local winemaking and features a wonderful collection of carved barrels. Then leave your car and take the tramway to the top of Mendola Pass for a view that encompasses nearly all of Alto Adige. When you return, peek into the tiny church of St. Anthony, near the tram station.

Termeno boasts the tallest belltower in Alto Adige, but it is better known for its Traminer Aromatico, a wine which the local residents claim can actually raise the temperature of a person's blood. No wonder it's supposed to be an aphrodisiac! The erstwhile fame of this one wine is largely responsible for the prosperous local wineries and the many affluent homes you'll see here. Just outside of town, literally swimming in a sea of vineyards, is the tiny church of San Giacomo in Castelaz, which is worth visiting for its fine romanesque frescoes.

The last stops along the road are Cortaccia, then Magrè, where you can see the oldest grapevine in the region. It has been growing on the façade of the Augustin house since 1601.

Schloss Korb, a fairy tale 11th-century castle surrounded by vineyards, is a great place to stay while exploring the Via del Vino. It has 54 spacious rooms, a sauna, heated outdoor pool, covered pool, tennis courts and a fine restaurant.

Travel with us to the spectacular Dolomite Mountains, criss-crossed by thousands of ski runs and hiking trails; visit charming mountain villages and medieval Tyrolean towns, perfectly preserved castles and hillside Gothic chapels.

Like many travelers, I first went to Italy from Austria, traveling by train under the Brenner Pass. I still have the journal I kept on that trip so long ago, and the first entry for Italy reads, "From afar I spotted a small city (large town?) laid out at the feet of lushly forested, towering mountains. When the train roared through the station I read the name: Bressanone. Must go back there some day."

The train sped on to Florence and Rome, and it was years before I remembered little Bressanone/Brixen, Alto Adige's oldest city. When I did return, I was rewarded by winding narrow streets lined with colorfully painted houses, arched medieval bridges and spotless arcades. On the spacious Domplatz is the city cathedral, whose 13th- and 14th-century cloisters boast extensive frescoes representing a visual history of Tyrolean Gothic painting. Peek into the romanesque chapel of St. John, which may be closed but can be seen through a window. Its walls are covered with beautiful 13th-century frescoes.

Facing the cathedral, the church of St. Michael is to the left; more magnificent frescoes adorn its ceilings. In the opposite direction, not far away is the Palace of the Prince Bishops, a Renaissance building with a three-story arcaded loggia in the courtyard. Its rooms are wonderfully decorated, and the ground floor hosts a collection of some 100 nativity scenes, open from 2 to 5 p.m., December through February.

Linger in Bressanone; wander through the streets and see the many painted façades of the stately patrician palaces. When you're done, venture out into the countryside to visit some of the many castles that dot the area, and also the churches of St. John (in the village of Melluno), St, Nicholas (in Cleran), and St. John (in Karnol), all of which feature wonderful frescoes by local artists. Barely more than a mile north of the city is the 12th-century monastery at Novacella, a lovely baroque structure in an idyllic setting. Slightly further still is Vipiteno, whose stunning baroque church is well worth a visit.

The capital of Alto Adige, Bolzano/Bozen, is the living proof of this region's duality, although in a somewhat surprising way. Here, it is the Germans who are the aesthetes. The Gothic cathedral, with its green and yellow mosaic roof, presides over the Old Town, which is staunchly Tyrolean. Across the Talvera River is the Italian New Town, an austere working-class settlement characterized mostly by "Mussolini Modern" style buildings.

Back in Old Town, near the cathedral is the Dominicans Church, with a chapel frescoed by the school of Giotto. From here, walk back to Piazza Walther, across the Gothic Piazza del Grano and past the elegant Renaissance palazzos of Via Argentieri to the charming Via dei Portici, lined with medieval arcades housing chic boutiques. This will take you past Piazza delle Erbe, with its colorful façades, to the Civic Museum, which houses a great collection of local costumes.

Across the river, just a short walk away is the picturesque suburb of Gries, dominated by a Benedictine monastery, whose 18th-century baroque church boasts some fine frescoes. Lovers of nostalgia should take the cable car from Via Renon (near the station) to Soprabolzano, then transfer to the small electric train that takes them to the earth pyramids, strange geological formations that look like giant anthills, each topped with a bowler-like rock.

Northwest of Bolzano is the lovely old-fashioned spa town of Merano, whose streets are lined with painted façades, flower boxes, wrought-iron signs and porticos. Europeans come here for the mineral baths and other spa treatments; they flock here on the last Sunday in September for Italy's premier horse race; they fill the town in spring, summer and fall to attend the many cultural events and grape festivals. You might like to visit the 15th-century churches of St. Nicholas and St. Barbara, which stand at the entrance to the Stainach, Merano's oldest neighborhood. Another enchanting place to stroll is the Tappeiner Way, lined with Mediterranean plants and spectacular views.

The outskirts of Merano are dotted with castles, including Brunnenburg, where Ezra Pound spent the last years of his life. Nearby is the town of Gratsch, where the 12th-century chapel of St. Peter has ancient stucco and frescoes, along with a romanesque fresco of the Apostle Paul dating from 1080. At the southern end of the Passiria Valley, the venerable 14th-century fortress of Schenna towers over the town of Scena, where the church of St. George is also worth a visit. Its brightly-colored, formal frescoes date from the 15th century.

To the east, the walled city of Brunico/Bruneck is the center of the Pusteria Valley; its medieval complex is guarded by two lovely old gates. The city pharmacy has frescoes depicting the fraternity's coat-of-arms and its mottoes. At the southern tip of town is the bishop's castle, begun in 1251. Pay a visit to the church of St. Nicholas to see its 15th-century paintings; or take a stroll through the Dietenheim district to admire its late medieval façades.

Heading southward into the Italian portion of this region, stop in the ancient villages of Clés and Sanzéno, in the Non Valley. The Pieve dell'Assunta church in Clés is a wonderful mixture of local Gothic and classical Renaissance elements. The belltower features a charming old clock. Pay a visit to the Franciscan monastery and the very old church of San Vigilio. Outside Sanzéno is the unforgettable Sanctuary of San Romedio, a group of four chapels clinging precariously to the side of a hill.

The 17th-century Della Torre Castle guards the town of Mezzolombardo, which has a picturesque old gothic church. Across the Adige River is San Michele all'Adige, with its elegant and inspiring Augustinian monastery, whose many treasures somehow escaped the sack of Napoleon's troops. The imposing castle of Monreale is just a few miles away, on the way to Cembra. This road is particularly beautiful in winter, when snow highlights the terraced vineyards lining the hills. In town, there are two fine Gothic churches.

On the southeastern edge of Trentino is Castello Tesino, where a delightful stroll up the hill takes you to the tiny church of San Polo. The view from here is worth the climb. Traveling west along the Brenta River, you come to Borgo Valsugana, guarded by the fairy tale castle of Telvana. There is an old sun dial on the façade of city hall.

The capital of Trentino Alto Adige is the ancient Roman city of Trento. You may remember it from history class as being the seat of the Council of Trent, which strove in vain to stop the Protestant Reformation. Largely medieval and late-Renaissance in character, it is a stately place centered around its 12th- and 13th-century cathedral. Inside is the crucifix before which the Council of Trent's decrees were issued. Visit the Castello del Buonconsiglio, which consists of several parts dating from different eras; and the church of San Lorenzo, a splendid example of early 13th-century romanesque architecture. Mainly, stroll through the streets on the lookout for the many wonderful painted façades, including the 15th-century Casa Balduina, the Casa Cazuffi Rella, and the Palazzo Geremia. Just outside of town is the charming village of Sardagna, and of course a host of stunning castles. A few miles west is the impossibly picturesque Lake Toblino, which features the only lake castle in the region.

In stark contrast to the alpine splendors of northern Alto Adige, Trentino's southern border encompasses the Mediterranean beauties of Lake Garda. The town of Riva del Garda almost has the feel of a seaport, and its castle called the Rocca gives a magnificent illustration of what the ancient fortifications were like. This is a great place to stop and relax for a day or two, with a side trip to Arco, so-called because it is literally built in arching circles around a hill culminating in the Palladian College of Santa Maria Assunta. Arco, a largely Renaissance town, is as close as you'll get to a Tuscan hill town in this region.

Almost at the southern tip of Trentino are the sister towns of Ala and Avio. Stroll through the upper part of Ala, a beautiful example of late baroque town planning. In Avio, tour the castle of Sabbioneta to see its famed series of profane frescoes. A few miles north is Trentino's second city, Rovereto, a lovely place with its own castle, housing an excellent museum of warfare. For a practical demonstration of all you've learned there, go up to Besenello and tour the huge Castel Beseno, one of the few castles in this region that was actually used as a military fortress rather than a family home.

Apart from castles, ski runs, hiking trails and mountain hamlets, Trentino Alto Adige is home to a dazzling array of lakes and national parks. In Italy will travel back to this region next June, to tell you about them in our special National Parks issue. In the meantime, "Wild Italy" by Tim Jepson (Sierra Club Books) is an excellent source of information.

Where there are mountains there are valleys, and where there are valleys there are castles to guard them. Few places on earth can boast as many magical castles as Trentino Alto Adige.

What makes them even more special is that most of them are remarkably well preserved. Dozens and dozens are open to visitors; some have even been converted into restaurants or hotels. Here are a few interesting castles in Alto Adige:

Tirolo: Built in the 12th century, this quickly became the very symbol of the surrounding region (to which it gave its name, Tyrol). It was the residence of the Counts of Tyrol until 1363, when the last surviving heir gave up her title and handed over all her possessions to the Habsburgs. Completely restored, it now houses a great museum. The hamlet of Castel Tirolo is just outside of Merano and can be reached by car, or by bus from the station. From there it is a pleasant half-hour walk to the castle.

Castel Roncolo: Built in 1237, this castle was completely destroyed only forty years later, then lovingly restored by a new owner. Eventually, the city of Bolzano donated it to Emperor Franz Joseph. On its walls are some of the finest existing examples of chivalrous medieval fresco painting. From Bolzano, drive or walk the short distance north alongside the Talvera River.

Castel d'Appiano: Fortifications were first built on this site, which now overlooks Bolzano, Lake Caldaro and hundreds of vineyards, 2000 years ago, but the present castle was erected much later by the Appiano family. In 1158, one Federigo d'Appiano robbed an enormous treasure that was being sent from the Pope to the Holy Roman Emperor. These two most powerful rulers retaliated, besieged Appiano's castle and totally destroyed it. Restored, it now features a chapel with lovely frescoes. From Bolzano, travel by car or bus to Appiano or Missiano; then walk the short distance to the castle.

Castel Moos-Schulthaus: Built in 1356 as a gigantic hunting lodge, this is one of the best examples of Alto Adige architecture. Located just outside Appiano, it is surrounded by vineyards and orchards.

Castel Coira: Built in the late 1200s, this castle has belonged to the Trapp family since the 16th century. Perfectly preserved, it houses a famed museum crammed with armor fashioned by artists from all over Europe. From Merano, it is about an hour's drive to Sluderno; a short walk completes the trip. While you're there, take a side trip to nearby Glorenza, the smallest walled city in Europe.

Abbazia Monte Maria: Dating from the 12th century, this former castle is now a Benedictine abbey. Visit the crypt to see its romanesque frescoes. From Burgusio (near Castel Coira), it's a short drive along the state road.

Castelbello: Perched on an outcrop of rock in one of the loveliest parts of the Venosta Valley, this 13th-century castle features a chapel with excellent frescoes, but the main attraction is the breathtaking view. Just a short drive from Castelbello.

As we said, there are scores more castles in Alto Adige. But believe it or not, the real castle region is the area around Trento, which can be easily visited by special trains. The Trenini dei castelli tour the Valsugana, Vallagarina or Non Valleys on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from June through September. Ticket price includes train fare, a multilingual guide, castle admission fees and lunch or dinner in one of the castles.

Don't expect to gorge yourself on pasta in Trentino Alto Adige: at the end of your hair-raising drive through precipitous mountain passes you're more likely to find würstel and zauerkraut on the menu.

I was at a loss when I learned that Trentino Alto Adige was the theme for our next newsletter because I've only been there once, traveling through with my friends, Susan and Teseo. Our vehicle was a Cinquecento. Fiat stopped making those adorable little cars for years, and has only just released a limited edition. Back then, they sure were great. They cost next to nothing, so almost every family had one. I remember that Susan paid 300,000 lire for hers, about $500, brand new.

Though I'm sure Cinquecentos weren't intended for mountain climbing, it was the only car we had, so we hopped in and headed for Austria, on our way to the Salzburg Festival of the Arts. Our friend G.B., short for Gian Battista, had been taking a painting course there.

I don't remember much about Alto Adige Trentino and the Dolomites; I had my eyes closed most of the time. Why? Because there's something about hanging off the edge of mountains that scares the hell out of me. We never stopped once until we had gone through the Brenner Pass and were on the Austrian side.

For the next three days, we did nothing except take in all the shows - and eat alarming quantities of wurstel, sausages and frankfurters. Today, I'd estimate it was about four million fat grams worth. More than ready to go home, we squished our much heavier bodies into that tiny Cinquecento. G.B. reminded us that he'd been eating sausages for a month. All he could think of was getting back to Italy to put a bowl of real spaghetti under his belt.

We tore at breakneck speed through the Brenner Pass. On the Italian side, we stopped at a tiny osteria in Vipiteno, the first town we came to. It was a lovely alpine village, but we utterly overlooked its charms in our rush to get to tavola. We were dying to mangiare! The proprietor, a sweet-looking old Italian, hurried over to tell us what was on the menu.

"Velcome, velcome," he beamed, "today ve haf würstel und zauerkraut."

Our mouths simply fell open in disbelief. Good thing I kept a tight grip on G.B.'s hands, or I'm sure he would have throttled that poor old man.

Well, G.B. did eventually get his bowl of spaghetti. And don't get me wrong, the food of Trentino Alto Adige is excellent; it's just that the people of that region have kept their Austrian heritage alive through the years, most certainly in their cuisine.

Though I passed on the "würstel und zauerkraut" that day, I did order the meatloaf dinner, and it was dee-licious. Back in Rome, I managed to duplicate it exactly and I still serve it to this day, except that I use 1-1/2 lbs. ground turkey instead of beef. To the meat I add two moistened and crumbled slices of stale rye bread, an egg, a small can of drained sauerkraut, a tablespoon of caraway seeds, salt and pepper and a tablespoon of Dijon mustard. I mix it all together and bake at 350 degrees until it's done. Buon appetito - or should I say Güten apetit?

The many official mountain climbing schools of Trentino Alto Adige offer you a chance to climb or hike in a group led by an expert guide.

Few places on earth can boast as many well-marked and well-groomed trails through such spectacular terrain. If you are experienced, you can set out on your own from practically any hamlet or resort, after picking up a clutch of maps from the local Azienda di Turismo (Tourist Office). You will be wise enough to realize the magnificent sunny day can give way to a sudden storm, and you will take all the necessary precautions.

If, on the other hand, you'd rather hike or climb with a group led by an expert guide who can not only take you to unforgettable secret spots but also teach you about the local flora and fauna, then contact one of these official schools.

If you are a skier, one of the best ways to see Trentino Alto Adige is the Dolomite Superski pass, which offers access to 650 miles of ski runs for $50 a day. Even if you don't ski, there are plenty of places to see and charming hotels to stay in.

You can hop onto the Dolomites Superski anywhere and travel it in any direction, but here's a sample itinerary:

In the heart of Alto Adige, the delightful Ladin town of Corvara sits at the foot of 9,000-foot high Sassongher, a classic massif. This is the heart of the Val Badia, bordered by the Sella Range and liberally crisscrossed by hundreds of ski trails. The towns of Pedraces, La Villa and San Cassiano are easily accessible on skis or by bus. From here, head across the breathtaking Passo di Sella, in the direction of Canazei, a resort village in the Val di Fassa, capital of cross-country skiing. Three Dolomite groups come together here - Sassolungo, Sella and Marmolada - which means there's a huge selection of slopes for all types of skiers. Characteristic of this region, many of the buildings in town have beautifully painted and decorated façades. Nearby is cheerful, unpretentious Moena, where the 11th-century church of S. Wolfgang has lovely frescoes and a baroque casement ceiling.

The next stop is Marmolada, "queen of the Dolomites." At 10,965 feet, it offers an unequalled panorama of the entire region and is not far from the internationally renowned resort of Cortina D'Ampezzo (which is actually in the region of Veneto). Take the lift to the 10,673-foot summit of Tofana di Mezzo, or to any of the many rifugi (rustic lodges). Also nearby is Lake Misurina, which magically reflects the triple peaks of Lavaredo in its crystalline waters.

For a complete change of pace, the next destinations are San Candido and nearby Dobbiaco, quiet villages joined by a web of world-class cross-country trails leading past such quaint hamlets as Sesto and Moso. Just outside Brunico/Bruneck is Plan De Corones which, at 7,460 feet, offers another sterling photo opportunity, countless lifts and slopes.

Madonna di Campiglio is some distance away and is not included in the Skipass, but skiing enthusiasts should definitely know about it. Not as well known as Cortina, it is nonetheless a world-class resort with every imaginable amenity, plus 60 miles of slopes and trails.

If you're a really great skier, you can register for the Grand Prix Dolomiti Superski-Nordica, a 12-part course encompassing all types of slopes and skis. When your card shows that you've completed all twelve segments, you'll receive a diploma, a badge and a surprise gift. Register at one of the ski pass offices in Cortina D'Ampezzo, Plan De Corones, Corvara, Selva Gardena, Canazei, Arabba, Sesto Pusteria, Obreggen, San Martino di Castrozza, Plose, Moena or Alleghe.

Alto Adige is brimming with hotels, from the very luxurious to the spartan. There are literally hundreds of pensions, basically large family homes with five to ten rooms, which offer clean, comfortable lodgings and excellent food for $20. and up a night. If you'd like to reserve a room, write to In Italy and tell us the time of year, the number and ages of the people in your group, the length of your stay and any other information you think might be pertinent. We'll help you find the chalet that's right for you.