Walking on and around the Seiseralm, South Tyrol, northern Italy
Deep down in the narrow gorge of the Eisack river heavy traffic makes its way due south or north by motorway, main road or train. On a geological shelf some 500 metres higher is the village of Seis and another 800 metres higher still lies the extensive alpine meadow of Seiseralm. During the summer months, use of your own car on the Seiseralm is discouraged. Compatsch, a village on the "alm" can be reached by cable car (2010 price: € 13,50 return) or by bus.
On the Seiseralm itself, some ski lifts operate even in summer and there is a bus service from Compatsch to Saltria (times indicated on a digital screen at the exit of the cable car station).
The "alm" is crisscrossed by signposted footpaths. One of my walks took me by bus to Saltria and then straight up the ski slope to Zallinger and on and up to the Plattkofelhütte where there were steep snowdrifts in early June and then on foot back to Compatsch. Throughout my walk, I was mesmerised by the stark mineral beauty of the Langkofel and the Plattkofel rising up from the rich green pastures of the Seiseralm.
An easy walk to start with is the "Hans und Paula Steger Gedächtnisweg" which sets out from Compatsch and takes about 2 hours giving these splendid views of the Rosszähne ridge (below). It is also roughly the basis of the guided spring flower walks organised by the tourist office. Our guide gave us (in German and Italian) interesting explanations not only of the plants themselves and why they are where they are but also how the present landscape has been shaped by the farming activities over countless generations.
Closer detail of the moulding of the landscape over the generations:
From the Sellajoch, reachable by car from Seis in about 45 minutes, you can get a closer view of the mountains which are so fascinating seen from the Seiseralm: Plattkofel and Langkofel. It is possible to make a circular walk skirting right round both mountains. I thought this too ambitious for me and had originally planned to take path no. 526 to the north of Langkofel, as far as the Langkofelhütte but the weather was not in my favour. Not to worry! This walk will be high on my list for next time.
The Tschamintal is a secret valley tucked in behind the gigantic Schlern and which you can reach from Weisslahnbad. At the start of the walk you will find not only the usual welcoming Hütte but also the fascinating (and extremely loud) Steger Säge sawmill operating from the force of the stream.
For next time, having studied the lie of the land, I would like to do the Geologist's walk from Bad Ratzes, to the Prossliner Schwaige and Schlernboden; the walk from the Sellajoch skirting round the base of the Langkofel; the Oachner Höfeweg farmstead trail which starts from the Schloss Prösels. And, further afield, a couple of walks at the foot of the Rosengarten (Catinaccio).
The views of the Dolomites, as you drive up towards the Brenner Pass from Bozen (Bolzano) are tantalising. On one occasion a few years back, having a little time to spare, I made a detour via the Grödnertal (Val Gardena) and the Sellajoch (Passo di Sella) and up to Pordoï. I was so bowled over by the sheer magnificence (and meanness ! ) of these mountains that I determined to come back for a holiday. I managed to get back in June 2010 and already plan to go back next year.
The use of two languages (German and Italian) can be confusing for visitors and that is not to mention the local dialect or the Ladin language spoken in the Grödnertal (Val Gardena) which you pass through on the way up to the Sellajoch. The area known as South Tyrol (Alto Adige) was part of Austria until 1918 when it passed to Italy. Only much later was it decided to allow German to be one of the two official languages. The two languages are particularly confusing in place-names. Some maps will kindly give both versions but certain maps only indicate, for instance, the Italian name so if you've been trying to get your mind round the German version, you will be lost.