The Vinschgau Valley, located in north-western South Tyrol (Italy) is the upper part of the Adige or Etsch river valley and is accessible through Meran when arriving from Italy. Gateway to the Stelvio National Park, the Vinschgau Valley stretches all the way to to the borders of Switzerland and Austria, the latter being connected by a highway.
This Valley, called “Val Venosta” in Italian, is not a very well known area in Italy – if not for its delicious apples that Italians can find in every market – and is a rather popular destination for German tourists instead.
I was there last week for about 3 days for the first time and of course as usual I was very excited to go back to South Tyrol which never disappoints!
As you may know I have worked with Vitalpina before and it was a success. So when I was invited again to experience another property of the collection I instantly felt excited, especially after 9 very stressful months at the office! Vitalpina is a brand that I trust completely thanks to my previous experience. If it’s Vitalpina I automatically know it will be a great, high-quality experience, from every point of view: location, activities, food, relax, accommodation, heartfelt hospitality.
So off I go. iPod in my ears, I start the rather long journey to Plaus near Naturno, which sounds like a blend of Nature and Saturn (Saturno in Italian), makes me smile and I like it already. 1 bus + 1 coach + 3 trains. So hard to reach. But so worth it.
This time I have stayed at the Hotel Schulerhof in Plaus, conveniently located between Meran (a truly gorgeous city and gateway to the Vinschgau Valley) and the Valley itself.
For me, when reserving any kind of accommodation, it is important to know that the place I will sleep at will be in a convenient location and will provide all information and details about activities in the area, so what could I ask more than a Vitalpina property, where excursions are organised and carried out directly by the Hotel staff? It’s a guarantee of success.
Arrival day – the Hotel
I checked in around 6pm and learned that dinner was served at 7pm. It was perfect for me: I was tired after a long journey without eating since the morning, so that was the first good surprise. At Schulerhof, rates include a so called “3/4 gourmet board” including breakfast, afternoon buffet and dinner. Very nice!
That night I only had 2 things in mind: enjoying my dinner and enjoy my comfy room. So I did.
I was immediately impressed with the room. It was just perfect: very clean, spacious, full of light. It was modern but also very traditional with all the wood, and the smell of the wood was so relaxing. The bathroom was huge, with a walk-in shower which is one of my favourite things in life.
From the private balcony I could see the beauty of both the property and the location:
I was delighted to find out that on the same night the menu offered Knödel (=canederli in Italian) which I was dreaming of since I started planning this trip. By the way, another thing I love about the Vitalpina properties is that on the daily menu there is always a vegetarian option. This makes everything so much easier for me, not always having to ask for something extra. It’s great to sit at the table and be so relaxed because you know that there will always be something right for you on the menu!
Day 1 – Hiking and Relaxation
It is very interesting to know that all Vitalpina Hotels offer a range of activities and excursions – without extra charge – and Hotel Schulerhof made no exception. I really liked that not only they offered the expected hiking options, but they also offered morning classes of different disciplines, every day early in the morning: jogging, exercise specific for the back, Qi-Gong are the ones that took place while I was there. While I couldn’t take part in the jogging group as I did my hike that day, I woke up with a smile on my face on the 2 following mornings, knowing that I would start the day with some self-love and in a slow, relaxing way. So good, both for the body and the mind!
The hike offered by the Hotel on my first day had to be cancelled because the weather up at 2300 meters of altitude was bad: cold and windy. However of course the owner offered an alternative hike: the so called Waalwege paths. This network of paths all have in common that they follow the historical – but still in use – irrigation channels (“Waale” = channels and “Kandeln” = wooden pipes) and take hikers along apple and grape fields, meadows and pasture-lands.
The area around Naturno is known for its exceptionally low rainfall and a whole system of Waale waterways necessary to ensure water for the surrounding countryside. These ancient, flat little paths are extremely popular with walkers and hikers nowadays (naturns.it/en/).
Can you imagine walking for 2, 3, 4 or 5 hours (as in our case) to the relaxing sound of water? Think about it. Water, silence, a gentle breeze. One step after another… This was one of the best walks of my life, not only because it wasn’t excessively hard for me, but more in a mental way. Walking alone is relaxing but this was extra special.
Along the way you get to see apple fields and vineyards: the apples of Vinschgau are very popular in Italy (are they in your country too?) and it was exciting to see where they come from. So-many-apples, everywhere. And the best thing is that when you walk by them, you can smell their sweet scent.
Above the path we walked stands the beautiful Juval Castle, which can only be reached on foot (and it takes 2 hours) or with a shuttle bus – easier! This Castle is also called the Messner Mountain Museum, as it belongs to the extreme mountaineer Reinhold Messner. It contains the world’s greatest private Tibetan collection, so if you are into this kind of stuff you should definitely pay a visit.
We even took a break at a local farm with dramatic views over the valley, and while others enjoyed some speck and cheese, Kurt showed me all the varieties of apples that are grown in the area. So impressive!
We came back from this walk going through a path that took us to the beginning of the Schnalstal Valley (or Val Senales in Italian). This is an even less popular part of the region and I know I sound repetitive but it was so great for me to walk on the grass, surrounded by nature, and as I walked I breathed as deeply as I could to give my lungs all the goodness of that air so full of oxygen and so pure!
What a beautiful and relaxing experience. But hey I was tired when I came back to the hotel! So I treated myself with a full body massage in the XSUND & VITALSCHLÖSSL, the new and splendid wellness & beauty area at Schulerhof, you’ll find everything your heart longs for:
- massages, baths and various treatments
- special beauty treatments for kids
- pine relaxation room with waterbeds for relaxing
- quiet room for meditation and Yoga (the one I showed you before!)
- gym with modern cardio and strength machines
And then it was time for dinner and for another one of my favourite foods: Spätzle.
Day 2 – The railway and Lake Reschen
For me the real surprise and discovery of the Vinschgau Valley was the local railway, and the transportation system in general. The line is very easy to navigate: Meran at one side, to the east, all the way to Mals at the other side, to the west.
When I first started planning my stay in Vinschgau I knew I wanted to see the Resia Lake (Lake Reschen or Reschensee) because I wanted to go take photos of the submerged steeple in the artificial lake. But I was a bit discouraged as this landmark is right on the opposite side of the valley. Then I realised that with the train and the bus it is super easy: I needed to ride 1 train and 1 bus in order to reach my destination, and when you look at the timetables you can not only see the departure and arrival times of the trains, but also the departures of buses from each train station, which are of course minutes after the train’s arrival. Organisation, baby!
And so I took a train, spent 1 very pleasant hour on it, then reached Mals and took a bus (namely bus number 273) minutes later.
I am so happy I decided to go, because I saw so much beauty that day, first during the train ride – those trains have huge panoramic windows, I felt like I was riding the Rocky Mountaineer or something – and the bus ride: grass, green, mountains, happy cows… And then BAM.
But I think the Resia Lake (or Reschensee, Lake Reschen) deserves a post all for itself. So more about this later!
I would totally recommend riding the train all the way from the first to the last station: it’s the perfect way to get to know the territory, plus it’s easy and comfortable. I only wish I had more time to see more of the area. But it was beautiful anyway to spend almost 2 hours crossing the whole valley, to see the landscape changing and reaching higher altitudes: Resia is at 1500 meters of altitude, and yes when I went it was freezing, but still gorgeous!
The railway is skirted by a bycicle path all the way from the beginning to the end so it’s also possible to ride the train one way and come back by bike. Next time, next time…
I came back from Resia with a huge smile on my face and I did something I would never do back at home: I got off the train in Naturno, 1 stop away from Plaus, and proceeded walking. I wanted to enjoy that place some more, because unfortunately I was leaving the following day. I wanted to have a deep look at the place one last time.
Have you noticed? One side of the valley with the most sunlight is covered in chestnuts, oaks and other trees of the same family. The other side, that is mostly in the shadow as it faces north, is covered in conifers. The 2 sides are completely different! And I was right in the middle of that natural beauty. Look at these photos that I took standing in the same spot, but just turning left to right:
It was a short stay but very rich in experiences and feelings, and even if it’s so far away I hope to go back to the Vinschgau Valley soon, to see and do so much more, because the options are countless: outdoors activities, cable cars, museums, and then of course next time I am going to stock up with the local delicious apple and redcurrant juice that I fell in love with.
So, to sum up:
WHAT I LOVED:
WHAT I DIDN’T LOVE:
Euro 90+ / night / person